Staff and Instructors


Yan Zhang is an assistant professor in mathematics (specializing in combinatorics) at San Jose State University after receiving his PhD from MIT. He wants to help people (everywhere, not just SPARC) become more human and awesome. He has mentored students at the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (where he represented the U.S. at the International Mathematics Olympiad with a silver medal), RSI, and MIT-PRIMES. He received the Undergraduate Math Association’s Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award for his postdoctoral position at UC Berkeley.

Assistant Director

Adom Hartell was a Teaching Assistant at App Academy before he started working at the Center for Applied Rationality. Now he splits his time between CFAR and SPARC.


Jacob Steinhardt is a PhD student in machine learning at Stanford University. He has previously done research in mathematics, robotics, and cognitive science, and is currently interested in designing machine learning algorithms that are reliable and easy for humans to reason about. He received a silver medal at the International Olympiad in Informatics and has been a coach for the USA Computing Olympiad since 2009. He is currently also a scientific advisor for the Open Philanthropy Project. In his free time he likes playing ultimate frisbee and rock-climbing.
Paul Christiano works at OpenAI, a non-profit AI research lab. His research focuses on communicating goals to AI systems. He recently finished a PhD at UC Berkeley in statistical learning theory, working on algorithms for quickly deciding who to trust in large networks. In 2008, he represented the U.S. at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
Andrew Critch received his PhD in mathematics from UC Berkeley, where he specialized in algebraic statistics, and particularly its applications to machine learning and causal inference.  He was awarded a three-year research faculty position at the NSF-sponsored Mathematical Biosciences Institute, but soon after decided to learn about the stock market and began working as an algorithmic trader for Jane Street Capital in New York. He loves thinking about causality, cognitive science, markets, and apparent philosophical paradoxes, and wants to convince you that free will and determinism are compatible. He also likes helping people to understand their goals and adopt new and productive habits.
Qiaochu Yuan is an NSF graduate fellow in mathematics at UC Berkeley and author of the math blog Annoying Precision. He once had the dubious distinction of being one of the most prolific users on the Art of Problem Solving forums, and now has the dubious distinction of being one of the most prolific users on both MathOverflow and His current interests include machine learning and cryptocurrency. His past honors include USAMO Honorable Mention, Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, and Putnam Honorable Mention, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MIT.
Chelsea Voss works as a software engineer at Wave, a startup which strives to make sending money to and within the developing world as easy and affordable as sending a text. She studied computer science with a minor in mathematics at MIT, and in 2016 completed the Master of Engineering degree, with concentrations in theoretical computer science and in computer systems. Her thesis research involved applying logical inference with SMT solvers to problems relevant to computational modeling in systems biology. Previously, she has interned at Khan Academy, taught as an instructor at USABO and USACO, was an Intel Science Talent Search finalist, and competed on the USA teams to the International Biology Olympiad and International Linguistics Olympiad.
Michael Webb is a PhD student in Economics at Stanford University. His research focuses on automation and its effects on the economy, the relationship between education and productivity, and causality. He previously served as a correspondent for The Economist, as senior economic aide to a British legislator, and as a research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He holds degrees from Oxford and MIT.
Nisan Stiennon currently works at Google. He taught mathematics at the undergraduate level for five years. He has also taught algebraic topology to high school students and epistemic rationality to mathematicians. He has a B.S. in mathematics and physics from the University of Michigan and a PhD in mathematics from Stanford University.

Past Instructors

Kenzi Amodei has worked as a professional stage manager throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a BA in theatrical stage management from Stanford University and a BS in biology from the University of Oregon.
Michael Smith holds a joint Ph.D. in mathematics and science education from UC San Diego and San Diego State University. He has extensive experience with teaching and curriculum design in academics, martial arts, and now, rationality workshops.
Anna Salamon has previously done machine learning research for NASA and applied mathematics research on the statistics of phage metagenomics. She holds a degree in mathematics from UC Santa Barbara.
Eliezer Yudkowsky has written extensively on human rationality, including most notably a sequence of articles comprising more than one million words worth of expository material on reasoning, heuristics and biases, philosophy of science, and metaethics.