Studying our Master of Research (MRes) Science allows you to focus your research interests on one or two areas of science and work towards translating your learning into research related outputs – such as a submission for a peer-reviewed publication; a peer reviewed research/knowledge transfer grant application, or a presentation.

MRes Science can be studied either full time (1-year) or part time (2-years). You will develop a wide variety of skills, experience and competence on this course, and the MRes will provide a thorough grounding for students moving towards Doctoral (PhD) studies, or pursuing research related activities as a career.

These pharmacy and biomedical science projects are available for September 2019 or January 2020 start. Please note this list of projects is not exhaustive and you'll need to meet and discuss the project you're interested in with a member of research staff before you apply.

Thermosensitive biodegradable hydrogels for protein delivery to the urothelium 

Supervisor: Dr. Aikaterini Lalatsa

Local delivery of proteins to the urothelium is hampered by the inability of proteins to diffuse across the mucosal and epithelial barrier in significant amounts because of their large molecular weight, hydrophilic nature and ability to hydrogen bond, coupled with enzymatic and chemical instability.

Strategies to overcome these challenges and enable local drug delivery involve intravesical ideally biodegradable devices, lipidic nanomedicines and hydrogels. These strategies have been mostly successful for the delivery of drugs and have shown limited efficacy to enable permeation and targeting of peptides. This project aims to develop a platform technology that will allow the entrapment of proteins within lipid based drug delivery systems such as self-nanoemulsifying drug delivery systems (SNEDDS). These have been shown to exhibit comparatively high mucus permeating properties as well as being able to deliver proteins orally with a 20 fold increase in bioavailability.

To ensure residence time is enhanced and localised on the mucosal barrier as well as to ensure close proximity, protein loaded SNEDDS will be entrapped in chitosan – hyaluronic acid thermosensitive injectable biodegradable hydrogels. SNEDDS and hydrogels will be optimised and characterised prior to in vitro and ex vivo cytotoxicity and permeability assays.

Proof of principle assays will be conducted to ensure that the proposed strategy is able to deliver the protein maintaining its activity and at therapeutic amounts to elicit desired effect.

Social prescribing services - an appraisal of their evaluation

Supervisor: Dr. Nicola Barnes

Social prescribing enables the referral of people to a variety of non-clinical services. People’s health and wellbeing is determined by a range of social, environmental and economic factors as well as their physical and mental health.

Social prescribing has been introduced to address people’s needs in a holistic way, encouraging them to take control of their health. Social prescribing can involve multiple activities, commonly provided by voluntary and community organisations, such as cookery, volunteering, exercise, art, gardening and group learning. Various models for delivering social prescribing have developed, usually involving a link worker or working with people to access the different services. The service models vary from working face to face with people over a long period to a very light touch approach that may involve a single telephone conversation. As such, there is unlikely to be a single evaluation tool that can effectively evaluate the impact of these different service models. T

his project aims to:

  • identify the range of services that could be described as social prescribing in the Portsmouth and Isle of Wight area, particularly those using a light touch approach
  • identify the psychosocial constructs, or socioeconomic issues that the services target
  • collect data on the methods currently used to evaluate these services
  • review the evaluation of such services in the UK by using the National Social Prescribing Network and appraise the evaluation methods currently in use
  • make recommendations on the future evaluation of such services

Ethical decision making in pharmacy practice - professional judgement in registers pharmacists 

Supervisor: Dr. Helena Herrera

Ethical decision making is an increasing part of day-to-day practice for registered pharmacists. With their role developing increasingly towards the provision of a large range of clinical services, where role boundaries are unclear and practice goes ahead of legislation, supporting these practitioners with their decision making is vital. This project would look at investigating how professional decision making is applied to non-traditional pharmacists’ roles, and how these individuals could be supported further in their development.

The impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment - global attitudes and learning needs in pharmacy students

Supervisor: Dr Zachariah Nazar

Pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, chemists and other professions have contributed to the discovery, development, marketing and pharmaceuticals, all with the aim to support the development of a healthier society.

As the availability and use of pharmaceuticals has increased, so has the growing trend of detrimental effects on the environment caused by pharmaceuticals. There is a limited awareness of the general population of the impact of inadequate use and disposal of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

This study would look at the perceptions of professionals, including healthcare workers, on the impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment, with the purpose of identifying ways to influence policy and education to address this global issue.

Service provision for older patients in community pharmacy - are we meeting the needs of our ageing population? 

Supervisor: Dr Helen Hull

Community pharmacy is central to the provision of NHS and other private services to patients, with the dispensing of prescribed medication being the single most common healthcare intervention. While efforts are made to provide services which constitute value for money and efficiently address the needs of the population, there is no evidence that these services are designed to meet the needs of older patients. This group represents a significant proportion of the individuals accessing these resources. As such, more evidence is required to understand how to better meet their needs. The proposed study will look at current services offered in community pharmacies to identify whether these are provided in ways which suit older patients, identifying areas of best practice and those where change is needed.

Effects of mechanical stimulation in the proliferation and differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into the osteogenic lineage

Supervisor: Dr Marta Roldo

In the UK 300,000 bone fractures occur a year, mainly due to age related diseases such as osteoporosis. These have a great impact on patients’ quality of life and the NHS budget. Many of these fractures are complex and unable to self-heal. They can often be treated with implantation of bone from the patient, or using bone substitute materials. In both cases there are serious limitations to the success of the current treatment options. New strategies must be developed.

Scientific knowledge suggests that the most promising strategy is the development of novel materials. These should provide a support over which staminal cells can change into bone-forming cells, and moreover they should work as a platform for the controlled delivery of drugs. Furthermore, it is known that forces applied to bone fractures have a role in the repair process, so developing a material able to harness the positive effect of these forces is a promising strategy.

We have developed promising new materials - the aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between their chemical and physical characteristics and how their potential to induce bone repair is affected by the forces applied to them. This work will provide protocols and tools to better understand how we can exploit mechanical forces as a method to stimulate the bone to repair itself and how materials for bone repair can be combined with mechanical forces to result in highly effective and safe treatments for bone repair.

High-throughput discovery of novel antibiotics using synthetic microbiology

Supervisor: Dr Roger Draheim

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a frequent problem in the treatment of disease caused by several clinical bacterial pathogens. In the European Union, antibiotic resistant infections kill nearly 25,000 patients and represent a total expenditure of £1.5 billion per year. In response, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the United Kingdom termed antibiotic resistance “a major area of concern” and proposed its inclusion on the National Security Risk Assessment, which prioritises major disruptive risks to national security.

Furthermore, the CMO suggested that the UK government facilitate global action, especially concerning the development of novel antibiotics. However, given the expensive research, development and clinical testing required to bring an antibiotic to market, coupled with the fact that they are taken for limited time courses and not for life, makes them a very unattractive prospect for pharmaceutical companies.

This MRes project is responsible for implementation of a novel “biological antibiotic screening” platform. The overall aim of this project is to develop this screening technology in order to sharply reduce the economic cost required for antibiotic discovery to the point where it becomes adopted as the de facto standard within the pharmaceutical industry. This multidisciplinary project will be conducted within newly renovated laboratory space and spans a broad range of biological sciences including molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, high throughput screening and collection/management of large data sets (i.e. big data). Applicants will ideally have previous experience in one or more of these topics, although will receive training in all relevant areas.

In addition, students will have access to a vast number of training resources available at through the Graduate School including those geared toward improving presentation skills, time-management and project organisation skills, reviewing literature, thesis writing, data analysis and statistics, and other various related training modules.

State of the art correlative imaging application in the study of morphological and functional behaviour of chondrocytes cultured in traditional 2D culture versus 3D printed scaffolds 

Supervisor: Dr Marta Roldo

We offer an exciting opportunity for an MRes student to work in collaboration with scientists at the Diamond light source in Oxford.

Cartilage is an avascular tissue with poor nutrient infiltration and oxygen diffusion. These issues can hinder healing after injury or trauma. A particular problem in cartilage wound healing is the formation of fibrocartilage, which is functionally and biomechanically inferior to the native tissue. Current therapies to facilitate cartilage regeneration (e.g. autografting, microfractures and autologous chondrocyte implantation) having limited success in restoring functional tissue.

Cartilage tissue engineering (CTE), or the implantation of biocompatible scaffolds loaded with chondrocytes or stem cells, could be a turning point in the treatment of cartilage damage. A deep understanding of the interactions between cells and the biomaterials used for their delivery is key to the development of novel CTE therapies.

The aim of this project is to understand, through non-destructive high-resolution cryo x-ray tomography, correlative fluorescence microscopy and gene expression, the effect that the culture environment in a 3D scaffold has on the morphology and function of chondrocytes. Current cell culture practices and analytical techniques are limited providing a 2D environment for cell growth which results in a cell behaviour dissimilar from the in vivo realty. The state of the art facilities at Diamond, beamline B24, will allow the study of cells in a 3D environment that will be created by 3D printing of hydrogels with the newly acquired Bioprinter.

This project will provide the student with training in state of the art techniques uniquely available through the collaboration between the University and Diamond. The project is multidisciplinary and involves biology, physics, bioengineering and biomaterials, and will provide the student with a unique set of skills that are very competitive in the current job and research market.

This project will be co-supervised by: Prof Gordon Blunn, Dr Gialuca Tozzi and Dr Maria Harkiolaki (University of Oxford).

Functional and clinical significance of mito-genomic elements in brain tumours

Supervisor: Dr Rhiannon McGeehan

Glioblastoma is the most common and malignant primary brain tumour in adults, and is characterised by a dismal prognosis. Current prognostic and predictive markers, and treatments for glioblastoma that rely on nuclear DNA are inadequate. Consequently, we and others are turning to mitochondria, in particular their DNA (mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA) as a promising alternative. Mitochondria are impaired in glioblastoma, and we are identifying the underlying factors in their mtDNA that could be responsible, including how such factors contribute to malignant progression, chemoresistance, and ultimately patient survival.

To date, we have identified several novel mtDNA factors that are heterogeneously expressed between glioblastoma patients, and between glioblastoma patients and healthy controls. These mtDNA factors are either linked to cell behaviours, including mitochondrial-targeted drug sensitivity, in our glioblastoma models and/or are associated with survival in our glioblastoma patient cohorts.

Using a combination of bespoke bioinformatic approaches, mitochondrial and cellular behaviour assays, glioblastoma cell models, and in house and external patient databases, the goal of this MRes is to join our Mitochondria group within the UoP Brain Tumour Research Centre in order gain comprehensive insights into the functional and clinical significance of mtDNA features, and to identify and develop new prognostic and predictive markers, and drug targets.

Other Research Projects

Discover the current research projects available in each of our schools and departments: 

Please note, this list is not exhaustive and you'll need to meet and discuss the project you're interested in with a member of research staff before you apply.

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