60 Seconds With… Professor Bryan Roth
Bryan Roth is the Michael Hooker Distinguisher Professor of Protein Therapeutics and Translational Proteomics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. His work in molecular pharmacology, GPCR structure, and synthetic neurobiology has been widely celebrated, and his discoveries in chemical biology were named amongst the Top 10 Research Advances of 2011 by NIMH.
We caught up with this busy professor to ask a few quick questions about his career, his current research, and his upcoming appearance as guest speaker at the Psych Symposium in London.
Thanks for speaking to us Bryan! Can you tell us what you are working on currently?
The overall goal of the work in my lab is to understand how drugs and neurotransmitters interact with their receptors and to use this information to develop technologies to create safer and more effective medications for neuropsychiatric disorders.
You have enjoyed a distinguished science career to date. What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
The thing I enjoy most about working in STEM is meeting with students and postdocs and hearing about their most recent findings.
What has been your proudest career achievement so far?
I would answer a slightly different question: 'What is the most exciting discovery to date?' and I would answer: “The most recent one revealed at our lab meeting this week!”
What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career so far?
'Expect the unexpected' - a lesson from my zen teacher.
You will be a guest speaker at the Psych Symposium in London later this month. What specific topics will you be speaking about?
I will discuss our current understanding of the actions of psychedelic drugs and their potential as breakthrough medications for neuropsychiatric disorders. I will also lament the fact that we know very little about their actions due to the relative lack of research over the past 50 years.
What are the greatest challenges facing scientists in the field of psychedelics currently?
In the US it would have to be the challenge of convincing grant reviewers that the field is worthy of study and that meritorious research is possible.
What are your hopes for the future of psychedelic medicines?
My only hope is that the ultimate Phase III clinical trials are executed successfully and provide unambiguous results. We have a few tantalising, albeit underpowered and not entirely well conceptualised and controlled, results from early Phase II trials. If these results are born out with adequately powered and controlled studies, our treatment approach for many serious neuropsychiatric disorders will be transformed.
Who has been your greatest role model in science, and why?
There have been so many – Erminio Costa and Herb Meltzer come to mind. Both inspired me with their passion for research.
What key piece of advice would you give to a young life scientist just starting out in their science career?
Study what you are most passionate about as the passion will help you to continue when, inevitably, experiments don't ‘work’ or you hit a dead end.
And finally… are there any other specific issues within science that you are passionate about?
I'm a huge fan of fundamental basic research and the development of new technologies. It would be wonderful if the NIH and other funding bodies invested even 1% of their resources into truly high risk and transformative research.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us again Bryan! We wish you all the best at the Psych Symposium.
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