Interview with Graduate Student – Hannah Wharton

We sat with lab alum Hannah Wharton to ask about her experience as a UMass graduate student in Dr. Kumpel’s lab. Hannah received her BS in Civil Engineering from UMass in 2019, and she recently graduated with her MS in Civil Engineering with a focus in Environmental and Water Resources.

What made you want to pursue a master’s degree?

I really enjoy research and find it genuinely fulfilling to explore a research question, especially in the WASH field, where there are so many applications that work towards improving public health outcomes. I also greatly enjoy working with students and teaching, so I hope to become a professor. Knowing I would need my PhD to achieve this goal, I decided that I would do a master’s degree first to gain more research experience and learn more about teaching. 

Why did you want to do research in Dr. Kumpel’s lab?

Ever since high school, I have been interested in WASH and how to provide safe drinking water to people who do not currently have access to it. In undergrad, I worked with Emily in Engineers Without Borders and then on a project on the removal of E. coli by standard POU devices. Emily’s research on WASH and intermittent water supply has many applications in improving public health in many low- and middle-income communities. In addition, her expertise in the area was an amazing learning opportunity. I hope to help people gain access to safe drinking water through this scope of research. 

Can you describe your thesis work?

I studied the fate and transport of E. coli in intermittent water supply systems compared to continuous water supply through running our pilot-scale pipe loops. In addition, I looked at the persistence of E. coli in chloraminated water and whether the E. coli was incorporated into the biofilm or remained solely in the bulk water. I hope this information provides insight into managing bacterial water quality in intermittent water supply systems.

What are your plans moving forward?

I will be starting my PhD in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley this fall.

What advice do you have for someone considering research or graduate school?

I have found research and grad school to be some of the most fulfilling and meaningful work I have ever done. I have learned so much from my professors and peers and love the continued growth that comes from working at a research institution. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been provided with during grad school so far and would highly encourage anyone considering grad school to go for it. The people I have worked with have made it an incredible experience, and I am so happy and grateful to be here!