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

Research output per year

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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

- 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\)  (
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

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Research Output

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

  • 1 Citation (Scopus)

    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
  • 4 Citations (Scopus)
    107 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
  • 13 Citations (Scopus)
    167 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
  • 7 Citations (Scopus)
    114 Downloads (Pure)

    Mangrove density impacts on surface sediment accretion, belowground biomass and biogeochemistry in Puttalam Lagoon, Sri Lanka

    Phillips, D. H., Kumara, M. P., Jayatissa, L. P., Krauss, K. W. & Huxham, M., Jun 2017, In : Wetlands. 37, 3, p. 471-483 13 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 4 Citations (Scopus)
    177 Downloads (Pure)


    Best Paper in Geotechnical Special Publication 204

    Debra Phillips (Recipient), 03 Jul 2010

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Activities

    Sustainability (Journal)

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

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

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

    Debra Phillips (Examiner)
    Jul 2019

    Activity: Examination typesPhD external examination

    Geoderma (Journal)

    Debra Phillips (Peer reviewer)
    24 Mar 2019

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review

    Journal of Environmental Management (Journal)

    Debra Phillips (Peer reviewer)
    31 Jul 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review

    Water Research (Journal)

    Debra Phillips (Peer reviewer)
    23 May 201801 Aug 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review


    Reducing transport of radionuclides into the environment

    Debra Phillips (Participant)

    Impact: Environmental Impact, Health Impact

    Treatment Systems for Safer Drinking Water

    Debra Phillips (Participant)

    Impact: Health Impact, Environmental Impact, Quality of Life Impact, Economic Impact