Roberta F. White, PhD

Professor, Environmental Health

Roberta White
(617) 638-4620
715 Albany St Talbot Building


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 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 was Chair of the Department of Environmental Health 2003-2017 and was Associate Dean for Research at Boston University School of Public Health from 2008-2015. In addition, she was Scientific Director of the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness from 2008-2015, which advises the Veterans Administration on its GWI research portfolio. She has testified before Congress and the National Academy 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
  • Mentor for Graduate Medical Students, Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences



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


    • Published on 11/7/2017

      Sullivan K, Krengel M, Bradford W, Stone C, Thompson TA, Heeren T, White RF. Neuropsychological functioning in military pesticide applicators from the Gulf War: Effects on information processing speed, attention and visual memory. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2017 Nov 07; 65:1-13. PMID: 29126934.

      Read at: PubMed
    • Published on 9/21/2017

      Bauer JA, Claus Henn B, Austin C, Zoni S, Fedrighi C, Cagna G, Placidi D, White RF, Yang Q, Coull BA, Smith D, Lucchini RG, Wright RO, Arora M. Manganese in teeth and neurobehavior: Sex-specific windows of susceptibility. Environ Int. 2017 Nov; 108:299-308. PMID: 28941415.

      Read at: PubMed
    • Published on 5/17/2017

      Janulewicz PA, Krengel MH, Maule A, White RF, Cirillo J, Sisson E, Heeren T, Sullivan K. Neuropsychological characteristics of Gulf War illness: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017; 12(5):e0177121. PMID: 28520755.

      Read at: PubMed
    • 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 3/3/2017

      Butler LJ, Janulewicz PA, Carwile JL, White RF, Winter MR, Aschengrau A. Childhood and adolescent fish consumption and adult neuropsychological performance: An analysis from the Cape Cod Health Study. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2017 05; 61:47-57. PMID: 28263856.

      Read at: PubMed
    • 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

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