Debra Phillips


  • Room 02.025 - David Keir Building

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the areas of: - Environmental Engineering - Contaminated Land - Fate and Transport of Contaminants in Surface Water and Groundwater - Drinking Water Treatment - Detection and Monitoring of Harmful Substances in Wastewater

1987 …2019
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Personal profile


Current Research Interests and Selected Projects

Contaminant fate, transport and behaviour issues associated with contaminanted groundwater, and sorption and precipitation of contamiants in soils/sediments and other geological materials, particularly in weathered environments:    


  • -  A series of studies on the fate and transport of uranium, mercury and other contaminants at the Field Research Center and other areas on the Oak Ridge Reservation, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA Funded by a contract with the US Dept. of Energy and a William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) user facility grant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


  • -  Study of the distribution of heavy metals and associated contaminants on and around a former silver mine site in Galway, Ireland.


  • -  Arsenic in groundwater and traditionally cooked rice in Cambodia.


Ecological Engineering and Water Resources Management:


  • -  Removal of phosphorus and natural hormones in a constructed wetland used to treat dairy waste water. Collaboration with Biological Sciences (QUB) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARDNI)


  • -  Monitoring sediment changes upstream and downstream of the Altnahinch Dam in the River Bush in Northern Ireland in conjuction.  Collaboration with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)


  • -  Mangrove reestablishment to protect coastal areas susceptible to sea-level Rise (Mangrove density impacts on sediment accretion, nutrients and biogeochemistry in Puttalam Lagoon, Sri Lanka). Collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University, US Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center, Univ. Ruhuna, Sri Lanka.


  • -  Linking watershed terrain and hydrology to soil chemical properties, microbial communities and impacts on soil organic C in a humid mid-latitude forested watershed. Collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


Performance of Landfill Caps and Liners:


  • -  Impact of climate and settling on long-term performance of capping material for nuclear waste disposal and management of contaminated land sites. Funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in collaboration with Nexia Solutions. NDA


Soil and Groundwater Remediation:


  • -  The 10 year performance evaluation of the Monkstown, Northern Ireland zero-valent iron PRB. Collaboration with Golder Associates, Flemish Institute for technological research (VITO), and the Environment Agency


  • -  Uranium sequestration in a previously bioreduced subsurface in response to invasion of nitrate containing groundwater at DOE Oak Ridge IFRC site. Collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Stanford University, Hong Kong University and Peking University.



Professional Societies

- Sigma Xi International Honor Society of Research Scientists and Engineers

- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

- Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society

- European Microscopical Society

- Mineralogical Society

- Geochemical Society


Adminstrative Duties

  • - Academic Offences Committee for SPACE (2011-Present)
  • - Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)   contact for SPACE (2013-Present)
  • - Disability Officer for SPACE (2006-2008)
  • - Director of the MSc in Water Resources Management (2006-2011)
  • - Coordinator for Environmental Engineering II module (2006-Present)
  • - Coordinator for Water Resources Management module (2008-2011)
  • - Coordinator for Chemistry of Natural Waters module (2008)
  • - Coordinator for Environmental Engineering I module (2009)
  • - Coordinator for GIS modules in Planning (2013-Present)
  • - Coordinator for GIS module in Civil Engineering (2013-Present)
  • - SPACE International Committee (2009-)
  • - Coodinator for the Geoenvironmental Laboratory in SPACE (2009-2012)

Research Statement

Dr. Debra Phillips is a Lecturer in Environmental Engineering (July, 2008) in the Environmental Engineering Research Centre where she held the previous post of Environment Agency Lecturer from 2005-2008. Before joining Queen's University of Belfast in March 2005, she worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tennessee (USA) on studies dealing with the technology and long-term performance of permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) and the fate and transport of contaminants (mainly uranium) in saprolite and fractured bedrock. From her background in Soil Science (Pedology), she has brought a wide range of field experience and analytical skills to Environmental Engineering that have made valuable contributions to understanding the processes that affect the longevity of reactive media in PRBs and fate and transport of contaminants in soils and weathered geological materials. As a Soil Scientist she has worked at the university level and with the United State Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mapping soils as a field Soil Scientist. Her research is interdisciplinary and ranges from national to international level in both Environmental Engineering and Soil Science.


Current Teaching Duties at QUB

  • - Environmental Engineering II (MSc and MEng stage)
  • - GIS in Spatial Planning (MSc stage)
  • - GIS in Spatial Analysis (stage 3- Civil Engineers)
  • - Co-teach Professional Studies II (stage 2)
  • - Co-teach Envionmental Engineering I (Environmental Impact Statements & Environmental Impact Assessment) (MSc and MEng stage)

I have also developed a post-graduate training session for PhD students on Tips on How to Write and Publish Journal Articles in Science and Engineering.

Previous Teaching Duties at QUB

  • - Technical Writing for Engineers (0 stage)
  • - Co-taught Contaminated Land (MSc and MEng stage)
  • - Co-taught Engineering Drawing (1 stage)
  • - Environmental Engineering I (MSc and MEng stage)
  • - Chemistry of Natural Waters (MSc and MEng stage)
  • - Water Resources Management (MSc stage)
  • - Water Resources Management Projects (MSc stage)
  • - Hydropedology (MSc stage)
Teaching duties prior to appointment at QUB include modules in Environmental Geology, Earth Science, Soil Science at other institutions.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Debra Phillips is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

reactive barrier Earth & Environmental Sciences
groundwater Earth & Environmental Sciences
Groundwater Engineering & Materials Science
iron Earth & Environmental Sciences
uranium Earth & Environmental Sciences
Uranium Chemical Compounds
saprolite Earth & Environmental Sciences
Iron Chemical Compounds

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2007 2007

Research Output 1987 2019

1 Citation (Scopus)

Uranium sequestration in sediment at an iron-rich contaminated site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee via bioreduction followed by reoxidation

Li, P-S., Wu, W-M., Phillips, D., Watson, D., Kelly, S., Mehlhorn, T., Earles, J., Tao, H-C., Zhang, T. & Criddle, C., 02 Jul 2019, In : Journal of Environmental Sciences. 85, p. 156-167 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)

Arsenic and Fluoride Removal from Contaminated Drinking Water with Haix-Fe-Zr and Haix-Zr Resin Beads

Phillips, D. H., Sen Gupta, B., Mukhopadhyay, S. & Sen Gupta, A. K., 01 Jun 2018, In : Journal of Environmental Management. 215, p. 132-142

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Potable water
9 Citations (Scopus)
133 Downloads (Pure)

Bacterial Community Shift and Coexisting/Coexcluding Patterns Revealed by Network Analysis in A Bioreduced Uranium Contaminated Site after Reoxidation

Li, B., Wu, W-M., Watson, D. B., Cardenas, E., Chao, Y., Phillips, D., Mehlhorn, T., Lowe, K., Kelly, S. D., Li, P., Tao, H., Tiedje, J. M., Criddle, C. S. & Zhang, T., 16 Feb 2018, In : Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
network analysis

Ubiquity of consumption and microbe-dependent biodegradation of petroleum-based plastic by yellow mealworms (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Tenebrio molitor)

Wu, W-M., Yang, S-S., Brandon, A., Yang, Y., Ning, D., Gao, S-H., Fan, H-Q., Li, Y-R., Fan, R., Wang, Z-Y., Cai, S-Y., Peng, B-Y., Su, Y. N., Wu, Q-Q., Ding, L-Y., Zhang, L-J., Cai, W-W., Phillips, D., Gao, J., Xing, D-F. & 10 others, Zhuang, G-Q., Zhuang, X-L., Yang, J., Zhang, Y-L., Ren, J., Tao, H., Ren, N., Zhou, J-Z., Benbow, M. E. & Criddle, C., 15 Jan 2018, (Accepted).

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

Tenebrio molitor
7 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)

Ubiquity of Polystyrene Consumption and Degradation by Mealworms (the larvae of Tenebrio molitor ) from Different Geographic Sources

Shan, M. H., Yang, S., Wu, W-M., Fan, H-Q., Brandon, A. M., Receveur, J., Li, Y., Fan, R., Wang, Z-Y., Gao, S-H., McClellan, R., Daliang, N., Phillips, D., Wang, H., Peng, B-Y., Li, P., Cai, S-Y., Ding, L-Y., Cai, W-W., Yang, J. & 12 others, Zheng, M., Ren, J., Zhang, Y-L., Gao, J., Xing, D., Ren, N-Q., Waymouth, R., Zhou, J., Tao, H-C., Picard, C., Benbow, M. & Criddle, C., 01 Dec 2018, In : Chemosphere. p. 262-272

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access


Best Paper in Geotechnical Special Publication 204

Debra Phillips (Recipient), 03 Jul 2010

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Activities 1996 2019

Remediation of Contaminated Soil in Copper Mining Areas Using Plant-Based Surfactants

Debra Phillips (Examiner)
Jul 2019

Activity: Examination typesPhD external examination

Sustainability (Journal)

Debra Phillips (Editorial board member)
29 Nov 2019 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Early Life Performance of the Stoneyford Integrated Constructed Wetland

Debra Phillips (Examiner)
Jan 2018

Activity: Examination typesPhD external examination

UK National Commission for UNESCO Newton Prize (External organisation)

Debra Phillips (Reviewer)

Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

Sources, concentrations and mobility of potentially toxic elements in soil

Debra Phillips (Examiner)
Jan 2016

Activity: Examination typesOther examination