Connect

03 - 2011 Press releases

31/03/2011: Margaret shines as Northern Ireland’s International Student of the Year
31/03/2011: Public Invited To Help Influence Cancer Research In Northern Ireland

30/03/2011: Queen’s scientists ‘space mission’ to unlock secrets of the Universe

29/03/2011: Queen’s University issues stark warning for the Irish hare
28/03/2011: Mothers’ hard work pays off with big brains for their babies
25/03/2011: Virtual Ireland launched at Queen’s

24/03/2011: Northern Ireland businesses urged to ‘rethink business models’
23/03/2011: Queen’s University leads €3 million food safety project
23/03/2011: Greener computers explored at Queen’s
21/03/2011: Queen’s University puts over 2,400 food scares under the microscope
16/03/2011: First ever World Cyber Security Summit at Queen’s
16/03/2011: President of Ireland returns to Queen’s
15/03/2011: Students urged to enjoy St Patrick’s Day responsibly
14/03/2011: Report into wellbeing and inclusion of former politically motivated prisoners
11/03/2011: Queen’s £300,000 student scholarships represent crucial investment in Northern Ireland’s future
10/03/2011: Queen’s researchers ask ‘Does St Patrick’s Day impact on your national identity?’
09/03/2011: Professor Sir Tim Brighouse appointed Chair of the Sharing Education Programme Independent Governing Panel
07/03/2011: Almost one fifth of children who sat new transfer tests felt under a lot of pressure
04/03/2011: Queen’s expert advises Australian business leaders on economy
03/03/2011: Queen’s develops new brain training app for research into ageing minds
01/03/2011: Queen’s University scientists behind safer drinking water in US
01/03/2011: Queen’s launches the 8th annual ‘Race Round the River’ 5K run

Margaret shines as Northern Ireland’s International Student of the Year
Margaret Mary Nimoh
Margaret Mary Nimoh

A Ghanaian student at Queen’s, who describes Belfast as ‘her second home', has been named Northern Ireland’s International Student of the Year.

Margaret Mary Nimoh, who is studying for a PhD in Chemical Engineering, is now preparing to challenge for the title of overall International Student of the Year 2011at the national final in London on 13 April.

She was one of more than 1,200 students from 118 countries to enter the ninth annual Shine! International Student Awards – a major initiative from the British Council that shines the spotlight on international students and their contributions to life in the UK.

Entrants were asked to write 'letters home' in English, describing their experiences, the challenges they have faced, and what they have achieved. In her letter, Margaret highlighted how coming to Queen’s has helped her to develop her leadership skills.

She said: “Some students came together to form Queen's International Students Society (QISS) and I was the founding chairperson! I have really learnt a lot from this. Apart from meeting students from practically all over the world my leadership skills have also been really developed.”

Margaret, who also carries out voluntary work for the Ulster Cancer Foundation and visits local schools as a Queen’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ambassador, said she is having the time of her life in Belfast.

She said:  “Moving away from home was a very difficult decision for me. I had to leave my mum, siblings, boyfriend and my dog behind, but I am very glad I came to Queen’s. My research is fascinating but also very challenging. I am based in the University’s world-leading Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL), where the Director, Professor Ken Seddon, and researcher Dr John Holbrey were recently named the top two UK chemists in the world. It is a real honour to work alongside them.

“The facilities at Queen’s are amazing, and the McClay Library is one of my favourite places. The local people are also very welcoming. They are always curious to know where I am from and they'll always go an extra mile to help me find my way around.  Belfast is definitely my second home!”

Congratulating Margaret, Cathy McEachern of Queen’s International Office said: “Margaret personifies all that is best in our international students, who do so much to enrich the university experience for all of us, and we wish her the best of luck in the national final next month.”

Queen’s has an excellent record in the Shine! competition. Last year American student Jordan Junge emerged as the Northern Ireland winner, while in 2007, Chinese student Yu Huai Zhang won the UK International Student of the Year title.

This year Queen’s students took the first two places in the Northern Ireland competition, with Kacie Smith from the United States taking the runner-up spot behind Margaret.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, 028 9097 5310, Mob 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Public Invited To Help Influence Cancer Research In Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Centre (NICTC), formerly known as the Northern Ireland Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, launches its new name, logo and web-site today.  

The co-ordinating centre for cancer clinical trials in N. Ireland, NICTC based at Belfast City Hospital, is a joint project between Queen’s and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. The work of the Centre is funded by the Health and Social Care R&D Division of the NI Public Health Agency and by the charities Cancer Research UK and the Friends of the Cancer Centre.   

Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of HSC R&D, welcomed the launch saying “Cancer clinical trials are essential for continued progress towards even more effective treatments and care for patients with cancer.  We are very pleased to continue supporting this important activity and we applaud the very significant achievements being made by clinicians and researchers based in Northern Ireland”.
 
Dr Richard Wilson, the Centre’s Clinical Director said “Our patients with cancer who take part in clinical trials are helping us to develop better and safer treatments. They also help us through translational research to identify who is most likely to benefit from a given therapy, and who is most at risk of side-effects.

“This allows us to develop personalized medicine specifically targeted to each individual and their cancer.

“Last year over 1,100 patients in N. Ireland took part in our clinical trials or other high quality cancer research studies.”

The NICTC is also launching a strategy to increase personal and public involvement in cancer research in Northern Ireland.  

Anyone living with or beyond cancer, or relatives or carers of someone with cancer may want to consider getting involved in helping to influence cancer research.  

If you are in one of these groups and interested in finding out more, you are invited to get in touch with NICTC. You can find details at the web-site, or by contacting Ruth Boyd, Cancer Research UK Senior Nurse at the NICTC Tel: 028 9026 3903 or e-mail nictc@belfasttrust.hscni.net.

Information about our current clinical trials in N. Ireland is available on the web-site at www.qub.ac.uk/nictc

For media enquiries please contact Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK Senior Press Officer on 07887 678451

Top of Page

Queen’s scientists ‘space mission’ to unlock secrets of the Universe

Scientists at Queen’s University have won almost £2 million in grants for a range of world-leading projects to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

The astronomers – who are all based in the University’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) – have been awarded £1.8 million from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The funding is for research ranging from the search for new planets to probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, thought to account for much of the Universe, to enhancing our understanding of the Sun – the most important astronomical object for humankind.

The work includes the identification of exploding stars (called supernovae) using the Pan-STARRS Survey telescope in Hawaii, which is generating the largest ever multi-colour survey of the cosmos.

It also involves observations using the Queen’s Rapid Oscillations in the Solar Atmosphere (ROSA) instrument, installed on the Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico, the prime US facility for ground-based solar observations.

The Head of the University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, Professor Francis Keenan, is Principal Investigator for the STFC funding package.

He said:  “At a time when resources from the STFC and other research councils are very limited, these grants acknowledge the world-leading work being carried out by astrophysicists at Queen’s.

“Many of our research programmes involve international collaborations with a range of world-class universities and research organisations, such as Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and the US National Solar Observatory. This funding will allow us to build upon our reputation for ground-breaking fundamental research and to continue to contribute to the global studies under way in these areas.” 

Further information on Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre is available online at http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s University issues stark warning for the Irish hare

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have issued a stark warning about the future of the Irish hare and the threat it faces from the European ‘brown’ hare, which has set up home in Mid-Ulster and West Tyrone.

Dr Neil Reid from Quercus (Queen’s University’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science), said: “In March 2011, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to outlaw hare coursing in Northern Ireland to protect the future of the Irish hare. But our native hare remains vulnerable to another serious threat – that of the invading European hare.”

European hares are found in Britain and continental Europe, but they have been highly successful in invading many countries beyond their native range in south-west Europe and parts of Asia. There have been many studies on their impact on native species. Dr Reid reviewed these studies to get a clearer picture of how much of a threat the invading species might be to the Irish hare.

The study, published in the international journal Biological Invasions, suggested that European hares exhibit strong competition for habitat space and food resources with native species, most notably other hare species. It also warns that disease and parasite transmission and climate change may give the invading European hare an edge over our native species.

 Dr Reid added: “The Irish hare represents an evolutionary unique lineage, which is restricted to Ireland where it has been present since before the last glacial maximum, making it one of our few native mammal species. Hence, it has been isolated for 30,000-60,000 years. So the discovery that both species are hybridising in the wild is very worrying.”

The scientific community is so concerned that a panel of international experts, from the Lagomorph Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s foremost authority on threatened species, signed a foreword to accompany the paper as an urgent call for further research and are calling for a European hare Invasive Species Action Plan (iSAP) and Eradication Strategy.The research was commissioned by the European hare sub-group of the Irish hare Species Action Plan Steering Group and funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) through the Natural Heritage Research Partnership (NHRP).

For more information visit www.quercus.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Mothers’ hard work pays off with big brains for their babies

Brain growth in babies is linked to the amount of time and energy mothers ‘invest’, according to new research published today.

The study of 128 mammal species, including humans, shows that brain growth in babies is determined by the duration of pregnancy and how long they suckle.  The Durham University and Queen’s University Belfast research concludes that the longer the pregnancy and breastfeeding period in mammals, the bigger the baby’s brain grows.

The researchers say the findings reinforce the suggestion that breast is best for brain development and add further weight to the World Health Organisation’s advice of six months’ exclusive breastfeeding followed by continuing breastfeeding up to the age of two or beyond supplemented with solid foods. 

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps to explain why humans, who suckle their babies for up to three years in addition to their nine-month pregnancies, have such a long period of dependency as this is necessary to support the growth of our enormous 1300cc brains. 

In comparison, species such as fallow deer, which are about the same body weight as humans, are only pregnant for seven months with a suckling period of up to six months, resulting in brains of only 220cc, six times smaller than the human brain.

The anthropologists, from Queen’s University Belfast and Durham’s Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group analysed statistical evidence on brain and body size, maternal investment, and life history variables in mammals, including species such as gorillas, elephants and whales. 

They found that brain size relative to body size was most closely linked to maternal investment – the amount of time a mother spends carrying her offspring in pregnancy and how long she continues to breastfeed.  The study shows that length of the pregnancy determines brain size at birth and the period of lactation decides brain growth after birth. It also shows that mothers with higher metabolic rates can afford to fuel faster brain growth in the foetus.

Co-author of the investigation, Dr Isabella Capellini from Queen’s University said: “Our study shows that the slower pace of life and increased lifespan in species with larger brains are a consequence of the greater costs of growing large brains more than the benefits for reduced mortality. These costs are certainly offset by some benefits, and our research suggests that these are more likely related to improvements in specific perceptual and cognitive abilities rather than a more general flexibility on behaviour and cognition as so far suggested.”

“Our findings help us to understand what the implications are of evolutionary changes at different stages, before and after birth, but we now need to do more research to pinpoint exactly how changes to the pre- and postnatal growth phases affect the structure of the brain.”

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 2890975391 / 07814422572 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Virtual Ireland launched at Queen’s
Project Director Professor Peter Gray
Project Director Professor Peter Gray
Documenting Ireland – Parliament, People and Migration, a virtual library of the history of modern Ireland was today launched at Queen’s.  The new virtual resource brings together the story of migration throughout Irish history into one place, a searchable online database.  The online resource has three searchable databases: Enhanced British Parliamentary Paper on Ireland, The Irish Emigration Database and Voices of Migration and Return.

The Enhanced British Parliamentary Paper on Ireland section has over 15,000 official publications relating to all aspects of Irish affairs from 1800-1922. It reveals the social context of Irish migration by documenting the combination of social and political conditions, famine and economic conflicts, and population pressures that propelled people to leave their homes. They also record government regulation of emigration, debates over ‘colonization’ and state assistance.

The Irish Emigration Database offers a wide range of sources covering all aspects of emigrant experience between the 18th and mid-20th centuries. At its heart lie the many narratives of migration experience captured and preserved in emigrant letters and memoirs.

Voices of Migration and Return is an oral history archive of 200 hours of personal narratives of emigrants and return migrants from the province of Ulster captured and available on digital audio. This brings the migration story right up to date through people’s own voices recounting their lives from the 1950s to the recent past. It includes the stories of a Tyrone woman who spent two periods as a midwife in Africa, and a Co. Down man who worked in weather stations in the Canadian arctic before returning to Northern Ireland in the 1960s.

Project Director, Professor Peter Gray said: “The launch of this virtual library is very important not just for historians, but for those who are curious about their ancestors, as well as being a learning resource for schools and a source of information for anyone with an interest in Irish history.

“Ireland’s history since the 18th century has been marked by cycles of emigration and immigration, often associated with great trauma but also connecting the island with the world through global networks of family and memory.  With another period of extensive emigration now seemingly looming, our attention is turning again towards understanding why people migrate, how they make life-changing migration choices, and how the experience of migration has been expressed.

“Understanding our past history, personal, family and collective, may help us understand our present and make better sense of it. This resource will help users put together the story of Irish migration over time, whether their interest lies in tracing ancestors, locating their locality within the global networks of movement, or looking at the bigger picture of how migration has and continues to shape Ireland, north and south.”

The DIPPAM virtual library is available online to everybody and may be of particular interest to people involved in research the history of their locality or family, and for use in school history projects.

For further information see www.dippam.ac.uk or contact the project director Professor Peter Gray on info@dippam.ac.uk.

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Northern Ireland businesses urged to ‘rethink business models’
Dr Kelly (centre) with Aidan Gough, Director of Strategy and Policy at InterTradeIreland (left) and the Vice-Chancellor
Dr Kelly (centre) with Aidan Gough, Director of Strategy and Policy at InterTradeIreland (left) and the Vice-Chancellor
A leading entrepreneurship guru has advised Northern Ireland businesses to re-think current practice in order to succeed in today’s global market.

Delivering the InterTradeIreland 2011 Innovation Lecture to a capacity audience at Queen’s University, Dr Peter Kelly, who heads up the Helsinki School of Creative Entrepreneurship in Finland, challenged received wisdom on business development and provided practical guidance on succeeding in the current economic climate.

In his lecture, entitled, ’Rethinking Business Models: Creativity Inspired Innovation’, Dr Kelly outlined several innovative approaches that he has used to generate more creativity and ‘ideation’ in business practice – and also in a higher education context. Professor Kelly argued that Europe and Ireland have all the ingredients to be in a better innovative space and that all that is required is the creative courage to explore it.

The lecture is part of The InterTradeIreland All-Island Innovation Programme, managed by Queen’s University Belfast, which brings international expertise in innovation to Queen’s University Belfast, NUI Galway and University College Dublin.  During his three days at Queen’s, Dr Kelly also delivered three masterclasses to students and to local business people.  He then travelled to Galway to deliver an Innovation lecture and masterclasses in NUI Galway’s Centre for Innovation and Structural Change.  

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s University leads €3 million food safety project
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay, Danny Kennedy MLA Minister for Employment and Learning, and QSAFFE co-ordinator Professor Chris Elliott.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay, Danny Kennedy MLA Minister for Employment and Learning, and QSAFFE co-ordinator Professor Chris Elliott.

A €3 million (Euro) research project to improve the safety of animal feeds and the entire European animal-based food chain, has been launched at Queen’s.

The global QSAFFE project (Quality and Safety of Feeds and Food for Europe) will deliver better ways to ensure the quality and safety of animal feeds in Europe. It is led by Queen’s Centre for Assured, Safe and Traceable Food (ASSET) and involves 11 partners from six countries (UK, Belgium, Holland, Czech Republic, Germany and China).

The Minister for Employment and Learning, Danny Kennedy MLA, announced the project during an international conference at Queen’s showcasing the latest developments in food safety and traceability.
Professor Chris Elliott, Director of ASSET at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences and co-ordinator of the QSAFFE project said: “‘You are what you eat’ is a mantra that is often applied to human food consumption. As consumers become more concerned about where their food comes from, the same mantra should be applied to the livestock that produce much of our food.

“The safe production and handling of animal feed has a major impact on the health of our livestock, and ultimately on the quality of the meat, milk and other animal-based food products that we eat and drink.

“As feed, animals and food products often cross national borders, so must efforts to ensure their quality and safety. QSAFFE brings together scientists, academics and industrial companies from across Europe, dedicated to improving the quality of animal feed for the benefit of both livestock and consumers. We will work together to develop better ways to prevent food fraud, identify risks to the food chain, and develop new technology for use at ports, factories and in labs to detect contamination quickly and at low cost.

“The fact that the consortium led by Queen’s was awarded this funding against competing bids from across Europe, is testament to the quality of the partnerships and world-class research at the University’s ASSET centre.”

Minister Danny Kennedy said:  “This project is extremely pertinent given the two recent dioxin crises in Europe, both of which were linked to dioxin contamination of animal feed and the inability to detect such contaminations for weeks or even months after they occur.

“I believe the research being carried out by ASSET and its partners is serving to improve both animal health and also the safety of meat and milk, while delivering new and innovative ways of ensuring produce traceability.

“The combined effect of all of these measures creates a tremendous opportunity for both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland agri-food sectors to become firmly established as proponents of safe, nutritionally beneficial and ethical foods with a strong local branding and a hallmark of quality.”   
 
As one of the leading  industrial partners in the project, Belfast-based animal feed producers John Thompson and Sons Ltd will work closely with scientists at Queen’s and other QSAFFE partners. The company’s Chief Executive Declan Billington said: “Agri-food has long been, and will continue to be, one of the cornerstone industries of Northern Ireland. For too long, the food industry globally has been on the back foot, with innovation in food safety arising as a response to food scares, rather than in advance of them.  

“Today sees the start of an ambitious research programme that will provide the global food industry with the opportunity to remain one step ahead of emerging food safety threats. It is Thompson’s ambition to see the Northern Ireland agri-food industry lead the way in exploiting the application of this work and assuring buyers from around the world  that, in sourcing produce  from Northern Ireland, they are not only sourcing the best , but also the safest of any products available in the marketplace.

“For over 100 years the Thompson logo has included a statement to our customers that we hold dear to our hearts. To be ‘Pioneers Of Better Feedingstuffs’.  Thompson’s involvement in this project is a re-affirmation to our customers that we continuing in that 100 year old tradition, as pioneers of better feeding stuffs.”

QSAFFE is funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. For more information about the ASSET research centre at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/ASSET

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Greener computers explored at Queen’s
Queen's University's Professor Stan Scott, High Sheriff of Belfast City Council Ian Adamson, Queen's University's Roger Woods, and Professor Gordon Brebner from Xilnex.”
Queen's University's Professor Stan Scott, High Sheriff of Belfast City Council Ian Adamson, Queen's University's Roger Woods, and Professor Gordon Brebner from Xilnex.”

Technology experts from around the world are coming to Queen’s to explore new ways to make computers more efficient and greener. 

Computing is now recognised as being responsible for significant electricity consumption and wastage around the world.  Statistics indicate that computing consumes more than three per cent of the global electricity consumption and performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle.  As limitations on computing memory and energy waste increases, international experts are hoping to develop alternatives to reduce and prevent future waste.

The Applied Reconfigurable Computing Conference (ARC) will span over three days at Queen’s and Xilinx, the worlds’ leading programmable technology company will discuss the challenges in delivering the next generation internet.  Professor Steve Furber who was a principal designer of the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor will also talk about building parallel computer systems with more than a million embedded processors

 Professor Roger Woods from Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at Queen’s University said: “The problem of computing electricity inefficiency is getting worse as computers pervade our lives.  This conference looks to tackle the problem head on by developing new computer architectures to allow us to reduce the energy budge and perform the high levels of computation needed in many new applications.

 “ARC Conference brings together world experts to look at advances and includes some new work on how computation is undertaken in the brain to allow engineers to build a computing system-on-chip with thousands of computers.”

The Applied Reconfigurable Computing Conference is hosted by Queen’s University Belfast from 23-25 March for more information go to www.arc2011.org

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 / 07814 422 572 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s University puts over 2,400 food scares under the microscope

As the increasing number food scares causes consumers to question the safety of everyday food items, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have completed the first ever analysis of all the food recalls announced in the USA, UK and Ireland over the last decade.

The research, by Dr Antony Potter at Queen’s Centre for Assured and Traceable Foods (ASSET) identified 2,439 food recalls over the past ten years – including the recall of 380 million eggs in the USA in 2010 following a Salmonella outbreak at a farm in Iowa, and the 2008 pork recall in Ireland, which affect export markets in 21 countries around the world.

The research will be discussed during The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference taking place at the University this week (21-24 March). This international event, held in partnership with safefood, will showcase the latest developments in food safety and traceabilty.

Dr Potter said: “The number of food scares and product recalls has increased significantly in the past decade. Until now, however, there has been no international database to measure trends in food recalls.

“Our detailed analysis of recalls in the UK, Ireland and USA begins to help fill that gap. It outlines how the frequency and severity of recalls has increased over the past ten years, accompanied by significant financial implications for food producers. The 2008 pork recall in Ireland, for example, cost the Irish economy an estimated €125 million.

“Of the product recalls we identified, 68 per cent were detected during routine or spot testing by regulatory bodies, and only 21 per cent were detected by the company in question. Around one fifth (21 per cent) were in the meat industry, 12 per cent in processed foods and 11 per cent in fruit and vegetables.

“Most recalls (56 per cent) resulted from operational mistakes, such as incorrect labelling, the presence of an undeclared ingredient, or contamination during the production.              While biological causes, such as the detection of Listeria, Salmonella and E Coli were also a factor, a significant number of food safety alerts were actually due to food fraud and corruption by suppliers further down the supply chain. This highlights the need for food producers to invest in ensuring the traceability of their products back through the supply chain.”

Dr Potter is one of 40 speakers from more than 20 countries who will address The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference this week. Professor Chris Elliott from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences has organised the conference.

Professor Elliott said: “Despite mounting evidence of the increasing levels of food fraud, and growing public demand for safe and authentic food, this is a topic that few in the food industry appear willing to talk about openly for fear of the repercussions for their brand.

“Food producers, however, should be reassured that major scientific advancements are being made to help detect food contaminants and minimise risks to the food supply chain. Scientists at Queen’s are at the forefront of these developments, and we are willing to work with companies to put in place the latest techniques to detect and deter food fraud. And many of these techniques will be discussed during this week’s conference.”

The conference is jointly organised by Queen’s and safefood, the North-South body responsible for the promotion of food safety on the island of Ireland. Dr Gary Kearney, Director, Food Science, safefood said: “The increase in the number of food scares since the early 1990’s has had a negative impact on consumer confidence in the food supply chain. To restore confidence and allay consumer concerns, it is vital that new scientific methods are developed which can detect harmful toxins early in the production of food, thereby facilitating appropriate containment measures and ensuring consumer protection. 

“This conference will highlight the latest scientific methodologies for controlling food safety hazards as well as the challenges to providing robust food traceability systems. These and other issues are essential to the provision of safe food and protecting consumers on the island of Ireland.”

Among the conference highlights will be Professor Garry Lee from the University of Western Australia and TSW Analytical P/L, who will present a new traceability system being trialled in the Australian pork industry and its lessons for the UK and Ireland pork industry following the Irish pork contamination scare of 2008.

As the demand for organic food continues to grow, Dr Simon Kelly from Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency will present some of the latest techniques in determining the origins of food and whether or not those labelled ‘organic’ are truly organically produced.

Owen Brennan, Managing Director of Belfast-based agri-technology company Devenish Nutrition, will discuss the controversial EU ban on GM crops and its negative impact on ensuring a sustainable EU food production system; while Professor Peter Shears from the University of Plymouth Law School will speak about the lack of resources being invested in the fight against food fraud.

For more information about The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference, or to register online visit www.qub.ac.uk/asset2011

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

First ever World Cyber Security Summit at Queen’s
Professor John McCanny, CSIT principal investigator; Dr Godfrey Gaston; Danny Kennedy, Minister for Employment and Learning and Professor Peter Gregson, Queen's University Vice-Chancellor, at the first ever World Cyber Security Summit at Queen's.
Professor John McCanny; Dr Godfrey Gaston; Danny Kennedy, Minister for Employment and Learning and Professor Peter Gregson, Queen's University Vice-Chancellor, at the first ever World Cyber Security Summit at Queen's.
Cyber security experts and government policy makers from around the world are gathering at Queen’s University Belfast to develop the first ever global technology research strategy to counter cyber terrorism.

The inaugural World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit is being held at Queen’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) - the UK’s lead centre for cyber security research in this area. The summit will address the current risk to global cyber security as well as outline potential future threats to information systems. The select group of world experts will share current trends in cyber security, look at security threats likely to emerge over the next five to ten years and agree on an international strategy for developing research that will safeguard the ‘Internet of tomorrow'. The summit comes just weeks after the UK government announced that cyber crime was costing the UK economy £27 billion a year. The cost is made up of £21 billion of costs to businesses, £2.2 billion to government and £3.1 billion to citizens.

Danny Kennedy, Minister for Employment and Learning, opened the summit. During his welcoming address, the Minister said: “The significance and benefit of the cutting edge work being carried out by Queen’s has been demonstrated with their status as the UK Integrated Knowledge Centre for Secure Information Technology, a development which will create significant opportunities in the local economy, as well as enhancing the skills base within Northern Ireland.

“It is a great honour for the University and, of course, the city of Belfast, to host the inaugural World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit, and thus play a part in helping to develop an international strategy on cyber security.”

He continued by saying: “With the goodwill, knowledge and expertise that the summit has now brought together, I have absolutely no doubt that the outcome from today’s event will ultimately bring huge benefits to wider society.”

The Minister concluded by commending Queen’s for the excellence of the research being carried out within this field at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies, and highlighted that it will play a pivotal role in enabling that success to be attained.

Professor John McCanny, CSIT principal investigator, said: “CSIT recognises there is a lot being done on current cyber threats, but there is not a lot of collective thinking about what is coming next. “It is hard to say exactly what the Internet will become, but we can see a world where it will be core to the very fabric of society. It will be part of our critical infrastructure; providing essential services and becoming an even bigger part of our lives – being used in assisted living; allowing computers to drive our cars, deliver our groceries and monitor and manage our health. It is therefore very important that we develop a strategy to protect ourselves against cyber technology attacks. With such a range of experts attending we expect to come up with the first ever global strategy to protect against cyber crime.

“This summit is the first of its kind and will really mark out the future of cyber technology around the world. The risks associated with the Internet extend from individuals to nations. Internet security is a major issue at a national and international level and there are a number of programs and initiatives around the world where both governments and industry are looking to solve some of the problems we face in this area. We at CSIT believe that ‘Belfast 2011’ will be the first of many summits over coming years, and may even be the beginning of an international movement of collaboration and co-operation to safeguard against cyber terrorists of the future.”

The summit at Queen’s puts the University and Belfast on the map as leading the research into global cyber security. Guests from UK Home Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, BAE Systems, Thales and IBM among others, illustrate the scale of the expertise at the summit.

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 2890975391 / 07814 422 572 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

President of Ireland returns to Queen’s
Dr Martin McAleese, President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Rachael Gregson and Head of the School of Law Professor Colin Harvey at the MacDermott Lecture
Dr Martin McAleese, President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Rachael Gregson and Head of the School of Law Professor Colin Harvey at the MacDermott Lecture
President of Ireland Mary McAleese returned to her Alma Mater this week to deliver the prestigious MacDermott Lecture, arranged by the School of Law.

A former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Professor McAleese was welcomed to the University by the Vice-Chancellor and Head of the School of Law, Professor Colin Harvey, before speaking on the topic: “Northern Ireland: the post-Agreement institutional architecture”.

The Lecture was extremely well-received by the large audience, which included senior members of the judiciary, the legal profession, law students and members of the public.

The MacDermott Lecture commemorates the long and valuable services rendered by Lord MacDermott, a former Lord Chief Justice and Queen’s Pro-Chancellor, to the School of Law and the University.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Students urged to enjoy St Patrick’s Day responsibly
Speaking ahead of St Patrick’s Day, Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher has urged students to enjoy the day and respect their neighbours.

Professor Gallagher said: “Queen’s University and its Students’ Union are committed to making sure that this year’s St Patrick’s Day passes peacefully. The University has been working intensively with key stakeholders to ensure students are fully aware of their responsibilities on the day and of the penalties they face for breaching these responsibilities.

“We ask that students enjoy the day, respect their neighbours and do not become involved in anti-social behaviour. If they do not take this advice then they risk getting a criminal record, being asked to leave the University and potentially ruining their career prospects.

“The message is simple to our students: enjoy the day and stay out of trouble.”

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Report into wellbeing and inclusion of former politically motivated prisoners

The first major study of the wellbeing and inclusion of former politically motivated prisoners in Northern Ireland will be launched by Queen’s University today (Monday 14 March).

Ageing and Social Exclusion among Former Politically Motivated Prisoners in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland investigated the well being and social and economic inclusion of loyalist and republican former prisoners (aged 50 and over) as older people in Northern Ireland. The report will be launched at Parliament Buildings at Stormont this afternoon.

The research was led by Ms Ruth Jamieson and Dr Peter Shirlow at Queen’s School of Law, along with Dr Adrian Grounds of the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.

Researchers surveyed 190 former prisoners (117 republican, 26 of whom were women, and 73 loyalist), aged 50 and over, and conducted in-depth interviews with 25 of them (15 republican, three of whom were women, and 10 loyalist), in Belfast during 2008-09. The aim of the study was to investigate their wellbeing and social and economic inclusion as older people in Northern Ireland.

The study reported the following, for former politically motivated prisoners aged 50 years and over:

  • Over half of those surveyed said they had been denied employment because they have a conflict-related conviction.
  • One in four of the research participants were unemployed. The rate of unemployment for politically motivated former prisoners was over four times the unemployment rate for Northern Ireland at the time the research was conducted.
  • Less than one third of politically motivated former prisoners in this group were in full-time paid employment.
  • Politically motivated former prisoners have a far greater risk of poverty in older age than others in Northern Ireland. This is a combined effect of low pay, intermittent or insecure employment, and lack of occupational pension.
  • Politically motivated former prisoners are twice as likely as others in Northern Ireland to suffer from psychological difficulties. • Over one in three of the politically motivated former prisoners who took part in the research had been prescribed sedatives and tranquillisers. The rate of prescribed sedatives and tranquillisers for males in this group is well over four times that of their Northern Ireland age peers.
  • Almost one in three of the research participants had been prescribed anti-depressants. The rate of prescribed anti-depressants for males in this group is five times that of their Northern Ireland age peers.
  • Many of those who reported experiencing conflict-related relationship and psychological difficulties said they were not getting the help they need.
  • A significant number of both the men and women surveyed reported misusing alcohol (68 per cent) or being alcohol dependent (53 per cent).

The report also makes a number of recommendations, which include:

  • Policy makers should explicitly recognise that older former politically motivated prisoners constitute at ‘at risk’ group of older people in Northern Ireland, for both social exclusion and mental ill health.
  • Measures are needed to prevent employment discrimination on the basis of age and or having a conflict-related conviction.
  • Dialogue should be established between the former politically motivated prisoner community and the relevant bodies taking forward the developments arising from the Bamford Review of mental health services in Northern Ireland. The aim of this dialogue should be to adopt a model of mental health care for former politically motivated prisoners similar to the Community Veterans Mental Health Service scheme established by Veterans UK and the Personnel and Veterans Agency of the Ministry of Defence, which is currently being piloted in the UK.
  • Greater representation of former politically motivated prisoners as service users is needed on relevant advisory or advocacy bodies, for example, regarding age discrimination and mental health and addiction services.

Ageing and social exclusion among former politically motivated prisoners in Northern Ireland is available online on the Changing Ageing Partnership website at www.changingageing.org/

Full research report available at http://www.changingageing.org/FileStore/QUBSeminarPrograms/SeedGrantReports/Filetoupload,211667,en.pdf

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320, +44 (0)7814 415 451 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s £300,000 student scholarships represent crucial investment in Northern Ireland’s future

Queen’s has awarded over £300,000 of scholarships to its newest and brightest students in a move which the University says represents a crucial investment in Northern Ireland’s future prosperity.

230 first year students received awards at the University’s annual Scholarship Awards Ceremony last night (Thursday 10 March).

The entrance scholarships package represents an investment of more than £300,000 by the University in its newest students. It includes awards of £1,000 for students gaining three As at A-level or equivalent and enrolling in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at Queen’s. It also offers awards of - £1,000 to the best A-level entrant to each of the University’s schools, and Queen’s Gold Medal Entrance Scholarships worth £7,500 to the top A-level student entering each of the University’s three faculties.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie said: “These scholarships, particularly the STEM scholarships, reward our top entrance students in subjects that are essential to Northern Ireland’s economic growth.

“If our economy is to survive and prosper, we need to attract the best students who will become highly qualified graduates in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths. Queen’s is committed to investing in its students to ensure that we continue to produce graduates with the right blend of knowledge, expertise and innovation to ensure the future prosperity of Northern Ireland.

“But our community also needs those who will lead society through the professions and through their contribution to cultural life. That is why our scholarships scheme includes awards for students across all disciplines. Queen’s students are the leaders of tomorrow and our scholarships scheme is not only an investment in their futures, but in the future of Northern Ireland.”

Among the award-winning guests at last night’s event was Mathematics student Sarah McCarthy from Carrickfergus - the top A-level entrant to Queen’s in 2010. The former Strathearn School, Belfast pupil won the Queen’s Gold Medal Entrance Scholarship for the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences; The David Russell Lappin Scholarship and Sullivan Scholarships for the best overall A-level entrant, and a STEM Scholarship.

The winner of the £7,500 Queen’s Gold Medal Entrance Scholarship for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences was Jennifer Murray from Dunmurray. Bernadette Kevin from Magherafelt received the same scholarship for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences; and the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal Scholarship for the student entering Queen’s with the best Irish Leaving Certificate results was Cathal Hayes from Carrigrohane in Co. Cork.

Professor Douglas-Cowie continued said: “Queen’s has a responsibility not only to its current and future students, but to Northern Ireland society as a whole.

“One of the most meaningful ways in which we can meet this responsibility is by attracting top-quality students. Our scholarships programme helps us to do this. It rewards exceptional performance and helps us to ensure that a world-class academic experience is available to all our eligible students.”

Other scholarships awarded at the ceremony included the Eliahou Dangoor Scholarships, awarded to 33 UK students who received the top marks at A-level, enrolled in a STEM subject and are in receipt of a University Institutional Bursary – these bursaries are awarded to full-time undergraduate students from families with a household income of up to £24,203.

Travel Scholarships worth £600 over three years were also awarded to students from the UK or Europe who achieved three A grades at A-level, or equivalent.

To find out more about Queen’s scholarships, visit www.qub.ac.uk/home/ProspectiveStudents/UndergraduateStudents/Scholarships/

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s researchers ask ‘Does St Patrick’s Day impact on your national identity?’
As St Patrick’s Day approaches, researchers at Queen’s are asking people to take part in research to help them understand how participation in St Patrick’s Day celebrations impacts on their sense of national identity.

At a time when powerful displays of national identity are sweeping the Middle East, researchers at Queen’s, the University of Limerick and the University of St Andrews in Scotland, are exploring whether Irish identities are changed in any way by people’s experiences of taking part in St Patrick’s Day parades.

Dr Dominic Bryan, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s said: “Parades and public gatherings help tell us who we are as a nation and can transform how we think of ourselves. Successful events can create a feeling of wellbeing, empowerment and a sense that we share a common goal, but they can also highlight divisions. As we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia, public demonstrations can have huge social and political potential. But what is it about participating in these events that makes a difference to how we think and feel?

“St Patrick’s Day is one of the key occasions on which Ireland and Irishness are defined in the public eye, and sees some of the biggest public gatherings in towns and cities across Ireland and beyond.

“But not everyone has similar experiences of these events. For example, while displays of tricolours may unite the people from many cultures and nationalities who participate in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, the same displays at a parade in Belfast might make some people feel excluded.

“We are asking the public to complete a simple online survey before and after they take part in this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Belfast or Dublin, to help us understand how and why these experiences impact on their perceptions of ‘Irishness’. Those who are not taking part in the celebrations are also invited to complete the survey, which is online now at http://edu.surveygizmo.com/s3/479925/St-Patrick-s-Day-Time-1-Belfast-SNS

This research is part of the Embodying Imagined Communities: The Role of Collective Participation in the Transformation of Irish Identities project. The project looks at St Patrick’s Day and 1916 Easter Rising commemoration events in Belfast and Dublin, why people participate in these events and their potential to unite and divide.

The research is a joint initiative between Queen’s, the University of Limerick and St Andrew’s University and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Irish Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320, email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Professor Sir Tim Brighouse appointed Chair of the Sharing Education Programme Independent Governing Panel
Professor Sir Tim Brighouse
Professor Sir Tim Brighouse
Queen’s is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Sir Tim Brighouse as Chair of the expert panel which oversees the work of the Sharing Education Programme. This programme encourages and supports the development of collaborative networks of Protestant, Catholic and Integrated schools in Northern Ireland. The collaborating schools work together to widen the range of opportunities available to all their pupils, raise standards and promote sustained engagement in shared classes among pupils from different traditions.

Sir Tim is one of the leading educationalists in the UK and has served as Professor of Education at Keele University, Chief Education Officer in Birmingham and Schools Commissioner for London. Sir Tim was awarded an Honorary Degree by Queen’s University in 2010 and was very keen to ‘give something back’ by supporting the Sharing Education Programme in this way.

Commenting on the Sharing Education Programme, Sir Tim said: "I am delighted to be part of a project which through collaborative effort and the commitment and imagination of the teachers and others taking part in it is having such a positive effect on education and society in Northern Ireland. I have always thought that the quality of its educators has been one of the outstanding features of Northern Ireland so it is a privilege to work closely with them in this important venture."

Professor Tony Gallagher, Director of the Programme, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Sir Tim has agreed to support our work by taking on the role of Chair of our expert panel. Sir Tim was one of the key inspirations for the idea that school collaboration could make education more effective and efficient. Perhaps even more important, he has always been a leader in placing the needs and interests of pupils at the heart of education. His leadership will contribute immensely to the Sharing Education Programme and inspire all of us involved in this work to even greater efforts."

Tim has been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland and has spoken on many occasions to teachers and principals and others with an interest in education. In 2000 he was invited by the Department of Education to join the Post Primary Review Group and made an important contribution to the Burns Report.

He pioneered the idea of school collaboration in Birmingham as a way of encouraging teachers from different schools to work together for mutual benefit. This experience was influential in promoting the value of school collaboration in Northern Ireland, a recommendation of the Burns Report that can now be seen in practice through the entitlement framework, the area learning communities and the Sharing Education Programme.

The Sharing Education Programme is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and the Atlantic Philanthropies and supports schools in the formation of collaborative partnerships based on the provision of curricular activities. For more details on the Sharing Education Programme, please visit www.schoolsworkingtogether.co.uk.

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Almost one fifth of children who sat new transfer tests felt under a lot of pressure

Primary 7 children who feel under pressure during the transfer test process do so because of the transfer process itself, rather than the particular nature of the test. That’s according to researchers at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.

5,192 P7 children across Northern Ireland completed the 2010 Kids’ Life and Times survey. 63 per cent had sat the new transfer tests in Autumn 2009. Of those who had sat the tests, 17 per cent said they had felt under a lot of pressure, 23 per cent felt under no pressure at all and 58 per cent felt somewhere in between. More girls than boys said they had felt under pressure.

These findings are similar to those reported in the 2008 Kids’ Life and Times survey, when the old transfer test was in place. This would suggest it is the transfer procedure itself that children find stressful, rather than the particular nature of the tests they sit.

The Kids’ Life and Times survey is an annual online survey conducted by ARK, a joint research initiative between Queen’s and the University of Ulster. It gives all P7 children in Northern Ireland an opportunity to voice their opinions on issues that are important to them. ARK is encouraging schools and P7 children across Northern Ireland to take part in the 2011 survey, which is now available to complete online at www.ark.ac.uk/klt

Led by Dr Katrina Lloyd and Dr Paula Devine from Queen’s and Professor Gillian Robinson from the University of Ulster, the key findings from 2010 Kids’ Life and Times survey are: • 63 per cent of children who completed the survey said they had sat the new transfer tests in 2009, but when asked which test they did (the Association for Quality Education (AQE) Common Entrant Assessment, or the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium’s test devised by Granada Learning) nearly a fifth of (18 per cent) didn’t know.

  • 88 per cent said they were well prepared for the transfer tests, while 12 per cent thought they were not.
  • 45 per cent of children who sat the transfer test said they had a tutor. And nearly everyone (96 per cent) had done practice papers.
  • When asked what they thought should happen to the transfer test, 40 per cent were in favour of keeping the test, 26 per cent wanted to get rid of it and 34 per cent were not sure.
  • A lot of children felt there is not enough PE at primary school. 44 per cent of boys and 34 per cent of girls said they don’t get enough PE.
  • 83 per cent of children participating in the 2010 KLT survey were mostly happy in their P7 year, 5 per cent were mostly unhappy and the remaining 12 per cent were undecided.
  • For girls who said they were mostly unhappy, the most common reason for their unhappiness was ‘other kids do not like me’ (56 per cent), worrying about what school to go to next (52 per cent), or because they were being bullied (46 per cent). For boys who were mostly unhappy, the most common reason was ‘too much work’ (51 per cent), because they didn’t like their teacher (40 per cent) or because they felt their teacher did not like them (40 per cent).

Dr Katrina Lloyd said: “The years spent at primary school are crucial to a child’s development - not only in terms of what they learn but also their general wellbeing. It is important that those involved in educating our children understand the extent to which they do or do not enjoy being at school and the pressures they are under.

“While we often hear what the public and the media think about the issues affecting children, we rarely ask the children themselves about these things. The Kids’ Life and Times Survey gives children the opportunity to express their opinions and influence the policies and decisions that affect them. It also helps inform education policy makers in making decisions that affect thousands of school children across Northern Ireland.”

Dr Paula Devine added: "This is the fourth Kids’ Life and Times survey and, so far, over 12,000 children have been able to express their views on a range of issues that are important to them. “We want this participation to continue and we are encouraging P7 children across Northern Ireland to take part in the 2011 Kids’ Life and Times survey, which is available to complete now online at school, at www.ark.ac.uk/klt

Professor Gillian Robinson from the University of Ulster said “This is an important transition time for children as they prepare to move on to second level education and this survey allows us to take their views and opinions into account.”

As with all ARK surveys, the findings from the Kids’ Life and Times surveys are available online at www.ark.ac.uk/klt along with a comic-style publication of results, specially designed for children.

The questions on the Transfer Test on the Kids’ Life and Times survey were funded by The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY).

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s expert advises Australian business leaders on economy

A leading academic from Queen’s University – the UK’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2009 – is advising business leaders and government officials in Australia on the country’s economic future.

Professor Richard Harrison, Director of Queen’s University Management School, has been providing advice on a range of issues, including business development, corporate entrepreneurship and economic transformation.

Professor Harrison, who returns from Australia this weekend, also delivered the first Entrepreneurship Australian Oration organised by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia and the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Community at Deakin University.

In this keynote speech, entitled “Corporate Entrepreneurship and Australia’s Economic Future”, he addressed the critical issue of the need for more corporate entrepreneurship.

Professor Harrison said: “The creation of a sustainable globally competitive economy requires a quantum shift in the performance of the corporate world. If firms and economies are to prosper, they need to become more entrepreneurial.

“This is underlined by research at Queen’s which shows that corporate entrepreneurship programmes are key to building competitive sustainable and growing businesses in both the large corporate and small and family business sectors.

“I have been advising Australian businesses that the need for corporate entrepreneurship is greater than ever to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities provided by the new economic world order.”

Professor Harrison is a leading international authority on business angel finance and early stage venture capital and has worked with government departments and agencies in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, the European Union and Canada.

As Director of Queen's University Management School, he has overseen a doubling in the size of the School. He is also leading a £15 million initiative to develop a new integrated Postgraduate and Executive Education Centre for Northern Ireland at Riddel Hall, which will open later this year.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s develops new brain training app for research into ageing minds

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are taking the first step towards discovering the true effectiveness of brain training exercises with the release of their own app aimed at those over 50.

The Brain Jog application is available to download free for iPhone, iPod or iPad. It is the product of 18 months of work by researchers at Queen’s School of Music and Sonic Arts to find out what the over 50’s are looking for in a brain training app.

Queen’s researchers are encouraging as many people as possible to download and use the application. During the process, users will be asked to give feedback on their experience of playing the game. Using this information to determine what makes a good puzzle experience, the research team will continuously improve and adapt the games to make them as user friendly as possible – thereby maximising the number of people who play on a regular, long-term basis.

In the next stage of the project, the researchers hope to track the experience and performance of these long-term players to help clarify the effects of regular brain training on ageing minds.

The research is led by Donal O’Brien, a PhD student at Queen’s Sonic Arts Research Centre. He said: “Brain Jog consists of four enjoyable mini games specifically designed to test and improve four areas – spatial ability, memory, mathematical ability and verbal fluency.

“This is achieved through problem solving, puzzles and reverse arithmetic, allowing users to be challenged in an engaging manner, and improve their performance with regular practice.

Brain Jog is unique among similar apps in that it has come to fruition after extensive research and collaboration with the target audience to find out exactly what appeals to them. “By downloading this app, you can help us create a fantastic game experience for those over 50 and bring us one step closer to finding out whether or not brain training can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

“To participate, simply download the application for free from iTunes, answer a few questions and then play the games. There are no obligations – you can play as often as you like and stop whenever you choose.

“Plans are in place for a future study on dementia prevention using the app; but before that can happen, people of all ages are encouraged to get downloading and have fun while providing vital information to our researchers and keeping their brain active.”

Brain Jog is available from the iTunes store.

More information, including the link to download the app, can be found at www.brainjog.org.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s University scientists behind safer drinking water in US
Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta
Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta
Pioneering technology by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, which is transforming the lives of millions of people in Asia, is now being used to create safer drinking water in the United States.

The award-winning system – Subterranean Arsenic Removal – removes arsenic from groundwater without using chemicals. It was developed by a team of European and Indian engineers led by Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta in Queen’s University School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering.
 
The technology, based on the principle of oxidation and filtration processes, is already in use in six plants in West Bengal.
 
And the technology has now been successfully tested in the United States, in a rural community outside Bellingham, in Northwest Washington State, where high levels of arsenic in the water had previously caused challenges for local residents.

Jeremy Robinson, a member of the Washington State installation team, said: “We first read about the SAR technology on Wikipedia. Initially, it seemed too good to be true.  Arsenic is a significant problem for many of the wells in our area. None of the conventional approaches for arsenic treatment have worked well for us. But, once we recognised the advantages and elegance of the SAR approach, we started preparing to test it here.
 
"With the generous help offered to us by Dr. Sen Gupta and Queen’s University, we are now under way. Our early results have been very promising. We started the trial in January, on an abandoned well with alarmingly high arsenic levels. After three weeks, the arsenic level had dropped substantially. And now, after seven weeks, we are seeing arsenic levels at or below the US Environmental Protection Agency limit."
 
Dr Sen Gupta, who visited Washington State to oversee the installation, said: “I’m delighted that the Washington State plant testing has gone to plan. The key aspects of this life-changing technology are its affordability and simplicity of installation and operation. The cost of setting up a plant to produce up to 6,000 litres of water a day averages under £2,500 ($4000) – less in the developing world – and the operational cost is £14 a month ($20).
 
“The estimated life of each plant is about 20 years without any mechanical maintenance, and the system is operated, quite simply, by the pressing of an electrical switch.”

The technology has already attracted interest from other parts of the United States, andplans are now advanced for SAR plants to be set up in Cambodia, Vietnam and Mexico in the next six months.

The work of Dr Sen Gupta’s team has won accolades from around the world. In November Queen’s University was awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education Outstanding Engineering Research Team of the Year title.

The judges said: “Engineering at its core is about solving critical problems. The team from Queen’s has exemplified this, finding an innovative solution to overcome arsenic contamination of groundwater and thus improve the quality of life in rural communities.”

Dr Sen Gupta was also awarded the St Andrews Prize for the Environment and the World Bank Innovation Fair Championship in Cape Town in 2010.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s launches the 8th annual ‘Race Round the River’ 5K run
Queen’s Students, James O Hare and Niall Robinson help launch this year’s 5k race alongside Stef Foster from Powerade Events Team
Queen’s Students, James O Hare and Niall Robinson help launch this year’s 5k race alongside Stef Foster from Powerade Events Team
From recreational runners to top class athletes – hundreds of people are expected to take part in the 8th annual Queen’s University ‘Race Round the River’ 5K run in Belfast.

The race, organised by students in the Queen’s Athletics Club and in association with Powerade, will take place on 30 March on the Ormeau Embankment and is traditionally a warm up event for some athletes taking part in the Belfast City Marathon. 

Entrants to the race this year will take advantage of new ‘chipped timing’ technology where an electronic chip is placed into the runner’s footwear and automatically tracks their race time. 

John Saulters, Queen’s 5k Event Co-ordinator, said: “This is a unique race in that it is student led and organised but is open to the public.  The course is great for beginners as it is a flat course but is also a great timed challenge for stronger runners."

He added: “It is fantastic that the event continues to be supported by Powerade and ASICS, brands associated with sporting performance. The race is one of the fastest 5k races open to all in Ireland and we hope to have even more people competing this year and encourage everyone to get involved.”

Hundreds of pounds worth of prize money is on offer for fastest runners in various categories and registration is now open.

For more information visit www.queens5k.co.uk


For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page