Respected scientist, educator and academic leader, Tomás R. Guilarte, Ph.D., became dean of Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University (FIU) in January 2016. He joined FIU after serving as the inaugural Leon Hess Professor and Chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University-Mailman School of Public Health in the City of New York.
Prior to Columbia University, Guilarte received his doctorate and spent three decades as a professor and researcher in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. As of 2018, Guilarte is a member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, which was established in 1967 on the recommendation of then president Milton S. Eisenhower and was approved by the University’s Board of Trustees.
Guilarte’s research explores the impact of environmental pollutants on neurological and mental disease. His work uses behavioral, cellular and molecular approaches, ranging from studies using primary culture of brain cells to the application of brain imaging technologies.
He is renowned for revealing the effects that low-level lead exposure has on the central nervous system during brain development, a discovery that led to strategies for mitigating learning deficits. In fact, these strategies are now translated to human populations.
Guilarte’s research team played an important role in the validation and application of a biomarker for brain injury and inflammation that is used clinically in major medical centers around the world. In 2017, Guilarte worked closely with Anna Rothschild, the host of NOVA’s Gross Science, to translate his National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) research into insights for WGBH/PBS Digital Studios’ web segment “What Does Lead Poisoning do to the Brain?” and feature-length documentary on Flint’s “Poisoned Water“. Both productions take a deeper look at lead poisoning in adults and children, while illustrating how damaging this heavy metal is to the body—especially the brain—and how science may be on the right path to eventually finding a treatment.
His laboratory has also made seminal findings in the neurotoxicology of manganese and associated neurological disease.
Guilarte’s research is funded—and has been for more than 23 years—by grants from the NIEHS, for which he served as a member of the Advisory Council until 2017. Guilarte has also participated in many NIH study sections, review panels, and committees at the national and international level. In Miami, he has served as a member of the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s HIV/AIDS Getting to Zero Task Force and Opioid Addiction Task Force.
In 2018, the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) honored Guilarte as the recipient of the Distinguished Toxicologist Award, which celebrates a toxicologist of Hispanic origin for his or her outstanding professional achievements, excellence in research and level of service to the Society of Toxicology (SOT).