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As vice president of science leadership and culture, Tolbert will develop and lead HHMI’s new Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture. In this role, Tolbert directs a portfolio of current and new programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, an initiative to better equip HHMI scientists to provide culturally aware mentorship, a curriculum to grow scientists’ skills to maintain inclusive environments, and activities to develop strategic equity-centered initiatives and partnerships.

As of July 1, 2023, Tolbert became a Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of Pennsylvania. Prior to this position, he was the Rudolph and Susan Rense Professor of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). The research in the Tolbert group 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. He will maintain his lab while serving as HHMI’s vice president of science leadership and culture.

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. In 2023, he was recognized by the International Society for Antiviral Research with the Diversity in Science and Excellence Award.