Dr. Josh Alper

Physics and Astronomy
College of Science

Area of Research:
Molecular and Cellular Biophysics

302B Kinard Laboratory
Dr. Josh Alper

Proposed role for the Scholar as an undergraduate researcher in the Mentor's lab.
The primary role of the Scholar will be to conduct an independent research project in the field of molecular and cellular biophysics. The primary research interests of the lab include the coordination of the motor proteins that drive the beat of eukaryotic cilia and flagella, the unique biophysical mechanisms of pathogenic parasites (e.g., motility, immune system avoidance, septin mediated cytokinesis), the processivity of intracellular transport motors, the control of active materials built from cytoskeletal components, and the engineering of simple neuronal circuits. With my guidance, the Scholar will choose and plan all aspects of a project within the lab’s interests, including formulating the specific scientific hypotheses, objectives, aims, and milestones, that is focused on authoring peer-reviewed publications. Additionally, the Scholar will plan and perform daily experiments, analyze data, draw conclusions, build models, and ask the next questions based on their results. The Scholar will learn to culture cells, to clone and mutate genes of interest, to express and purify proteins, to perform biochemical and biophysical techniques, the use white-light and fluorescent microscopy, and to use optical tweezers. The Scholar will learn image and statistical data analysis, how to build biophysical models of their experiments, and how to fit those models to the data. Finally, the Scholar will draft, edit, and submit a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal based on their findings, as well as prepare and present their findings at international meetings, such as the American Society for Cell Biology or the Biophysical Society.

Frequency and nature of the planned interactions between the Scholar and Mentor.
The Scholar will participate in weekly lab meetings and journal clubs, which I will regularly attend. These meetings will allow the Scholar to interact with me and to collaborate with other undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs in the lab. The Scholar will present their work at lab meetings on a rotating basis with the other students in the lab, as well as lead journal club discussions of current literature, getting feedback from labmates and me. The Scholar will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other labs, both computational and experimental, within Clemson's College of Science. Such interactions include attending seminars and participating in multi-lab group meetings. In addition to these interactions, I will have an individual weekly meeting with the Scholar (half an hour during the year and one hour during the summers).

Specific plans the Mentor will employ.
All the roles and interactions planned for the Scholar are designed to advance the Scholar's research and prepare the Scholar for a career in science. At the individual weekly meetings, we will discuss recent results, immediate plans, and take time to reflect on the greater project. I will also discuss the Scholar's career goals and provide individualized professional mentorship to match these goals. I am enthusiastic about mentoring undergraduate students, particularly Beckman Scholars, in my lab because a strong mentor-student relationship is critical to the development of young scientists. To that end, I foster a safe, collaborative community in the lab where open communication is valued, where accessibility is expected, and where ideas are shared freely. I understand that a great mentor can have a life-long impact on young scientists, and I will work every day to make the most of my time with the Scholar. This approach has proven successful; seven undergraduates who have graduated from my lab have gone on to graduate programs (Carnegie Mellon University, University of Texas at Austin, Virginia Tech, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, and the Medical University of South Carolina), and one is pursuing the prestigious Postbac IRTA program at NIH. One of these students was awarded the Physics Department's Cawthorne Award for outstanding scholarship and citizenship, and three have won poster awards at regional meetings.

Active undergraduate researchers in Mentor's lab. Currently there are 17 undergraduates working in my lab (including CIs).

Total number of UGRS mentored to date:39

In the Alper Lab, we are broadly interested in the field of molecular and cellular biophysics. The lab has three primary research thrusts: 1. We study fundamental biophysical mechanisms of the cytoskeleton, including coordination of the motor proteins that drive the beat of eukaryotic cilia and flagella and the processivity of intracellular transport motors. 2. We study unique biophysical mechanisms of pathogenic parasites, including their motility, immune system avoidance, and septin-mediated cytokinesis. 3. We work out the principles by which microscope structures and systems can be engineered from biological elements, including of the control of active materials built from cytoskeletal components, and the engineering of simple neuronal circuits.