Jim A Nicell

Academic title(s): 

Ph.D., P.Eng., FCAE, FCSSE

Jim A Nicell
Contact Information

Department of Civil Engineering
McGill University
817 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H3A 0C3

Email address: 
jim.nicell [at] mcgill.ca

Professor James "Jim" Nicell is a registered professional engineer with formal background education as a chemical and environmental engineer. He joined the Faculty of Engineering of McGill University as an Assistant Professor in 1992 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2004. His research, teaching, administrative and consulting activities are diverse. The main focus of his research has been on the development of enzymatic processes for the treatment of recalcitrant pollutants including industrial contaminants, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern. Another facet of his work concerns the study of the fate and biodegradation of xenobiotic chemicals and their degradation products in the environment. This has led to much of his current work that is focussed on the application of the principles of green chemistry and engineering with the goal of creating alternative compounds replacing those traditionally used in the production of plastics, such as plasticizers. And, finally, he has developed methods for the assessment and prediction of the impacts of odorous emissions from industrial and agricultural sources on surrounding communities. In addition to being actively engaged in the professional and scholarly communities, he has also served in numerous administrative and leadership capacities at McGill University including roles as Director of Gardner Hall Residence from 1998 to 2003, Associate Dean (Student Affairs) of the Faculty of Engineering from 2001to 2006, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) from 2007 to 2012, and two five-year terms as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering from 2013 to 2023. He served as Vice-Chair (2017-2019), Chair (2019-2021), then Past-Chair (2021-2023) of Engineering Deans Canada (formerly National Council of Deans of Engineering & Applied Science). He has received multiple awards over his career including his election as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2018 and Fellow of the Canadian Society of Senior Engineers in 2024.


B.A.Sc. (Chemical Engineering, 1985), M.A.Sc. (Chemical Engineering, 1986), Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering, 1991)
University of Windsor

Areas of expertise: 

Environmental quality and health, green chemistry and engineering, sustainable infrastructure and operations, academic administration and leadership

Research areas: 
Environmental Engineering
Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
Selected publications: 

The following is a list of selected publications arranged by research areas of interest, with student names indicated in bold. Descriptions of these areas of interest are provided below. For a complete list of journal publications and links to articles, please visit Prof. Nicell's Google Scholar and ResearchGate websites.  

  • Environmental Applications of Enzymes

Nicell, J.A., J.K. Bewtra, N. Biswas and K.E. Taylor (1993) Reactor development for peroxidase catalyzed polymerization and precipitation of phenols from wastewater, Water Research, 27:11 1629‑1639.

Buchanan, I.D. and J.A. Nicell (1997) Model development for horseradish peroxidase-catalyzed removal of aqueous phenol, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 54:3 251-261.

Karam, J. and J.A. Nicell, (1997) Potential applications of enzymes in waste treatment, Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, 69 141-153. 

Nicell, J.A. and H. Wright (1997) A model of peroxidase activity with inhibition by hydrogen peroxide. Enzyme and Microbial Technology, 21:4 302-310.

Buchanan, I.D., J.A. Nicell and M. Wagner (1998) Reactor models for horseradish peroxidase-catalyzed aromatic removal, ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineering, 124:9, 794-802.

Khan, U. and J.A. Nicell (2007) Horseradish peroxidase-catalyzed oxidation of aqueous natural and synthetic estrogens. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology. 82:818-830.

Kurniawati, S. and J.A. Nicell (2007) Efficacy of laccase-mediator systems to enhance the transformation of aqueous phenol. Enzyme & Microbial Technology. 41, 353-361.

Kurniawati, S. and J.A. Nicell (2009) A comprehensive kinetic model of laccase-catalyzed oxidation of aqueous phenol. Biotechnology Progress. 25:3, 763-773.

Rangelov, S. and J. Nicell (2018) Modelling the transient kinetics of laccase-catalyzed oxidation of four aqueous phenolic substrates at low concentrations. Biochemical Engineering Journal. 132, 233-243

Rangelov, S. and J.A. Nicell (2019) Laccase-catalyzed oxidation of mixed aqueous phenolic substrates at low concentrations. Catalysts. 9(4) 368 pp. 30

  • Green Plastics & Plasticizers

Gartshore, J., D.G. Cooper and J.A. Nicell (2003) Biodegradation of plasticizers by Rhodotorula Rubra. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 22:6, 1244-1251.

Horn, O., S. Nalli, D. Cooper and J.A. Nicell (2004) Plasticizer metabolites in the environment. Water Research, 38, 3693-3698.

Nalli, S., D.G. Cooper and J.A. Nicell (2006) Metabolites from the biodegradation of di-ester plasticizers. The Science of the Total Environment, 366, 286-294.

Nalli, S., O.J. Horn, A.R. Grochowalski, D.G. Cooper and J.A. Nicell (2006) Origin of 2-ethylhexanol as a VOC. Environmental Pollution, 140:1, 181-185.

Barnabé, S., I. Beauchesne, D.G. Cooper and J.A. Nicell (2008) Plasticizers and their degradation products in the process streams of a large urban physicochemical sewage treatment plant. Water Research. 42, 153-162.

Firlotte, N., D. Cooper, M. Maric and J.A. Nicell (2009) Characterization of 1,5-pentanediol dibenzoate as a potential “green” plasticizer for poly(vinylchloride). Journal of Vinyl Additives and Technology.15, 99-107.

Kermanshahi pour, A., R. Roy, D.G. Cooper, M. Marić and J.A. Nicell (2013) Biodegradation kinetics of dibenzoate plasticizers and their metabolites. Biochemical Engineering Journal. 70, 35-45.

Erythropel, H.C., M. Maric, J.A. Nicell, R. Leask and V. Yargeau (2014) Leaching of the plasticizer di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) from plastic containers and the question of human exposure. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 98, 9967–9981.

Jamarani, R., H. Erythropel; J. A. Nicell; R.L. Leask and M. Maric (2018) How green is your plasticizer? Polymers. 10(8) 834 pp 17.

Elsiwi, B., O. Garcia‐Valdez, H. Erythropel, R. Leask, J. Nicell and M. Maric (2020) Fully renewable, effective, and highly biodegradable plasticizer: di‐n‐heptyl succinate. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. 8, 12409−12418.

Jamarani, R., M.W. Halloran, K. Panchal, O. Garcia-Valdez, R. Mafi, J.A., Nicell, R.L. Leask, M. Marić (2021) Additives to prevent the formation of surface defects during poly(vinyl chloride) calendering. Polymer Engineering & Science. V61 1209–1219

Halloran, M., J. Nicell, R. Leask, M. Marić (2022) Bio‐based glycerol plasticizers for flexible poly(vinylchloride) blends. Journal of Applied Polymer Science. e52778, pp11

  • Impact, Risk & Fate of  Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Khan, U., and J.A. Nicell (2010) Assessing the risk of exogenously-consumed pharmaceuticals in land-applied human urine. Water Science & Technology. 62:6, 1335-1345.

Khan, U. and J.A. Nicell (2014) Contraceptive options and their associated estrogenic environmental loads: Relationships and trade-offs. Public Library of Science (PLoS One), 9:3, e92630 (pp. 13, plus supplementary material).

Khan, U. and J.A. Nicell (2015) Human health relevance of pharmaceutically active compounds in drinking water. The AAPS Journal (American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists), 17:3, 558-585.

Grill, G., U. Khan, B. Lehner, J.A. Nicell and J. Ariwi (2016) Risk assessment of down-the-drain chemicals at large spatial scales: Model development and application to contaminants originating from urban areas in the Saint Lawrence River Basin. Science of the Total Environment, 541, 825-838.

Khan, U., R.A. Bloom, J.A. Nicell and J.P. Laurenson (2017) Risks associated with the environmental release of pharmaceuticals on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “flush list”. Science of the Total Environment. 609, 1023-1040.

Grill, G. J. Li, U. Khan, Y. Zhong, B. Lehner, J. Nicell and J. Ariwi (2018) Estimating eco-toxicological risk of estrogens in China’s rivers using a high-resolution contaminant fate model. Water Research. 145, 707-720.

Ehalt Macedo, H., B. Lehner, J.A. Nicell, G. Grill, J. Li, A. Limtong, R. Shakya (2022) Distribution and characteristics of wastewater treatment plants within the global river network. Earth Systems Science Data V14 559–577.

  • Sewer Epidemiology

Khan, U. and J.A. Nicell (2011) Refined sewer epidemiology mass balances and their application to heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Environment International. 37, 1236-1252, with supplementary material (62 pp.)

Khan, U. and J.A. Nicell (2012) Sewer epidemiology mass balances for assessing the illicit use of methamphetamine, amphetamine and tetrahydrocannabinol. Science of the Total Environment. 421-422, 144-162, with supplementary material (32 pp).

  • Odour Impact Assessment

Nicell, J.A. (2003) Expressions to relate population responses to odour concentration. Atmospheric Environment, 37, 4955-4964.

Henshaw, P., J.A. Nicell and A. Sidkar (2006) Odour impact parameters for an industrial facility. Atmospheric Environment, 40, 1016-1029.

Lin, X.J., S. Barrington, J.A. Nicell, D. Choiniere and S. King (2007). Livestock odour dispersion as affected by natural windbreaks. Water, Air & Soil Pollution. 182:1-4, 263-273.

Nicell, J.A. and P. Henshaw (2007) Odor impact assessments based on dose-response relationships and spatial analyses of population response. Water Practice 1:2, 1-14.

Nicell, J.A. (2009) Approaches for assessing and regulating the impacts of odours on communities. Atmospheric Environment. 43:1, 196-206.

  • Other

Gehr, R. and J.A. Nicell (1996) Pilot studies and assessment of downstream effects of UV and ozone disinfection of a physicochemical wastewater, Water Quality Research Journal of Canada 31:2 263-281.

McAlpine, L., T. Gandell, L. Winer, J. Gruzleski, L. Mydlarski, J. Nicell and R. Harris (2005) A collective approach towards enhancing undergraduate engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education 30(3): 377-384.

Cooper, V., V.T.V. Nguyen and J.A. Nicell (2007) Calibration of conceptual rainfall runoff models using global optimisation methods with hydrologic process-based parameter constraints. Journal of Hydrology, 334, 455-466.

Areas of interest: 
  • Environmental Applications of Enzymes - This research focusses on the study of aqeous reactions catalyzed by peroxidase and laccase enzymes and their application to the oxidation of phenolic pollutants in wastewater streams.
  • Green Plastics & Plasticizers - This research centres on the study of the biodegradation, fate and impacts of plasticizers in the environment and the development of alternatives produced from renewables that avoid the negative environmental and health impacts of traditional plasticizers 
  • Impact, Risk & Fate of Contaminants of Emerging Concern - This research involves the development, validation and application of models of surface waters at regional and global scales in order to assess the fate of contaminants of emerging concern  that arise from the population's consumption of pharmaceuticals and other compounds (e.g., estrogens, antibiotics)
  • Sewer Epidemiology - This field is focussed on the development of methods for using measurements of the concentrations of selected metabolites in wastewater streams as an indicator of a community's habits or health (e.g., consumption of illicit drugs)
  • Odour Impact Assessment - This work focusses on the development of methods for the characterization of odours in terms of human response and their application, in conjunction with dispersion modelling, to predict or assess the impact of gaseous odourous emissions from stationary sources on communities.
Professional activities: 
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