University of California, Irvine, Department of Biological Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Dr. Alexander McPherson

(Ph.D. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1970)

Research areas:

Microgravity research on macromolecular crystal growth; X-ray and diffraction analysis of protein, nucleic acid and virus crystals; Atomic Force Microscopy studies of biological structures.

  • Faculty Profile

    Publications via PubMed (NIH National Library of Medicine)

  • Lab Web Site: McPLab Website

  • E-mail:

  • Research is divided among a number of areas focused ultimately on the determination and description of biological structure, principally at the molecular level, but extending to the organelle and cellular as well. The primary techniques employed are X-ray crystallography, atomic force microscopy, quasi elastic light scatting and optical interferometry. In support of the application of these biophysical methods we employ a wide range of conventional biochemical, as well as molecular biological techniques. Of chief interest in terms of molecular structure are intact immunoglobulins, whose dynamics we hope to reveal through a series of static, X-ray derived images, and small spherical viruses for which we are attempting to define the molecular structures and mechanisms involved in assembly. To promote our research in structure determination, a major interest is in the growth of macromolecular crystals. Using AFM and QELS we are attempting to elucidate the phase transition phenomenon leading to nucleation, and the mechanisms, kinetic factors, and thermodynamic parameters fundamental to the crystal growth process. Among the diverse approaches utilized, is crystallization of macromolecules in microgravity, including missions aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Space Station Mir. These experiments allow us, in many instances, to improve the quality of crystals used in our analyses and hence, the precision of the molecular structures derived form those crystals.

    Dr. McPherson is part of the UCI Graduate Track in Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics within the UCI graduate Program in Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry. Applications requests or additional information about the graduate program may be obtained by electronic mail at or by phone at (949) 824-8145. On-line applications may also be submitted through the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

    1) Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry

    2) Email: or call (949) 824-8145

    3) Graduate Studies Home Page, with links to On-line applications and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies

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