Robert Wright

Visiting Scientist

Department of Environmental Health

Landmark Center, 3rd Floor East, Room 110A
401 Park Dr
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Phone: 617.384.8870
Fax: 617.384.8998

Other Affiliations

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School (primary); Attending Staff, Children’s Hospital, Boston; Genetic Epidemiology Unit, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital


My research focuses on Children’s Environmental Health. In particular I study effect modifiers of metal toxicity including gene-environment interactions in neurodevelopment and fetal growth. The role of epigenetics biomarkers (DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNA) in reproductive health is a particular interest. Research in the environmental components of complex diseases requires multi-disciplinary approaches, including genetics, toxicology and social sciences.  Research which only addresses environmental risk factors while ignoring the interactive contributions of these other fields does not adequately address the biological underpinnings of diseases and can at best provides only modest advances in our understanding of the disease etiology.

As an interdisciplinary scientist trained in Pediatrics, environmental health and genetics, I am bridging the communication gap between these fields and leading the design and conduct of sophisticated epidemiologic research in neurodevelopment. My goal is to bring a “Systems Biology” approach to environmental health research in which both environmental and genetic factors that determine brain development and fetal growth are studied concurrently rather than in isolation.

I direct the HSPH Superfund Research program which includes a genome wide gene-environment interaction study of lead toxicity and neurodevelopment. There is also a project devoted to the prospective study of mixed metal exposures (lead, arsenic, manganese) on child neurodevelopment. I am also the PI of the Harvard ELEMENT (Early Life Exposures in Mexico and ENvironmental Toxicology) study. This project includes extensive measures of the social environment (stress, violence) and their role as modifiers of lead toxicity.  Conceptually, rather than consider social environment as a confounder of lead toxicity, we are proposing that social environment synergistically augments lead toxicity. This is a new paradigm in neurotoxicology that may have implications for both preventing and treating the effects of neurotoxic chemicals on the developing brain.


M.D. University of Michigan 1989

Residency, Pediatrics- Northwestern University 1992

Fellowship, Pediatric Emergency Medicine- Hasbro Children’s Hospital 1995

Fellowship Medical Toxicology- Children’s Hospital, Boston 1997

Post doctoral Fellowship, Environmental Epidemiology, HSPH 2000

M.P.H. Quantitative Methods, Harvard School of Public Health 2000

Post doctoral Fellowship, Genetic Epidemiology, Channing Laboratory 2002


Wright RO, Tsaih ST, Schwartz J, Wright RJ, Hu H. Association between iron deficiency and blood lead levels among urban children in a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Pediatrics, 142(1):9-14, 2003

Wright RO, Hu H, Silverman EK, Tsaih SW Schwartz J, Weiss ST, Hernandez-Avila M. Apoliprotein E Genotype Predicts 24 Month Infant Bayley Scale Score. Pediatric Research 54(6); 819-825, 2003.

Wright RO, Amarasiriwardena, C. Woolf AD, Jim R., Bellinger DC, Neuropsychological Correlates of Hair Arsenic, Manganese, and Cadmium Levels in School-Age Children Residing Near a Hazardous Waste Site Neurotoxicology 27(2):210-6; 2006

Surkan, PJ, Schnaas L, Wright, RJ, Téllez-Rojo, MM, Lamadrid-Figueroa H, Hu H, Hernández-Avila M, Bellinger DC, Schwartz J, Perroni E, Wright RO. Maternal Coopersmith Self-Esteem, Lead, And Child Neurodevelopment. Neurotoxicology 29(2):278-85 2008

Wright RO, Schwartz J, Wright RJ, Bollati V, Tarantini L, Park SK, Hu H, Sparrow D, Vokonas P?, Baccarelli A. Biomarkers of Lead Exposure and DNA Methylation within Retrotransposons. Env. Health Perspect 2010 Jun;118(6):790-5

Claus Henn B, Ettinger AS, Schwartz J, Téllez-Rojo MM, Lamadrid-Figueroa H, Hernández-Avila M, Schnaas L, Amarasiriwardena C, Bellinger DC, Hu H, Wright RO. Early Postnatal Blood Manganese Levels and Children’s Neurodevelopment  Epidemiology 2010 Jul;21(4):433-9.

Kordas K, Ettinger AS, Lamadrid-Figueroa H, Tellez-Rojo MM, Hérnandez-Avila M, Hu H, Wright RO. MTHFR C677T, A1298C, and G1793A genotypes, and the relationship between maternal folate intake, tibia lead and infant size at birth.  Brit J. Nutrition 2009 Sep;102(6):907-14

Courses Taught

EH504 – Principles of Toxicology (Cross-listed at FAS as BPH-215 and at HMS as BPH-713.0)

Professional Affiliations

American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Environmental Health, 2007-2013

Society for Pediatric Research (Council Member 2011-2014)

Center for Scientific Review, Neurology, Aging, Musculoskeletal Epidemiology Study Section, 2011-2015

International Society for Environmental Epidemiology

American College of Medical Toxicology