Shaping the Future of Neuroscience

Florida Atlantic’s Unmatched Educational and Research Opportunities are Preparing Future Neuroscientists for Success

Florida Atlantic University is shaping the world’s next generation of neuroscientists — those who will answer the most critical questions in brain science — in partnership with the top nonprofit biomedical research organization in the world.

Since 2015, Florida Atlantic has collaborated with the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) to offer world-class education and research opportunities for graduate students, undergrads, and even high school students. MPFI is located on six acres of Florida Atlantic’s John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter. Together, the organizations have made great strides to establish unparalleled programs for the mutual benefit of Florida Atlantic’s brightest minds and Max Planck’s leading scientists.

MPFI, a not-for-profit research organization, is part of the world-renowned Max Planck Society, Germany’s most successful research organization with more than 80 institutes worldwide. Since its establishment in 1948, 30 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of the society’s scientists. MPFI is the only Max Planck Institute in North America.

“Science is really the stem of all improvements in the quality of our lives and the brain is one of the last unsolved frontiers of science,” said Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D., executive director of the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. “The multimillion-dollar investments in brain research at Florida Atlantic and MPFI have resulted in the Jupiter campus becoming a powerhouse hub for neuroscience research and education.”

Blakely was recruited from Vanderbilt University, where he led the NIMH-sponsored Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research, to serve as the founding executive director for Florida Atlantic’s neuroscience research institute. His vision has built a top-notch organization by recruiting the very best scientists and enhancing its technology and facilities. Shortly after Blakely’s arrival in 2016, the FAU Brain Institute was named a Nikon Center of Excellence, which brought a new level of imaging capability to its scientists and students, and connected Florida Atlantic with some of the most prominent academic institutions and research centers around the globe. 

Blakely also has been instrumental in securing funding from the state and donors. This includes a recent $10 million gift to name the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute and the David J. S. Nicholson Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience, which he holds.

In 2017, Florida Atlantic and MPFI announced a program unlike any other in the world: an undergraduate honors program in neuroscience. Designed to recruit and serve the very best of the best, the FAU Max Planck Honors Program requires students to have a high GPA, with preference given to National Merit Scholars. The program offers exclusive electives, specifically unique to the MPFI’s faculty and research infrastructure; unrivaled research opportunities; and cutting-edge neuroscience training courses to prepare undergraduates for careers in STEM or graduate education. 

In 2020, FAU High School – Jupiter Campus in partnership with Max Planck Academy opened, giving high school juniors and seniors the option to pursue a free bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic and their high school diploma simultaneously. These gifted students have unique opportunities to work alongside leading Florida Atlantic and MPFI researchers and pursue directed independent research projects in state-of-the-art laboratories. They also have access to unparalleled scientific enrichment activities, including lectures from Nobel laureates.

The partnership between Florida Atlantic and Max Planck also led to the creation of two successful graduate degree programs: the doctorate program in integrative biology, offering a concentration in neuroscience (IBNS), and the nation’s first International Max Planck Research School for Synapses and Circuits (IMPRS-SC). 

“These programs emphasize the seamless collaboration between Max Planck Florida and Florida Atlantic,” said FAU President Stacy Volnick. “The combination of these assets, along with the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, make Florida Atlantic a premier global destination for neuroscience research and education.”

Learn more about Florida Atlantic’s unmatched neuroscience educational and research opportunities at

This content was paid for and created by Florida Atlantic University. The editorial staff at The Chronicle had no role in its preparation. Find out more about paid content.