IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits


The International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Synapses and Circuits provides innovative and individualized doctoral training in interdisciplinary neuroscience research. The IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits is a partnership between MPFI and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and is the only IMPRS program in the United States. Our faculty share a central focus on understanding the basic neurobiology of the brain across different scales with state-of-the-art experimental approaches, ranging from the level of individual molecules within synapses to large-scale studies of neuronal ensembles during behavior.

Prospective Students

The IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits Ph.D. program brings together scientific excellence and exceptional training, within the leading scientific environment of the Max Planck Society. This unique program prepares students to build diverse and successful careers in neuroscience.  Applications for 2025 admission will open September 1.  The application deadline is December 1, 2024. 

IMPRS-SC Program Brochure

Admissions Information and Application


Why IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits?

Training in our program gives you the opportunity to be immersed in a highly creative, collaborative environment that builds on the latest technological advances to deliver fundamental new insights about neural circuits.

Scientific Excellence: Scientists in the IMPRS program have the resources they need to do great science. Check out our current students and their publications here and our IMPRS faculty here.

Meaningful Professional Networks: In addition to our welcoming and flourishing Florida campus, students in the IMPRS program are part of the international Max Planck Society Network and engage in scientific interactions with other neuroscience IMPRS programs.

Outstanding Reputation and Track Record: The Max Planck name is recognized globally as the leading non-profit research organization. 100% of our IMPRS graduates are successfully employed in science careers in academia, industry, and non-profits.

Unique Mentorship: In addition to mentorship from experienced faculty, graduate students are part of the Max Planck Mentorship Program, where they choose a postdoc mentor to guide them through their early careers.

Innovating Training Opportunities: In addition to traditional coursework, students participate in hands-on technical workshops led by world experts, including Nobel laureates. Check out our recent Advanced Electrophysiology course here.

Student Support: IMPRS Synapses and Circuits values its students. IMPRS students receive relocation reimbursement and assistance integrating into the IMPRS program, mental health resources,  work-life balance in a family-friendly environment, student representation in the program steering committee, and much more.

Learn more about admissions requirements and procedures on our Admissions page.

Faculty & Research

Understanding how the outside world is perceived by the senses, encoded in the nervous system, placed in the context of the internal state, and translated into appropriate behavioral responses is the central challenge of neurobiology. Meeting this challenge requires forging links between different levels of analysis — genetic, molecular, cellular, circuit, and behavioral — and developing new technologies that make cutting-edge scientific discoveries possible. IMPRS-SC students, with our faculty’s mentorship and guidance, have the passion, curiosity, grit, and resources to creatively tackle these fundamental neuroscience questions.

IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits Faculty

Scientific Resources and Core Facilities

IMPRS students benefit from a wide variety of state-of-the-art scientific resources and facilities, helping to drive forward excellence in research and curiosity-driven discovery.

Resources and facilities include:

In addition to the scientific resources at Max Planck Florida Institute and FAU, our campus is also home to UF Scripps Biomedical Research which has additional scientific resources, such as high-throughput drug discovery pipelines.


IMPRS Ph.D. students are immersed in a world-class neuroscience training environment working alongside scientists at the forefront of neuroscience research. All students in the IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits are enrolled in the degree-granting partner Integrative Biology-Neuroscience (IBNS) Ph.D. program at FAU. A comprehensive interdisciplinary neuroscience curriculum is offered by the IBNS Ph.D. program, which students usually complete in the first two years after admission.


International Network of Scientists

In addition to the flourishing neuroscience campus in Jupiter, Florida, IMPRS students are part of a much larger network of leading neuroscientists through the Max Planck Society and Max Planck Neuroscience. IMPRS provides many unique opportunities for graduate students to establish meaningful relationships within this network and to take full advantage of the unmatched resources of the Max Planck Society.

Students are encouraged and provided funding to participate in jointly organized advanced scientific training workshops led by world experts, symposia, and extended research stays with other Max Planck Institutes.


Career Development

IMPRS Ph.D. students receive well-rounded professional development and career education to excel in the changing landscape of scientific careers after graduation. IMPRS travel grants empower students to select meetings and courses to enrich their training and prepare for their career trajectory.


Mentoring Program

IMPRS students benefit from unique mentorship programs. In addition to the guidance and mentorship provided by the faculty advisor and thesis committee members, each IMPRS Ph.D. student is involved in the MPFI Mentorship Program. In this program, students choose a postdoctoral mentor from MPFI that they meet with periodically for advice throughout the entire period of their studies. This mentorship program also hosts semimonthly meetings to discuss relevant soft skills or work-life balance topics, followed by a social outing.


Current IMPRS Students

Publications by IMPRS Students

Names in Bold indicate IMPRS Ph.D. Student

Bapat, O., Purimetla, T., Kruessel, S., Shah, M., Fan, R., Thum, C., Rupprecht, F., Langer, J. D., & Rangaraju, V. (2024). VAP spatially stabilizes dendritic mitochondria to locally support synaptic plasticity. Nature Communications, 15(205), Article 1.

Stilley, S. E.*, Naraine, A. S.*, Yadavalli, K. P., Maki, S. L., Jutte, E. M., Kahn, J. M., Surtel, A. A., Lepore, S. D., & Dawson-Scully, K. (2023). Bridged bicyclic compounds: Comprehending a novel compound class as potential anti-seizure agents. Epilepsia, n/a(1-10).

Tu, X., Jain, A., Parra Bueno, P., Decker, H., Liu, X., & Yasuda, R. (2023). Local autocrine plasticity signaling in single dendritic spines by insulin-like growth factors. Science Advances, 9(31), eadg0666.

Colgan, L. A., Parra-Bueno P., Holman, H. L., Tu, X., Jain, A., Calubag, M. F., Misler, J. A., Gary, C., Oz, G., Suponitsky-Kroyter, I., Okaz, E., & Yasuda, R. (2023). Dual regulation of spine-specific and synapse-to-nucleus signaling by PKCδ during plasticity. The Journal of Neuroscience, .

Bonnan, A., Zhang, K., Gaffield, M. A., & Christie, J. M. (2023). Expression of a Form of Cerebellar Motor Memory Requires Learned Alterations to the Activity of Inhibitory Molecular Layer Interneurons. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 43(4), 601–612.

Naraine, A. S., Aker, R., Sweeney, I., Kalvey, M., Surtel, A., Shanbhag, V., & Dawson-Scully, K. (2022). Roundup and glyphosate’s impact on GABA to elicit extended proconvulsant behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 13655.

Inagaki H.K.*, Chen S.*, Ridder M.C., Sah P., Li N., Yang Z., Hasanbegovic H., Gao Z., Gerfen C.R., Svoboda K. (2022). A midbrain-thalamus-cortex circuit reorganizes cortical dynamics to initiate movement. Cell, 185(6), 1065-1071.e23.

Scholl B.*, Tepohl C.*, Ryan M.A,. Thomas C.I., Kamasawa N., Fitzpatrick D. (2022). A binocular synaptic network supports interocular response alignment in visual cortical neurons. Neuron, 110, 1-12.

Meinke C., Quinlan M.A., Paffenroth K.C., Harrison F.E., Fenollar-Ferrer C., Katamish R.M., Stillman I., Ramamoorthy S., Blakely R.D. (2022). Serotonin Transporter Ala276 Mouse: Novel Model to Assess the Neurochemical and Behavioral Impact of Thr276 Phosphorylation In Vivo. Neurochem Res., 47(1), 37-60.

Sedigh-Sarvestani M., Lee K.-S., Jaepel J., Satterfield R., Shultz N., Fitzpatrick D. (2021). A sinusoidal transformation of the visual field is the basis for periodic maps in area V2. Neuron, 109(24), 4068-4079.e6.

Sun Y., Smirnov M., Kamasawa N., Yasuda R. (2021). Rapid Ultrastructural Changes in the PSD and Surrounding Membrane after induction of structural LTP in Single Dendritic Spines. J. Neurosci., 41(33), 7003-7014.

Mahneva O., Risley M. G., John C., Milton S. L., Dawson-Scully K., Ja W. W. (2020). In vivo expression of peptidylarginine deiminase in Drosophila melanogaster. PloS One15(1), e0227822.

Sun Y., Thomas C., Mikuni T., Guerrero-Given D., Yasuda R., Kamasawa N. (2020). Correlative Ultrastructural Analysis of Functionally Modulated Synapses Using Automated Tape-Collecting Ultramicrotome and SEM Array Tomography. In: Wacker I., Hummel E., Burgold S., Schröder R. (eds) Volume Microscopy. Neuromethods, vol 155. Humana, New York, NY.

Tu X., Yasuda R., Colgan L. A. (2020). Rac1 is a downstream effector of PKCα in structural synaptic plasticity. Scientific Reports10, 1777.

Stawarski M., Hernandez R. X., Feghhi T., Borycz J. A., Lu Z., Agarwal A. B., Reihl K. D., Tavora R., Lau A., Meinertzhagen I. A., Renden R.,  Macleod G. T. (2020). Neuronal Glutamatergic Synaptic Clefts Alkalinize Rather Than Acidify during Neurotransmission. J. Neurosci., 40(8), 1611–1624.

Han T. H., Vicidomini R., Ramos C. I., Wang Q., Nguyen P., Jarnik M., Lee C. H., Stawarski M., Hernandez R. X., Macleod G. T., Serpe M. (2020). Neto-α Controls Synapse Organization and Homeostasis at the Drosophila Neuromuscular Junction. Cell Reports32(1), 107866.

Feghhi T., Macleod G. T., Hernandez R. X., Lau A. W. C., Stawarski M., Borycz J. A., Lu Z., Aragwal A., Meinertzhagen I. A., Renden R. (2020). A Computational Model of pH Dynamics within the Clef of Conventional Neuronal Synapses. Biophysical Journal, 118(3):287a

Scholl B., Wilson D.E., Jaepel J., Fitzpatrick D. (2019). Functional Logic of Layer 2/3 Inhibitory Connectivity in the Ferret Visual Cortex. Neuron, 104(3), 451-457.e3.

Lee K.-S., Vandemark K., Mezey D., Shultz N., Fitzpatrick D. (2019). Functional Synaptic Architecture of Callosal Inputs in Mouse Primary Visual Cortex. Neuron, 101(3), 421-428.E5.

Gratz S. J., Goel P., Bruckner J. J., Hernandez R. X., Khateeb K., Macleod G. T., Dickman D., O’Connor-Giles, K. M. (2019). Endogenous Tagging Reveals Differential Regulation of Ca2+ Channels at Single Active Zones during Presynaptic Homeostatic Potentiation and Depression. J. Neurosci.39(13), 2416–2429.

Risley M. G., Kelly S. P., Minnerly J., Jia K., Dawson-Scully K. (2018). egl-4 modulates electroconvulsive seizure duration in C. elegans. Invertebrate Neuroscience : IN18(2), 8.

Wilson D.E.*, Scholl B.*, Fitzpatrick D. (2018). Differential tuning of excitation and inhibition shapes direction selectivity in ferret visual cortex. Nature, 560(7716), 97–101.

Marvin J. S., Scholl B., Wilson D. E., Podgorski K., Kazemipour A., Müller J. A., Schoch S., Quiroz F., Rebola N., Bao H., Little J. P., Tkachuk A. N., Cai E., Hantman A. W., Wang S. S., DePiero V. J., Borghuis B. G., Chapman E. R., Dietrich D., DiGregorio D. A., … Looger L. L. (2018). Stability, affinity, and chromatic variants of the glutamate sensor iGluSnFR. Nature Methods15(11), 936–939.

Rowan M.*, Bonnan A.*, Zhang K.*, Amat S. B., Kikuchi C., Taniguchi H., Augustine G. J., Christie J. M. (2018). Graded Control of Climbing-Fiber-Mediated Plasticity and Learning by Inhibition in the Cerebellum. Neuron99(5), 999–1015.e6.

Stawarski M., Justs K. A., Hernandez R. X., Macleod G. T. (2018). The application of ‘kisser’ probes for resolving the distribution and microenvironment of membrane proteins in situ. Journal of Neurogenetics32(3), 236–245.

Opperman K. J., Mulcahy B., Giles A. C., Risley M. G., Birnbaum R. L., Tulgren E. D., Dawson-Scully K., Zhen M., Grill B. (2017). The HECT Family Ubiquitin Ligase EEL-1 Regulates Neuronal Function and Development. Cell Reports19(4), 822–835.

Risley M. G., Kelly S. P., Dawson-Scully, K. (2017). Electroshock Induced Seizures in Adult C. elegansBio-Protocol, 7(9): e2270.

Scholl B., Wilson D.E., Fitzpatrick D. (2017). Local Order within Global Disorder: Synaptic Architecture of Visual Space. Neuron, 96(5), 1127-1138.e4.

Wilson D.E., Smith G.B., Jacob A.L., Walker T., Dimidschstein J., Fishell G., Fitzpatrick, D. (2017). GABAergic Neurons in Ferret Visual Cortex Participate in Functionally Specific Networks. Neuron, 93(5), 1058–1065.e4.

Lu R., Sun W., Liang Y., Kerlin A., Bierfeld J., Seelig J.D., Wilson D.E., Scholl B., Mohar B., Tanimoto M., Koyama M., Fitzpatrick D., Orger M.B., Ji N. (2017). Video-rate volumetric functional imaging of the brain at synaptic resolution. Nat. Neurosci., 20(4), 620–628.

Lee K-S., Huang X., Fitzpatrick D. (2016). Topology of ON and OFF inputs in visual cortex enables an invariant columnar architecture. Nature, 533, 90–94.

Risley M. G., Kelly S. P., Jia K., Grill B., Dawson-Scully K. (2016). Modulating Behavior in C. elegans Using Electroshock and Antiepileptic Drugs. PloS One11(9), e0163786.

Mikuni T., Nishiyama J., Sun Y., Kamasawa N., and Yasuda R. (2016). High-Throughput, High-Resolution Mapping of Protein Localization in Mammalian Brain by In Vivo Genome Editing. Cell, 165(7), 1803-1817.

Wilson D.E., Whitney D.E., Scholl B., Fitzpatrick D. (2016). Orientation selectivity and the functional clustering of synaptic inputs in primary visual cortex. Nat. Neurosci., 19(8), 1003-1009.

Benasayag-Meszaros R., Risley M. G., Hernandez P., Fendrich M., Dawson-Scully K. (2015). Pushing the limit: examining factors that affect anoxia tolerance in a single genotype of adult D. melanogaster. Scientific Reports5, 9204.

Lee K.-S., Huang X., Fitzpatrick D. (2015). ON and OFF subfield organization of layer 2/3 neurons in tree shrew visual cortex. J. Vision., 15,

Kamasawa N., Sun Y., Mikuni T., Guerrero-Given D., Yasuda, R. (2015). Correlative Ultrastructural Analysis of Functionally Modulated Synapses Using Automatic Tape-Collecting Ultramicrotome – SEM Array Tomography. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 21(S3), 1271-1272.

*authors contributed equally


Applications for  IMPRS will open September 1, 2024. The application deadline is December 1, 2024.


The IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits encourages applications from students with a strong undergraduate background in neuroscience or a related discipline. Successful applicants have a solid track record in academics and research with strong motivation to pursue a Ph.D. The IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits welcomes both domestic and international applicants.

IMPRS applicants must also complete the application for admission to the degree-granting partner Integrative Biology-Neuroscience (IBNS)  Ph.D. program at FAU. The right to confer degrees remains with the IMPRS partner university, and applicants must meet all admission and degree requirements of the university.

Application Information

IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits accepts applications between September 1 and December 1.

The online IMPRS application form will ask you to provide contact information for two referees, and your referees will be contacted automatically as soon as you submit referee contact information in the application form. You will receive an email notification once a referee has submitted a recommendation letter on your behalf. It is recommended that you submit referee contact information as early as possible so that letters can be received by the application deadline.

Required Application Materials

  • Online application form including basic contact information and descriptions of the candidate’s previous research experience and faculty research interests
  • Two letters of reference
  • Resume/CV
  • Unofficial transcripts for each university you have attended
  • Letter of motivation. In one to two pages single-spaced, please briefly discuss your qualifications and motivation for applying to the IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits Ph.D. program. In your letter describe your overarching research interests, your previous research experiences including the extent of your involvement/independence and how they have prepared you for this field of study, and your long-term academic and career goals.

English language proficiency test results (TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) and GRE scores are not required for the online IMPRS application, but these scores may be provided by applicants if available. IMPRS applicants are also required to complete the FAU Graduate College application for the IBNS Ph.D. program by the December 11 deadline, including all required documents for simultaneous admission to the degree-granting partner of the IMPRS program.

The IMPRS Admissions Committee will review all complete applications submitted by the December 1 deadline. Once the online application evaluation is complete in January, the top-ranking applicants will be invited to interview at a Selection Symposium in the Spring. The IMPRS Selection Symposium will include poster presentations by candidates to explain their previous research experience, individual interviews with faculty on the IMPRS Admissions Committee, and meetings between recruiting faculty and prospective students with matching research interests. Applicants will be notified of the final admission decision on their application within two weeks of the Selection Symposium. Note that official acceptance into our IMPRS graduate program is based upon (1) the decision of the Selection Committee that the applicant is qualified for admission and (2) meeting the matriculation requirements of the partner university.


2023 IMPRS Application Walkthrough




Can I change the information I entered in the online IMPRS application?

You can make changes to your application as long as it has not been submitted. After completing the entire IMPRS application, you will be directed to a page to review entered information with options to make changes or confirm and submit the application.

Your application cannot be modified once it is formally submitted. However, you can edit, save, and revisit your application as many times as you wish before the deadline if you have not confirmed and submitted your application.

How can I be sure that my letters of reference are received?

Your referees will be automatically contacted by the application portal as soon as you submit the referee contact details in the online application form. You will receive a notification once a referee has submitted a recommendation letter on your behalf, and you can track the status of your reference letters in the online application portal. You need to inform referees that you are requesting a reference for this program application well in advance of the deadline, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to remind their referees to submit the letters before the December 1 deadline. There will be no exceptions for late submissions.

My referee did not receive a request to submit the reference letter. What should I do?

Please double-check that the referee’s contact information, especially the email address, is correctly entered in the online application form. If the contact email is correct, please ask them to check their spam/junk folder to see if our email was blocked. If this is not the case, please contact the IMPRS-SC Coordination office.

What information do I need to submit to apply?

Please see our 2023 IMPRS Application Walkthrough that navigates through each screen in the online application.

IMPRS-SC Contact:

IMPRS Coordination Office
Paul Evans, PhD