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TURI Names New Director

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Chemist, Researcher and Attorney Specializes in Driving the Adoption of Safer Chemicals and Protecting Human Rights

Baskut Tuncak
Baskut Tuncak, the new director of TURI, has applied his experience as a research chemist in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to public health and environmental policy initiatives.

UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) has appointed Baskut Tuncak as its new director, effective November 8, 2021. He has also been nominated as research professor in the Department of Public Health of the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.

Tuncak, who served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights from 2014 to 2020, is an attorney, chemist and researcher specializing in minimizing the use of toxic chemicals and preventing pollution.  

TURI, one of three implementing agencies of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, collaborates with businesses, community organizations and government agencies to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, protect public health and the environment and promote competitiveness.  

Tuncak will succeed Prof. Emeritus Michael Ellenbecker, who has been part of TURI‘s leadership team since the institute was established in 1989.

“Baskut Tuncak’s global experience of finding common ground with diverse organizations will lead TURI into an exciting new phase of its history,” says Ellenbecker, who will continue with TURI in an advisory role. “I’m confident that he will leverage and build upon our past accomplishments to make an impact for years to come in reducing toxics in Massachusetts and beyond.”

Tuncak Brings More than 20 Years of Experience in Private and Public Sectors

Tuncak has worked as a research scientist with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and held senior legal positions with non-profit organizations and research institutions.

While serving on the UN Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur, his reports contributed to landmark resolutions on child rights, the environment and worker rights related to toxics and pollution.

In the United States, he has worked to reform legislation on toxics, developed grantmaking strategies for change and served on governmental and non-governmental advisory bodies.

As a senior advisor to UNICEF, Tuncak helped identify and develop strategies to protect children from environmental harms. He also advised the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other partners on the inclusion of safe and healthy work as one of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

As TURI Director, Tuncak will lead a staff of 14 to support Massachusetts companies and communities to reduce toxic chemical use—the main mission of TURI. Tuncak will also collaborate with researchers in the Department of Public Health in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences on efforts that support the adoption of green chemistry and cleaner production processes.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Baskut Tuncak to TURI and the university,” says Prof. Joel Tickner of the Department of Public Health, who also co-directed TURI with Prof. Chris Hansen and Ellenbecker during the last two years. “With his experience as a researcher and leader, Baskut’s thoughtful consideration of the issues and potential solutions will improve the health and safety of workers and the public for years to come.”

Born and raised in Seattle, Wash., Tuncak founded Common Rights, an advisory firm on sustainable development and human rights. He also recently served as adjunct professor at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey.