The Water, Health and Applied Microbiology (WHAM) Laboratory

The Water, Health and Applied Microbiology (WHAM) Laboratory is split between the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the College of Public Health at Temple University. The lab is currently led by Dr. Heather Murphy. The lab team consists of research fellows, graduate and undergraduate students interested in the field of water and health. The laboratory primarily focuses on microbiological contamination of water supplies and the subsequent impacts on public health.

Meet the Team

Heather Murphy


Dr. Murphy has over sixteen years of experience in water/wastewater treatment, water quality, drinking water distribution, risk assessment and environmental health in both North America and abroad. 

Full-Time Staff

Kristin Skiendzielewski, MPH

Kristin joined the lab in 2020 and is currently the Senior Lab and Trial Manager.  She currently works on the WET Trial and the lab’s SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Surveillance Project.  She also has worked on projects involving recreational and surface water quality.  Kristin explains, “I joined the lab in the hopes of promoting an equitable water future for all populations that maintains balance with the surrounding ecosystems and to use research methods and data analysis to develop effective solutions for water pollution in a changing climate.”  When she’s not working, Kristin enjoys taking day trips and spending time with family and friends.   She’s even traveled to Italy and Greece to play soccer!

Peter Husnik

Peter is a Research Coordinator at the WHAM Lab.  He works primarily with the WET Trial and the lab’s SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Surveillance Project.  Peter is working toward his MPH in Epidemiology at Temple University while working with the lab, with an expected graduation in 2025.  He joined the lab because of his love for research and finds the work WHAM Lab does in the field of water and health rewarding.  When he’s not at work, Peter enjoys being active, reading books, and drinking tea.

Townley Sorge, MPH

Townley recently graduated with her MPH in Epidemiology from Temple and is now working as a Research Coordinator at the WHAM Lab. She joined the lab in 2022 as an undergraduate intern due to her interest in microbial water contamination and applied epidemiological research. Townley assist on the WET Trial working on recruitment efforts and has done surface water data analysis research. Townley loves to cook, read, and hike. She’s also a jazz saxophonist! 

Masters Students

Ilya Law

Ilya is a Masters of Pathobiology student at the University of Guelph who joined WHAM Lab in 2021.  He works in the lab on projects aimed at analyzing water quality and monitoring for potential pathogens.   He is working on a project that is designed to determine the optimal method for water sampling of microorganisms from specific aquatic environments.  In his own words, Ilya joined the lab “to gather valuable experiences and work alongside a great and encouraging group of people. Joining this lab will also teach me new laboratory techniques that will advance my knowledge in the field and increase opportunities post degree.”  When he is not working in the lab, he enjoys spending time with friends and playing basketball.  He also enjoys playing the piano.

Undergraduate Students

Erin Becker

Erin joined WHAM Lab in 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant as she works toward her degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Guelph.  She works on the lab’s rotational grazing and One Health projects.  She joined the lab due to her interest in the field of One Health, animals, and water safety.  Erin grew up on a farm and has a particular fondness of cows.  When she’s not working in the lab, she loves being outdoors, cooking, and travelling.

Erica Hollman

Erica is a Microbiology Co-Op student at the University of Guelph, who joined WHAM Lab in 2022.  As a research assistant, Erica collects soil, water and animal faecal samples from various farms to analyze them for total coliforms and E. coli. She also literature searches and assists with data entry.  Erica joined the lab because she is very interested in understanding the mechanisms and situations that result in the development of antimicrobial resistance, which is a large focus of the Rotational Grazing/One Health lab.  She enjoys rollerblading and gardening.  Erica is also learning German and Spanish.

Julia Timmoneri

Julia joined WHAM Lab in 2021 as an undergraduate research assistant working toward her degree in Public Health with an Epidemiology concentration at Temple University.  She works primarily on the WET Trial.  Julia joined the lab for the abundance of laboratory experience it provides in a field she finds interesting.  Julia enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and exploring the city of Philadelphia.  She’s been a vegan for over three years!


Gopiga Dass

Gopiga Dass is an undergraduate sophomore biology major at Temple University. She joined the WHAM Lab in September 2022 and enjoys working on the WET Trial. Gopiga explains, “As someone who wants to enter the medical field, I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to public health research, as I believe both fields go hand in hand in improving the health and well-being of individuals and their families” When she is not working, Gopiga loves watching movies and visiting parks.  

Past Students and Staff

Debbie Lee, PhD.

Debbie joined the WHAM Lab in 2018 as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow after graduating with her PhD from Emory University in the same year.  Debbie has done work with annular reactors and has been a part of the WET Trial since its infancy.  She joined the lab due to her interest in drinking water quality and the WHAM Lab’s projects in this area.   When she’s not working, she enjoys riding her bike up the Schuylkill River. 

Miriam Wamsley

Miriam joined WHAM Lab in the fall of 2018 to assist with the planning of the WET Trial while pursuing her doctorate in Epidemiology.  She focused her dissertation on spatiotemporal analyses of waterborne illness using Bayesian modeling.  In her free time, Miriam enjoys singing (she’s an alto) and biking.   She finds relaxation through baking.  And, if she has enough free time on her hands, you’ll find her in one of the national parks in the western U.S. with her family.

Jemaneh Habtewold, PhD.

Before joining WHAM LAB in 2021 as Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Jemaneh earned his PhD in Environmental Science in 2018.  His work with the lab includes projects in the quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater using a passive sampling approach, evaluating passive sampling approaches of fecal indicator bacteria in recreational water, and assessing the effects of rotational grazing on the microbial quality of surface and groundwater.  He joined the lab due to his interest in the research projects that aim to quantify pathogens in environmental samples (water, soil, and feces) using advanced molecular methods including qPCR and dPCR.  When he’s not working, he loves to read and watch soccer.

Fighting waterborne diseases in vulnerable populations since 2015