Blanpied Lab

Home of your favorite synapses

Meet the lab

[See photos from Life in Baltimore or Life in the lab.]

Thomas Blanpied, Ph.D.

I graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. My long-standing interest in cognition and learning has lead to my current work to understand the cellular processes that underlie mental health and psychiatric disorder. At the University of Pittsburgh, I obtained a Ph.D. in the Department of Neuroscience with Jon Johnson, Ph.D., where I used single-channel recordings to study the mechanisms by which the anti-Parkinsonian and anti-Alzheimer’s drugs amantadine and memantine act on NMDA receptors. I then undertook postdoctoral training with George Augustine, Ph.D. and Michael Ehlers, M.D. Ph.D. at Duke University in the Department of Neurobiology, with whom I studied the cell biological mechanisms of synaptic transmission and neural plasticity. I joined the University of Maryland Department of Physiology as an Assistant Professor in 2005.

Current Lab Members

Aaron Levy, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Aaron graduated from the University of Rochester in 2011 with his BS in Neuroscience, and completed his PhD in the Yale Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program in 2017. Aaron joined the Blanpied lab in 2017, and now is fully aware that N’s of less than 50,000 are barely worth shooting for.

Sarah Metzbower, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Sarah obtained her Bachelors of Science in Integrative Neuroscience from SUNY Binghamton in 2010. She got her Ph.D. in neuroscience in the lab in 2019.

Stephanie Pollitt, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Stephanie received her PhD from Emory University, where her work with James Zheng demonstrated definitively that actin is awesome.

Sam Barlow, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Sam graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Biochemistry. He then got his Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of Washington where he did cool chemistry things, including squeezing liposomes, electrically torturing molecules of dopamine. In lab he is currently the single synapse functional imaging wizard.

Michael Anderson

Graduate Student

Mike graduated from University of New England with a B.S. and then a masters both in Biological Science. He then worked at Hopkins as a research specialist before join PIN at UMB in 2017. Mike is really a triheteromer.

Emily DeMarco

Graduate Student

Emily graduated from James Madison University with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Biology in 2017. She then did a 2-year Postbac with Gianluigi Tanda at NIDA. She is currently tackling all of the techniques of the lab in order to solve the mystery of active zone organization.

Alex Wiltse

Graduate Student

Alex graduated with a B.A. in neuroscience from Vassar College and then worked as a lab tech at the University of Rochester studying coronavirus vaccines. He wants you to know that he is currently happier and better looking than you.

Minerva Contreras

Research Assistant

Minerva is beyond great. Suffice it to say, this place would fall apart without her!

Former Lab Members

Poorna Dharmasri, Ph.D.

Graduate Student

Poorna is currently doing a postdoc in the Huganir Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

Austin Ramsey, Ph.D.

Graduate Student

Austin is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Matthew Kennedy at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Tyler Tarr, Ph. D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Tyler is now Assistant Research Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neuroscience.

Aihui Tang, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Aihui is now a Professor at University of Science and Technology of China

Sai Divakaruni

Sai Sachin Divakaruni, M.D./Ph.D.

Graduate Student

Sai received his PhD in 2018 and finished his MD in 2020. He is now a resident in neurology at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

Kaia Amoah


Kaia is now a medical student at Howard University School of Medicine. She graduated from Hampton University in 2017 with a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Kaia was a STAR-PREP scholar in the lab in 2017-18, and studied the cellular basis of schizophrenia. She is now finishing medical school at Howard University.

Haiwen Chen, M.D./Ph. D.

Graduate Student

Haiwen finished her PhD at UMB in 2018 and is now a Pediatric Resident in the Johns Hopkins Children Center.

Tuo Peter Li, M.D./Ph. D.

Graduate Student

Tuo completed his MD at UMB in 2018 and is currently Orthopaedic Surgery Resident Surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Harold MacGillavry, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Harold is currently Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Harold received his PhD in Amsterdam with Gus Smit and joined the Blanpied lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2010. In 2014, he moved to begin his independent career in Utrecht University.

Emily Lu, Ph.D.

Graduate Student

Emily is currently Senior Scientist at NexImmune, Inc. in Rockville, MD. Emily received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Taiwan, then joined the lab and received her PhD from UMB in 2013.

Justin Kerr, Ph. D.

Graduate Student

Justin is currently Scientist and Director of Operations at Talus Analytics. Justin graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Biology, then received his Ph.D. in the Program in Neuroscience here at UMB. In the lab, he investigated the role of the actin cytoskeleton in regulating synapse organization using various live-cell imaging approaches. He graduated in 2012 and first moved to the NIH for a postdoc with Jeff Diamond.

Nick Frost, M.D./Ph. D.

Graduate Student

Nick is currently Adjunct Instructor of Neurology at UCSF. Nick was interested in understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to synaptic function. As an MD/PhD student at Maryland, he completed his thesis in the lab, investigate the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton within dendritic spines. He pioneered  the use of new live-cell imaging approaches and single-molecule microscopy to visualize protein dynamics within the spine with  unprecedented resolution. After receiving his MD and PhD degrees in 2012, he moved to UCSF to begin his residency in Neurology.