Nicolas' research focuses on the history of international relations theory, and on the role of philanthropy in the development of the social sciences. He was research fellow and program officer at the Social Science Research Council in New York. He has taught in the department of sociology and the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, and at Columbia University. He earned his doctorate from the European University Institute in Florence in 2001.
His featured publications include "The Realist Gambit: Postwar American Political Science and the Birth of IR Theory," International Political Sociology (2008); "Limiting Sovereignty or Producing Governmentality? Two Human Rights Regimes in U.S. Political Discourse," Constellations: An International Journal of Democratic and Critical Theory (2008); "Toward a Transnational History of the Social Sciences," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Social Sciences (2008); "Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism, and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences," Critical Sociology (2007); and "'A Network of Influential Friendships:' The Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne and East-West Cultural Dialogue, 1957-1991," Minerva (2006).