Nathan Derr

photo of Nate Derr

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Smith College

Ph.D., Harvard University

Research Interests

The Derr lab pursues the biophysical and cell biological mechanisms of the cytoskeletal molecular motors dynein and kinesin.

The group studies these molecular machines in two ways: 1) at the level of individual motors to better understand how they convert ATP into the productive work required by the cell, and 2) in small ensembles that allow us to observe how these motors interact with one another at the nanoscale. In these studies, the lab often employs techniques from the field of DNA structural nanotechnology.

The Derr lab also pursues synthetic biology and the application of molecular motors to engineered nanoscale transport devices.


Derr ND. Interactions of multiple dynein motors studied using DNA scaffolding.  In "The Handbook of Dynein,” 2nd edition. Pan Stanford Publishing. Editor Keiko Hirose.

Zanacchi FC, Manzo C, Alvarez AS, Derr ND, Parajo MG, Lakadamyali M. (2017) A DNA origami platform for quantifying protein copy number in super-resolution. Nature Methods. 8, 789-792.

DelRosso NV, Hews S, Spector L & Derr ND.  (2017)  A Molecular Circuit Regenerator to Implement Iterative Strand Displacement Operations. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 56, 4443-4446.

DelRosso NV & Derr ND. (2017) Exploiting molecular motors as nanomachines: the mechanisms of de novo and re-engineered cytoskeletal motors. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 46, 20–26.

Driller-Colangelo AR, Chau KWL, Morgan JM & Derr ND. (2016) Cargo rigidity affects the sensitivity of dynein ensembles to individual motor pausing. Cytoskeleton 73, 693–702.

Derr ND*, Goodman BS*, Jungman R, Leschziner AE, Shih WM, Reck-Peterson SL. (2012) Tug of War in Motor Protein Ensembles Revealed with a Programmable DNA Origami Scaffold. Science 338, 662-665.

    *denotes equal contributions

    Commentary on this research appeared in:  

        Science 338:626 (2012).

        Current Biology 22:1053 (2012).

Goodman BS, Derr ND, Reck-Peterson SL. (2012) Engineered, harnessed and hijacked: synthetic uses for cytoskeletal systems. Trends in Cell Biology 22, 644-652.

Qiu W*, Derr ND*, Goodman BS, Villa E, Wu D, Shih W, Reck-Peterson SL. (2012) Dynein achieves processive motion using both stochastic and coordinated stepping. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 19, 193-200.

    *denotes equal contributions

    Commentary on this research appeared in:

           Nature 482:7383 (2012).

Reck-Peterson SL, Derr N, Stuurman N. (2010) Single molecule imaging using total internal reflection microscopy. In “Live Cell Imaging: a laboratory manual”, 2nd edition. Cold Spring Harbor Press.