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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, 2012), while she was appointed as a teaching assistant (2008-2013). During this period, she assessed the attenuation of landfill leachate contaminants by real field clayey substrata; and she completed a MSc in Environmental Geology & Geological Resources, spec. in Hydrology & Soils (Complutense University of Madrid, 2011). 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 addressed the challenges of current analytical techniques to measure low concentrated elements in complex matrices. Next, Mercedes was awarded with a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (Standard EF – 2016) to work on High Attenuation Recycling Materials as sustainable barriers for waste disposal sites (the HARM project), in the Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group, together with the Geotechnical Engineering Group, both within the Dept of Civil and Structural Engineering of the University of Sheffield, UK (TUOS, 2018-2020). Since 2021, Mercedes is an Assistant Professor in the Autonomous University of Madrid, one of the top universities in Spain.


Other of her professional activities are:

  • Elsevier Associate Editor of Heliyon Earth Science (open access journal indexed in the JCR, Q2 (28/74 in MULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES), impact factor in 2021=3.776) and MDPI Topic Editor of Minerals (open access journal indexed in the JCR, Q2 (42/87 in GEOCHEMISTRY & GEOPHYSICS), impact factor in 2021=2.818)
  • Public engagement speaker (2 x year)
  • International congress organizer (2020-2021)
  • Mentorship-supervision of early stage and post-doctoral researchers (since 2018).

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.


      • Hydrogeochemistry
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Reactive anti-pollution barriers
      • Landfill leachates
      • Diffusion transport
      • Long-term attenuation performance

Work experience

  • 01.09.2021 – Present          Assistant Professor (Profesor Ayudante Doctor) with national I3 distinction. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid: the second top university of Spain and the 301st in the World (ARWU, 2021).
    ▪ Public Higher Education
    ▪ Research, science, and innovation: multifaceted environmentalist who works on facilitating the development and delivery of solutions to reduce pollution and waste
  • 01.11.2019 – 01.11.2023         Academic Associate Editor of Heliyon Earth Science. Elsevier. Managing and reviewing 100-150 manuscripts per year in the fields of earth sciences, contacting peer reviewers and (together with the section editor) making decisions on manuscripts, nurture the journal section “Earth Sciences” and supporting its various subject areas. Journal launched in 2015, and included in Clarivate for indexing in Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) from 2021. First Impact factor released in July 2022:  3.776 (WoS) Q2 in Multidisciplinary sciences.

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

  • 15.06.201728.02.2018       Postdoctoral Research associate. KU Leuven 2nd top university in Belgium and the 96th in the World (ARWU, 2014a 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.

  • 15.06.2014 –14.06.2017       Postdoctoral Research fellow. KU Leuven

Recovery of rare earth elements by sorption and solvent extraction with ionic liquids. Internal project leader. Supervising PhD students.

  • 05.11.2008-04.11.2013      Teaching Assistant. UAM the top university in Spain (ARWU, 2012) after renouncing a granted National predoctoral fellowship FPI at the IIAG-CSIC (ref. BES 2008-009995).

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

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     BSc + MSc in Environmental Sciences. UAM. Overall grade 7.59 (Maximum grade: 10), in the top 25% of her promotion.

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