Advisory Board

Dr. Melissa Chen

Melissa Chen, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of the nonprofit organization Ideas Beyond Borders and the New York Editor of Spectator USA — the American edition of the oldest English language magazine in publication. She is a human rights activist and classical liberal who regularly talks on various podcasts, TV news, and at conferences.

Melissa is a critic of the People’s Republic of China’s weak human rights record, with free speech and foreign relations restrictions. She is also a critic of her native Singapore’s similar restrictions on free speech.

In 2017 Melissa cofounded Ideas Beyond Borders with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi advocate for free speech. The foundation focuses on translating works written in English into Arabic; most of the translated works are books that are considered controversial in the Arabic world, such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and works by Thomas Paine.

Read This man brings hope to Arab youth, one Wikipedia page at a time and Bringing ‘weapons of mass instruction’ to the Arab world.

After the publication of her first op-ed Why Postcolonial Theory Is Not Helping Hong Kong, Spectator magazine took notice of her. Andrew Neil, the renowned British journalist, explained to her that he needed someone who can write and has no bias that comes from formal training out of journalism schools.

In Spectator, I found a sanctuary where the source of my insecurities no longer was a liability. In fact, I’ve really come to appreciate just how much being a scientist for so many years has helped me to approach thinking and ask the right questions.

During the 2019–2020 Coronavirus pandemic, Melissa published an article Time to ban wet markets in The Spectator USA.

Based in New York City, Melissa was born and raised in Singapore but soon realized she did not believe in traditional religious dogma. When she was 17-years-old, she came out as an atheist after reading Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2004, where she sought an American education, to live and learn in a culture that had freedom of the press and ideas.

Melissa earned her Ph.D. in computational biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she attended Boston University to be a geneticist, inspired by Dawkins.

Fresh out of college she worked at the Broad Institute, a genomics research institute, bound for academia. As well, she was an Editor at the Global Secular Humanist Movement. Soon, however, she dropped out of academia and cofounded the nonprofit organization Ideas Beyond Borders with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, a founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement. Together they make inaccessible ideas freely accessible to those who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Kurdish.

In part, my job involves convincing some of the most prominent, best-selling authors of our time to donate the Arabic digital rights to their books so that we can translate and disseminate them, mostly online but sometimes as hard copies to schools and refugee camps in places like Syria and Iraq. The goal is to make works that exemplify pro-liberty ideas, universal human values, evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking, perspectives that are sometimes considered too taboo and are hence censored, freely available to foster more pluralistic, tolerant attitudes. Open books, I believe, lead to open minds.

Read One-time Amos Yee supporter Melissa Chen says, “I’ve done more than anyone else” to show Singapore’s success in managing the Covid-19 crisis and Why Postcolonial Theory Is Not Helping Hong Kong.

Watch Melissa at the Joe Rogan Experience. Watch the US vs. China is the New Cold War and Trying to Solve Human Problems | Melissa Chen & Faisal Saeed Al Mutar.

Listen to the Walk-Ins Welcome Podcast #55 — Melissa Chen.

Read her contributions to Spectator USA and to The Independent.

Visit her blog, her Everipedia profile, her Muck Rack profile, and her Wikipedia profile. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.