AnnouncementsNeural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia

Get to know the MPFI IMPRS Faculty: Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully

The first of its kind in uniting Universities and Max Planck Institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Brain and Behavior offers a competitive world-class Ph.D. training and research program. In this series, we are learning more about the scientists who make up our IMPRS Brain and Behavior faculty, and get an idea of what it’s like to be a part of their labs.


Dr. Ken Dawson Scully
Professor, Biological Sciences and Head of Institutional Partnerships at Max Planck Florida
What’s going on in your lab that you are most excited about?

We use behavior genetics, electrophysiology, and bioimaging of cellular calcium to understand the mechanisms used by invertebrates to protect their brains from environmental stresses such as low oxygen, high temperature, and oxidative stress. We also have developed numerous behavior assays for drug discovery, for example we developed an electroconvulsive seizure model in C. elegans where we have now identified 2 novel AEDs.

How would you describe the culture and environment of your lab?
The lab is a friendly and inclusive environment where trainees can realize their full potential regardless the level they come into the lab. All of the trainees in my lab are self-driven and self-motivated as a means to accomplish their goals. Our lab works on a team-based structure where there is overlap in project leads and project members. We meet once a week as a group but have either team-based meetings or one-on-ones when needed. Lastly, we have a system where a trainee works on a “bread and butter” project, but I also promote the trainee to work on a “side project” that drives their curiosity driven research. where the “side project” often turns into the trainee’ s main project.

What do people in your lab do for fun?
The lab is cohesive, and we go out for lunch together as a group as often as possible.

What advice do you have for prospective grad students?
I think grad students should make sure they are able to work on questions in science that genuinely interests them so when their experiments fail, or they are using the same technique for the 1000th time, they have a vital motive for pushing through their key data acquiring experiments. I would also recommend that grad students “enjoy the journey” and really immerse themselves not only in the lab, but also in the many organizations available at the university or at a regional, national, or international level towards a well-rounded degree.

Learn more about education opportunities through IMPRS Brain and Behavior, please visit

To learn more about the Dawson-Scully lab, visit