R. Paul Philp was appointed to an Endowed Chair in the School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma in 1984 to build a petroleum geochemistry program at the University of Oklahoma. He has remained at the University of Oklahoma since 1984 and became an Emeritus Professor in 2015. During his tenure at the University he has mentored and graduated over 150 M.S. and Ph.D. students; he was also Acting Director of the School of Geology and Geophysics for 2 years from 1987 to 1989. In addition to the graduate students the geochemistry group has seen a steady stream of international visitors from China, Russia, S. America, Africa, China, Japan, SE Asia, India, Europe, Australia and New Zealand to name a few. Many of these visitors were sponsored by their governments or industry to visit the University and learn the basics of geochemistry that could then be utilized and applied upon return to their own countries. In addition to the visitors there has also been a significant number of post doctoral fellows working on a wide variety of research projects. Many of these exchange visits lead to many long term research relationships which remained active over many years.
At the University of Oklahoma an important career development occurred following the development and commercial availability of the combined gas chromatograph-isotope ratio mass spectrometer system (GCIRMS). While having nothing to do with the development of the instrumentation he recognized the value of this technique in providing another important fingerprinting tool that could be used for correlating oils and source rock extracts. However at the same time the importance of this technique in the area of environmental forensics became apparent and this lead to an extensive body of work initially using this approach for fingerprinting and correlating crude oil and refined product spills with their potential sources using the stable isotopes of individual compounds. Initially this work was restricted to carbon but now includes hydrogen and chlorine isotopes. As interest grew his laboratory expanded this approach to contaminated ground water studies and developed applications based on stable isotope compositions to determine source of contaminants in ground water and also their extent of natural attenuation. This effort started over 20 years ago and since that time the group has become one of the leading research groups in this area in the US working with numerous environmental companies, EPA, US Army, Navy and Air Force on numerous environmental issues. His laboratory became one of the leading laboratories in the world applying this approach to study the origin of common ground water contaminants such as PCE, TCE, and other chlorinated solvents, MTBE, TBA, BTEX, 1,4-dioxane, EDB and many other common groundwater contaminants. The resulting data are now used for two major purposes: correlation of spilled contaminant with suspected point of release and secondly determination of the onset and extent of natural attenuation. The importance of this approach can realized when the normal analytical techniques used for this purpose are GC and GCMS but these techniques are worthless for example with single components since they only tell you it is a single component and what it is but cannot distinguish between two samples of the same component, which can possibly be done by using the isotopes. Many papers have resulted from this work and a list of these phblications is attached.