• 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 …2024

Research activity per year

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 http://www.esd.ornl.gov/orifrc/. 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  http://www.emsl.pnl.gov/.


  • -  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) http://www.dardni.gov.uk/.


  • -  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 http://www.nda.gov.uk/


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 http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/


  • -  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

- Geochemical Society




Adminstrative Duties
  • Chair of the Academic Offences Committee for Civil Engineering (2011-Present)
  • Advisor of Studies for Stage 3 Civil Engineering (2016-Present)
  • Undergraduate Student Admissions Contact for Civil Engineering (2017-Present)
  • Post-Graduate Student Admissions Contact for SNBE (2019-Present)
  • Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (QIWEM) contact for SNBE (2013-Present\)  (CIWEMwww.CIWEM.org
Previous Duties
  • Disability Officer for SPACE (2006-2008)
  • Director of the MSc in Water Resources Management (2006-2011)
  • 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.


- CIV4040/7040 Land, Water and Air Quality

- CIV7079 Advances in Enviornmental Engineering

- CIV4039/7059 Assessment of Environmental Impacts

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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