University of Malta

Dr Liana Vella-Zarb
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Dr Liana Vella-Zarb

Dr Liana Vella-Zarb

B.Pharm (Hons.) (Melit),Ph.D. (Birmingham), M.R.S.C.

Faculty of Science
Room 334
Chemistry Building
University of Malta
contact+356 2340 3425

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Dr Vella-Zarb’s research interests lie within the fields of crystal engineering, organic solid state chemistry, molecular crystallography, crystal polymorphism, powder diffraction and crystallography of pharmaceuticals. Her research focuses on the design, preparation and evaluation of new crystalline materials, the control of the crystallization process, crystal transformations, gas-solid reactions and solvent-free reactions.
Before joining the University of Malta's Department of Chemistry, Dr Vella-Zarb was a postdoctoral fellow, initially at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany (, where she worked on exploring variable temperature and pressure environments in structure determination of organic and pharmaceutical compounds from high-resolution powder diffraction data. She then moved to the Chemistry Department at the University of Durham, UK ( where she expanded her research to include inorganic structures and single crystal diffraction techniques, whilst maintaining a steady research output in the field of pharmaceutical crystallography and crystal engineering.
She read for a Bachelor of Pharmacy [Hons] at the University of Malta and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before moving to Birmingham, UK in 2004 to carry out her doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr Maryjane Tremayne. Her work was centered around the complementary use of computational crystal structures and X-ray powder diffraction data in crystal structure determination, and formed part of the CPOSS (Control and Prediction of the Organic Solid State) project (, a multidisciplinary collaborative effort involving high-ranking researchers from top universities across the UK.
Through her postdoctoral fellowships and her doctoral stage, Dr Vella-Zarb has established a large network of research collaborations and links with scientists working in the fields of crystallography and organic solid-state chemistry around the world. She has published a significant amount of work in international peer reviewed journals covering a wide range of topics in structural chemistry, such as crystal engineering of pharmaceuticals, polymorphism and negative thermal expansion materials.

Research Interests & Publications

Research Interests

  • Structural chemistry
  • Crystallography
  • Crystal Engineering
  • Polymorphism
  • X-ray Powder Diffraction
  • Pharmaceutical Crystallography

Selected Publications

Baisch, U., Scicluna, M.C., Näther, C. & Vella-Zarb, L. 2017, "
Planar versus non-planar: The important role of weak C--H?O hydrogen bonds in the crystal structure of 5-methyl­salicyl­aldehyde", Acta Crystallographica Section E: Crystallographic Communications, vol. E73, pp. 155-158.

Potticary, J., Boston, R., Vella-Zarb, L., Few, A., Bell, C. & Hall, S.R. 2016, "Low temperature magneto-morphological characterisation of coronene and the resolution of previously observed unexplained phenomena", Scientific Reports, vol. 6, no. 38696.

Grossjohan, C., Serrano, D.R., Paluch, K.J., O'Connell, P., Vella-Zarb, L., Manesiotis, P., McCabe, T., Tajber, L., Corrigan, O.I. & Healy, A.M. 2015, "Polymorphism in sulfadimidine/4-aminosalicylic acid cocrystals: solid state characterization and physicochemical properties", Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 104, pp. 1385--1398.

Baisch, U. & Vella-Zarb, L. 2014, "Towards understanding P-gp resistance: a case study of the antitumour drug cabazitaxel", CrystEngComm, vol. 16, no. 44 (Cover Page Illustration), pp. 10151-10322.

Harriss, B.I., Vella-Zarb, L., Wilson, C. & Evans, I.R. 2014, "Furosemide Cocrystals: Structures, Hydrogen Bonding and Implications for Properties", Crystal Growth & Design, vol. 14, pp. 783-791.

Vella-Zarb, L., Braga, D., Orpen, A.G. & Baisch, U. 2014, "The influence of hydrogen bonding on the planar arrangement of melamine in crystal structures of its solvates, cocrystals and salts", CrystEngComm, vol. 16, no. 35, pp. 8147-8159.

Tallentire, S.E., Child, F., Fall, I., Vella-Zarb, L., Evans, I.R., Tucker, M.G., Keen, D.A., Wilson, C. & Evans, J.S. 2013, "Systematic and Controllable Negative, Zero, and Positive Thermal Expansion in Cubic Zr1-x Sn x Mo2O8", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 135, no. 34, pp. 12849.

Vella-Zarb, L., Baisch, U. & Dinnebier, R.E. 2013, "Small molecule, big difference: The role of water in the crystallization of paclitaxel", Journal of pharmaceutical sciences, vol. 102, no. 2, pp. 674-683.

Vella-Zarb, L., Dinnebier, R.E. & Baisch, U. 2013, "The Devil is in the Detail: A Rare H-Bonding Motif in New Forms of Docetaxel", Crystal Growth & Design, vol. 13, no. 10, pp. 4402-4410.

Vella-Zarb, L. & Dinnebier, R.E. 2012, "Form, function and functionality of two dimeric toluene-2, 4-diisocyanate polymorphs", Acta Crystallographica Section B: Structural Science, vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 204-208.



Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)

Member of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh)

Member of the American Chemical Society (ACS)

Member of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD)


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