John McKillip
John McKillip
Professor of Biology


Room:FB 408


2017-Present       Professor (Microbiology)                                


Associate Professor, Department of Biology & Biotechnology Certificate Program, Ball State University, Muncie, IN
7/03-8-07 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology & Biotechnology Certificate Program, Ball State University, Muncie, IN
8/99 – 5/03 Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA (from which 2 years towards tenure were granted at BSU)
6/97 – 6/99 Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Food Science & Technology, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
1997 Ph.D. Washington State University, Microbiology

Research Interests

The majority of the current research in my laboratory is focused on the search for novel antibiotics from natural environments, especially dairy farm samples such as raw milk and silage. Isolation and identification of fungi and bacterial isolates from these samples will augment their screening against ESKAPE pathogens to determine which pure cultures demonstrate antimicrobial activity. These isolates will be further described and cultured to eventually purify and identify the bioactive compounds using chromatographic and instrumental methods in chemistry. These efforts are being completed through collaboration with the Small World Initiative (SWI). This group of graduate students are just beginning this exciting work (Project #2 below).

Dr. John McKillip recently received the BSU Faculty Immersive Learning Award from President Geoff Mearns for student impact of ten years managing the Fine Focus undergraduate microbiology journal - the first international journal for UG microbiology research. The 2023 issue was published 5/8/2023 and available at

Dr. John McKillip receiving the BSU Faculty Immersive Learning Award from President Geoff Mearns

Ongoing Projects

Project #1 – Fine Focus

Fine Focus, Ball State Biology's Open Access Peer-Reviewed Journal

The most innovative teaching platform I have developed is implementation of immersive learning in several courses since my last promotion. First, in 2008, with the BSU Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry seminar entitled State of Assault, a student-produced documentary on sexual assault that won an Emmy Award in 2009, and more recently Fine Focus. Since 2013, Fine Focus has been implemented as a product-based course at Ball State University, comprised of 12-24 undergraduates each term from a variety of disciplines. Fine Focus students have developed and manage the first (and only) international digital and print journal for undergraduate microbiology research, with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) as a community partner. The student review team in this course is responsible for making important decisions that direct the future of the journal, including learning the process of manuscript management through our double-blind peer review system using experts from our external Editorial Board. The marketing/design team is responsible for determining how to best target Fine Focus to our global audience, soliciting manuscripts, promoting Fine Focus through our website and social media, and creating an Executive Committee. This faculty-led, student-driven “immersive learning” model allows the students to be the authors of, and authorities on, their own education.

Over the last few years, Fine Focus has engaged undergraduate students in multiple STEM outreach activities, all of which offer opportunities for undergraduates to learn about and become involved in publishable undergraduate research. One of these higher profile activities is the creation of a short film entitled Faces of Science.

2022 Fine Focus Review Team  

Spring 2023 Fine Focus Student Review Team L to R: Khalilah Lewis, Chloe Nye, Jonathon Fason, Dr. McKillip


Faces of Science is a STEM outreach collaboration between Ball State University faculty member Dr. John McKillip (Department of Biology), his Fall 2017 Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry class, and the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) undergraduates who are part of an NSF-funded program called ReBUILDetroit. These students at UDM are all actively engaged in various STEM undergraduate research projects, and represent academically underrepresented student groups. This film created by Ball State University students, entitled Faces of Science, features several ReBUILDetroit undergraduates telling their individual stories about how they perceive opportunities in STEM currently, and offer reflections on their role models, advice to younger students on science, society, and the individual. Early portions of this seven-minute short film were done principally by the nine BSU biology students with post-production completion by Blake Conner (BSU Digital Corps).

Project #2 – Antibiotic Discovery from Dairy Farm Environment

The discovery of antibiotics against bacterial diseases was one of the most pivotal moments in medical history. During the early 1900’s, before the clinical use of antibiotics, infectious disease was the leading cause of death in world. Bacterial infections likely ended in death or extreme measures to prevent the spread of the infection such as amputation of the affected area. With the discovery of antibiotics like Alexander Fleming’s pivotal discovery of penicillin in 1928, bacterial infections became more easily managed. This discovery was the first of numerous antibiotic discovery in the coming decades. Once the drugs were implemented clinically, the number of people dying of infectious disease declined and extreme measures of treatment were no longer the norm.

After some time having antibiotics on the market, it was found that some bacteria were becoming resistant to antibiotics. This is attributable to the bacteria adapting to the antibiotics through a variety of different factors. The misuse and overuse of antibiotic drugs sped up this adaptation and has caused the world to reach a point of urgency to solve this crisis. By taking antibiotics in unnecessary situations, not finishing a prescription, and having little emphasis on educating the general public about antibiotic resistance, we have reached a point of incredible urgency to resolve this issue. A particular group of pathogenic bacteria are expressing pressing resistance against antibiotics. This group of pathogens is referred to as ESKAPE pathogens and includes: Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp. The hospitalization and mortality rate of those infected with these multidrug resistant bacteria is rapidly increasing.

There are many different possible therapies to assist in this crisis, but a novel antibiotic may be most beneficial in combatting antibiotic resistance. Our lab’s focus is to isolate bacteria from environmental sources such as soil, water, and dairy that display reproducible zones of inhibition against ESKAPE pathogens. The metabolite produced from the isolates that display antibiotic properties will be purified and the exact compound will be identified using chemical methods. It is expected that a metabolite from each bacterial sample will be collected and will be identified as a previously discovered antibiotic. Although rediscovery is highly likely, the goal of the experiment is to identify the antibiotic compound to further characterize it for potential in clinical therapeutics.

Here's a quick look of how biology professor Dr. John McKillip, undergraduate, and graduate microbiology students are contributing to potentially life-saving antibiotic research and a discussion with Radio Health Journal podcast.

Publications (within the last 4 years)

Fluhler-Thornburg, G., & McKillip, J.L. 2023. Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences for Laboratory Learning in the Life Sciences. J. College Science Teach., in press.

Church, N., & McKillip, J.L. 2021. Antibiotic Resistance Crisis: Challenges and Imperatives. Biologia 76: 1535-1550. Pages 1535-1550.

Brenneman, B.R., Adamson, K.A., Beer, M.R., Ho, Y., Gracias, K.S., Carstens, C.M., Biernbaum, E.N., & McKillip, J.L. 2021. Real-time screening of foods using repetitive element PCR reveals a DNA marker characteristic for enterotoxigenic Bacillus spp. Fine Focus 7:36-53.Biernbaum, E.N., Gnedza, A., Akbar, S., Franklin, R., Venturelli, P. & McKillip, J.L. 2021. Lactoferrin as an antimicrobial against Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in raw milk. J. Dairy Sci. Commun., 2(3): 92-97.

Yujun Jiang, Sihan Chen, Yueming Zhao, Xinyan Yang, Shiqian Fu, John L. McKillip, Edward M. Fox, Chaoxin Man. 2020. Multiplex Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification-Based Lateral Flow Dipstick for Simultaneous Detection of Three Foodborne Pathogens in Powdered Infant Formula. J. Dairy Sci.103(5):4002-4012.

Renschler, M.A., Wyatt, A., Anene, N., Robinson-Hill, R., Pickerill, E.S., Fox, N.E., Griffith, J.A., & McKillip, J.L. 2020. Using Nitrous Acid Modified MRS Medium to Selectively Isolate and Culture Lactic Acid Bacteria from Dairy Foods. J. Dairy Sci.103(2):1215-1222.

Rajabli, N., Williamson, L., Nimmer, P.S., Kelly-Worden, M., Bange, J.S., Ho, Y., & McKillip, J.L. 2019. The dangers of sublethal carvacrol exposure: increases in virulence of Bacillus cereus during endophthalmitis. International Journal of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 9(2): 11–21.

Adamson, K.L. & McKillip, J.L. 2019. Bacillus spp. bacteriophage and the dairy environment. J. Liberal Arts & Sciences 23(2):4-11.