Dr. Roth was born and raised in Montana. In 1977, he received his B.A. in biology and chemistry from Carroll College in Helena, then went on to earn both an M.D. and Ph.D. in medicine and biochemistry from the St. Louis University School of Medicine. He continued his studies in pharmacology at the NIMH Lab of Preclinical Pharmacology in Washington, DC. In 1991, Dr. Roth completed a psychiatry residency at Stanford University Medical Center. At the same time, he served as a fellow at Stanford’s Nancy Pritzker Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology. Dr. Roth held various faculty positions at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine from 1991 to 2006 when he joined the faculty at UNC.
Dr. Roth describes his work as basic research. He says the deeper he goes into something, the more he discovers areas to explore. He is especially noted for his research on opioids, which grows from his experience as a practicing psychiatrist and his interest in understanding how drugs act in the brain. He believes that if scientists can fully understand how opioids operate at the most fundamental level of the brain, safer and more effective medications will be developed that do not result in the devastating social problems that exist today because of opioid dependency.
Another aspect of Dr. Roth’s work led him to discover a technology that allows researchers to remotely control neural activity. The technology is used by thousands of labs around the world and helped revolutionize research into how different parts of the brain control human experiences.
Looking back on growing up in Montana, Dr. Roth remembers that scientific labs were uncommon, and the state wasn’t known for scientific research. Fast forward to today and he says Montana now enjoys a reputation for robust scientific research and discovery. He cites the University of Montana School of Pharmacy, Montana State University’s neuroscience program, and the McLaughlin Research Institute for their achievements. He also praises Montana Molecular in Bozeman for producing tools and protocols that support his work and that of other scientists around the world.
His advice to students who want to make the next big discovery: “Try to get into a lab at one of the major universities, even as a volunteer, to see what it’s like to be a scientist. Classwork doesn’t really give you that understanding. You’ll find out right away if this is something you’re interested in.” – Dr. Bryan Roth, December 2018
Dr. Roth’s opioid research was featured in a February 2018 article, Amid opioid crisis, Butte man building a better pain killer, in the Great Falls Tribune.