Funded PhD Opportunity Ultrasound-responsive polymeric microbubbles for drug delivery.

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Biomedical Sciences



Microbubbles (MB) are routinely employed in the clinic as ultrasound contrast agents and their potential use in drug delivery is under intensive investigation [1,2].  Their use in the latter is based on observations that active agents may be loaded onto or in the bubble shell and their ability to disrupt in the presence of an ultrasonic field.   MB shells may consist of lipid, protein or polymers [2,3,4] and the former two are used in the clinic as contrast agents.

Underlying aim

This project seeks to explore the potential of polymer-based microbubbles as active delivery agents.   More particularly, the project will explore the potential of formulating composite, mixed polymer-based shells as payload bearing, ultrasound-responsive delivery vehicles.

Specific objectives/Methodology

1.MB preparation:  This aspect of the project will examine the use of polymer blends and compatible solvent systems together with a variety of emulsification systems to generate MBs.   During the manufacture active agents such as drugs and/or imaging agents will be incorporated into the MB.

2.MB characterisation:  Characterisation will involve determining the size, stability, gas retention, payload retention and response to externally-applied ultrasound.

3.Application (i):  Depending on the payload (active agent/imaging agent or both) MBs will be characterized with respect to ultrasound mediated bioeffects using in vitro analytical systems (e.g. cell imaging and cell viability assays).

4.Application (ii):  Again depending on the payload, efficacy in vivo will be determined using appropriate models (e.g. for a cancer chemotherapeutic drug as the payload – appropriate tumour model).   If an imaging agent is employed as the payload, biodistribution and fate of the MBs will be examined using real time, whole body imaging.

Requisite experience

Applicants will be expected to be familiar with good laboratory practice and cell culture experience will be a benefit.   In vivo experience would be a benefit although specific training in accordance with national requirements will be provided.


1.Combined sonodynamic and antimetabolite therapy for the improved treatment of pancreatic cancer using oxygen loaded microbubbles as a delivery vehicle. McEwan C et al.  Biomaterials. 2016 Feb;80:20-32.

2.Magnetically responsive microbubbles as delivery vehicles for targeted sonodynamic and antimetabolite therapy of pancreatic cancer.    Sheng Y et al., J. Control. Release. 2017, 262; 192-200

3.Polymeric microbubbles as delivery vehicles for sensitizers in sonodynamic therapy.  McEwan C et al., Langmuir. 2014, 30; 14926-14930.

4.The role of microbubble echo phase lag in multipulse contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging.  Tremblay-Darveu C et al. IEEE Trans Ultrason Ferroelectr Freq Control. 2018, 65: 1389-1401.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
Weeks commencing 11, 18, 25 March 2019


Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
Our coastal and riverside campus focussing on science and health

Contact Supervisor

Professor Anthony McHale

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #343182 when applying for this PhD opportunity