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 (translation: it’s everywhere), Gram-negative bacterium.  Swarming is the coordinated group movement of cells across a semi-solid surface through a thin liquid layer, and is thought to aide P. aeruginosa's ability to form biofilms and colonize environmental niches. 

Swarming can be temperamental, meaning that even little changes in surface moisture, environmental conditions and nutrient sources can have large impacts on the overall growth and phenotype (a.k.a., pattern) of a swarm.  When preparing swarm assays you have to worry not just about how long you dry your plates, but also the room’s temperature and humidity, as well as the temperature and humidity of the incubator where you store the finished assays. 

Furthermore, assay preparation concerns are just the tip of the swarming iceberg.  Defects in or over expression of various cellular components, such as flagella or rhamnolipid, 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) produce less defined swarm tendrils and, at the single-cell level, are more aligned than TFP-producing wildtype cells (Figure 1).  My research endeavors to answer why this happens.

swarm plates
Figure 1.  TFP-deficient (∆pilA) swarms are less defined 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’ are 10mm and 10μm, respectfully.

I am also investigating the influence of the heavy metals cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni) on swarm motility, with my current focus being on the difference in heavy metal tolerance between swarming and planktonic cells.



  • 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)
    • Ph.D. candidate

  • Washington State University (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 correlation between plant operations and total sulfur emissions.
      • Compiled PI tag alarming data to cross-reference with permit emission limits.
      • Conducted EPA compliance surveys.
  • Undergraduate researcher (June- August, 2008 and 2009)


  • Notre Dame Women’s Liturgical Choir (Notre Dame, IN) 
    • President (2014- 2015)
    • Tour Director (2013- 2014)
    • Liturgical Commissioner (2012- 2013)
  • Engineers Without Borders
    • 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 August 2014›