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

Director

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

Jeffrey Turner, MPH

Jeffrey joined the lab in 2021 and is the Research Trial Manager for the Wells and Enteric-disease Transmission (WET) Trial.  He earned his MPH from Temple University’s College of Public Health.  As for why he joined the WHAM Lab, Jeff explains, “I have always had a strong interest in the relationship between the natural environment and human health. Working in the WHAM lab gives me an excellent opportunity to do research on how we can improve that relationship.”  When he’s not working, he loves being outside kayaking with his dog.

Kristin Skiendzielewski, MPH

Kristin joined the lab in 2020 while working toward her MPH in Epidemiology at Temple Univeristy, which she received in 2021.  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 joined the WHAM Lab in 2021 as a Research Assistant after making a career shift from sales.  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.  When he’s not at work, Peter enjoys reading, especially fantasy and science fiction books like Harry Potter.

Research Fellows

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 running and riding her bike up the Schuylkill River.   An interesting fact about Debbie is that her first job was as an animal caretaker at a nature center.

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.

Masters Students

Ilya Law

Ilya is a Masters of Pathiobiology 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.

Townley Sorge

Townley is a Masters student at Temple University working toward her MPH in Epidemiology.  She joined the lab in 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant due to her interest in microbial water contamination and applied research.  Townley works on the lab’s SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance project, recruitment and sampling for the WET Trial, and surface water data analysis.  Townley loves to bake, read, and play video games with friends.  She’s also a jazz saxophonist!

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.

Marina Quairoli

Marina joined WHAM Lab in 2021 and is working toward a degree in Health Professions with minors in both Biology and Spanish at Temple University.  As an undergraduate research assistant, Marina works mainly on the WET Trial.  As for why she joined WHAM Lab, Marina explains, “I am interested in public health and all things that it entails. Water quality is a huge contribution to a healthy society and being able to study water and how it effects society in multiple ways is very rewarding.” When she’s not working, Marina enjoys playing violin and making art.  She also enjoys running and hiking.

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!

Fighting waterborne diseases in vulnerable populations since 2015