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Physics and Astronomy Profile

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Joshua Alper

Physics and Astronomy

Assistant Professor

Jordan Hall G03A [Research Laboratory Service]
Kinard Lab 302B [Office]


Educational Background

B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester, 1999
M.Eng., Mechanical Engineering, Tufts University, 2002
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010

Profile/About Me

I graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1999 and took a job at Teradyne, Inc., in Boston, MA upon graduation. While working in industry, I earned an M.Eng. at Tufts University in 2002. After leaving industry in 2004, I earned a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 where my thesis was on applications of ultrafast pulsed laser irradiation in engineered nano-bio systems. I then took a postdoc and received a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship to work with Dr. Jonathon Howard on the biophysics of axonemal dynein and ciliary motility at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, and later at Yale University. I joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University in 2015, was appointed a Faculty Scholar in the Eukaryotic Pathogen Innovation Center in 2017, and was jointly appointed in the Department of Biological Sciences in 2017.

Research Interests

The Alper Lab is a molecular and cellular biophysics laboratory at Clemson University. Our overarching goal is to understand fundamental physical principles that bridge the atomic, molecular, and cellular scales. We focus on three systems: 1. the eukaryotic cytoskeleton, particularly cilia and flagella, 2. the unique biophysical mechanisms of pathogenic parasites, and 3. the simple neuronal circuits. We are an interdisciplinary research group. We use techniques and models from physics, biophysics, optics, bioengineering, cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics to make both fundamental discoveries and engineer new solutions based on these discoveries. We also develop novel technologies, techniques, and methods to enable this research. The lab is primarily funded by NIH and NSF.

Courses Taught

Undergraduate: Intro to Cellular Biophysics, Physics with Calculus I, Classical Mechanics II and II
Graduate: Cellular Biophysics

Selected Publications

Ma J, Saikia N, Godar S, Hamilton G, Ding F, Alper J, Sanabria H. Ensemble switching unveils a kinetic rheostat mechanism of the eukaryotic thiamine pyrophosphate riboswitch. RNA 27, 771–790 (2021).

Andorfer R and Alper J. From isolated structures to continuous networks: A categorization of cytoskeleton-based motile engineered biological microstructures. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology 11, e1553 (2019).

Alper J and Zanic M, Resistance is futile: Centering forces yield for asymmetric cell division. J Cell Biol 218, 727–728 (2019).

Coombes, C., Yamamoto, A., McClellan, M., Plooster, M., Luxton, G., Alper, J., Howard, J., Gardner, M. Mechanism of microtubule lumen entry for the ?-tubulin acetyltransferase enzyme ?TAT1. PNAS 113(46):E7176–E7184 (2016).

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).