April 12, 2018 11:53 AM

MIT professor and architect Neri Oxman may be just Brad Pitt‘s type, an insider tells PEOPLE in the latest issue.

Like his buddy George Clooney’s human-rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney, Oxman is a highly educated expert renowned in her field. Described as “genius and gorgeous” by a source, Oxman, 42, could be a similar match for the 54-year-old Pitt as he starts dating again.

“It took him a long time to date, but he is now,” the insider tells PEOPLE. “He likes women who challenge him in every way, especially in the intellect department. Brad has seen how happy and different Amal has made his friend. It has given him something to think about.”

Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman
Tim P. Whitby/Getty; Jacopo Raule/Getty

Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman

While a Pitt source has maintained he and Oxman are “just friends,” they’ve met up a few times since the fall and the insider notes Pitt has been flying frequently to the East Coast. He dropped by one of Oxman’s classes last fall and was spotted at MIT again a few weeks ago.

RELATED VIDEO: Brad Pitt Is ‘in a Better Place’ Amid Divorce Proceedings with Angelina Jolie: Source

Pitt and Oxman got to know each other through an architecture project at MIT, where she works as a professor of media arts and sciences at the school’s Media Lab. Pitt has always been interested in architecture and founded the Make It Right Foundation, which builds affordable and environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans for people in need.

“One of the things Brad has said all along is that he wants to do more architecture and design work,” another source says. “He loves this, has found the furniture design and New Orleans developing work fulfilling, and knows he has a talent for it.”

 

Neri Oxman and David Edwards with Oxman's piece on the left

Neri Oxman and Le Laboratoire gallery founder David Edwards with one of Oxman’s biologically-inspired works.

This is the first time the actor has been linked with someone since his September 2016 split from Angelina Jolie. While the two are still negotiating the terms of their divorce and custody of their six children — Maddox, 16, Pax, 14, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 11, and 9-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne — Pitt has started to seem like his old self again in the wake of the difficult split.

“Separating was very sad and shocking to him, but he started taking care of himself again,” adds the insider. “He seems much, much happier.”

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