In-situ gelation of natural polymeric actives for transdermal delivery

A fully funded collaborative PhD studentship in the area of in-situ gelation of natural polymers applied to cosmetic care and transdermal delivery, with opportunity to work at the Institute of Process Engineering of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and Unilever Research Laboratory in Shanghai (for a total of 2 years), as well as University of Surrey in the UK (for 1 year).  Upon successful completion of the project, a PhD degree will be awarded by the University of Surrey.

Start date

1 January 2020


3 years - project can start sooner than January 2020.

Application deadline

Funding source

Unilever / Institute of Process Engineering of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Funding information

Successful applicant will receive a full studentship including tuition fees and living stipend.

The tuition fees (of £5000 per year) will be paid by Unilever directly to the University of Surrey.

The student will receive a full living stipend over the 3-year duration of the project, according to the standard set by UK research councils.


Applications are invited for a fully funded collaborative PhD studentship for three years.

The student will register for PhD at the University of Surrey and will spend up to 2 years at the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing to conduct collaborative research. The position is fully funded by Unilever and the student will also have the opportunity to work with scientists at Unilever Research Laboratory in Shanghai.

The main aim is to develop new scientific insight on the molecular basis for controlling and optimising in-situ gelation of natural polymeric actives applied to cosmetic care and transdermal delivery. Specifically, the research objective is to apply leading edge 3D bioprinting and microfabrication techniques to construct 3D skin mimicry for fast screening of natural polymeric actives applied to cosmetic care and transdermal delivery. The fundamental mechanism of deposition, diffusion and in-situ gelation kinetics of selected natural polymeric actives on the fabricated 3D skin mimicry will be investigated.  Scientific insight will be developed on how the key physicochemical properties of natural polymers impact their deposition, diffusion and in-situ gelation.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work with a multi-disciplinary supervisory team consisting of members from the University of Surrey, Institute of Process Engineering and Unilever.

The University of Surrey is one of the world’s leading institutions for research excellence. Located in Guildford, the university was named University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times in 2016 and was awarded a Gold award in the recent Teaching Excellence Framework. The Department of Chemical and Process Engineering (CPE) is the longest established chemical engineering department in the UK and is currently ranked 5th in UK according to the Guardian League Table.

Unilever is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fastmoving consumer goods, with an annual turnover exceeding €50 billions. The company’s brand portfolio includes skin care names such as Dove and Lux.

Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences is comprehensive research institution with wide research fields range from chemical metallurgy to process engineering, including energy, bio-chemical engineering, materials and green and environmental engineering. Prof Bai’s group mainly focuses on the research of hydrogel formed by short peptide and biomolecule building blocks through 3D printing technology and applications in the construction of organisms and tissues, catalytic system, sensor and electrodes et al.

Eligibility criteria

We welcome students from any nationality to apply.

However, the applicants must be willing to spend 2 years in China for this PhD project.

  • Applicants must have a 2:1 equivalent Bachelor’s degree or above in chemistry, physics or chemical engineering disciplines
  • Analytical skills in chemistry and physics are essential  
  • Skills and experiences in skin biology and 3D bioprinting are advantageous.

English language requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applicants should send your CV, English test results, degree certificates, transcripts and two reference letters to Dr Qiong Cai ( by 12 September, for consideration.

The shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview in September 2019.

The selected applicant will be asked to apply through our Chemical and Process Engineering PhD course page and guided through for registration at University of Surrey.

Chemical and Process Engineering PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

Qiong Cai
12 BC 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686561


This will be part of the Health and Food Research Group at University of Surrey. Our research addresses societal challenges by designing and engineering food, cosmetics and therapeutic products.


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.