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Mercedes obtained her PhD on Earth Science and the Environment in the Dept of Geology and Geochemistry, Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), while she was appointed as a teaching assistant (2008-2013). During this period, she assessed the attenuation of leachate contaminants by real field samples of clayey substrata under old landfills. Afterwards, Mercedes joined the Dept of Chemistry, in the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), where she worked on the recovery of critical metals from industrial process residues and from low ores by solvometallurgical solvent extraction and leaching (2014-2018). Her work also included the challenges of current analytical techniques to measure low concentrated elements in complex matrices. Currently, she is a Marie Curie Individual Fellow (Standard EF – 2016) working on High Attenuation Recycling Materials as sustainable barriers for waste disposal sites (HARM), in the Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group (GPRG), together with the Geotechnical Engineering Group (Geo) of the University of Sheffield, UK.
Other professional activities are:
- Associate editor of Heliyon Earth Science (Publisher: Cell Press, within ElSevier)
- Public engagement speaker
Her interests range from the attenuation of metals in natural soils, to sorption and separation of metals to concentrate them and recover them with a three-fold objective: the supply of critical metals, the recycling of industrial waste and the remediation and management of soils.
Present research lines
Attenuation of landfill contaminants by compacted liners made of mixtures of non hazardous industrial process residues with clays. By controlling the key parameters to mimicking the real conditions, different scenarios are tested in both long time and distance scales, using geotechnical centrifuge modelling.
- Natural attenuation in the vadose zone
- Reactive anti-pollution barriers
- Landfill leachates
- Diffusion transport
- Long-term attenuation performance
- Sustainable development
- 2018-20 Postdoctoral Marie Curie individual fellow, University of Sheffield; 10th top university in the UK (Academic Ranking of World Universities, 2017) and Dept of Civil and Structural Engineering; top 4 in the UK for research excellence (Research Excellence Framework, 2014)
HARM: High Attenuation Recycling Materials as sustainable barriers for waste disposal sites. Principal investigator for the grant project and researcher for the laboratory study. Teaching to postgraduates
- 2017-18 Associate researcher. KU Leuven a leading, old and renowned European research university and co-founder of the League of European Research Universities (LERU)
Selective recovery of critical metals from industrial process residues and low-grade ores. Extraction of valuable metals via solvoleaching. Internal project leader. Supervising PhD students.
- 2014-17 Postdoctoral fellow. KU Leuven
Recovery of rare earth elements by sorption and solvent extraction with ionic liquids. Internal project leader. Supervising PhD students.
- 2008-13 Teaching Assistant. UAM the top university in Spain (Academic Ranking of World Universities, 2012)
Hydrogeochemistry study of clayey samples from (1) substrata cores below real landfills and (2) column diffusion, full-scale, long-term experiments. Analysis, transformations, visualization and management of hydrogeological data. Hydrogeological modelling. Transmission of results about landfill leachate impacts on soil in seminars, conferences, technical reports and journals. Teaching to undergraduates and academic administration
- 2007-08 Research Assistant. UAM Foundation
Soil and water analyses (pH, EC, main soluble and exchangeable ions, density, mineralogy, cationic exchange capacity…). Study, description, representation and discussion of the results
- Mar 2012 PhD in Earth Sciences and the Environment (mention of European Doctor, 15% success rate).
Thesis: Diffusion of Pollutants in Old Landfills Built over Clayey Substrata. Advisor: Dr J Cuevas ♂. Excellent Cum Laude by unanimity. UAM
Dissertation: Long-term Evaluation of the Diffusion of Landfill Leachates through a Compacted Clay Barrier. Advisor: Dr E Montero ♀. Complutense University of Madrid. Overall grade 8.66 (Maximum grade: 10)
- Sep 2007 Diploma of Advanced Studies (DEA): Proficiency as a researcher.
Dissertation: A GIS on Optimal Location of Terrestrial Aquaculture on the NW Coast of Spain. Advisor: Dr I Claver ♂. Polytechnic University of Madrid. Overall grade 8.67 (Maximum grade: 10)
- Jun 2005 BS in Environmental Sciences. UAM. Overall grade 7.58 (Maximum grade: 10)