• Room 01.016 - Pharmacy & MCI

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Open to applications for postgraduate research from suitably-qualified applicants who meet the University's English language requirements, who have secured a source of funding, and who wish to pursue a research project in a relevant research topic.

1992 …2022

Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

  • modified, sustained and controlled release drug delivery systems
  • women’s sexual and reproductive health
  • vaginal drug delivery
  • vaginal ring technology
  • polymeric drug delivery devices
  • injection molding and extrusion technologies
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • HIV microbicides
  • contraception
  • non-hormonal contraception
  • antiretrovirals for HIV prevention
  • multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs)
  • mucosal vaccination
  • silicone elastomers
  • polyurethanes
  • ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymers
  • in vitro release testing of drug dosage forms
  • protein drug delivery
  • long-acting contraceptives
  • long-acting injectables
  • 3D-printing of drug delivery systems
  • bacterial vaginosis (BV)
  • estrogen replacement therapy
  • cervical ripening
  • induction of labour
  • capsular contracture of silicone elastomer breast implants

Research Statement

I am Professor of Drug Delivery in the School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast. My research interests lie primarily within the pharmaceutical sciences, and particularly in the application of drug delivery technologies to women's sexual and reproductive health. For the past 20 years, my research group has developed world-leading expertise in the design, development and testing of drug-releasing vaginal rings, most notably long-acting antiretroviral-releasing rings for the prevention of HIV infection and contraceptive devices. For example, we reported the first microbicide and antiretroviral-releasing vaginal rings between 2003 and 2005. As part of an ongoing long-term partnership with the International Partnership for Microbicides, my research team has also contributed significantly to the development of the dapivirine-releasing vaginal ring, which completed two pivotal Phase III clinical studies in 2016 and has recently received approval from the European Medicine Agency and the World Health Organization. Further details here.

My current research is focused on second-generation combination and multipurpose vaginal rings that combine antiretrovirals for HIV prevention with contraceptive steroids and/or drugs for prevention/treatment of other sexually transmitted infections. My research team at QUB – comprising pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, engineers and biological scientists – has a unique breadth of knowledge and expertise useful in developing implantable drug delivery and controlled release products. This knowledge and expertise supports collaborations and partnerships across the globe, with research funding from global health organisations, charities, pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology companies.

I am always interested in developing new industrial research partnerships. If your company has an interesting project or product concept in mind that might benefit from input by the team at QUB, then please do not hesitate to contact me. Industry-funded PhD studentships typically cost ~£130,000 GBP (total over three years), while the same amount per year supports a research project with a full-time senior postdoctoral researcher. 

Teaching

I teach extensively across five degree programmes in the School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast – the undergraduate MPharm degree, the undergraduate BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences degree, the undergraduate BSc Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree, the postgraduate Masters in Industrial Pharmaceutics, and various Distance Learning courses.

I coordinate the L1 Physical Pharmaceutics (PMY1015) and PMY8010 Research Skills and Methods modules. PMY1015 provides students with an understanding of the fundamental principles underlying pharmaceutics and drug formulation, including solubility, dissolution, pH, diffusion, partitioning, rheology, suspensions, emulsions, rheology, etc. PMY8010 provides postgraduates students with skills and knowledge around conducting research in an industrial setting.

I also teach on the PMY3027, PMY3176 and PMY3275 Drug Delivery module, focusing on the basic concepts of modified release drug delivery systems, vaginal drug delivery, and polymeric drug delivery systems.

At Level 1, I teach extensively on the PMY1050 Skills Module, focused on foundation aspects of numeracy, statistics, computer skills, literature searching skills, referencing in scientific articles, use of reference management software, etc.

Other

Here, I provide useful information for those interested in pursuing a PhD in my research group. I am generally happy to consider well-qualified students with a undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a relevant scientific discipline, such as chemistry, pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, pharmaceutics, polymer science, biomedical sciences, engineering, analytical chemistry etc.  

The School of Pharmacy at the Queen's University Belfast is a global leader in innovative pharmaceutical sciences research. The Research Excellence Framework 2014 rated 92% of the School’s research as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”. Using the REF measure of Research Intensity (RI), the School of Pharmacy came 1st among UK Pharmacy schools. The School is also a friendly and supportive place to complete a PhD.  

Below, I have highlighted a number of exemplar PhD research projects. These are only intended to be indicative; I am always happy to discuss alternative project ideas with prospective students.

  • Novel poly(acrylic acid) complexes for enantioselective drug delivery and chiral separation
  • High resolution solid state NMR as a tool for analysis of polymeric controlled release drug delivery systems
  • In-vitro in-vivo correlation (IVIVC) considerations for drug-releasing vaginal rings
  • Novel use of calcium phosphate cements in drug delivery applications
  • 3D-printing of controlled release subdermal implants for contraception and HIV prevention
  • Novel vaginal ring devices for sustained release of protein-based drugs for HIV prevention
  • Novel sustained-release formulation strategies for vaginal administration of drug-loaded nanoparticles
  • Low dose 5-fluorouracil intravaginal therapy for treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)
  • Contraceptive vaginal rings containing copper + zinc nanoparticles
  • New dissolution testing methods for drug-releasing vaginal rings
  • Surface-modified silicone elastomers for reduced biofilm formation
  • Silicone elastomer systems containing excipients for modulation of drug release

In order to be considered for a PhD at the Queen's University Belfast, you must first complete an online postgraduate application. Here is the link to the online postgraduate application portal.

This online application asks you to submit your educational credentials, degree transcripts, and English language qualifications (where required; QUB requires IELTS 6.5 or higher with scores of at least 6.0 in each of the sections). It is not necessary at this stage to specify a particular research project or draft a research proposal in the online application; instead, you should simply indicate the general area(s) in which you might consider working. If the online application form requests you to upload a research proposal document, simply upload a Word document indicating the general research area in which you wish to work. Ultimately, the research project is planned by the supervisor and the student together.

Once the application is received by the Postgraduate Office at Queen's University Belfast, it will be sent to me for review. The key things I am looking for are ambitious, motivated students who are willing to work as part of a team, and passionate to learn new ideas and skills. 

The biggest obstacle for international applicants seeking to enrol on a PhD program at Queen's University Belfast is securing a source of funding to cover both living costs here in Belfast and international tuition fees. Currently, I do not have funding to cover international students. Therefore, in addition to making a general online postgraduate application, you should also separately seek to secure funding to cover tuition fees. For example, perhaps your local government offer studentships to those wishing to complete a PhD overseas, or perhapss you or your parents can privately fund your PhD. International tuition fees are currently £22,000 per year, and a PhD is intended to be completed in 3 years.

Belfast is a modern capital city; the people and friendly and welcoming, it's easy to get around, and it's a surprisngly affordable place in which to live and study. More information here.

Also, here is flow chart summarising the QUB process for PhD applications:

I hope this is useful. Let me know if you have any further questions. I look forward to receiving your online application.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

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