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Ross Gillette, PhD

Study Director

I am a molecular biologist working towards understanding the ways in which experience and toxic exposures are inherited. My formal training spans multiple disciplines, with a focus in bioinformatics, molecular and reproductive biology, epigenetics, toxicology, endocrinology, and animal behavior.

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About My Research


The focus of my research is to understand how information from the environment is incorporated into the germline to become heritable and cause dysfunction in subsequent generations.


Throughout my career, I have addressed this question by studying the ways that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during prenatal development affects molecular biology, physiology, and behavior. My early work focused on the characterization of the heritable manifestations of EDC exposure in both males and females, while considering relevant life challenges like chronic stress. This work significantly contributed to the understanding of the phenotypes caused by EDC exposure and has determined which phenotypes are heritable.


I have recently turned my focus to the mechanisms that allow for EDCs to cause heritable disease and I have characterized the changes to DNA methylation in sperm (epimutations) caused by low and environmentally relevant doses of EDCs. Some of these epimutations persist beyond the germline into the brain, lasting for multiple generations, which may be the basis for behavioral dysfunction.


Currently, my research is challenging the traditional concepts of heritability with the hypothesis that EDC exposure interferes with a conserved mechanism of inheritance that exists to pass relevant information from the environment to future generations. My broad expertise in molecular and reproductive biology, animal behavior, endocrinology, toxicology, and advanced bioinformatics has allowed me to ask and answer innovative questions that are critical to the advancement of the field.

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Ongoing Research Projects


The mechanisms of heritable experiences

As much as it sounds like science fiction, it has become clear in the last 10 years that experiences and exposures can be inherited by your children and their children. The molecular mechanisms that allow for the transfer of information between generations remain elusive. This project aims to find those mechanisms and potential targets for therapeutics.

The effects of chemical exposures on female reproduction

We are all constantly exposed to a stunningly broad range of chemicals in our daily lives. These chemicals affect our health, mood, and even our ability to reproduce. Attempts to understand these exposures are most frequently done in males because their reproductive systems are simple and accessible. We are trying to understand how common chemical exposures affect the female reproductive system.

Using machine learning to automate behavior scoring

Rodent behavior models are a power tool to understand how chemicals and drugs affect our mood and behavior. We have performed many thousands of behavioral tests. This volume of data is difficult to score because of the raw work-hours needed to do so. I am currently working on using deep learning to automatically score animal behavior and help us understand how chemical exposures change our behavior.

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Selected Publications

May 27, 2022

Small Noncoding RNA Contents of Rat Epididymal Extracellular Vesicles Including a Putative Novel Small RNA

Gillette R, Waghwala S, Gore AC



January 11, 2022

Two Hits of EDCs three generations apart: Effects of Social Behaviors in Rats, and analysis by machine learning.

Gillette R, Dias M, Reilly MP, Thompson LM, Castillo NJ, Vasquez EL, Crews D, Gore AC


May 19, 2021

Peritubular macrophages are recruited to the testis of peripubertal rats after mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate exposure and is associated with increases in the number spermatagonia.

Gillette R, Tiwary R, Voss JW, Hewage SH, Richburg JH

Toxicological Sciences

*Awarded best paper of 2022 by Society of Toxicology RDTSS

November 16, 2018

Passing experiences on to future generations: Endocrine disruptors and transgenerational inheritance of epimutations in brain and sperm.


Gillette R, Son M, Ton L, Gore AC, Crews D


January 1, 2017

Anxiety-like behaviors in adulthood are altered in male but not female rats exposed to low dosages of polychlorinated biphneyls in utero.

Gillette R, Reilly MP, Topper VY, Thompson LM, Crews D, Gore AC

Hormones and Behavior

May 21, 2012

Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses.

Crews D, Gillette R, Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, & Skinner MK

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Career Path

I grew up in a small town on the Texas-Mexico border. I was raised by parents that were both public educators who encouraged academic pursuits. In 2005, I attended UT Austin working towards a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. in Psychology and I began formal research in 2007 for which I received two undergraduate research fellowships. I graduated with special honors in 2009 and wrote a thesis on the molecular mechanisms of the aging female reproductive system.

After graduating, I joined the laboratory of Dr. David Crews as a Research Engineer and Project Manager. I completed a two year project to determine if it were possible that chemical exposure could change the behavior of their great-great grandchildren who were never themselves exposed. In 2011, I joined Dr. Crews' lab as graduate student with a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation to continue this research and I completed a dissertation on the heritable phenotypes caused by chemical exposure.

Following graduate school, I joined Dr. John Richburg's laboratory for a brief Postdoctoral Fellowship where I studied the toxicity of chemical exposure on the male reproductive system and how damage was managed by the immune system. Currently, I am working in the laboratory of Dr. Andrea Gore with a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the PhRMA foundation to study the heritable epigenetic mechanisms of chemical exposure.

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Achievements and Experience

May 2023 - Current

Study Director

Charles River Laboratories

Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity

May 2022 - Current

Biotech Consultant

Bioinformatics, Molecular Biology,

Device Validation

Sep 2022 - May 2023

Research Associate

The University of Texas at Austin

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Mentor: Andrea C. Gore, PhD

2018 - Sep 2022

Postdoctoral Fellow
PhRMA Foundation

The University of Texas at Austin

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Mentor: Andrea C. Gore, PhD

2018 - 2019

Postdoctoral Fellow

The University of Texas at Austin

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Mentor: John Richburg, PhD

2011 - 2018

Graduate Research Fellow
National Science Foundation

The University of Texas at Austin

Cell and Molecular Biology

Mentor: David Crews, PhD

Home: CV

Contact Me

Thanks for your interest in my research. Get in touch with any questions or comments regarding my work, to request reprints of my publications, or to inquire about my consulting services. I’d love to hear from you.

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