Harvard University has announced that Andrea Baccarelli, a renowned environmental health sciences scholar, will be the next dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Baccarelli will take over the role on January 1, 2024, succeeding Jane Kim, who is serving as interim dean, and Michelle Williams, who stepped down in June.
A Leader in Environmental Health Sciences
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 also directs the Laboratory of Precision Environmental Biosciences and the NIH-funded Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan.
Baccarelli’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that link environmental exposures to human disease, such as air pollution, climate change, and endocrine disruptors. He has made significant contributions to the fields of epigenetics, endocrinology, and bioinformatics, and has published more than 400 peer-reviewed articles. His work has supported international best practices for air pollution control developed by multiple agencies worldwide, and informed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to enforce stricter guidelines for human exposure.
Baccarelli is also a dedicated teacher and mentor, who has helped launch several innovative educational programs for students and early-career scientists. He founded 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.
In 2020, Baccarelli was elected to both the National Academy of Medicine and the presidency of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology.
A Return to Harvard
Baccarelli is no stranger to Harvard, as he was an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the Chan School of Public Health from 2010 to 2016. He also holds an M.D. from the University of Perugia, an M.S. in epidemiology from the University of Turin, and a Ph.D. in occupational health and industrial hygiene from the University of Milan.
Harvard President Claudine Gay praised Baccarelli in a statement announcing the appointment, both for his professional accomplishments and his character. “Andrea is an outstanding scientist, teacher, mentor, and academic leader,” she said. “I have been deeply impressed by his thoughtfulness, curiosity, personal warmth, and contagious enthusiasm.”
Gay also noted that Baccarelli has maintained strong relations with colleagues at Harvard, and that he will bring both a fresh perspective and a deep appreciation for the school’s distinctive culture, strengths, and promise.
A Vision for the Future
Baccarelli said he was honored and excited to lead the Chan School of Public Health, which he described as a “world-class institution with a remarkable legacy of excellence and impact.” He said he was eager to work with the dedicated students, trainees, staff, and faculty at the school to address the current and emerging challenges and opportunities in public health.
“We stand at a pivotal moment in public health history, facing challenges and opportunities that demand collective action and innovative thinking,” he told The Harvard Crimson. “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.”
He also expressed his gratitude to Kim and Williams for their leadership and service to the school. He said he looked forward to collaborating with them and other partners across Harvard and beyond to advance the school’s mission of improving health locally and globally.