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PhD in Chemistry (Chemical Crystallography) - A combined statistical and high-throughput experimental approach for the predictive crystallization of small molecules

Value of award

100% of Home tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,609 (full award). Additional support will be available to cover consumables, conference fees and travel.

Number of awards


Start date and duration

September 2021 for 4 years.

Application closing date

7 May 2021.


This PhD CASE award with AstraZeneca will focus on the development of our ground breaking high-throughput Encapsulated Nanoscale Crystallization technology (ENaCt) With the aim to ‘control’ the solid form of new drug-like molecules to have improved bioavailability and physical properties.

Previous work by the Newcastle group has resulted in the development of ENaCt¸ providing the first platform technology for automated nanoscale crystallization. This work has seen considerable interest from both academic and industrial groups and is the focus of a university spinout (Indicatrix Crystallography). In this project we will work with the crystallography group of AstraZeneca¸ headed by Dr McCabe¸ to further develop the technique and enhance the ENaCt protocols for the crystallisation of drug-like molecules¸ a key step in new drug development.

Working with a focussed set of drug-like molecules¸ under the supervision of Drs Hall and Probert¸ the PhD student will refine the ENaCt methodologies to provide optimised crystallisation conditions for molecules based on their molecular properties. Through the use of high-throughput robotics the student will develop automated work flows for both experimental setup and outcome analysis. Working with Dr Heaps the student implement enhanced experimental design that will allow the application of statistical analysis to the outcomes with the final aim of constructing a predictive crystallisation model in which experimental conditions can be deduced from molecular properties¸ an as yet unaddressed challenge in the field. With these tools in hand the student will apply these methods to early stage drug molecules. Through the investigation of their crystal structures we will design synthetic modifications to improve solubility profiles. This will bring the consideration of bioavailability much earlier in the drug development process thus decreasing drug failure rates and speeding time to market.

The PhD student will work as part of a cohort of PhDs/PDRAs in the Johnson and Crystallography laboratories.


AstraZeneca/ESPRC CASE

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Michael Probert (NU/ICX), Dr Michael Hall (NU/ICX) and Dr Sarah Heaps (NU)

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must have been awarded a minimum of a 2(i) BSc/MChem degree (or UK equivalent) in Chemistry (or closely related engineering or physical sciences discipline).

The award is available to UK and international (inc. EU) applicants.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system.

You will need to:


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Eligible Courses