Dean Michelle Williams S.M. ’88, Sc.D. ’91, is an internationally renowned epidemiologist and public health scientist, an award-winning educator, and a widely recognized academic leader. Prior to becoming Dean of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health on July 1, 2016, she was Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Program Leader of the Population Health and Health Disparities Research Programs at Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Center (Harvard Catalyst).
Dean Williams joined the Harvard Chan faculty after a distinguished career at the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health where she rose through the faculty ranks to become a full professor of epidemiology in 2000. While at the UW, she was very active in the Center for Perinatal Studies at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, becoming co-director from 2000 to 2011, with broad responsibility for a multidisciplinary research program involving clinical investigators, basic scientists, and epidemiologists. From 1992 to 2010, she was an affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and from 2008 to 2011 she held a joint appointment in global health at the UW.
As an acclaimed researcher, Dean Williams’s scientific work places special emphasis in the areas of reproductive, perinatal, pediatric and molecular epidemiology. She has extensive experience in carrying out large-scale, multidisciplinary research involving the collection and analysis of epidemiological data (e.g., sleep characteristics, physical activity, dietary intake, and environmental exposures) and biological specimens (e.g., blood based biochemistry/biomarkers, flow cytometry, genetic variants, whole genome expression of mRNA and miRNA), both domestically and internationally.
Dean Williams has published more than 425 peer-reviewed research papers ranging from studies of modifiable behavioral and environmental determinants of adverse health outcomes to genetic and genomic studies of common complications of pregnancy and chronic disorders among children and adults.
She has administered successfully large-scale, clinical epidemiology studies that seek to understand genetic and environmental causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes and other non-communicable disorders along the life course. Dean Williams also developed and directed (for more than seven years) the Reproductive Pediatric and Perinatal Training Program at the UW.
In 1994, Dean Williams developed, and is currently directing, the NIH-funded multidisciplinary international research training (MIRT) program that allows for the development and operations of undergraduate and graduate student training in global health, biostatistics and epidemiology in over 14 foreign research sites in South America, South East Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Dean Williams has been recognized for her excellence in teaching, as the recipient of the 2015 Harvard Chan School’s Outstanding Mentor Award, the UW’s Brotman Award for excellence in teaching (2007), the American Public Health Association’s Abraham Lilienfeld Award for education in epidemiology (2007), and the White House’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (2012).
Dean Williams received her undergraduate degree in biology and genetics from Princeton University in 1984. She has a master’s in civil engineering from Tufts University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard University.