Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This is a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in February 2019 or October 2019. The project is supervised by Dr Paul Cox and Dr Marisa van der Merwe.

About 40% of drugs in the pipeline and 60% of new chemical entities from synthesis or high-throughput screening are classified as poorly soluble. If a patient cannot efficiently absorb a drug, its effectiveness is limited. Poor solubility can also induce side-effects or increase the cost of treatment.

In such cases, injection may be administered instead - and because injections are much less popular with patients, their compliance with the treatment may drop.

At worst, poor solubility may mean that a candidate molecule is abandoned altogether. Research in drug solubility - in particular, enhancing the oral bioavailability and controlling the release of dissolution-impaired drug candidates - is very important.

Finding a solution to this issue would have a seismic effect on the pharmaceutical industry.

The work will include:

  • the use of molecular modelling studies to help interpret and guide experimental work
  • the use of a variety of experimental techniques, including: Neutron Diffraction, Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) and Dissolution

Zeolites are inorganic compounds with well-defined channels and cavities. They are formed by linking SiO4 and AlO4 groups via the oxygen corners of adjacent tetrahedra, to form crystalline solids.

Currently, more than 150 different zeolite frameworks have had their structure studied, and many possess pores and channels potentially large enough to accommodate a wide-range of different drug molecules.

By controlling the Si/Al ratios of the zeolite, its degree of hydrophobicity can be altered. Crucially, high-silica materials like zeolites can readily absorb hydrophobic compounds in their channels, and their particle size can be controlled to make them more easily absorbed through the GI-tract.

Zeolites appear to be ideally suited for both enhancing the dissolution and controlling the release of drug molecules - and the aim of this PhD project is to optimise the use of zeolites as effective drug delivery systems for a range of poorly soluble drug candidates.

The experimental and theoretical skills you develop during this project will prepare you for future work in academia or industry.


Self-funded PhD students only

Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the Government Doctoral Loan

2018/2019 entry

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,260 p/a*
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,130 p/a*
International full-time students: £15,100 p/a*
International part-time students: £7,550 p/a*

Bench fees may also apply - for more information, please contact the project supervisor [LINK to 'make an enquiry' section].

By Publication Fees 2018/2019

Members of staff: £1,550 p/a*
External candidates: £4,260 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase.

Entry requirements

A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.

Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

To start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Informal enquiries are welcome and can be made to Dr Paul Cox ( and Dr Marisa van der Merwe (, quoting both the project code and the project title. For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

You can also visit our How to Apply pages to get a better understanding of how the PhD application process works.

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