John Morgan

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Director, Graduate Studies, School of Chemical Engineering
Professor of Biochemistry (by courtesy)

FRNY 1053
Purdue University
School of Chemical Engineering
Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering
480 Stadium Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2100
(765) 494-4088 (office)
(765) 494-0805 (fax)
Joined Purdue in 2000
B.S. University of Kansas, 1992
M.S. University of Kansas, 1994
Ph.D Rice University, 1999
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 1999-2000

Research Interests

Professor Morgan's research group is interested in engineering metabolic pathways towards increased production of chemicals as well as novel biologically active metabolites. We are combining molecular biology with mathematical modeling of metabolism that enables the rational design of modifications to existing pathways. The approaches we employ span scales from manipulating the molecular structure of enzymes to bioreactor design and operation strategies

Metabolic Engineering of Plant Phenylpropanoid Metabolism

Phenylpropanoids are a large family of structurally related compounds found in Nature, predominantly in plants. Many molecules from this diverse set of compounds have important biological activities, such as attractants (beautiful colors and fragrances!), anti-cancer or anti-microbial. Although, these compounds can be extracted from the plant, it is not always economical. The approach we are taking to produce large quantities of these compounds is to clone the genes out of the plant and express them in a microbial host. Engineers already have a great deal of experience with the large scale growth of microbes, making scale-up of a productive strain straight-forward. Specific projects include improving the selectivity and yield of products from yeast, producing non-natural analogues of natural products and engineering enzymes to accept a broader range of non-natural substrates

Metabolic Flux Analysis of Photosynthetic Organisms

Because of their efficiency and sustainability, plants are excellent chemical factories. The ability to manipulate the accumulation of chemicals in plants is becoming a reality due to advances in genetic engineering. However, the current understanding of the regulation of plant metabolic fluxes is rudimentary. Our research is interested in developing tools to quantify metabolic carbon and nitrogen fluxes in plants, which is a key tool in evaluation of the effects of environmental and genetic influences on chemical accumulation in plants. We are combining the fields of metabolic profiling by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with metabolic flux analysis. The combination of high-throughput analysis by GC/MS of plant metabolites with feeding isotopically labeled precursors will enable efficient calculation of fluxes.

Metabolic Engineering of Algae for the Production of Biodiesel

The Morgan group is engineering the metabolic pathways of Chlamadymonas reinhardtii as a model system for biodiesel production. Advanced genetic tools are being applied to understand the systems biology of the process of lipid accumulation in microalgae. Specifically, the Morgan group is perfuming metabolic flux analysis on the metabolically engineered strains. In a separate project we are investigating heterotrophically grown algae to produce biodiesel from glycerol.

Research Group

Graduate Students

  • Rohit Jaini
  • Shaunak Ray
  • Robin Wheeler

Research Associates

  • Wu Qi- Sichuan Agricultural University, China
  • David Reynolds- University of Queensland, Australia

Undergraduate Researchers

  • Xiangying Liao
  • Mattia Rostochak
  • Ruijun Zheng

Awards and Honors

2014 College of Engineering Staff Team Award of Excellence

Selected Publications

"The monolignol pathway contributes to the biosynthesis of volatile phenylpropenes in flowers," J. K. Muhlemann, B. D. Woodworth, J. A. Morgan, and N. Dudareva, New Phytologist, doi: 10.1111/nph.12913, (2014)

"Simulating Labeling to Estimate Kinetic Parameters for Flux Control Analysis," A. Marshall-Colon, N. Sengupta, D. Rhodes, and J. A. Morgan, Methods in Molecular Biology, 1090, 211-222 (2014)

"Isoptomer Measurement Techniques in Metabolic Flux Analysis," J. D. Young, D. K. Allen, and J. A. Morgan, Methods in Molecular Biology, 1083, 85-108 (2014)

"Isotopically nonstationary MFA (INST_MFA) of autotrophic metabolism," L. J. Jazmin, J. O'Grady, F. Ma, D. K. Allen, J. A. Morgan, and J. D. Young, Methods in Molecular Biology, 1090:181-210, (2014)

"Analysis of Metabolic Flux Using Non-steady State Dynamics of Isotopes and Metabolic Modeling" A. R. Fernie, and J. A. Morgan, Plant Cell and Environment, 36: 1738-1750 (2013)

"Developmental changes in the metabolic network of snapdragon flowers," J. K. Muhlemann, H. Maeda, C. Y. Chang, P. San Miguel, I. Baxter, B. Cooper, M. A. Perera, PloS One 7: e40381 (2012)

"Metabolic Cartography: Experimental Quantification of Metabolic Fluxes from Isotopic Labelling Studies," J. O'Grady, J. Schwender, Y. Schahar-Hil, and J. A. Morgan, Journal of Experimental Biology, 63, 2293-2308, (2012)