Harold MacGillavry, PhD

hdmacgillavryHarold MacGillavry studied Medical Biology at the University of Amsterdam, and obtained his PhD (2010) at VU University Amsterdam with Dr. Ronald van Kesteren, Prof. Dr. Guus Smit, and Prof. Dr. Joost Verhaagen. He then joined the lab of Dr. Tom Blanpied at the University of Maryland Baltimore (2010 – 2014). Here, he used live-cell, single-molecule imaging approaches to study the dynamic organization of neurotransmitter receptors and structural proteins at neuronal excitatory synapses. In 2013, he received an ALW-VENI grant from NWO and a Return-to-Europe fellowship from FEBS. He then joined the Cell Biology department at Utrecht University in 2014. In 2016 he received a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).



Manon Westra, PhD student


Manon Westra studied Neurosciences at the VU University in Amsterdam and obtained her MSc degree in 2017. At the end of that year, she started her PhD in the group of Dr. Harold MacGillavry. She is interested in the molecular mechanisms behind brain functioning and the different ways of visualizing the nanoscale structures in the brain. Her project focusses on understanding the synaptic membrane organization. She will investigate the dynamics of synaptic membrane components using advanced super-resolution microscopy techniques.




Yolanda Gutierrez, postdoc

SONY DSCYolanda Gutierrez studied Biochemistry at Universidad Autonoma in Madrid and obtained her MSc degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2012. She carried her graduate research in the lab of Prof. Jose A. Esteban at Centro de Biologia Molecular Severo Ochoa in Madrid, where she obtained her PhD degree in 2018. During this time, she investigated the implication of microtubule-associated transport and kinesin activity in synaptic function. She established specific kinesin molecular motors as key components of the activity-dependent endosomal transport of AMPA receptors during synaptic plasticity. Yolanda joined the group of Dr. Harold MacGillavry in 2019 to study how the dynamic organization of the synaptic membrane controls neuronal function. In particular, she will combine super-resolution imaging techniques and electrophysiology to define the dynamics and nanoscale organization of lipids in the synaptic membrane and determine their contribution to synaptic transmission and plasticity.



Wouter Droogers, PhD student


Wouter Droogers acquired his MSc degree in September 2019 at Utrecht University in the field of Neuroscience & Cognition. To complete his master’s, he studied early life stress using electrophysiology in the lab of Prof. Dr. Marian Joëlls and Dr. Henk Karst at UMC Utrecht. In addition, he performed an internship in the lab of Dr. Jesper Sjöström at McGill University, investigating the role of calcium in interneuron plasticity using quadruple whole-cell recordings and two-photon imaging. In February 2020, he started his PhD in the lab of Dr. Harold MacGillavry at Utrecht University. His research will focus on the dynamic nanostructure of the synapse during plasticity. To dissect the underlying mechanisms he will use super-resolution microscopy and electrophysiology.



Niels Reinders, postdoc

Photo NielsNiels Reinders received his Msc. degree in Neuroscience and Cognition at Utrecht University in 2012 and his PhD degree at the University of Amsterdam in 2019 in the group of Prof. Helmut Kessels. During his PhD he focussed on the molecular mechanisms that underlie synaptopathology in Alzheimer’s disease. He reported that the detrimental effects of amyloid beta oligomers on synapses and memory is dependent on the GluA3-AMPAR subunit. After his PhD he studied the role of Shisa proteins in synaptic plasticity with Prof. Guus Smit and Prof. Sabine Spijker at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He currently works in the group of Harold MacGillavry to further map the molecular processes that facilitate synaptopathology in Alzheimer disease and to develop clinically relevant tools to protect synapses against Alzheimer’s disease.



Former lab members:


Nicky Scheefhals, PhD student

Photo NickyNicky Scheefhals studied Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences at the University of Utrecht and received her MSc degree in 2016. She received a Quantitative and Computational Life Sciences (Qbio) grant from NWO’s Graduate Programme and started her PhD in the lab of Dr. Harold MacGillavry in October 2016. She has great interest in understanding fundamental processes in brain functioning and is highly enthusiastic about the opportunity to study this at a nanoscopic scale using advanced super-resolution imaging techniques. This nicely fits with her main focus on resolving the dynamic positioning of glutamate receptors at excitatory synapses crucial to efficient neuronal signaling.



Lisa Catsburg, PhD student

FullSizeRenderLisa Catsburg studied Molecular Neurosciences at the University of Amsterdam and obtained her MSc degree in 2017. The same year she started her PhD in the group of Dr. Harold MacGillavry. She is interested in understanding the molecular machinery underlying neuronal plasticity and excitability. In line with this, her project focusses on the molecular mechanisms regulating postsynaptic receptor trafficking at glutamatergic synapses. Using a variety of molecular and advanced microscopy techniques she will investigate these mechanisms through space and time in the greatest detail.




Jelmer Willems, PhD student

Photo Jelmer

Jelmer Willems studied Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences at the University of Utrecht. After obtaining his MSc degree in 2017, he started his PhD in the group of Dr. Harold MacGillavry. He is interested in the molecular architecture of the excitatory synapse. Using a combination of molecular techniques and advanced single-molecule microscopy, his project aims to understand the spatial distribution of neurotransmitter receptors at excitatory synapses and how this relates to synaptic strength.




Anna Bodzeta, postdoc


Anna Bodzęta studied Biophysics at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and received her MSc degree in 2012. For her PhD study, Anna joined the lab of Prof. Dr. Jürgen Klinaguf at Institute of Medical Physics and Biophysics, University of Münster and obtain her PhD degree in 2017. During PhD study, she investigated the molecular mechanism linking regulation of vacuolar H+-ATPase activity and synaptic vesicle exocytosis in hippocampal neurons using various fluorescence microscopy techniques. In November 2017, she started her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Harold MacGillavry. Anna is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic organization and function with focus on presynaptic terminals. In line with this, her project focuses on the nanoscale organization of presynaptic glutamate receptors and their role in synaptic transmission.



Arthur de Jong, postdoc

Photo ArthurArthur de Jong obtained his MSc degree in medical biology from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. For his graduate research, he moved to the laboratory of Dr. Matthijs Verhage at the VU university in Amsterdam, were he investigated the variability and regulation of presynaptic strength in hippocampal neurons. During his postdoctoral research at the laboratory of Dr. Pascal Kaeser at Harvard Medical School in Boston, he worked on molecular composition of the presynaptic active zone, and identified an protein-lipid interaction that is critical for synaptic vesicle fusion. Arthur aims to understand the molecular events that underlie presynaptic function and synaptic plasticity.


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