Skip to Main Content


Joe Howard, PhD

Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Professor of Physics



Jonathon (Joe) Howard is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, a Professor of Physics, and a member of the Quantitative Biology Institute at Yale University. He is best known for his research on the mechanical properties of motor proteins and the cytoskeleton, and the development of techniques for observing, measuring and manipulating individual biological molecules. In addition to biophysical research on kinesin motors and other microtubule-associated proteins, Dr. Howard studies a number of cellular systems in which force and motion play key roles. These include neuronal development and the motility of cilia and flagella. Brought up in Australia, where he studied mathematics and neurobiology at the Australian National University, Professor Howard has had a distinguished career in the United States—he was a professor at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle—and in Germany, where he played a key role, as Director, in establishing the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, one of the leading research institutes in Europe. In 2013 he returned to the United States where he enjoys new research projects, teaching and writing.

Education & Training

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    University of California, San Francisco (1987)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    University of Bristol (1985)
  • PhD
    Australian National University, Neurobiology (1983)
  • BS
    Australian National University, Mathematics (1979)


  • Dendrite branching morphogenesis: Dynamics and scaling laws
    New York, NY, United States 2023
    Center for Computational Biology
  • Dendrite branching morphogenesis: Dynamics and scaling laws
    Titisee-Neustadt, BW, Germany 2022
    Space, Time, and Life, 124th Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds Titisee Conference
  • Branching morphogenesis of neuronal dendrites: Molecules, mechanisms & models
    Oeiras, Lisbon, Portugal 2021
    Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência
  • Scaling laws of branching morphogenesis in neuronal dendrites
    Bengaluru, KA, India 2020
    International Center for Theoretical Science
  • Molecular Motors: Nature's Tiniest Protein Machines
    Budapest, Hungary 2019
    Semmelweis University 250th Anniversary
  • Cell mechanics
    Sydney, NSW, Australia 2018
    Mechanobiology down Under
  • Cellular computing
    Bengaluru, KA, India 2018
  • Physical Energetics of the cell
    Brussels, Brussels, Belgium 2017
    27th Solvay Conference on Physics
  • Molecular machines
    Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea 2016
    Summer school and workshop
  • Alan J. Hunt Memorial Lecture
    Ann Arbor, MI, United States 2015
    Alan J. Hunt Memorial Lecture
  • Woods Hole Physiology Course
    Falmouth, MA, United States 2015
    Woods Hole Physiology Course
  • Bragg Lecture
    Cambridge, England, United Kingdom 2014
    Physics of Living Matter
  • Arthur K. Parpart Endowed Lecture
    Falmouth, MA, United States 2012
    Arthur K. Parpart Endowed Lecture
  • Poincaré Seminar
    Paris, France 2009
    Poincaré Seminar
  • George A. Feigen Memorial Lecture
    Stanford, CA, United States 2006
    George A. Feigen Memorial Lecture

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
MemberConnecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences2017
FellowBiophysical Society2016
External MemberMax Planck Society, Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems2016
Pioneer AwardNational Institutes of Health2015
Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics & BiochemistryYale University2013
Timoshenko FellowMechanical Engineering, Stanford University2008
MemberEuropean Molecular Biology Organization2004
Scientific MemberMax Planck Society, Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics2000, 2014
MERIT AwardNational Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases2000
FellowJohn Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation1996
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical SciencesPew Charitable Trusts1990
Sloan Research FellowAlfred P. Sloan Foundation1990
Australian National Undergraduate ScholarAustralian National University1976

Professional Service

Biophysical JournalAssociate Editor2022 - Present
RIKEN Advisory Panel, RIKEN11th RAC, Member2019
NIHMFSC Study Section, Member2016 - 2021
Center for Mechanobiology, SingaporeReview Panel, Chair2015
Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden, Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden, Dresden University of TechnologyScientific Advisory Board, Member2013 - 2019
RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center (QBiC), RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center (QBiC)Advisory Council, Chair2013 - 2017
RIKEN, RIKEN9th RAC, Member2013

Departments & Organizations