The accomplished researcher in addiction and substance use disorders also will serve as a tenured professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Danielle Dick, an internationally recognized and award-winning expert on genetic and environmental influences on human behavior, has been appointed as the inaugural director of the Rutgers Addiction Research Center (RuARC) at the Rutgers Brain Health Institute.

Danielle Dick
Danielle Dick, director, Rutgers Addiction Research Center

Dick also will be a tenured professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Most recently, she was the Distinguished Commonwealth Professor of Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where she directed a research institute on behavioral and emotional health.

Dick will join Rutgers in January 2022. Her responsibilities will include leveraging the multidisciplinary expertise among scientists and clinicians across Rutgers to advance understanding of, and develop new treatments for, drug addiction.

Under her direction, the RuARC will be the only comprehensive addiction center in New Jersey with the capacity to impact the addiction epidemic through the diverse strengths of its members by integrating cutting-edge approaches such as precision medicine research, treatment and care of individuals and families coping with addiction, public policy innovation and reform aimed at preventing drug use and at more effective avenues for individuals with substance use disorders to obtain treatment.  

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Dick join us to lead this important initiative,” said Gary Aston-Jones, director of the Brain Health Institute. “Addiction is an international health problem that calls for cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary research to understand its biological and psychological causes, and create new approaches for treating patients. Dr. Dick has extensive and broad-based scientific expertise, as well as outstanding leadership skills. She will facilitate cross-fertilization among many different fields of research that will lead to discovery of answers to this long-standing health problem.”  

Dick’s program of research broadly focuses on characterizing genetic contributions to substance use disorders and applying basic, etiological research findings to inform prevention and intervention. Her research projects include identifying genes involved in substance use and related behavioral health challenges; characterizing the risk associated with identified genes, across development and in conjunction with the environment; and translating basic research findings into improved prevention and intervention.

She has led and contributed to more than 20 grants from the National Institutes of Health, with grant funding totaling over $30 million. She has published more than 350 peer-reviewed studies in the areas of child development, addiction, mental health, genetics and human behavior, and has won numerous national and international awards for her work. She has been named as one of the top 1.5 percent most highly cited researchers in the world across all fields of science.

Dick is passionate about bringing research to the public in ways that are engaging and accessible, through outreach like her first book The Child Code: Understanding Your Child’s Unique Nature for Happier, More Effective Parenting, published by Penguin Random House. She frequently speaks to parents, families, and school groups about the causes of substance use disorders, and how to prevent or address problems in children and family members. 

Dick obtained her doctoral degree from Indiana University.