Dr. Niraj Desai joined NINDS February 2019, as a Staff Scientist in the Circuits, Synapses and Molecular Signaling Section under Dr. Lorna Role.
Dr. Desai received a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990 and a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1995. His doctoral research concerned the effects of physical boundaries on systems undergoing critical phase transitions (“surface critical phenomena”). He transitioned from physics to biology during a postdoctoral fellowship (1995-2001) in the Department of Biology and Sloan Center for Theoretical Neurobiology at Brandeis University.
His work there was on homeostatic forms of plasticity in the neocortex, including both synaptic scaling and homeostatic intrinsic plasticity. In 2002, he became a principal investigator at the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, remaining there until NSI ceased operations in 2012. In the latter part of that period, he also held a faculty appointment in the Department of Neurobiology at The Scripps Research Institute. In San Diego, Dr. Desai led a small research team that investigated basic issues of synaptic and intrinsic plasticity.
In 2012, he moved to The University of Texas at Austin as a research scientist in the Center for Learning and Memory, studying the cellular mechanisms of working memory, and as a lecturer in the Department of Neuroscience, teaching cellular electrophysiology to undergraduates.
His research focuses on cholinergic signaling in the prefrontal cortex and how it affects issues of learning and memory, especially those relevant to neurodegenerative disorders.