Prof. Liana Vella Zarb

Prof. Liana Vella Zarb

Prof. Liana Vella Zarb

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

Associate Professor

Room 208
Chemistry Building
University of Malta
  +356 2340 3691
Prof. 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, Prof. 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, Prof. 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.
  • Structural chemistry
  • Crystallography
  • Crystal Engineering
  • Polymorphism
  • X-ray Powder Diffraction
  • Pharmaceutical Crystallography

J.G. HERNANDEZ, I. HALASZ, D.E. CRAWFORD, M. KRUPICKA, M. BALAZ, V. ANDRE, L. VELLA-ZARB*, A. NIIDU, F. GARCIA, L. MAINI, E. COLACINO, 2020. European Research in Focus: Mechanochemistry for Sustainable Industry (COST Action MechSustInd). European Journal of Organic Chemistry, , pp. 8-9.

J.N. GRIMA-CORNISH, L. VELLA-ZARB*, J.N. GRIMA, 2020. Negative Linear Compressibility and Auxeticity in Boron Arsenate. Annalen der Physik (Berlin), (1900550), pp. 1-6.

M.C. SCICLUNA, L.V., 2020. Evolution of Nanocarrier Drug-Delivery Systems and Recent Advancements in Covalent Organic Framework−Drug Systems. ACS Applied Nano Materials, 3, pp. 3097-3115.

D. MICALLEF, R. SPITERI, U. BAISCH, L. VELLA-ZARB*, 2019. Terra verde: Overcoming the problem of transparency by crystal engineering. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 38, pp. 1-7.

J. VAN DE STREEK, E. ALIG, S. PARSONS, L. VELLA-ZARB, 2019. A jumping crystal predicted with molecular dynamics and analysed with TLS refinement against powder diffraction data. IUCrJ, 6, pp. 136-144.

U. BAISCH, M. CAMILLERI, D. MICALLEF, T. RHAUDERWIEK, N. STOCK, R. SPITERI, L. VELLA-ZARB*, 2019. Crystallographic Studies in Cultural Heritage: Solid State Behaviour of Inorganic Pigments. Heritage, 2, pp. 967-975.

L. SPITERI, U. BAISCH, L. VELLA-ZARB*, 2018. Correlations and statistical analysis of solvent molecule hydrogen bonding – a case study of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). CrystEngComm, (20), pp. 1291-1303.

L. VELLA-ZARB, U.B., 2018. Crystal water as the molecular glue for obtaining different co-crystal ratios: the case of gallic acid tris-caffeine hexahydrate. Acta Crystallographica Section E: Crystallographic Communications, E74, pp. 559-562.

L. VELLA-ZARB, U.B., 2017. Melaminium Lanthanide Oxalate Coordination Compounds – Synthesis and Structural Varieties. Zeitschrift für Anorganische und Allgemeine Chemie, 643, pp. 1712-1716.

U. BAISCH, M. C. SCICLUNA, C. NÄTHER, L. VELLA-ZARB*, 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, E73, pp. 155-158.

J. POTTICARY, R. BOSTON, L. VELLA-ZARB, A. FEW, C. BELL, S. R. HALL, 2016. Low temperature magneto-morphological characterization of coronene and the resolution of previously observed unexplained phenomena. Scientific Reports, , pp. 38696.

C. GROSSJOHANN, D. R. SERRANO1, K. J. PALUCH, P. O'CONNELL, L. VELLA-ZARB, P. MANESIOTIS, T. MCCABE, L. TAJBER, O. I. CORRIGAN, AM HEALY, 2015. Polymorphism in sulfadimidine/4-aminosalicylic acid cocrystals: solid state characterization and physicochemical properties. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 104, pp. 1385-1398.

B. I. HARRISS, L. VELLA-ZARB, C. WILSON, I. R. EVANS, 2014. Furosemide Cocrystals: Structures, Hydrogen Bonding, and Implications for Properties. Crystal Growth and Design, 14, pp. 783-791.

L. VELLA-ZARB, D. BRAGA, A.G. ORPEN, U. BAISCH, 2014. The influence of hydrogen bonding on the planar arrangement of melamine in crystal structures of its solvates, cocrystals and salts. CrystEngComm, 16, pp. 8147-8159.

U. BAISCH, L.V., 2014. Towards understanding P-gp resistance: a case study of the antitumour drug cabazitaxel. CrystEngComm, 16, pp. 10161-10164.

L. VELLA-ZARB, R. DINNEBIER, U. BAISCH, 2013. The devil is in the detail: A rare hydrogen-bonding motif in new crystal forms of docetaxel. Crystal Growth and Design, 13, pp. 4402-4410.

S. E. TALLENTIRE, F. CHILD, I. FALL, L. VELLA-ZARB, I. RADOSAVLJEVIĆ, EVANS, M. J. TUCKER, D. A. KEEN, C. WILSON, J. S. O. EVANS, 2013. Systematic controllable negative, zero and positive thermal expansion in zirconium-tin molybdates: Zr1–xSnxMo2O8. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135, pp. 12849-12856.

L. VELLA-ZARB, R.D., 2012. Form, function and functionality of two dimeric toluene-2,4-diisocyanate polymorphs. Acta Crystallographica Section B: Structural Science, Crystal Engineering and Materials, B68, pp. 204-208.

L. VELLA-ZARB, U. BAISCH, R. DINNEBIER, 2012. Small molecule, big difference: the role of water in the crystallization of paclitaxel. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 102(2), pp. 674-683.

L. VELLA-ZARB, J. CAMERON, M. TREMAYNE, 2005. Powder Diffraction and Crystal Structure Prediction: A Two-Way Relationship?. Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations and Advances, A61, pp. C156.

  • CHE1815 - Research and Communication Skills for Chemists

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)