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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). Currently, she is a Research Associate within that department where she combines research, teaching and supervision.

Other of her professional activities are:

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
      • Natural attenuation in the vadose zone
      • Reactive anti-pollution barriers
      • Landfill leachates
      • Diffusion transport
      • Long-term attenuation performance
      • Sustainable development

Work experience

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       Research associate. 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.

  • 15.06.2014 –14.06.2017       Research fellow. KU Leuven

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

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     BS in Environmental Sciences. UAM. Overall grade 7.58 (Maximum grade: 10)

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