Postgraduate research opportunities

Novel approach to control pharmaceutical crystallisation using heterogeneous nucleation

This project will take experimental and/or simulation approach to understand how to manipulate surface dipole layers and dispersion interactions to control nucleation rate and the direct formation of a particular polymorph.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


7 January 2020


31 March 2020


3.5 years


Students applying should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant engineering/science discipline, and be highly motivated to undertake multidisciplinary research.

Project Details

Crystallisation is widely used for purification of commodity and speciality chemicals and pharmaceuticals and for making advanced materials for catalysis, separations and sensing applications. One of the main challenges in developing robust and efficient crystallisation processes is to control the nucleation rate.  In addition, many systems tend to crystallise in multiple structural forms of the same composition called polymorphs, and controlling polymorphism is extremely important in the development of pharmaceutical products as polymorphs have different properties, such as solubility, dissolution rate and thus bioavailability in resulting dosage forms.

Nucleation mainly occurs via heterogeneous mechanisms, with the nucleus forming on a surface or interface, rather than in bulk solution.  In large-scale industrial processes, heterogeneous nucleation is often undesirable in industry as it leads to fouling of vessels and a lower product yield, however, nucleants are often added to induce nucleation and/or produce a particular polymorph via heterogeneous nucleation. Numerous strategies have been proposed for the design of nucleant surfaces.  This project will use experiment to systematically investigate the effect of tunable monolayers on heterogeneous nucleation of representative organic compounds relevant to the pharmaceutical industry in order to explore the design space of novel heterogeneous nucleants. Characterisation of functionalised surfaces and crystals grown on them will be performed with a suite of advanced characterisation techniques available in the CMAC National Facility housed in the Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC), including AFM, SEM, Raman microscopy and GI-SAXS. In the simulation part, we will gain a molecular level insight using a combination of quantum mechanical calculations and classical molecular dynamics simulations, which will enable calculation of relative energetics of competing polymorphs on various interfaces corresponding to systems investigated experimentally.

In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.

Funding Details

This PhD project is fully funded for 3.5 years. Students from UK are eligible to apply.

Contact us

Miss Ewa Kosciuk

+44(0) 141 548 2835

James Weir Building, 75 Montrose Street, Glasgow, G1 1XJ

How to apply

Apply for this project here – please quote the project title in your application.

During the application you'll be asked for the following information and evidence uploaded to the application:

  • your full contact details
  • transcripts and certificates of all degrees
  • proof of English language proficiency if you are not from a majority English-speaking country as recognised by UKVI
  • two references, one of which must be academic. Please see our guidance on referees
  • funding or scholarship information
  • international students must declare any previous UK study

By filling these details out as fully as possible, you'll avoid any delay to your application being processed by the University.

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