New professors join Comparative Media Studies/Writing; Economics; Literature; Music and Theater Arts; Science, Technology, and Society; and Political Science.
Michael Brindley | School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dean Agustín Rayo and the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences recently welcomed 10 new professors to the MIT community. They arrive with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research.
Isaiah Andrews PhD ’14 joins MIT as a professor in the Department of Economics. Andrews is an econometrician who develops reliable and broadly applicable methods of statistical inference to address key challenges in economics, social science, and medicine. He is the recipient of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Sloan Research Fellowship. Andrews earned his PhD in economics from MIT and was previously an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Economics.
Joshua Bennett is professor of literature and distinguished chair of the humanities. He is the author of five books of poetry, criticism, and narrative nonfiction, including most recently “Spoken Word: A Cultural History” (Knopf, 2023) and “The Study of Human Life” (Penguin, 2022), which is being adapted for television in collaboration with Warner Brothers Studios. He earned his PhD in English from Princeton University, and an MA in theater and performance studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. For his creative writing and scholarship, Bennett has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.
Nathaniel Hendren PhD ’12 is a professor in the Department of Economics. His research quantifies the differences in economic mobility and opportunity for people of different backgrounds, explores why private markets often fail to provide economic opportunity, and offers new tools for government policymakers evaluating the effectiveness of social programs. Hendren founded and co-directs Policy Impacts and Opportunity Insights. He has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and a Sloan Research Fellowship. Hendren earned his PhD in economics from MIT.
Crystal Lee PhD ’22 is an assistant professor in computational media and design with joint appointments in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and Comparative Media Studies Program/Writing. She works broadly on research related to ethical tech, social media, data visualization, and disability. This research has been supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the MIT Programs for Digital Humanities. She is also a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where she co-leads the Ethical Tech Working Group, and a senior fellow at Mozilla. She graduated with high honors from Stanford University and completed her PhD at MIT.
Eli Nelson joins the Program on Science, Technology, and Society as an assistant professor. Nelson completed a PhD in the history of science from Harvard University in 2018. His research focuses on the history of Native sciences in North America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Before coming to MIT, Nelson was an assistant professor of American studies at Williams College.
Ashesh Rambachan is a new assistant professor in the Department of Economics. He studies economic applications of machine learning, focusing on algorithmic tools that drive decision-making in the criminal justice system and consumer lending markets and developing algorithmic procedures for discovering new behavioral models. Rambachan also develops methods for determining causation using cross-sectional and dynamic data. He earned his PhD in economics from Harvard, and is joining MIT after spending a year as a postdoc at Microsoft New England.
Nina Roussille joins the Department of Economics as an assistant professor after completing postdoctoral fellowships at MIT and the London School of Economics (LSE). Roussille studies topics in labor and gender economics, including how biased beliefs about outside options can keep workers stuck in low-wage jobs and how gender differences in salary demands can generate wage inequality. She is also the executive director of LSE’s Hub for Equal Representation. Roussille earned her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.
Jessica Ruffin is an assistant professor of literature. Her first book, “Becoming Amphibious: critical ethical encounters between land and sea,” engages philosophical aesthetics, critical theory, and philosophies of race to trace the potential for ethics amid white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Her essays include “Preface to a Philosophy by Which No One Can Live” (New German Critique); “The Myth of the Sneeze in the Dream of Film History” (Discourse); and “Between Friends” (qui parle). Her second manuscript reframes Frankfurt School critical theory and psychoanalysis in light of Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics — exploring the ethical and mystical in German avant-garde media through the conclusion of World War II. She earned a PhD in film and media, with a designated emphasis in critical theory (2021). She also holds an MA in German literature and culture (University of California at Berkeley, 2018) and an MA in humanities (University of Chicago, 2008). She comes to MIT after two years as assistant professor of film, television, and media and member of the Michigan Society of Fellows at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Caitlin Talmadge PhD ’11 is an associate professor of political science. She also serves as a senior non-resident fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution; a member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense; and a series editor for Cornell Studies in Security Affairs at Cornell University Press. During academic year 2023-24, she is on leave from MIT as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington. Talmadge’s research and teaching focus on nuclear deterrence and escalation, U.S. military operations and strategy, and security issues in Asia and the Persian Gulf. Talmadge is a graduate of Harvard (BA, government, summa cum laude) and MIT (PhD, political science). Previously, she has worked as a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; a consultant to the Office of Net Assessment at the U.S. Department of Defense; and a professor at the George Washington University and Georgetown University.
Miguel Zenón is an assistant professor in the Music and Theater Arts Section. He is a Puerto Rican alto saxophonist, composer, band leader, music producer, and educator. He is a multiple Grammy Award nominee, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. He also holds an honorary doctorate degree in the arts from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Zenón has built a distinguished career as a leader, releasing several critically acclaimed albums while touring and recording with some of the great musicians of our time.