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. Visit our IMPRS Faculty page to learn more.

IMPRS PhD students are immersed into a world-class neuroscience training environment working alongside scientists at the forefront of neuroscience research. In addition to the flourishing neuroscience campus in Jupiter, Florida, there are numerous exchange opportunities with other neuroscience-focused Max Planck Institutes in Germany through jointly organized advanced scientific training workshops, symposia, and extended research stays. IMPRS PhD students also 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.

All students in the IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits are enrolled in the degree-granting partner Integrative Biology-Neuroscience (IBNS) PhD program at FAU. Comprehensive interdisciplinary neuroscience curriculum is offered by the IBNS PhD program, which students usually complete in the first two years after admission. Admitted students can either directly match with a faculty advisor for their thesis research or perform laboratory rotations with IMPRS faculty to identify a PI in the first year.

*The IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits is subject to official approval from the Max Planck Society to begin in January 2022

IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits Faculty


Apply Now


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 PhD. 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

The application for the Fall 2022 admissions cycle is now open and the deadline to apply is December 1, 2021. Applications will be accepted during the open application period using the online IMPRS application portal. All application materials, including reference letters, must be received by the December 1 deadline for your application to be considered by the admissions committee. There will be no exceptions for late submissions.

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 submitted 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 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 February-March. 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.

Apply Now

Admissions FAQ

Application FAQs

How can I apply?

Please refer to our Admissions page for more information on how to apply.

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

You can make changes to your application as long as you do not submit it. To make changes, you have to go through the whole application and reach the last page where you can review entered information. On this last page, there will be a “Make Changes to Your Application” button and another button to make changes to your referee information.

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 does it mean that IMPRS-SC is subject to official approval? 

Since 2015 MPFI and Florida Atlantic University have been a part of the IMRS for Brain in Behavior, in partnership with caesar and the University of Bonn in Bonn Germany. To better tailor training to our student’s needs, and to emphasize our research focus on understanding neural circuits at different scales of study, Max Planck Florida will launch a stand-alone IMPRS program, continuing to work alongside FAU. The new program, IMPRS for Synapses and Circuits, builds on the experience and expertise of our previous IMPRS faculty and will officially begin in January 2022, subject to final IMPRS approval. 

Publications by Max Planck Florida IMPRS Students

Names in Bold indicate Max Planck Florida IMPRS Ph.D. Student

Meinke C, Quinlan MA, Paffenroth KC, Harrison FE, Fenollar-Ferrer C, Katamish RM, Stillman I, Ramamoorthy S, Blakely RD. Serotonin Transporter Ala276 Mouse: Novel Model to Assess the Neurochemical and Behavioral Impact of Thr276 Phosphorylation In Vivo. Neurochem Res. 2021 Apr 8. doi: 10.1007/s11064-021-03299-w. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33830406.

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(1), 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. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience40(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 DOI:10.1016/j.bpj.2019.11.1635

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

Lee, K.-S., Vandemark, K., Mezey, D., Shultz, N., and Fitzpatrick, D. (2019). Functional Synaptic Architecture of Callosal Inputs in Mouse Primary Visual Cortex. Neuron 101, 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. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience39(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.*, and Fitzpatrick, D. (2018). Differential tuning of excitation and inhibition shapes direction selectivity in ferret visual cortex. Nature 560, 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. and Dawson-Scully, K. (2017). Electroshock Induced Seizures in Adult C. elegansBio-protocol 7(9): e2270. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.2270.

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

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

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, 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, 1803–1817.

Wilson, D.E., Whitney, D.E., Scholl, B., and Fitzpatrick, D. (2016). Orientation selectivity and the functional clustering of synaptic inputs in primary visual cortex. Nat Neurosci . 19, 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., and Fitzpatrick, D. (2015). ON and OFF subfield organization of layer 2/3 neurons in tree shrew visual cortex. J Vis 15, 990–990.

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

For More Information, Please Contact:

IMPRS Coordination Office

Paul Evans, PhD

MPFI Head of Scientific Training