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PhD studentship in Using Terahertz Spectroscopy to Explore the Properties of Biopharmaceutical Formulations for Solid-State Processing

A fully-funded 4-year PhD studentship is available at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge working with Dr Axel Zeitler in collaboration with MedImmune. The student will be enrolled in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sensor Technologies and Applications which has a yearly intake of around ten students. The first year involves a highly interdisciplinary program consisting of lectures, practicals and research projects covering a wide range of technologies and applications in sensing and imaging. Successful completion of the first year will lead to a Master of Research qualification (MRes) and optimal preparation for the PhD phase in years 2-4.

The pharmaceutical industry is increasingly turning to complex mixtures for their formulations in order to increase stability, efficacy, and bioavailability.

Recent advances have highlighted that protein-sugar dispersions are a potential new route for advanced dosage forms. Yet such designs suffer from the same preparative issues that most new formulations have, that is understanding how to efficiently manufacture the product to maximise stability and efficacy. But unlike their small-molecule (and often mono-disperse) counterparts, such mixtures are difficult to analyse in situ because of the complexity of the interactions present.

Terahertz time-domain spectroscopy (THz-TDS) is a powerful tool for the non-destructive extraction of important parameters from solid materials, such as amorphous stability, molecular mobility, and intermolecular interaction strengths. It is a valuable technique for the characterisation of amorphous stability via the measurement of the strength of the intramolecular relaxation process, which can be directly linked to the stability of amorphous mixtures. Additionally, recent studies have used THz-TDS to obtain detailed mechanical (elastic) data of a crystalline polypeptide, highlighting the ability to understand how certain interactions lead to bulk mechanical properties. Such analyses are critical for understanding the dynamics of pharmaceutical mixtures, since a complete picture regarding the molecular arrangements can have profound implications for drug formulation and delivery, i.e. how to best manufacture and store the material.

This project aims to extend the utility of THz-TDS for the characterisation of protein-drug mixtures, in order to better understand how protein structure, specifically secondary structure, affects the solid-state dynamics and bulk properties.

The terahertz applications group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology runs a successful internationally leading research program in terahertz technology (

Applicants should have a First Class (or a high 2:1) degree in a relevant discipline such as chemical engineering, physics, chemistry, or engineering. The successful applicant will be expected to formally apply for admission through the University's Graduate Admissions Office and meet any conditions of admission they set forth.

To apply for this studentship: Please email a detailed curriculum vitae (to include numerical details of grades obtained in relevant examinations) to:

Please quote reference NQ11246 - UK/EU Studentship: Terahertz Applications Group on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy. Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr Axel Zeitler (; please do not send applications to Dr Zeitler's email address.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 4 years in the first instance.

Applicants should ensure their application is complete and submitted by 5pm on 28 February 2017.

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