Andrea Baccarelli, an eminent environmental health sciences scholar, will become the next dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard President Claudine Gay announced on Wednesday.
Baccarelli is currently the Leon Hess Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where he also serves as chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. He previously served as an associate professor at the Chan School of Public Health. He will become dean on Jan. 1, succeeding Michelle Williams, who served as dean through the 2022-2023 academic year.
“We are thrilled to welcome Andrea Baccarelli back to Harvard,” Gay said. “He brings a clear understanding of current challenges and emerging opportunities at the Chan School, a deep appreciation of its culture and strengths, and a fresh perspective on how it can contribute to local, national, and international conversations around improving public health and equity.”
“Being named dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is a profound honor,” Baccarelli said. “We stand at a pivotal moment in public health history, facing challenges and opportunities that demand collective action and innovative thinking. Whether it’s the threats of pandemics, the complexities of mental health, the multifaceted challenges of environmental and social determinants of health, or new opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, data science, and the latest discoveries in human biology, together we can craft solutions and drive change. I am eager to lead and learn alongside the dedicated students, trainees, staff, and faculty at the Chan School.”
A scholar with broad interests that range from fundamental biology to social science to bioinformatics, Baccarelli has served in his current roles at Columbia since 2016. There he also directs the Laboratory of Precision Environmental Biosciences and the NIH-funded Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan.
As the chair of Columbia Mailman’s Environmental Health Sciences Department, which aims to understand and mitigate the impact of environmental factors and climate change on health, Baccarelli has guided efforts to increase the number of the department’s faculty and students and introduce innovative educational programs. He helped found Careers through Mentoring and training in Omics and Data for Early-stage investigators (Career MODE), a nationwide program that provides training for early career biomedical scientists making the transition from postdoctoral to faculty positions. He served as director of an NIH-funded training program for predoctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. He worked to launch a new master of science degree program in data science for environmental health in order to address the increasing demand for expertise on massive and complex data sources. Sensing a need for research training, he also founded and directs Columbia’s Skills for Health and Research Professionals (SHARP) program, which offers boot camps led by field experts to teach in-demand research skills and methods to more than 1,000 investigators at all career levels per year.
In his capacity as an academic leader, Baccarelli has embraced inclusion and collaboration and worked to promote transparency, trust, and respect. He has been an advocate for diversity, with his department attaining gender balance across faculty ranks and a fourfold increase in faculty members who identify as underrepresented minorities. He is also a widely recognized teacher and mentor, known for fostering a diverse and supportive environment where everyone can flourish and do their best work.
“Andrea is an outstanding scientist, educator, and leader,” said Provost Alan M. Garber, who co-led the search with Gay. “He has nearly a decade of experience leading one of the nation’s most highly regarded environmental health sciences departments. He is known both for his multidisciplinary approach to research and for his collaborative leadership style. I am confident that he will serve the School, the University, and the field of public health with great distinction.”
Before his time at Columbia Mailman, Baccarelli served on the Harvard School of Public Health faculty as an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health from 2010 to 2016. Previously, he spent six years as assistant professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the University of Milan.
Born and raised in Italy, Baccarelli earned his medical degree in 1995 at the University of Perugia, where he also completed a residency in endocrinology. He soon developed an interest in epidemiology and environmental health. His first studies looked at people affected by the 1976 Seveso disaster, a chemical plant explosion in Northern Italy that exposed residents to high levels of dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. He completed his Ph.D. in occupational health and industrial hygiene, specializing in environmental and molecular epidemiology at the University of Milan in 2003, and obtained his master of science in epidemiology at the University of Turin in 2005. From 2000 to 2004, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.
An epigeneticist and board-certified endocrinologist, Baccarelli is an expert on the mechanisms that link exposures to environmental pollutants to human disease. His research interests include epigenetics, mitochondriomics, and computational epigenomics. Baccarelli’s work has supported the development of international best practices for air pollution control by multiple agencies worldwide, and his findings have served as the basis for the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to enforce stricter guidelines for human exposure. He has been featured in the annual Web of Science list of the most influential, highly cited scientists of the past 10 years. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2020, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology.
In announcing the appointment, Gay expressed her gratitude to Professor Jane Kim, who has served as interim dean of the Chan School since July 1. “Jane continues her long record of exceptional service to this community,” Gay said, “and we are so thankful for her leadership as interim dean.”
Gay also expressed her gratitude to those who provided input and advice during the search. “Along with Provost Garber, I’d like to extend a special thanks to the faculty advisory committee and other members of the Chan School community who provided essential perspectives throughout this process and helped guide us toward such a positive result.”
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