Jennifer Murphy: Improving Lives

Posted on: Monday, March 9th, 2015 by Brent Treash
Fifteen years after graduating from Emory & Henry College, Jennifer Murphy has been on a journey filled with the satisfaction of continuing to reach exciting career goals. She believes she may never have achieved these goals without the education she received at E&H.

Fifteen years after graduating from Emory & Henry College, Jennifer Murphy has been on a journey filled with the satisfaction of continuing to reach exciting career goals. She believes she may never have achieved these goals without the education she received at E&H. 

Since 2009, Murphy has worked as an environmental microbiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work takes her to a number of places throughout the world, including Haiti and numerous countries in Africa. 

The laboratory that Murphy works in develops and applies methods for environmental sampling; uses microbiological and molecular methods to detect viruses, bacteria, and parasites in environmental samples; and studies treatment technologies to prevent water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related disease.

That translates to projects that improve the lives of people in developing countries.

Some of those projects include the evaluation of a solar sanitation system to treat latrine waste in Kenya; the development of a water quality evaluation as part of upgrading the public drinking water system in Lusaka, Zambia; the evaluation of a new E. coli quantification method for testing water in low-resource settings; and assessment of the efficacy of urine-diversion dry toilets in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

“I work closely with global epidemiologists to support emergency preparedness, disease outbreak investigations, and both short- and long-term research studies related to WASH issues in the developing world,” Murphy said, who also performs a number of research projects in CDC labs in Atlanta. “These are generally controlled research studies that assess inactivation of chlorine-tolerant pathogens by various disinfectants," she said.

“I feel fortunate to work among some of the most intelligent, devoted public health scientists in the world. It’s exhilarating to be a part of an organization that has such a huge impact on the lives of humans.” 

Her career didn’t come without hard work.

Murphy, a biology major and chemistry minor, said she was very focused as a college student and devoted much of her time to coursework at E&H.

“Each of my professors at E&H was influential, but those in the Biology Department were especially inspiring,” she said. Her greatest academic experiences at E&H were traveling to Costa Rica with other students in Gregory McConnell’s field ecology course, and being chosen as a lab assistant for Dr. Melissa Taverner’s microbiology course.

“The synergy of these two experiences placed me directly on the path that led to graduate school and ultimately to my career today,” she said. Murphy earned her doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health.

E&H provided an enriching environment to explore my interests and gave me time and space to define -- and redefine -- my personal goals. It’s where I discovered my love of community service and the motivation to serve in leadership roles.  The solid foundation I received in E&H’s intimate learning environment nurtured my inquisitive nature and both prepared and encouraged me to reach my full potential.  The college provides a place where you can shine when you discover what really matters to you.Jennifer Murphy

While a student at E&H, Murphy received the Wiley N. Jackson Scholarship, Cox Pre-Med Scholarship, Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship, Creed Fulton Scholarship, and Eastman Chemical Scholarship. She was a member of Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society and Cardinal Key Honor Society.  In 2009, she won E&H’s Carl & Ruth Looney Humanitarian Award. 

“Right now, I’m really happy exactly where I am. My job keeps me very busy, but I also love hiking in the Northern Georgia Mountains, spending time with my dog Millie, and restoring my 1928 home.” In addition, Murphy enjoys working with an organization outside of Atlanta called AWARE that rehabilitates Georgia's injured or orphaned native wildlife, such as raptors, coyotes, raccoons and foxes.


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