PhD fellowship "Overcoming the skin barrier using ZnO tetrapods"

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 15 Oct 2021

Department of Pharmacy

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND)

University of Copenhagen

The Department of Pharmacy is offering a three-year PhD fellowship toprovide a proof of concept for a penetration-enhancing effect of ZnO tetrapods on lipophilic and hydrophilic model drugs, when incorporated into cutaneous formulations. The PhD project will be carried out within the recently established LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery (LFCCDD), which integrates several disciplines, including molecular biology, immunology, microbiology, physical chemistry, and pharmaceutics, to perform state-of-the-art research and to create innovative solutions within cutaneous drug delivery of both small and large molecules.

The successful applicant will be a member of the Novel Drug Delivery Systems group and will have the opportunity for cross-disciplinary research in collaboration with the other sections of the Center as well as external collaborators.

The fellowship is available from the 1st of December 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Project description

Dermal and transdermal drug delivery continues to be restricted to a comparatively small number of drugs with particularly advantageous properties for this route of administration, mainly due to the inability of many drugs to overcome the absorption rate-limiting stratum corneum. Several approaches have been developed to increase skin permeability; however, they frequently involve costly devices and are only suitable to treat a few square centimeters of skin, limiting the drug dose that can be applied to the skin and, hence, their usability. In this project, a novel approach to increase skin delivery similar to microneedles will be investigated by using spiky ZnO microparticles in tetrapodal shape (t-ZnO). Within biomedicine, ZnO micro- or nanoparticles have become interesting for a range of applications due to their low toxicity, biodegradability and antimicrobial properties. Incorporated into semi-solid formulations with active pharmaceutical ingredients, t-ZnO will be employed in this PhD project to disrupt the skin’s stratum corneum barrier and increase drug penetration. Focus will be placed on (I) testing the compatibility of t-ZnO with typical semi-solid formulations without penetration-enhancing effect, (II) incorporating both hydrophilic and hydrophobic model drugs and (III) investigating the influence of the rheological properties of the t-ZnO-containing formulations as well as rubbing frequencies and loads on drug penetration. All formulations will comprehensively be characterized using a range of analytical techniques. At a later stage in the project, colloidal drug delivery systems with inherent penetration-enhancing effect, namely microemulsions, will be used to study the effects of a combination of chemical and physical penetration enhancement. Moreover, all systems will be compared to corresponding drug-loaded formulations without t-ZnO that have been applied to skin either before or after treatment of the skin using microneedle patches under standardized conditions.

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Andrea Heinz, E-mail:

Co-supervisor: Professor Thomas Rades, E-mail: thomas.rades

Your job

Your key tasks as a PhD fellow at the Faculty are to:

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Write scientific manuscripts and the PhD thesis on the grounds of your research project
  • Complete PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS points
  • Obtain experience with teaching and other types of dissemination related to your PhD project
  • Participate in all Center activities
  • Participate in the undergraduate teaching of students in pharmaceutical sciences
  • Participate in national and international conferences and scientific meetings
  • Stay at an external research institution, preferably abroad


We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic individual with the following competencies and experience:

Required qualifications

As an applicant you must have:

  • Obtained a relevant Master´s degree prior to the starting date
  • Fluency in English and excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • The ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment.
  • The ability to travel for performing experiments at collaborators.

Preferred qualifications

The ideal candidate for this project has extensive hands-on experience with cutaneous drug delivery systems, including their formulation and characterization using a variety of analytical techniques. Experience with skin permeation experiments is an advantage.

Key criteria for the assessment of applicants

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD programme
  • Relevant work experience
  • Previous publications
  • The grade point average achieved
  • Other professional activities and achievements
  • Language skills

Terms of employment

The employment as PhD fellow is full time and for 3 years.

It is conditioned upon the applicant’s successful enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project to the Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD program (2013) and the Faculty’s rules on achieving the degree.

The PhD student is expected to be affiliated to the graduate program in pharmaceutical sciences, Drug Research Academy .

Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary begins around DKK 27,594 (approx. 3,679 EUR) (taxable) plus pension (April 2020 level).

Application procedure

Your online application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.
Your application must include following documents/attachments – all in PDF format:

  • Cover letter (approx. 1 page) describing your background, qualifications, interest and motivation for applying for this position
  • Full CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records: Master’s degree diploma (including grade transcripts for bachelor´s and master´s degrees). Applicants with a Master´s degree from abroad should also enclose a short description of the grading scale used.
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications and relevant certificates
  • Names and contact details of references and/or recommendation letters

Deadline for application

15th of October 2021, 23:59 GMT+1. Please note that only online applications will be accepted.
Applications received later than this date, or which do not live up to the abovementioned requirements, will not be considered.

Post application procedure

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorised recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.

Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.

Interviews are expected to be held in November.

You can read about the recruitment process at


For further information, applicants may contact supervisor Andrea Heinz ( or PhD administrator Marianne W. Jørgensen (, phone: +45 35 33 64 49).

For more information on working and living in Denmark visit (International staff mobility) and

University of Copenhagen wish to reflect the diversity of society and welcome applications from all qualified candidates regardless of age, disability, gender, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. Appointment will be based on merit alone.

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

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