Mairéad Whelan
MSc in Water Science, Policy, and Management,
University of Oxford (District 5360 and Rotary Club of Faringdon and District, England), 2019-20

Mairead Whelan’s academic interests lie in the intersection between water, the environment, and population health. She is especially interested in global health, and how clean water, water scarcity, and climate change influence the spread of water-related illness and zoonotic disease. While at Oxford, she focused her learning on water management and infectious disease, contributing expertise in public health to a highly interdisciplinary program and faculty. She studied at Green Templeton College, a graduate college founded with a focus on health, humanitarianism, and social sciences. Aside from completing her classwork and enjoying the beautiful city of dreaming spires, Mairead also volunteered to mentor high school students in Oxford thorough their A-level research courses and was a member of the Oxford Union Debate Society. Mairead was set up to do fieldwork in the Ebro Basin in Spain and also complete her MSc dissertation fieldwork in Ghana evaluating the water, sanitation, and hygiene health conditions in live marketplaces when the COVID-19 pandemic hit – a very unconventional scholar experience! Although the situation meant cancelling these plans, Mairead re-routed her dissertation to focus on helping with the pandemic response effort and completed her analysis on how equity in access to water, sanitation, and hygiene may be impacting the dispersion of COVID-19 cases in the developing world.

Prior to studying at Oxford, Mairead received her Bachelor of Health Sciences degree from the University of Calgary, majoring in Health and Society with a concentration in Political Science (Honours, First Class). Her interests in water and health began when she was selected to attend the Cumming School of Medicine Tanzania Field School, where she worked on several projects regarding environmental and animal health, sanitation, and diagnosing diarrheal disease. Mainly, she helped introduce BioSand Filters, a low-cost low-tech water treatment device, into remote Maasai homes bringing clean water to more than 100 families. Since being inspired by this experience, Mairead also was a lead student on several environmental health research projects, including a novel initiative from the Alberta Children’s Hospital evaluating injury risk in urban neighbourhoods for kids at play, and an Honours Thesis project on how we can use water management to prevent an outbreak of pandemic avian influenza (H5N1) in Vietnam which she presented at an international global health conference in Chicago, IL, and published in The Lancet Global Health.
Beyond her school work, Mairead enjoys bringing her passions for health, water, and advocacy outside the classroom. She was a workshop facilitator with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), where she taught elementary school children across Calgary about the importance of clean water and handwashing through interactive workshops. Additionally, she was an executive on several campus clubs, a member of the U of C Scholar’s Academy, the Cumming School of Medicine faculty representative on the University of Calgary Students’ Union 76th SLC, and contributed to a project advocating for the restoration of community fluoridation to Calgary’s City Council. In her spare time, Mairead is a part-time visual artist, plays competitive soccer, loves petting cute dogs, and spends as much time as she can travelling and hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
For more information about Mairéad, click here for her LinkedIn page.