Historic faculty hiring: Meet Dheeraj Roy


Published February 7, 2024

Dheeraj Roy.

Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


This fall, UB welcomed 154 new full-time faculty in what is believed to be the largest cohort of new faculty since the university joined SUNY in the 1960s. The historic initiative, “Advancing Top 25: Faculty Hiring,” is considered transformative and has already attracted some of the most promising and established researchers and scholars from across the country.

UBNow sat down with one of those new faculty members — Dheeraj Roy, assistant professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences — to learn more about his research, why he chose UB and what it means to work here during this exciting time of growth.

Can you talk about your research?

The long-term mission of my research is to understand the molecular, cellular and circuit mechanisms behind higher-order cognitive processes. I look at how different types of memories, such as social/personal or spatial/contextual, are formed. I analyze how the brain uses different circuits to store and recall information, and try to explain why some memories are strong while others aren’t. In doing this, we can find new networks, circuits and subtypes.

How did you get into the neuroscience field?

I earned a bachelor’s and master’s in biomedical engineering, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the degrees. I took a summer course for people who weren’t sure where to focus their research. One lecturer stood out — a neuroscientist who spoke about how little we know about the brain. He explained that to crack the brain, we need people with diverse backgrounds — not just biologists — to work in the field. That was the first time I felt like a good fit. From there, I earned my PhD in neuroscience from MIT and completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

What made you want to do your research at UB?

For tenure-track faculty, one of the most important things you can do is find a department that really wants to invest in your research area. It was very clear to me that (Jacobs School) Dean Allison Brashear, Department of Physiology and Biophysics Chair Mikhail Pletnikov and the faculty committee are committed to building a new area of the medical school focused on neuroscience. I was one of four new faculty hired to grow neuroscience in the school as part of that commitment. UB has given me everything I need; now, I’m excited to do the work.

What has your experience been like at the Jacobs School so far?

There’s such a sense of community and friendliness here. Everyone is willing to help one another. As a new principal investigator, I had to fill an empty lab. I love that I can go to a neighboring researcher at any time and they’re willing to take a few minutes out of their very busy day to help me. You can see it in the students, too. I just hired a few students for the lab who are studying biomolecules, data science, machine modeling and AI. We need all of our unique areas — we’re beginning to answer some really great questions and already feel like a small family.

I also appreciate that every floor in the school is a combination of different departments, as opposed to just one. I have neighbors from pathology on one side and biochemistry on the other. Many universities aren’t like that; you have to take buses to a different campus to talk to people from other areas. It’s important to be able to meet people with such diverse backgrounds and be able to collaborate and contribute to different departments so easily.

What do you believe makes UB stand out in the academic community?

The Jacobs School was very attractive to me. The building feels only days old — the facilities, labs and procedure rooms are all new and filled with the right equipment and staff you need to do cutting-edge research. The location was also a huge factor. The building is right on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus — meaning I’m literally steps away from clinical and research partners including Buffalo General Medical Center, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, Gates Vascular Institute, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and more. It’s a big draw to be able to collaborate with clinicians and physicians who interact with patients this easily. The Jacobs School is only growing and I hope to contribute however I can.

How does it feel to be working at UB during this period of historic faculty hiring?

UB’s Top 25 Ambition really resonates with me and motivates me to work hard. It’s nice to be in a place where you can dream about all of us taking UB forward together with research. The university is investing so many resources and bringing brilliant people together — and what you’re left with is a cohort of individuals from different academic and geographic backgrounds who have the same dream to do cutting-edge, world-famous research.

How do you like living in Buffalo so far?

I moved here with my wife and 5-year-old son in November, and it’s been a great transition for us coming from a huge city. All the shopping we need is within a mile or two, the schools for our son are amazing and we’re so close to the airport, making it easy for my wife to travel to major hubs as needed for her work.

Buffalonians are so warm and helpful, too. The people here are just as ambitious and busy as those in larger cities, but they’re willing to give you time to help you figure things out. I’ve created a ton of positive memories here already and I want to help future faculty members who come to Buffalo do the same.