David Altman

Associate Professor of Physics; Department Chair


  • Ph.D., Physics, Stanford University, 2006
  • Bachelor of Arts, Physics, The University of Chicago, 2000

Professional Interests

The inside of a cell is crowded and highly organized. It is because of its ordered state that a cell is a dynamic and exciting environment. Molecular motors are the biomolecules that generate force and motion, and thus do the work that is necessary to maintain the cell’s organization.

Research in my lab seeks to understand how the molecular motor myosin functions in the cell by taking a two-fold approach. The first approach is to study myosins outside of the cell (in vitro). This allows us to reduce the complexity of the experimental system, but we must take the results from these experiments and extrapolate in order to understand how the motor actually functions inside the cell. The second approach we take is to study myosins inside the cell (in vivo). This means that the system is more complicated, with many other biomolecules complicating our experiment, but it also means that it is easier to understand the physiological relevance. We conduct studies at a variety of size scales, ranging from studies of individual purified motors (1 billionth of a meter) to single cells (1 millionth of a meter) to muscle fibers (1 thousandth of a meter).


Minozzo F.C., D. Altman, and D.E. Rassier, MgADP activation contributes to force enhancement during fast stretch of isolated skeletal myofibrils.  Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 2015; 463(4):1129-34.

Altman, D., F.C. Minozzo, and D.E. Rassier, Thixotropy and Rheopexy of Muscle Fibers Probed Using Sinusoidal Oscillations.  PLoS One, 2015.  10(4):e0121726.

Daniel, R., A.T. Koll, and D. Altman, Force dependence of phagosome trafficking in retinal pigment epithelial cells, Optical Trapping and Optical Micromanipulation XI, edited by Kishan Dholakia, Gabriel C. Spalding, Proc. of SPIE, 2014. 9164:916435.

Altman, D.  Mechanism of myosin work and motility, in: Roberts GC. Encyclopedia of Biophysics.  Heidelberg, Springer; 2012.

Altman, D. Fundamental properties and structure of myosin, in: Roberts GC. Encyclopedia of Biophysics.  Heidelberg, Springer; 2012.

Altman, D., D. Goswami, T. Hasson, J.A. Spudich, and S. Mayor, Precise positioning of myosin VI on endocytic vesicles. PLoS Biology, 2007. 5(8): e210.

Bryant, Z., D. Altman, J.A. Spudich, The power stroke of myosin VI and the basis of reverse directionailty. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2007. 104, 722-777.

Altman, D., and J.A. Spudich, Single-molecule optical trap studies and the myosin family of motors, in Nanoscale Technology in Biological Systems, R.S. Greco, F.B. Prinz, and R.L. Smith, Editors. 2005, CRC Press: Boca Raton. p. 175-212.

Hostetter, D., S. Rice, S. Dean, D. Altman, P.M. McMahon, S. Sutton, A. Tripathy, and J.A. Spudich, Dictyostelium myosin bipolar thick filament formation: importance of charge and specific domains of the myosin rod. PLoS Biology, 2004. 2(11): p. e356.

Altman, D., H.L. Sweeney, and J.A. Spudich, The mechanism of myosin VI translocation and its load induced anchoring. Cell, 2004. 116: 737-49.

Dufresne, E.R., D. Altman, and D.G. Grier, Brownian dynamics of a sphere between parallel walls. Europhys Lett, 2001. 53: 264-270.