Barchi is a physician and neuroscientist. He earned his Bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in 1968, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972, and an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973. Born in Philadelphia, Barchi grew up in Westfield, before moving back to Philadelphia during his freshman year of high school, attending St. Joseph's Preparatory School.
The appointment of Barchi, a medical doctor, comes as Rutgers is preparing to absorb most of the schools, programs and facilities of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey following the approval of a merger proposal by the New Jersey legislature and governor during the summer of 2012.