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PhD Studentship: Molecular Interactions in Solution for Multi-Component Crystallisation

Queen's University Belfast

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Belfast
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: 100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid (plus an annual stipend of £14,777 for UK residents)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th April 2019
Closes: 4th July 2019

A fully funded PhD studentship is currently available in the group of Dr Katharina Edkins with joint supervision by Dr John Holbrey from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. The costs covered are 100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and an annual stipend of £14,777 for UK residents only. Start date of the studentship is 1st October 2019 for the duration of three years.

Project outline:

Crystallisation is probably one of the most important unit operations in pharmaceutical industry for purification, as well as the generation of materials appropriate for formulation and application to the patient. Whilst most research activity currently is focused on generating crystal forms of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) showing physicochemical characteristics ideal for formulation and treatment, very few studies report findings on the molecular interaction of different species in solution before crystallisation. This knowledge, though, feeds into the rational design of crystallisation experiments towards co-crystal formation or for crystallisation as purification tool.

We will concentrate on interaction between two or more related components in solution and determining the strength of their interaction. Using model systems based on pharmaceutical compounds, we will concentrate on interactions leading to the co-crystallisation of two or more components (API and co-former/impurity), concentrating primarily on strong directed interactions based on hydrogen bonding. The main analytical tools will be infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with their ability to qualitatively gauge interactions on complementary timescales as well as quantitative information about the energy of the interactions. In addition, we will use X-ray and neutron total scattering in combination with Monte-Carlo simulations to build a structural model of the solution state. These models will be verified by Molecular Dynamics simulations. Finally, the solution structure and interactions therein will be compared to the crystal structures resulting from these solutions, enabling us to tailor the solution environment to the intended 
crystallisation outcome.

The student will gain highly-sought after expertise in pre-formulation, the standard solid-state techniques along with solution-based spectroscopy. Training will be provided in (thermo-) microscopy, DSC, TGA, X-ray and neutron diffraction, IR and NMR spectroscopy, crystal structure determination and total scattering techniques.

In addition to the topic specific expertise, the student will also be trained in presentation techniques (verbal and written) of complex information, information mining, networking and time-management. Training courses in transferrable skills are offered through the School of Pharmacy or the wider university.

The student will be participating and presenting on at least one national and one international conference ranging from PharmSci, BCA spring meeting and BACG to IUCr and ECM meetings, AAPS, Gordon Conference etc. depending on the results.

Candidate requirements

Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Pharmacy or related subject. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered.

How to apply

Applicants have to apply to Queen’s via the Direct Applications Portal, and submitted all required supporting documents

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