UCL School of Pharmacy


Studentships and Funding

The UCL School of Pharmacy offers funded studentships throughout the year. Interested applicants should check this page regularly for new opportunities that arise.

Studentships at the UCL School of Pharmacy

We have studentships in the following areas:

15 fully funded 4-year PhD studentships in the EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Transformative Pharmaceutical Technologies 

Why study with us?  

  • Fully funded PhD studentships at leading UK and Ireland universities 
  • Extensive number of PhD projects in a wide range of research disciplines 
  • Join a network of alumni in industry and academia 
  • Open innovation environment between academia and leading pharmaceutical and healthcare industry partners 

What do we offer? 

Purple drug vials

The Centre provides doctoral level training in a unique multidisciplinary environment at the interfaces between chemical, engineering, computational, pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences.  A comprehensive scientific and soft-skills training curriculum also involves our UK-based students undertaking a 12-week training project at both academic and industry sites before commencing their PhD research and our Ireland-based students undertaking an industry placement. 
The CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training) is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council (EPSRC), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and a number of industry partners.  The Centre provides world-leading training to prepare strategic-thinking scientists for high achieving careers in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.  
In addition, students participate in innovation and entrepreneurship activities, conference and colloquia events, team working and problem solving, and outreach activities, all with very close industry involvement. 

Entry and funding requirements 
Candidates should have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper-second class degree, or international equivalent, in pharmacy, chemistry, engineering, physics, biology, mathematics or related sciences, or a relevant master’s qualification.  

EPSRC Studentships 
These awards are given to students at UoN and UCL. Awards for UK residents cover UK tuition fees and provide a stipend at the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) rate
International applicants can be eligible for tuition fees at the UK rate and a stipend at the UKRI rate. Please note that international tuition fees are higher than UK fees, and EPSRC funding will not cover the additional international fees set by universities. Funding to cover these additional costs may be available from other sources, and more guidance on this will be made available in due course.  For now, we would recommend that international applicants should feel free to apply for the UCL or UoN studentships, but be mindful that at this stage we cannot guarantee funding 

If you are unsure whether you have UK or International student status, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) can provide information on tuition fees to help you assess your fee status. 

SSPC Studentships 
SSPC is the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals. Studentships are based in Ireland and are open to UK, EU and non-EU students. Funding will cover EU fees only and a stipend in one of the following universities: Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork or University College Dublin.  
How to apply 
To apply please complete the application form.
For more information, please contact:  
Ms Julia Thompson/Dr Claudia Matz (CDT-TransPharmTech@nottingham.ac.uk) University of Nottingham (UK) 
Ms Sarah Marks (s.marks.pharm@ucl.ac.uk) University College London (UK) 
Ms Catherine O’Brien (catherine.OBrien@tcd.ie) SSPC – The SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals (Ireland) 
Application deadline: We will continue to accept applications until all places are filled.  We will initially consider all applications received by 12pm, Monday 1st February 2021 for shortlisting and interview.

Studentship in Pharmaceutics

Project title: Investigating the effect of age, sex, prebiotics, and drug treatment on colonic microbiota and drug absorption

Studentship with Dr Mine Orlu and Professor Abdul Basit

Project description: The aim of this project is to understand how the colonic microbiome is affected by age, sex, prebiotics and drug treatment and the effects this has on drug absorption. 

Expected Results:

  • Identifying the differences of colonic microbiota environments with respect to age and sex.
  • Defining the threshold (age ranges) at which colonic microbiota is altered i.e. the transition from paediatric, adult to geriatric microbiota environments.
  • Determining the key factors in designing colonic drug delivery systems considering the altered gut microbiota during maturation.
  • Understanding how colonic bacteria are affected by age, sex, prebiotics and drug treatment.

Specific requirements: Note that at the time of selection, the selected candidate must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. A candidate with a UK nationality, when had not resided in the UK for more than 12 months in the last 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment, will still meet the mobility eligibility criterion.

Key dates
•    Dec 01 2020: Deadline for on-line application
•    Dec 15 2020: Circulation list “preselected candidates”
•    January 2021: COLOTAN Recruitment Event
•    January 2021: Circulation list “recruited COLOTAN ESRs”
•    Feb – Mar 2021: Targeted starting date for ESR contracts

How to apply:

For the application to be valid, application must be submitted for ESR 9 at https://colotan-etn.eu
For further information about the PhD position please contact: Dr Mine Orlu, email: m.orlu@ucl.ac.uk

Gel pills

Studentships in Drug Discovery

The UCL School of Pharmacy has the following three PhD studentships available in Drug Discovery. 

Project title: Calcium-Dependent Antibiotics: Synthesis, Evaluation and Mechanism of Action

Studentship 1 with Dr Rachael Dickman (rachael.dickman.13@ucl.ac.uk; https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pharmacy/people/dr-rachael-dickman)

Project description:  Antibiotic resistance is a huge global public health challenge. New antibiotics are now urgently required to ensure future access to effective treatments for bacterial infection. The calcium-dependent antibiotics (CDAs) are a growing class of cyclic lipopeptides produced by soil bacteria which have huge potential to address the growing antibiotic resistance crisis. CDAs target the bacterial cell membrane, and rely on the presence of calcium ions for their activity. Most CDAs bind calcium ions using a conserved Asp-Xaa-Asp-Gly motif.

3D chemical structure of a calcium-dependent antibiotic with an unknown calcium binding site

This PhD project will focus on a recently reported family of CDAs which do not bear the typical calcium-binding motif. The project aims to develop a reliable solid-phase synthetic route to these peptides and their analogues, enabling a comprehensive investigation of structure-activity relationships. Subsequently, the calcium-binding mode and mechanism of action of the peptides will be investigated. Ultimately, the results of this work will allow an evaluation of the clinical potential of this new family of antibiotics.

Main methods and techniques: solid-phase peptide synthesis, organic synthesis, antibacterial activity screening, peptide NMR and MS. Disciplines include synthetic chemistry, organic chemistry, medicinal/pharmaceutical chemistry.

Entry requirements: applicants are expected to hold a first degree in pharmacy or chemistry (minimum 2.1). A Master’s level degree is preferable.  Please see below for additional information.

Project title: Investigating i-Motif DNA Structure and Function

Studentship 2 with Associate Professor Zoe Waller (z.waller@ucl.ac.uk; https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pharmacy/people/dr-zoe-waller

Project description:  It is often assumed that DNA exists only as the iconic Watson-Crick “twisted ladder” double helix; but it can actually adopt many different types of structures. These “alternative” structures may play a role in whether genes are switched on or off and also in the development and progression of genetic diseases. i-Motifs are a type of DNA structure formed from sequences rich in cytosine and are indicated to play roles in key processes in biology.

Hand drawing of B-form, G_quadruplex and i-motif DNA structures

Our group uses chemical biology methods to investigate the role of i-motifs in the development of conditions such as cancer and diabetes. E.g. J Am Chem Soc. 2020, 142(32):13856-13866. doi: 10.1021/jacs.0c04789; Nucleic Acids Res. 2020, 48(1):55-62. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz1082; Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Apr 7;45(6):2951-2959. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx090.
The interdisciplinary project will investigate the structure and biological function of i-motif DNA and will involve training in a range of chemical-biological techniques.
Main methods and techniques: Cell biology, molecular biology, circular dichroism, UV spectroscopy, NMR.

Entry requirements: applicants are expected to hold a first degree in pharmacy, pharmacology, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, microbiology or chemical engineering (minimum 2.1). Please see below for additional information.

Project title: Exploring the structure and inhibition of a novel epigenetic protein

Studentship 3 with Associate Professor Esther Woon (e.woon@ucl.ac.uk; https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pharmacy/people/dr-esther-woon

Project description:  It is now clear that our environment, diet, and lifestyle can cause our genes to be switched on or off. This is achieved primarily through chemical (or epigenetic) modifications on our DNA, RNA and histone proteins by a complex network of epigenetic proteins. Our lab is particularly fascinated with one class of epigenetic proteins called the AlkB demethylases, which consists of ALKBH1-8 and FTO. They are currently of intense scientific interest because of their strong connections with a range of human diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders. 

Discovery of the first subfamily-selective inhibitor against FTO- an epigenetic protein that is strongly linked to obesity

One major focus of our lab is to understand the epigenetic link between the AlkB demethylases and human diseases through the discovery of small molecule inhibitors and smart biosensors to facilitate their cell-based study. To this end, our research has contributed to the first discovery of inhibitors against several AlkB demethylases, notably FTO (Chem. Sci. 2015, 6, 112; Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 7174), ALKBH5 (Nucleic Acids Res. 2020, 48, e5), ALKBH3 (Chem. Commun. 2016, 52, 6181) and AlkB (J. Med. Chem. 2012, 55, 2173).

Recently, it has been suggested that ALKBH1 is linked to several human cancers, however to date its exact biological function remains unclear. We therefore seek a highly motivated PhD student to work on an ambitious project to solve the first protein-ligand co-crystal structure of ALKBH1. The student will also develop first-in-class ALKBH1 inhibitors to facilitate its mechanistic and functional studies in cells, with a longer-term view to validating its therapeutic potential. This work will advance our understanding of this important protein and may pave the way for novel anticancer therapy.
Main methods and techniques include: 
*    A range of drug discovery strategies, such as structure-based design, computational modelling approaches, and our in-house Dynamic Combinatorial Mass-Spectrometry (DCMS) technique to design selective inhibitors. 
*    A range of biochemical and biophysical techniques, such as, CD spectroscopy, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, protein thermal shift assay and bioinert HPLC-based assay to evaluate the inhibitors. 
*    A range of molecular biology techniques (such as gene cloning, protein expression and cell culture) for protein crystallography work and cell-based assays.
*    Bioinformatic skills, such as protein sequence analysis and homology modelling.
*    Organic and synthetic chemistry skills.

Entry requirements: applicants are expected to hold a first degree in pharmacy, pharmacology, chemistry, biology or biochemistry (minimum 2.1). 

Preferred postgraduate or other work experience: protein expression, protein crystallography, organic synthesis, biochemical assay, and cell culture work. Please see below for additional information.

Person specification:

The successful applicants will also need to meet UCL MPhil/PhD entry and English Language requirements.  See link for further details https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/research-degrees/pha...

The student stipend will be paid at UCL normal rates (stipend rate for 2020/21 is £17,285 with additional increments in Years 2 and 3 of the studentship). 

To be eligible for a full award, applications are invited from UK citizens only.  The preferred start date is 8th April 2021.

How to apply

Applications must include CV, personal statement, and the contact details of two referees.  Applications should be emailed to Ms Michelle Ward at michelle.c.ward@ucl.ac.uk indicating which studentship is being applied for.

The deadline for applications is Monday 30th November 2020; date for interviews to be confirmed.

The students will join a vibrant, multi-disciplinary research team and will receive extensive training in a broad range of cutting-edge experimental and theoretical skills, with access to exceptional research facilities and expertise at UCL.


For further funding available from central UCL please view the main scholarships and funding page which offers a wide range of financial awards for prospective and current students.