As vice president of science leadership and culture, Tolbert leads HHMI’s Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture. The Center plays a key role in HHMI’s efforts to intentionally integrate equity and inclusion into research culture, and by doing so enhance diversity across key academic career stages. The Center serves as a source of expertise, collaboration, and strategic guidance on diversity, equity, and inclusion to advance HHMI’s goals for the scientific workforce.

Tolbert is currently the Rudolph and Susan Rense Professor of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), where his research focuses on the biochemical mechanisms by which RNA viruses replicate within the cellular environment. His group leverages their fundamental understanding of the molecular biology of these viruses to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention. The team has collaborated with colleagues to develop compounds with the potential to delay or halt the replication of SARS-CoV-2 and EV-A71. Beginning July 1, 2023, Tolbert’s lab will move to the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will be appointed professor.

Prior to joining HHMI, Tolbert served as the inaugural vice dean of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence for Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and as Case Comprehensive Cancer Center’s first associate director for diversity, equity, and inclusion. During his tenure, Tolbert developed initiatives to recruit individuals from backgrounds currently underrepresented in science into tenure-track faculty positions and to improve the experiences of faculty, staff, and students.

Tolbert earned a BS in chemistry at University of South Carolina and a PhD in biophysics and structural biology at University of Rochester. He was an HHMI postdoctoral fellow at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with HHMI Investigator Michael Summers. In 2016, Tolbert received the inaugural Morton L. Mandel Award for Excellence in Research and Service from the CWRU chemistry department.