Drug & novel matrices design

Pharmacy and Life Sciences

This research theme is one of our Translational Research topics.​ Offered by The School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, you will join a thriving postgraduate research programme, with more than 30 doctoral students currently undertaking innovative research within the School.

MRes | MPhil | PhD
Start Date
February and October
Food electrochemistry: fabrication of a polysensor to determine antioxidants in food matrices using novel materials

Contacts: Dr Carlos Fernandez, Professor Paul KongDr Nadimul Faisal 

Beverages like wines, have exhibited a high level of antioxidant capacity, specifically from compounds like Gallic acid (GA) and their derivatives. GA has shown great importance in the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry as a food additive, anti-tumour, anti-viral, and anti-mutagenic agent. These properties include their antioxidant capacity, anticancer, antitumor, anti-HIV and anti-ulcerogenic activities. The most commonly used Gallic acid determination techniques have been the spectrophotometric and chromatographic techniques. However, these techniques have shown some drawbacks, like being expensive, labour intensive, time-consuming and not being suitable for in-situ measurements. Electrochemical methods using cyclic voltammetry (CV) and differential pulse voltammetry (DPV) at inert glassy carbon or carbon paste electrodes have also been used in the determination of Gallic acid. However, despite their easy application and fast result generation, their sensitivity and selectivity have been relatively inadequate, for the analysis of Gallic acid found in beverages and pharmaceutical products. Hence, the aim of this study to investigate and develop novel nanomaterials based electrochemical sensors for fast, sensitive, cost-effective and selective determination and analysis of Gallic acid.

New electrode materials for energy storage applications

Contacts: Dr Carlos Fernandez , Professor Paul KongDr Nadimul Faisal  

This PhD project will be looking at developing new electrode materials for energy storage devices applications. With the drive towards a low carbon future, improved energy storage is one of the major societal challenges. Recently there has been developments in the syntheses and electrocatalytic properties of metal nanoparticles within applications of fuel cells. New methods of analysing these metal nanoparticles need to be developed and assessed to fully comprehend the abilities of metal nanoparticles within fuel cells. In particular, this study will focus on synthesising 2D materials such as Graphene and MXnes as well as electrochemical testing of those materials.

From plastic bottles to electrodes: fabrication of electrochemical biosensors for determination of phenolic compounds

Contacts: Dr Carlos Fernandez , Professor Paul KongDr Bruce Petrie 

The polyphenolic compounds of interest, bisphenol A (BPA) and its analogue bisphenol S (BPS) are mainly used in the plastic industry to manufacture baby bottles and beverage containers. They are generally used in the manufacture of polycarbonates, epoxy resins and unsaturated polystyrene resins. There is a growing concern in the public and scientific community about these organic compounds due to their endocrine disrupting activity and negative toxic impact on the wildlife. This has encouraged scientists to embark on research to find a sensitive and selective technique that will determine this organic compound’s presence even in trace amounts. The main focus of this study was to develop a sensitive and selective electrochemical (EC) and photo electrochemical (PEC) sensor to detect the phenolic compounds, BPA and BPS respectively.


Contact: Dr Neil R. McEwan 

The gut microbiome of adult rabbits has been describe, initially in the caecum, and more recently the entire tract. This changes in response to dietary factors or disease status. Although nutritional factors influence development of the tract’s microbes in young animals, little is known about the microbiome in the transition from milk to solids. This proposal will use next generation DNA sequencing to monitor microbial changes as farmed rabbits develop, giving an insight into rabbit nutrition, and builds upon recent collaboration between the PIs as part of a previous studentship held at Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico.



Contacts: Professor Paul Kong, Dr Graeme Kay 

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease It is often characterised by cognitive deficiency and memory loss. The prevalence of AD is age-related and with an ageing world population and increased life expectancy, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be around 100 million AD patients. Hence it remains a primarily unmet medical need worldwide, while causing a huge financial burden for families, health care systems, and associated social care. Pathology of AD involves multiple and complex factors. There is no cure for this disease and there are currently four drugs in the clinic that manage only the symptoms of AD. Because of the multifactorial nature of AD, the well accepted theory of “one molecule and one target” approach in drug discovery has, so far, not provided any effective drugs to cure a complex disease like AD. For the last two decades, the concept of a multi-target drug hypothesis has been gaining much attention among scientists working in drug design and discovery.  Thus, by making a compound that can target more than one or two factors that contribute to AD, then we hypothesise that this approach would yield a more effective therapeutic drug. Furthermore, it would provide better patient compliance since taking only one tablet is required. Recently, we have identified lead compounds with multi target properties. The latter include strong antioxidant properties, with the ability to provide cellular protection from oxidative stress and inhibitory activities against choline esterase enzymes. The latter are well-known factors contributing to AD. In this multidisciplinary project we aim to synthesise a library of novel compounds for optimum activity and to study the mechanism of action of the most active compound and to confirm the multi target directed hypothesis.

Improving Alzheimer’s treatment: development of novel drug delivery systems for multi-target natural products and synthetic antioxidant

Contacts: Dr Colin ThompsonProfessor Paul Kong  

Currently, there are only symptomatic treatments for Alzheimer’s. Together with the rapidly increasing number of Alzheimer’s patients, this presents a growing healthcare emergency. Among many other contributors, oxidative stress and cholinesterase enzymes are well accepted to play a crucial role in Alzheimer’s aetiology. Work in our laboratories has already yielded significant insights into the role of oxidative stress and cholinesterase enzymes and had led to potential drug candidates for Alzheimer’s. However, these compounds suffer from the lack bioavailability (due to stability and solubility) and this has limited their utility as medicines. Therefore, this research would involve the design, synthesis and characterisation of polymer-natural antioxidant conjugates which would overcome the problem of water solubility and stability, while also producing fresh insights into drug-target interactions. Our goal is to develop a new treatment which would act to slow and reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.

This multidisciplinary project builds on a wealth of research already carried out in our labs  and would require the candidate to develop skills in medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry, drug formulation, cell culture, and drug pharmacokinetics. The project may also offer the opportunity for collaboration with other Universities.

Facilities for Researchers

If you decide to undertake research in one of these opportunities you will have access to state-of-the-art research facilities and receive support from experienced and dedicated staff.

All research students have dedicated space in our Research Hub, which is a self-contained space for you to work and socialise. Training in transferable skills is provided by a university-wide PG Cert in Researcher Development, which all students must complete, as well as a range of on-going research skills workshops. In addition, the School has several research events to aid your development, including external speakers at research seminars; student research seminars; and the annual School Research Day, where staff and students present their work.

All of our research students are provided with financial support for consumables and are funded to attend conferences. In addition, instances to enhance your curriculum vitae and transferable skills are provided via teaching and class demonstrating opportunities on our taught courses, as well as participating in public engagement activities within local schools and Aberdeen Science Centre.




Normal entry requirements are a first or upper second class honours degree from a University of the United Kingdom, or from an overseas University, or degree equivalent qualification, subject to the approval of Robert Gordon University.

Applicants holding qualifications other than those detailed shall be considered on their merits and in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed research programme. Applicants will normally register for an MSc/PhD or MRes/PhD with transfer to PhD dependent on satisfactory progress.

English Language

Any applicant whose first language or language of previous University-level instruction is not English must normally demonstrate competence in English. This should be a score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

We accept a variety of in-country and secure English language tests, find out more:

English Language requirements

Our Pre-Sessional English Programme (PSP) is available for students who have not yet reached the required English level and those who would like to improve their language competency.

Pre-Sessional English Programme at RGU

Please note, some courses may require a higher standard of English than stated in this page. Contact admissions@rgu.ac.uk for further information.


For Academic Year 2022/2023


  • Full time - £4,596 per academic year
  • Part time MPhil/PhD - £2,760 per academic year
  • Part time MRes/MSc by research - £2,298 per academic year


  • Full time - £17,000 per academic year
  • Part time MPhil/PhD - £10,200 per academic year
  • Part time MRes/MSc by research - £8,500 per academic year

Additional Costs

The following course-related costs are not included in the course fees:


Alumni Discount

Robert Gordon University is delighted to offer a 20% loyalty discount on course fees for all alumni who have graduated from RGU.


Student Funding

Postgraduate students will normally make their own arrangements for payment of fees. However, there are a limited number of SAAS funded places on certain postgraduate courses.
There are also sources of funding that are applicable to categories of student.


Scholarships and Financial Awards

You may also qualify for a scholarship or financial award:



For new intakes course fees are reviewed and published annually for each mode of delivery. Tuition fees are fixed for the duration of a course at the rate confirmed in the offer letter.  For further information see:

Student Finance


All applications should be made via the University's online application for research students:

Application Deadlines
  • 31 May – October entry
  • 30 September – February entry
Completed application forms should be accompanied by:
  • Two academic references
  • A transcript or mark sheet for all graduate qualifications
  • A draft research proposal, or at least a short summary to indicate the potential area of research (Refer to Section 8 of the Application Form)

For applicants whose first language or language of university education is not English, applications must include:

  • Certificate of English language competency score of IELTS 6.5 in each of the four test components (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking).
  • Students who can demonstrate successful completion of tertiary (university or college) studies in a country whose national language is English, may be exempted from this requirement.


If you wish to know more about the opportunities to study for your research degree within the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, contact the PaLs Research Degrees Coordinator:


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