Melissa Nobles is the Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a professor of political science, who has been on the faculty of MIT since 1995. She served as the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences from 2015 to 2021 and as head of the Department of Political Science from 2013 to 2015.

As Chancellor, Nobles is responsible for advising the president on undergraduate and graduate education and residential life policies. She plays a leading role in strategic planning, faculty appointments, resource development, and campus planning activities.

Through her leadership and service to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, she helped to:

  • Create a new theater building and a forthcoming music building, a state-of-the-art center for music research, innovation, and performance at MIT;
  • Catalyze and champion the pioneering “MIT & Slavery” research class;
  • Secure new support for graduate students, post-docs, and professorships; and
  • Launch the Digital Humanities Lab, the Music Technology Lab, the non-partisan MIT Election Data & Science Lab, and the King Climate Action Initiative at J-PAL that focuses on the nexus of climate change and poverty.

She also oversaw the establishment of a new research program, the MIT Governance Lab; the expansion of SEEI into Blueprint Labs, which uses data, economics, and analytic tools to improve society; and championed inventive, powerful ways for students to “Be Your Whole Self at MIT,” exploring the humanistic fields in combination with STEM studies.  

Chancellor Nobles’ teaching includes graduate courses in transitional justice, ethnic politics, nationalism, and the foundations of political science, and undergraduate courses in comparative politics, Latin American studies, ethnic conflict in world politics, and social movements in comparative perspective.

Her international, comparative research focuses on restorative justice in light of ethnic and racial conflicts. She is the author of two books, Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics (Stanford University Press, 2000), and The Politics of Official Apologies, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and is the co-editor with Jun-Hyeok Kwak of Inherited Responsibility and Historical Reconciliation in East Asia (Routledge Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in the Annual Review of Political Science, Daedalus, American Journal of Public Health, and several edited books.

Her current research is focused on constructing a database of racial murders in the American South, 1930–1954. Working closely as a faculty collaborator and advisory board member of Northeastern Law School's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice law clinic, Nobles has conducted extensive archival research, unearthing understudied and previously unknown racial murders, and contributing to several legal investigations. She contributes to the U.S. national dialogue about racial equity through thoughtful research-based commentaries that draw on her scholarship in the field.

Chancellor Nobles is a graduate of Brown University where she majored in history. She received her MA and PhD in political science from Yale University. She has held fellowships at Boston University's Institute for Race and Social Division and Harvard University's Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study. She has served on the editorial boards of Polity, American Political Science Review, and Perspectives on Politics. Nobles has also been involved in faculty governance at MIT and beyond, serving as associate chair of the MIT Faculty from 2007 to 2009, and vice president of the American Political Science Association.