Morgen E. Anyan

Morgen profile
Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences
University of Notre Dame
(574) 631-2962 (Office)




My research focuses on factors that affect the swarming motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a ubiquitous, Gram-negative bacterium. Swarming is the coordinated group movement of cells across a semi-solid surface through a thin liquid layer, and is a precursor to the formation of P. aeruginosa's biofilms. 

Swarming is a temperamental motility; minute changes in surface moisture and nutrient type and availability can have large impacts on the overall growth and phenotype (a.k.a., pattern) of a swarm. When preparing swarm motility assays one has to worry not just about how long the plates are dried, but also the room’s ambient temperature and humidity, the temperature and humidity of the incubator, the type of agar used, carbon source, the type of Petri dish used, etc. 

Assay preparation factors are just the tip of the swarming iceberg. Defects in, or over expression of, various cellular components, such as flagella or rhamnolipid production, can result in marked differences in swarming motility. One such area that I’m particularly interested in is the effect of type IV pili (TFP) on swarming motility. Cells without TFP (∆pilA) expand faster, produce less defined swarm tendrils and, at the single-cell level, are more aligned than TFP-producing wildtype cells (Figure 1). My collaborators and I recently published our results detailing how TFP interactions promote cell-cell associations and modify Pseudomonas aeruginosa swarming in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Publications).

swarm plates
Figure 1.  TFP-deficient (∆pilA) swarms produce less defined tendrils than wildtype swarms, and display greater cell-cell alignment.  A hyper-piliated strain, ∆pilU, is unable to retract its TFP and does not swarm.  The scale bars for ‘Swarm Assay’ and ‘Swarm Edge’ represent 10mm and 10μm, respectfully.

I am also investigating the influence of the heavy metals cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni) on Pseudomonas aeruginosa motility, and have found that resistance to Cd and Ni changes with motility mode. A manuscript detailing these results is currently being prepared.



  • “Increased Tolerance to Heavy Metals Exhibited by by Swarming Bacteria.” American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 15-19, 2014. 

  • Cell-Cell Interactions and Dynamics During Swarming of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.” American Society of Microbiology General Meeting, Denver, CO, May 18-21, 2013. 

  • “Biological and Physical Factors Affecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa Swarming.” Workshop on Physical Approaches to Studying the Cytoskeleton and Cell Motility, Chicago, IL, March 4, 2013. (Program PDF). 

  • “Imaging and Applications of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Swarming.”  Workshop on the Physics of Bacterial Communities, Chicago, IL, June 12, 2012. (Program PDF)


  • University of Notre Dame (2010- present)
    • Thesis title: Physical and Environmental Factors Affecting the Swarm Motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • Washington State University, magna cum laude (2006- 2010)
    • Bachelor of Science, Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Mathematics minor 
    • Honors College graduate


  • CEST Bayer Pre-Doctoral Fellow (2012- 2013 and 2014- 2015)
  • S. Town Stevenson Award (2010)
  • Washington State University Distinguished Regents Scholar (2006- 2010)
  • Washington Scholar (2006- 2010) 
  • Washington State University President’s Honor Roll (2006- 2010; 8/8 semesters)


  • Environmental intern (May- August, 2010)
    • BP Cherry Point Refinery, Blaine, WA
      • Investigated the correlation between plant operations and total sulfur emissions, found that increases in refinery production levels did not result in increased sulfur emissions.
      • Compiled emission alarming data to cross-reference with agency permit limits, laid the ground word for more efficient reporting of air emissions.
      • Conducted EPA compliance surveys, ensured that the refinery was in compliance with national, state and local ordinances.
  • Undergraduate researcher (June- August, 2008 and 2009)
    • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Washington State University
      • Evaluated cadmium and phosphorus sorption to biogenic iron oxides, helped develop a filter to maximize phosphorus-iron oxide sorption.
      • Investigated enhanced polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) degradation through salicylate addition, found that addition of salicylate did not increase PAH degradation.


  • Notre Dame Women’s Liturgical Choir (Notre Dame, IN) 
    • President (2014- 2015)
    • Tour Director (2013- 2014)
    • Liturgical Commissioner (2012- 2013)
  • Engineers Without Borders (Pullman, WA)
    • Secretary (2007- 2008) 
  • St. Thomas More Catholic Student Center (Pullman, WA)
    • Morning mass choir director (2009- 2010)
    • Choir member (2006- 2010)
    • Lector (2006- 2008)

Flying Ol' Crimson
When ESPN’s College Gameday came to Notre Dame I helped fly Ol’ Crimson, a fixture on Gameday since 2003, and the symbol of WSU’s Undefeated Fans.

BP interns
The BP Cherry Point interns volunteering at the Bellingham Food Bank’s garden.

WSU Nuthouse flyer
While at Washington State I was a member of the Nuthouse Improv Comedy Troupe.

‹Updated March 2015›