John McFarlane

Hometown: Monticello, MN

Degree pursuing: None (graduated with a BS in microbiology from UMN in Spring 2019 and am a Researcher 1 in the Bowden Lab)

Adviser: Dr. Steven Bowden


What is your research focus?

My research focus is studying interactions between the foodborne pathogen Salmonella and its corresponding broad host range phage, FelixO1. Specifically, we are attempting to characterize the effects of a phage defense system found in some Salmonella serovars on the reproduction cycle of FelixO1. This research would not only generate general knowledge on FelixO1 infections of Salmonella but could also allow us to utilize the phage defense system as a tool to select for and enrich genetically modified phage.

How did you become interested in food science/nutrition?

Two of my primary interests are microbiology and human health. Food safety microbiology is one field at the intersection of these two interests, so studying foodborne pathogens is a natural fit for me.

What is your favorite food science or nutrition fact?

A wide variety of foods throughout history (including but not limited to bread, beer, tequila, yogurt, and sauerkraut) were likely unwittingly produced as a result of microbial fermentation.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?

I chose the U for a few reasons. One reason was the location of the university from my hometown (conveniently only 45 minutes away). The other two reasons were that the university is a public institution with many opportunities for research, and that the university generally delivers a world-class education.

How does your research tie into the research being done in your adviser's lab?

My research ties into my advisor’s research as a tool that could be used to generate novel phage or phage-derived particles for applications in food safety. By employing the phage defense system, we may be able to select for and enrich recombinant phages that have a broader or new host range, a wider tolerance for the various environmental conditions associated with food, or many other applications. Such engineered phages could be used to help detect or inhibit Salmonella on contaminated foods.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue working in Dr. Bowden’s lab for a year before pursuing a Ph.D in a microbiology-related field. Following a doctorate degree, my primary plan is to stay in research, either in academia or within the government. I am secondarily considering earning a law degree after a Ph.D, preparing me for a role in government regulation and policy.