Rita Valentino received a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan. She held faculty positions in the Department of Pharmacology at George Washington University, the Department of Mental Health Sciences at Hahnemann University and Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania. She has studied the effects of drugs of abuse, particularly opioids on brain circuits and neurotransmission.
She spent 30 years in academia doing research on how stress makes individuals vulnerable to psychiatric diseases including substance abuse and on the role of sex differences in the consequences of stress on the brain and behavior. The approaches used in her research span multiple levels from the molecular to behavioral. She has taught neuropharmacology to undergraduate, graduate and medical students and has mentored many junior neuroscientists who have gone on to independent research careers. She recently joined NIDA as Director of the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior.