Roberta F. White, PhD

Professor, Environmental Health
Roberta White
Talbot – T458W
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Roberta F. White is a trans-disciplinary scientist whose research focuses on the effects of exposure to industrial pollutants on brain function. Initially trained as a clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist, her work employs cognitive and behavioral test measures and neuroimaging techniques to identify pollutant effects on the central nervous system. Combining the fields of public health, behavioral neuroscience, and epidemiology as well as clinical neuropsychology, she has explored the effects of occupational lead and solvent exposures on cognitive and affective expressions of brain function; elucidated prenatal effects of exposure to methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenyls on cognitive function and neuropsychological outcomes; identified chemical exposures that are associated with the occurrence of Gulf War Illness (GWI) following the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and uncovered cognitive and neuroimaging evidence of structural brain damage associated with GWI and sarin exposure in the GW veteran population. Her work has had significant public health impact in setting standards for occupational exposure to lead, environmental exposure to methylmercury in utero, and acceptance of GWI as a physical illness related to chemical exposures in theatre. She has written extensively on the clinical correlates of encephalopathies caused by exposure to chemical pollutants and co-wrote the World Health Organization criteria for diagnosis of solvent encephalopathy that are used internationally. Dr. White’s research and clinical career have led to leadership positions in the field of public health and psychology. She has been Chair of the Department of Environmental Health since 2003, enhancing the department’s stature as a leader in community environmental health, environmental epidemiology and toxicology. She is Associate Dean for Research at Boston University School of Public Health, where she oversees the research portfolio, which has grown in size and funding diversification under her leadership. In addition, she is Scientific Director of the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness, which advises the Veterans Administration on its GWI research portfolio. She has testified before Congress and the Institute of Medicine many times in her areas of research expertise, particularly GWI. Prior to beginning her tenure as Chair of Environmental Health, she ran the neuropsychology programs at BUSM and VA Boston Medical Center, overseeing clinical work as well as APA-approved doctoral and post-doctoral training programs in clinical neuropsychology. She also directed a VA-funded center on Environmental Hazards through two funding cycles before leaving the VA to work fulltime at BUSPH.

Other Positions

  • Professor, Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine
  • Chair of Environmental Health, Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
  • Mentor for Graduate Medical Students, Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences


  • Michigan State University, BA
  • Wayne State University, MA
  • Wayne State University, PhD

Classes Taught

  • SPHEH961


  • Published on 4/15/2017

    White RF, Krengel M. Cognitive disorders in women. 2017.

  • Published on 3/15/2017

    White RF, Krengel M. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender. Cognitive disorders in men. Sage. NY. 2017.

  • Published on 7/1/2016

    Krengel M, White RF. Behavioral Emergencies. Neurological disorders and symptoms associated with psychologic/behavioral problems. Oxford University Press. NY. 2016; 417-425.

  • Published on 6/25/2016

    Harris MH, Gold DR, Rifas-Shiman SL, Melly SJ, Zanobetti A, Coull BA, Schwartz JD, Gryparis A, Kloog I, Koutrakis P, Bellinger DC, Belfort MB, Webster TF, White RF, Sagiv SK, Oken E. Prenatal and childhood traffic-related air pollution exposure and childhood executive function and behavior. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2016 Sep - Oct; 57:60-70. PMID: 27350569.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/1/2016

    Aschengrau A, Janulewicz PA, White RF, Vieira VM, Gallagher LG, Getz KD, Webster TF, Ozonoff DM. Long-term Neurotoxic Effects of Early-life Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene-contaminated Drinking Water. Ann Glob Health. 2016 Jan-Feb; 82(1):169-79. PMID: 27325074.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/25/2015

    White RF, Steele L, O'Callaghan JP, Sullivan K, Binns JH, Golomb BA, Bloom FE, Bunker JA, Crawford F, Graves JC, Hardie A, Klimas N, Knox M, Meggs WJ, Melling J, Philbert MA, Grashow R. Recent research on Gulf War illness and other health problems in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War: Effects of toxicant exposures during deployment. Cortex. 2016 Jan; 74:449-75. PMID: 26493934.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/3/2015

    Harris MH, Gold DR, Rifas-Shiman SL, Melly SJ, Zanobetti A, Coull BA, Schwartz JD, Gryparis A, Kloog I, Koutrakis P, Bellinger DC, White RF, Sagiv SK, Oken E. Prenatal and Childhood Traffic-Related Pollution Exposure and Childhood Cognition in the Project Viva Cohort (Massachusetts, USA). Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Oct; 123(10):1072-8. PMID: 25839914.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/1/2013

    White RF. . What is life?. Bostonia. 2013; p. 42.

  • Published on 1/1/2013

    Janulewicz, PA, Killiany R, White, RF, Weinberg J, Winter M, Martin, B, Aschengrau, A. . Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging in an Adult Cohort Following Prenatal and Early Postnatal Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated Drinking Water. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Jul-Aug;38:13-20. PMID: 23571160 [PubMed - in process] PMCID: PMC3893699 [Available on 2014/7/1]. 2013.

  • Published on 6/19/2012

    Getz KD, Janulewicz PA, Rowe S, Weinberg JM, Winter MR, Martin BR, Vieira VM, White RF, Aschengrau A. Prenatal and early childhood exposure to tetrachloroethylene and adult vision. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Sep; 120(9):1327-32. PMID: 22784657.

    Read at: PubMed

View 134 more publications:View full profile at BUMC

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