FAU has a New Face For its Neuroscience Department

Vanderbilt’s Randy Blakely to lead FAU’s new Brain Institute


Tim Murphy

The Board of Governors will meet in the Majestic Palm Room of the Student Union.

Zak Sadik, Contributing Writer

Neuroscience is one of Florida Atlantic’s four pillars the school believes to be integral in creating knowledge that benefits society.

FAU’s new Brain Institute does just that, and starting in May, will feature a fresh face as its executive director, prominent neuroscientist Randy Blakely.

Joining a program that has a history of excellence in neuroscience, despite it being so young, “is an exciting opportunity for me,” Blakely says.

He hopes to bring the program to a place of prominence through research and partnerships with other establishment like the Scripps Research Institute in Boca Raton and the Max Planck Institute, located on FAU’s Jupiter campus.

“It’s rare to find an institution with a foundation and is so closely connected with other institutes,” says Blakely.

For the last 20 years, Blakely has filled several roles at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, including director of the Center for Molecular Neuroscience at the school.

Much of his life’s work has been in the fields of molecular neuroscience and pharmacology.

One of his main focuses has been studying the effects of amphetamines and other drugs on the brain. He observes changes in the brain’s synapses and examines how brain proteins control chemical signaling.

Blakely hopes to have a broad impact on FAU’s Boca and Jupiter campuses by providing first-rate neuroscientific, genetic and pharmacological studies. At Vanderbilt, he created models for mental disorders as a way to help those affected.

FAU’s Brain Institute reflects the U.S. Brain Initiative, which is a top research priority to gain new tools and insights into how the nervous system supports perception, memory, learning, mood and movement.

Photo courtesy of Rand Blakely
Photo courtesy of Rand Blakely

Blakely says the new institute has “a lot of opportunity to build strengths” for the school, and he hopes to bring further leadership into FAU’s field of neuroscience.

Originally a philosophy undergraduate at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Blakely was drawn toward further understanding the mind and brain. He went on to become one of the first graduate neuroscience students at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The first step for Blakely is to relocate his research lab from Nashville. Many of his 25 current team members will follow him to South Florida, but the students he will be teaching will also play a vital role offering new insight into the institute’s progress.

“Students are the lifeblood of my research,” he says. “They provide fresh perspectives.”

Zakaria Sadik is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.