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Joshua Alper

Joshua Alper, Assistant Professor, Clemson University, Clemson SCAssistant Professor

Alper Lab

Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

M.Eng., Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tufts University
B.S., Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester

Our goal is to understand fundamental physical principles in biology that bridge the atomic, molecular, and cellular scales. We are particularly fascinated by systems with molecular motor proteins, which we study using single-molecule measurements, in vitro reconstitutions, and cellular models.

The coordinated action of molecular motor proteins is critical to multiple aspects of biology, including muscle contraction, cell division, cell migration, and intracellular transport. We study the physics that underlie motor protein coordination mechanisms. We make experimental measurements with high-resolution techniques, including optical tweezers and light microscopy, and we make mathematical and physical models to understand the results. The experimental model systems for motor coordination that we study are the motors that drive the oscillatory waveforms of eukaryotic cilia and flagella, which are critical to multiple biological systems related to human health and disease.


Li L., Jia Z., Peng Y., Godar S., Getov I., Teng S., Alper J., and Alexov E. (2017) Forces and Disease: Electrostatic force differences caused by mutations in kinesin motor domains can distinguish between disease-causing and non-disease-causing mutations. Scientific Reports 7:8237. PMID: 28811629

Coombes C, Yamamoto Y, McClellan M, Reid T, Plooster M, Luxton G, Alper J, Howard J, Gardner M. (2016) Mechanism of microtubule lumen entry for the α-tubulin acetyltransferase enzyme αTAT1. PNAS 113(46):E7176-E7184. PMID: 27803321

Li L, Alper J, Alexov E. Cytoplasmic dynein binding, run length, and velocity are guided by long-range electrostatic interactions. Scientific Reports 6:31523 (2016). PMID: 27531742

Li, L., Alper J., Alexov E. Multiscale method for modeling binding phenomena involving large objects: application to kinesin motor domains motion along microtubules.Scientific Reports 6, 23249 (2016). PMID: 26988596

Alper, J., Decker, F., Agana, B. and Howard, J. The Motility of Axonemal Dynein Is Regulated by the Tubulin Code. Biophysical Journal 107, 2872–2880 (2014). PMID: 25658008

Alper, J., Tovar, M. and Howard, J. Displacement-Weighted Velocity Analysis of Gliding Assays Reveals that Chlamydomonas Axonemal Dynein Preferentially Moves Conspecific Microtubules.. Biophysical Journal 104, 1989–1998 (2013). PMID: 23663842