Science Career Panel

SCPanel 2016 300

The MPFI Scientific Career Panel is an opportunity for high school and middle school students in Palm Beach County to meet and interact with Max Planck scientists. Students will hear from scientists who are in different stages of training, from undergraduate interns to Research Group Leaders. They will discuss what inspired them to choose a career in science, and the educational and research backgrounds that got them to where they are today.

The 2016 Scientific Career Panel will be held on September 22 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. An optional 15-minute facility tour will take place after the panel discussion.

Palm Beach County Middle and High Schools can apply to attend MPFI’s Science Career Panel via the application link below. Before applying, please select five students and one teacher chaperone. Teachers should register themselves, five students, and submit their answer to the application question below via one application entry per school by Thursday, September 1, 2016. Ten middle schools and ten high schools will be selected based on the answers to the application question. Priority will be given to those schools who were not selected to participate last year. Selected schools will be notified no later than Friday, September 16, 2016. Please contact Dr. Ana Fiallos with any questions at

Application Question: How will your students benefit from learning more about careers in science?


2016 Panelists

James Schummers, Ph.D.

Dr. James Schummers was named an independent Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in June 2010 and heads the Cellular Organization of Cortical Circuit Function research group. Dr. Schummers received his bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where he studied the effects of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide-Y on long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus. He then moved to Denver CO, where he studied the effects of alcohol on LTP in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado Health Science Center. He received a PhD in Systems Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the support of a Howard Hughes Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. His thesis work combined intracellular and extracellular single neuron recordings with optical imaging approaches to study the integration of synaptic inputs in the context of visual processing. His postdoctoral work, also at MIT, focused on single-cell resolution imaging to study the response properties of different classes of cells, including both neurons and astrocytes, in the visual cortex.

Joe Schumacher, Ph.D.

Dr. Joe Schumacher joined Max Planck Florida as a postdoc in the Fitzpatrick lab in November of 2014. His research combines imaging and behavioral techniques to investigate how learning impacts the function of neural circuits. Prior to joining the Fitzpatrick Lab, Dr. Schumacher earned his PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University. His dissertation examined the role of developmental vocal learning on the properties of auditory cortical neurons in songbirds. He is also a founder and host of the Neurotransmissions podcast, in which leading neuroscientists from around the world share their perspectives on a life in neuroscience.

Ye Sun

Ye Sun is a graduate student in the lab of MPFI Scientific Director Dr. Ryohei Yasuda. Her major project for her Ph.D. studies is to visualize the ultrastructural mechanisms under dendritic spine structural plasticity in nanometer resolution by correlative imaging using two-photon microscopy and electron microscopy. Ye joined MPFI in August 2014. She graduated from Wuhan University in China with a B.S. degree in General Biology. She then attended University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where she received her Master’s degree in Cancer Biology. Her love of brain science made her decide to switch her direction and pursue a career in neuroscience field.

Connon Thomas

Connon Thomas works as a technician in the Electron Microscopy Core Facility, and uses specialized high-powered microscopes to observe the brain’s smallest structures. The core facility works in collaboration with researchers from MPFI and the surrounding research institutions, incorporating numerous techniques to study what light microscopes can’t see. Connon graduated with a B.S. degree in Conservation Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2015. It was only during his junior year that he learned about electron microscopy and fell in love with the technique, acquiring a minor in Microscopy upon graduation. Switching fields from ecology to neuroscience, Connon joined the Max Planck Florida Institute in May 2015 as a technician, and is part of a small team that works with researchers on their specific projects to help understand how the brain’s structure matches its function.

View questions and answers from our 2015 Science Career Panel here.

View questions and answers from our 2014 Science Career Panel here.