June 2013 press releases

Queen’s University Belfast announces new Indian Academy

Queen’s University today announced a major new initiative to develop a Queen’s Academy in India (QAI). Over the next four years the Academy will train up to 250 Indian students and university faculty to help expand the number of new, well-qualified university staff available in the North Eastern region of the country.

The initiative will support the Indian Government’s expansion strategy for higher education which aims to develop the university sector within the country.

India’s Minister for the Development of the North East Region, Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar, and the Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry met with representatives from Queen’s this week to discuss the next step for the new Academy.

Queen’s already has several existing partnerships in education and industry in India. The QAI will equip students and staff from new partners Tezpur University, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Assam University (Silchar), and North Eastern Hill University with PhD and Masters qualifications in research, and Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Teaching.

Speaking about the new Academy, Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning said: “Forging international partnerships is a key aspect of ‘Graduating to Success’ our Higher Education Strategy for Northern Ireland. Queens are building on this commitment by the proposed development of the Queens Academy in North Eastern States of India. The importance of developing this relationship with India should not be underestimated. Through such initiatives, students, staff, institutions and Northern Ireland as a whole will benefit from important linkages with a growing global economy. Such opportunities have the potential to aid inward and outward mobility and also trade and investment.”

India’s Minister for the Development of the North East Region Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar said: “There is a dearth of adequately trained faculty members in the universities of North- East India. I am happy to note that four Universities from the region, namely Tezpur University, IIT Guwahati, Silchar University and North East Hill University will tie up with Queens University for capacity building of teaching faculty, leading to the International Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education and Teaching (i-PGCHET), and the building of our research capacity in North Eastern Region faculty. I welcome this and my Ministry supports this proposal in principle.” 

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “In Northern Ireland we know that a supply of well qualified graduates and university staff is essential in promoting growth and attracting inward investment. The new Queen’s Academy in India will enhance the quality, research, innovation and teaching activities of our partner institutions, enabling India’s brightest staff and students to realise their full potential.”

The first intake of participants to the Academy will take place in Spring 2014.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 5384 or email

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£9 million for children’s health, ageing and mental wellbeing in Northern Ireland

Research into public health including ageing, mental wellbeing and children’s health in Northern Ireland has been given a £9 million boost.

The funding has been awarded to the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland (CoE NI) at Queen’s University Belfast, which was one of the UK’s first Centres of Excellence for public health research.

The Centre was formed to help create significant improvements in the wellbeing and health of the UK population. Researchers at the Centre have already made an impact by actively involving the policy makers, practitioners and the public in all stages of their research, in projects like the evaluation of the Connswater Community Greenway, in schools-based trials and in the way they disseminate their results in easily understood language.

The new funding will enable the UKCRC team to undertake further research on what shapes the health and wellbeing of adolescents in schools, on developing better interventions to improve public health and on the broader social and economic forces that help us all "age" well.

The Centre was launched in 2008 as part of a £20 million investment across the UK to strengthen research into complex public health issues such as obesity and health inequalities. The latest round of funding has been received from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), the HSC Research and Development Office, the University of Ulster, Queen’s University, and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Health Minister Edwin Poots who officially re-launched the Centre of Excellence said: “It is a testament to the quality of public health research here that the Centre is to receive further investment for the next five years. I congratulate all involved.

“Going forward, the aim is to build additional strength in tackling the public health issues affecting both the young and the older population.”

The Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI, Professor Frank Kee, said: “Issues such as obesity and an increasingly ageing population are just some of the factors that are set to impact hugely on society in years to come. Thanks to the funding from all of our sponsors, The UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland can continue to build capacity in research that will help counter these problems and extend the evidence base that will inform policy and practice in public health.”

Queen's University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson, added: “At Queen’s we are committed to undertaking research which benefits the community. This funding is recognition of the vital work of the Centre over the last five years. It will ensure Queen’s can continue to work with its partners on an integrated approach to health and social services, help to tackle the inequalities in health in the community and to study the economic, social and biological factors which cause chronic diseases.”

The UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland will be officially re-launched at an event at Riddel Hall today (Tuesday 18 June).
For further information on the Centre visit:

Media inquiries to Claire O'Callaghan, Queen's Communications Office, on 028 9097 5391 or

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G8 experts in pre-summit debate at Queen’s University Belfast

Some of the world’s leading experts on international politics and governance will be at Queen’s University Belfast today (Friday 14 June) to debate the issues and challenges facing the world leaders at next week’s G8 Summit.

The pre-summit conference will address the key issues of trade, transparency, tax and security, which will feature heavily on the agenda for the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in County Fermanagh. It will feature leading academics, former summit sherpas and public policy experts from around the world who will discuss and dissect the G8 Summit’s agenda and prospects.

The academic conference is hosted by Queen’s in partnership with the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto and is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: “The arrival of G8 is another chapter in the development of a confident, outward-looking Northern Ireland in which Queen’s plays a crucial role.

“The G8 pre-summit conference is a prestigious event which provides a unique opportunity for delegates to engage in discussions on the global issues to be debated at Lough Erne, and to do so in the surroundings of a University dedicated to addressing the challenges facing society around the world.”

The conference is an annual event preceding each G8 Summit and it takes place each year at an academic institution in the summit’s host country. It has been organised by leading G8 experts Dr Andrew Baker from Queen’s School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy and Professor John Kirton, Director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

Dr Baker said: “The modern G8 summit is a gathering point for a whole range of political perspectives to debate global affairs. The discussions and disagreements that occur in events surrounding the formal summit – like the pre-summit conference at Queen’s – have become an important part of modern world politics in their own right. This event provides a valuable opportunity for business people, policy makers, academics, students and members of the public to engage with G8 insiders and experts about the key issues that will face the world leaders when they meet at Lough Erne.

“Queen’s School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy has a strong specialism in International Relations. Staff include leading experts in global affairs, running sought-after courses in International Politics, EU Politics, and Violence, Terrorism and Security – covering many of the issues that will be at the centre of the G8 discussions.

“Queen’s academics featuring on the conference programme, include Dr John Barry on the question of post-carbon sustainable development, Dr Stefan Andreasson on the rise of Africa and Professor Beverly Milton Edwards on Islamic Jihadism. They will be joined by international experts including Professor Paul Collier from the University of Oxford, who has been advising David Cameron on resource extraction in Africa and tax avoidance, and Professor Prem Sikka from the University of Essex, whose work on tax avoidance has been instrumental in bring this issue to public attention, an issue which the Prime Minister has made a priority for the G8 Summit.”    

Professor Kirton said: “We are pleased to be partnering with our good friends at Queen’s University Belfast to produce this year’s pre-summit conference, which will serve as a good exploration of the issues facing the G8 leaders when they meet next week in Lough Erne. I am looking forward to rich discussions with my colleagues and members of the G8 Research Group’s global network of scholars, experts and practitioners drawing on our collected wisdom and experience to furthering our knowledge of the work of the G8.”

Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning, said: “Higher education is a major driver of economic development and I believe this role will increase as further changes in technology, globalisation, and demographics occur.  Higher education must focus on the importance of the economy, upskilling and reskilling the current and future workforce, enhancing research and development activity, increasing knowledge transfer and extending its reach locally, nationally and internationally.”
For more information on the Pre-G8 Conference at Queen’s, Prospects and Possibilities for the G8 Lough Erne Summit: Trade, Transparency, Tax and Terrorism visit

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3087 / 3091 email

Out of hours media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs on +44 (0)7813 015 431

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Northern Ireland online elections archive launched at Queen’s

A new online archive collating results of all Northern Ireland elections since 1973 is being launched at Queen’s University this week (Thursday 13 June).

The Northern Ireland Elections STV archive will be the biggest online resource of Single Transferable Vote results anywhere in the world.

Complied by ARK, a joint initiative between Queen’s and the University of Ulster, it consists of spreadsheets providing details of all counts of elections to the European Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the 1975 Constitutional Convention and the 26 local councils over the last forty years.

Funded by The McDougall Trust, the archive is hosted within the Northern Ireland Elections site Originally set up fifteen years ago for the 1998 Assembly election, it includes information about elections in Northern Ireland since 1885, as well as detailed breakdowns of election results.

Co-ordinator of the Northern Ireland Elections site Dr Nicholas Whyte is launching the database. He said: “This new archive will provide a unique resource for those interested in how people vote in Northern Ireland. While these results had previously been available in other formats, having them in spreadsheet formats allows the public to analyse them in detail.”

This event will include presentations from Mr Graham Shields (the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland) and Mr Darren Hughes (Director of Campaigns and Research, The Electoral Reform Society).

Media inquiries to the Communications Office at Queen’s University Belfast Tel: 028 9097 3087/3091 email

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“Science needs to be a part of growth strategy” - Nobel laureate to speak at Queen’s

Science should be a key part of industrial and economic growth strategies, according to world-leading scientist, and President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, who is speaking at Queen’s tomorrow (Thursday, 13 June).

The Nobel Laureate, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001, will be speaking as part of a Royal Irish Academy discourse on ‘Making Science Work’.

Members of the public are invited to attend the event at which Sir Paul will discuss making good decisions on what scientific research should be supported, the provision of scientific advice for public policy and how science benefits society.

Sir Paul is a British geneticist and cell biologist who became the 60th President of The Royal Society in December 2010. As a geneticist, he studied the mechanisms which control the division and shape of cells. He has been Professor of Microbiology at the University of Oxford, CEO of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK, and President of The Rockefeller University, New York. Since 2011, he has been Director and CEO of the Francis Crick Institute in London. Nurse has received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal (2005), the French Legion d’Honneur (2002), and is a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006).  He was knighted in 1999 for services in cancer research and cell biology.

Sir Paul Nurse will give the Royal Irish Academy Discourse on Making Science Work at 6.00pm on Thursday 13 June in The Great Hall, Queen’s University Belfast. Admission is free but registration is required. Please telephone +353-1-6762570 to register.

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091 or email

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Top volunteers honoured at Queen’s Students’ Union Excellency Awards
Student Volunteer of the Year, Aidan Bannon with Anna Lo MLA
Student Volunteer of the Year, Aidan Bannon with Anna Lo MLA
Ray Farley, Chair of the Holylands' Residents Association presents the Voluntary Charitable Society of the Year Award to Queen's Red Cross
Ray Farley, Chair of the Holylands' Residents Association presents the Voluntary Charitable Society of the Year Award to Queen's Red Cross

Queen’s University and Student’s Union honoured both students and staff at the Volunteering Excellency Awards on Monday 3 June in the Great Hall.  The event, sponsored by Reid Black Solicitors, was held to celebrate the positive contribution that Queen’s volunteers make both locally and internationally.  An impressive 13,000 Queen’s students actively volunteered through various activities this year alone and a mammoth £335,586 was raised by all nominees and winners during this time.

The black tie event saw over 160 guests in attendance, inspirational talks from keynote speaker John McMullan CEO of Bryson Charitable Group and Amy Keegan Chair of QUB RAG, musical performances from QUB’s Got Talent winners, Hannah Lynch and Matthew Flanagan, and fellow contestant Feargal Murphy, and of course the eight prestigious awards which were presented to the exceptional, inspirational and committed students and staff of Queen’s University Belfast.

The winners were chosen based on volunteer accomplishments, impact on an individual group or community and leadership.  The selection panel commented on the high standard of the nominees and the level of commitment shown to the University and the community.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher praised all of the nominees for the Awards for their commitment and outstanding contribution:  "The Students' Union Volunteering Excellency Awards has showcased the great work that both students and staff of Queen's have contributed to both the local community and further afield.  Congratulations to all winners and nominees.  This event is just a small token of appreciation of their commitment, selflessness and passion."

Aidan Hughes, VP Community of Queen’s Student’s Union and host said, “I am very proud of our student and staff volunteers who give up their time so freely.  Volunteers are the backbone of many communities, locally and internationally.  They have shown great acts of kindness and are role models to both our student body and the youth of the future.  The work they do is invaluable and I would like to thank each and every one of them.”


  • The Student Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Aidan Bannon for his founding of The QUB Red Cross Society, his spearheading of the QUB ‘Mind Yer Mate’ campaign, an innovative suicide awareness project and his outstanding 500+ hours of volunteering this year alone.
  • The Staff Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Professor Allen Thurston for his 30 years of volunteering in mountain rescue, his assistance in over 200 mountain rescues and his commitment to The North West Mountain Rescue Team (NWMRT).
  • The Course Representative of the Year Award was presented to Neale Watson of The School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering for the impact he has made to his degree course and to the improvement of the educational experience of Queen’s students.
  • The Charitable/Voluntary Event or Activity of the Year Award was presented to The ‘Mind Yer Mate’ Campaign for raising awareness of the Mental Health support available, educating students who may be concerned about a friend or family member and collecting money for quality support services for those affected by suicide.
  • The Charitable/Voluntary Club or Society of the Year Award was presented to QUB Red Cross for its engagement with over 3,000 young people and students in local and international humanitarian issues and basic first aid, making the community and campus a safer place.
  • The Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Dr Clive Black for his instrumental role in supporting closer links between Queen’s and business through his contribution to Queen’s business leader forums and Queen’s City Leadership Group which provides student internships
  • The Queen’s Improvement to Society Accolade was awarded to Paul Harkin and Richard Kennedy for their central role in a £4.4 million invested, three year initiative to develop more effective tests for and treatment of certain forms of cancer.
  • The Special Contribution Award was presented to Aidan Hughes, VP Community of Queen’s Students’ Union for his creation of a great number of initiatives to increase the sense of unity within the Queen’s student base and local community, including The Volunteering Excellency Awards, The Volunteer Academy, Homework Clubs and Street Reps.


For media inquiries please contact Kristina Mulholland, Queen’s Students’ Union on 028 9097 1067 or

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Understanding our Legacy through Storytelling: Locating Northern Ireland’s Past

An event at Queen’s University on Friday (7 June) will explore how experiences of conflict, violence, injustice, and division are represented, imagined, and heard in contemporary Northern Ireland and beyond.

Organised as part of a programme of activities to launch the new Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ) at Queen’s, the event aims to look at how meanings are created, questioned, articulated, performed and received in Northern Ireland in relation to the legacy of the past, which is frequently a matter of intense contention and conflict.

Director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Professor Hastings Donnan, said: “This event is one of the first public events organised by the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice which was launched formally last month by Nobel Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari.  It brings together a range of speakers from different organisations to explore our legacy in Northern Ireland through story telling.  I would encourage everyone with an interest in this area to come along and take part.”

Speakers from a range of organisations will be in attendance at the event, which will take place in the Lyric Theatre, including Healing Through Remembering; Kabosh; Northern Ireland Arts Council; Theatre of Witness; and academic institutions, such as Queen’s University Belfast, University of Ulster, University College Dublin, and University of Manchester.

Questions of ownership and authorship will be addressed, as will the ethical implications of storytelling. Speakers will also look at the re-presentation of experiences in the physical environment and how material objects and/or locations trigger specific stories about the past. The event will close with a performance workshop with actors from Chatterbox Theatre Company directed by David Grant.

The event is free and open to the public, although registration is required by emailing

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5391 or

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Queen’s inspires next generation of Northern Ireland’s researchers

Northern Ireland’s next generation of researchers will get an insight into some of the world-leading work being conducted at Queen’s University today (Wednesday 5 June).

Some 90 pupils from six schools in the Magherafelt area will get a unique opportunity to meet with Queen’s experts in the creative arts, electrical engineering, pharmacy and cancer research, and try out some of the latest research techniques.

The event is part of a UK wide initiative which sees Universities and schools working together to promote pupils’ interest in cutting edge research and raise their ambitions. Queen’s is one of the universities involved in the Research Councils UK’s £3.5 million School-University Partnership, which will benefit pupils across Northern Ireland over the next three years.

Today’s event sees the launch of the first strand of the project, to explore the future role of the creative technologies. Researchers from Queen’s Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) and from the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will showcase stunning sound and engineering gadgets inside the cutting-edge Sonic Laboratory. Pupils will find out how the architecture of a room shapes the colour of sounds, and how computers are used to create virtual instruments or to control robots that can fly or roll.

Pupils will also visit Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, where they will learn about the biology of cancer and the role of science in working towards a cure. They will learn how to extract DNA from strawberries, and model the DNA double helix with jelly babies. The ‘meet-the-pathologist’ session will give pupils an insight into how cancer is clinically diagnosed and why personalised medicine is a key development in cancer treatment.
In laboratories in the School of Pharmacy, the pupils will take part in their own ‘Gel-ympics’, learning how polymer gels are used as coatings on tablets to control the release of the medication within.

Professor Tom Millar, Dean of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s said: “It is very important, for all our futures, that young people not only understand the benefits that research brings to us as individuals, societies and global communities, but also that they gain some experience of how research is carried out.

“Today’s event will see Queen’s researchers offer a range of exciting, hands-on projects to engage pupils, and give them a glimpse of how science, technology, engineering and the humanities are changing our world.

“We are delighted that the RCUK funding will allow our young researchers to interact with Year 9 and 10 students from 34 schools across Northern Ireland in a variety of projects that will both enrich their experience of the curriculum and inspire them to think about their contribution to our futures.”

Today’s event marks the launch of the first strand of the project, which will see researchers work with schools in the Magherafelt and Newtownabbey areas on projects addressing a number of key societal issues, including the future role of creative technologies. A second project will consider national borders and issues including multiculturalism, globalisation, identities and nationhood. A third project address problems of global concern – energy, water, food, environment and sustainability, while the final project will take pupils on an interactive journey from patient symptoms to clinical diagnosis, disease biomarker discovery, drug development and back to the patient for treatment.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320

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Queen’s Professor to lead independent review of Britain’s food system

Professor Chris Elliott from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security will lead an independent review of Britain’s food system in light of the recent horsemeat fraud, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health announced today.

The review, which was announced in April, will focus on consumer confidence in the authenticity of all food products and any weaknesses in food supply networks which could have implications for food safety and public health.

The review will look at the causes of the systemic failure that enabled the horsemeat fraud, the roles and responsibilities of businesses throughout the food supply chain to consumers and how to support consumer confidence.

Findings from the review will be used to form recommendations to Defra and the Department of Health on how the UK might be able to increase the resilience of its food systems.

Announcing the appointment, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “Consumers have the right to know that the food they’re eating contains what it says on the label. Food fraud is completely unacceptable and those who engage in it are criminals. As well as pursuing them to the full extent of the law, we must also address any weaknesses in our food system.

Professor Elliott will bring years of experience to the vital task of ensuring people can be confident in the food they’re buying. He said:  “I am delighted that I have been asked to lead this review. I look forward to working with all those responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of our food supply. Our shared challenge is to prove to the public that they can trust the systems that put food on their plate.”

The review will begin in early June and will take nine to 12 months to complete. Interim findings will be submitted in December and a final report submitted by spring 2014. A call for evidence will be issued seeking information and views on the integrity of the food supply network, any vulnerabilities and how it might be strengthened to support consumer confidence.

Professor Chris Elliot is Professor of Food Safety and Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. The new £33m Institute is improving global food security through the establishment of an international ‘food-fortress’ in Belfast.  It will be a key partner in national and global efforts to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food.  

Professor Elliott has published over 240 peer review articles, many of them relating to the detection and control of agriculture, food and environmental-related complaints. His main research interest is the development of innovative techniques to provide early warning of threats across the entire fresh water and agri-food supply chains. Protecting the integrity of the food supply chain is also a key research driver.

Further information on Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security is available online

Terms of Reference for the review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks can be viewed online at

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: +44(0)28 9097 3091 or email

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Enjoy ‘Lunch on the Lagan’ at largest ever Ramada Plaza Belfast University Boat Race

The biggest ever Ramada Plaza Belfast University Boat Race is taking place this year on Saturday 8 June with 20 crews from across Ireland taking to the River Lagan for 26 races.

Now in its tenth year, the ‘Green Room’ at Ramada Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge Belfast, is offering a new fine dining ‘Lunch on the Lagan’ experience, inspired by the Henley Royal Regatta, while The OUTLET Banbridge, Fashion Sponsor of the event, is holding a ‘most stylish’ competition on the day for both men and women.

On the day, top men’s and women’s crews from Queen’s University Belfast, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick, will be competing for the third-level honours. For the first time a comprehensive schools schedule is also listed, including teams from Methodist College Belfast, Royal Belfast Academic Institution, Coleraine Academic Institution, Royal Portora School, Presentation College Cork and Blackrock College Dublin.

The 2000m long course is a popular event in Belfast’s sporting and social calendar and spectators can enjoy the action from the shores of the River Lagan or from the new marquee enclosure which is offering live entertainment, food and refreshments in the enclosure at Queen’s PEC until 10pm on the day.

Queen’s crews have had a strong start to the rowing calendar making 13 ‘A’ finals with 3 medals at the recent 2013 British University Championships. They also had a tremendous event last year sweeping up all prizes on offer against formidable crews from Cambridge and Trinity and will be hoping for a repeat this time out against some of the top Irish University crews.

Helping launch this year’s event, Mick Desmond, Queen’s Rowing Coach, said: “We’re into the tenth year of the annual Ramada Plaza Belfast University Boat Race and each year it just gets bigger and bigger.  We have a high calibre of teams from across Ireland taking part and we can expect to see some very competitive action on the Lagan."

Rajesh Rana, from race sponsors the Ramada Plaza Belfast Hotel, said: “Last year the event attracted over 2000 spectators and we look forward to welcoming many new faces to the event again this year.  We are delighted to continue to sponsor the boat race and look forward to providing a unique Corporate Dining experience for some of our guests.”

Siobhan McKeown, Marketing Manager of style sponsors The OUTLET Village Banbridge, said: “This is the second year of our ‘most stylish’ competition and we encourage all to come along and take part in the event.  Whether you’re into fashion, a rowing enthusiast or just want to come along for the entertainment all are welcome.”

Racing starts on the day at 9.30am with the Schools and University heats. The Senior Women’s Race between Queen’s and Cambridge begins at 4.00pm and the Men’s Race begins at 4.30pm (subject to change).

Further information on the Ramada Plaza Belfast University Boat Race is available online at 

In addition to the Ramada Plaza Belfast Hotel, other sponsors of this year’s event include: The OUTLET Banbridge, the Department for Social Development (DSD) and Belfast City Council (BCC).

For media inquiries contact Claire O'Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office 028 9097 5391 or

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Queen’s expert in call for clarity on provision of autism services

A Queen’s University autism expert is calling on all Northern Ireland government departments to provide clear guidance on the provision of internationally endorsed, evidence-based support services for people with autism.

Professor Karola Dillenburger from Queen’s School of Education will today (Tuesday 4 June) launch findings from one of the first Northern Ireland-wide surveys of public awareness, attitudes and knowledge of autism. The findings from the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey, show that there is a relatively high level of awareness of autism among the public.  At the same time, there is also confusion among NILT respondents about who is responsible for the delivery of support and services to people with autism. Professor Dillenburger is urging the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) to consider the survey’s findings when developing the new cross-departmental Autism Strategy for Northern Ireland.

The NILT Survey is an annual survey conducted by ARK at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. It records public attitudes to a wide range of social issues. The 2012 Survey was completed by 1,204 adults across Northern Ireland and, for the first time, it included a series of questions about Autism.

The key findings are:

  • The vast majority of respondents (82 per cent) are aware of autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome.
  • 61 per cent of these respondents said that they knew someone with autism: 19 per cent had a close relative or other family member with autism, 40 per cent had a friend or acquaintance, and 8 per cent had a work colleague with autism.
  • Over three quarters of respondents (77 per cent) agreed that behavioural interventions are effective in supporting people with autism. Behaviour analysis-based interventions are internationally recommended as established evidence-based interventions.
  • The survey asked whether health services, education services, both or neither should play a role in helping individuals with autism. Responses were equally distributed between those who thought autism is an educational issue (26 per cent), a health issue (33 per cent), or an issue for both health and education services (28 per cent).
  • Most respondents said they would feel comfortable if an adult with autism moved in next door on their own (83 per cent), or was a work colleague (81 per cent). 71 per cent said they would feel comfortable if someone with autism was appointed as their boss.
  • The NILT Survey listed a range of jobs, from relatively low skilled, to manual to highly skilled jobs and asked respondents if they felt these jobs would be suitable for someone with autism. Most of the respondents felt that the majority of jobs listed could be suitable.
  • 86 per cent of respondents said that if a supermarket employed someone with autism it would make no difference to their decision to shop there, with 12 per cent saying they would be more likely to shop in a supermarket that employed someone with autism.

Professor Dillenburger said: “The Autism Act, which was passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011, requires the development of a cross-departmental autism strategy not less than two years after the passing of the Act. Autism services should be co-ordinated jointly by all departments, but the NILT Survey results show that there is some confusion among the public as to which departments should provide these services. The Autism Act mandates the DHSSPS to take the lead in the development of the strategy, but the Department of Education and all other departments are involved and have key roles to play in ensuring that people with autism are given the support they need to improve their quality of life and enable them to move out of poverty and into employment.

“The results of the NILT Survey provide an important baseline and set benchmarks against which the future success of the cross-departmental Autism Strategy and action plan can be assessed, both in terms of the important role government departments play in providing autism services to internationally established standards, and in utilising the public’s awareness and understanding of autism.”

The 2012 NILT Survey explored attitudes to autism, community relations, minority ethnic groups, migrant workers and asylum seekers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, and political attitudes.  Full results will be available on Tuesday 4 June at 

The questions on autism were funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke, Queen’s University Communications Office +44 (0)28 9097 5320

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Royal Irish Academy honours Queen's academics
(l-r) Professor Peter Gray, Professor Christine Maggs, Professor Sally Wheeler and Professor Christopher Hardacre.
(l-r) Professor Peter Gray, Professor Christine Maggs, Professor Sally Wheeler and Professor Christopher Hardacre.

Four academics from Queen’s University will today be admitted into the Royal Irish Academy, the highest academic honour in Ireland.
Professors Peter Gray, Christopher Hardacre, Christine Maggs and Sally Wheeler have been honoured for their world-class contribution to science and the humanities. Election to membership of the Royal Irish Academy is public recognition of academic excellence.
Peter Gray is Professor of Modern Irish History and Head of the School of History and Anthropology at Queen’s. He specialises in the history of British–Irish relations in the nineteenth century, and has published a number of important books on the Irish Famine. His most recent full-length monograph is The making of the Irish poor law 1815–1843 (Manchester University Press, 2009).
Christopher Hardacre is Head of the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is distinguished for his innovative research in catalysis and on ionic liquids. He has won a Royal Society of Chemistry ‘Teamwork in Innovation’ award for his ionic liquids research; he has been awarded the inaugural Andrew Medal (2013) by the Institute of Chemical Engineers for his applied catalysis research.
Christine Maggs is Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s. She is an international authority on the biology and systematics of marine algae, with a specialist interest and expertise in aquatic invasive algae and plants. She is author of more than 120 scientific papers, monographs and contributions to books and is president-elect of the British Phycological Society.
Sally Wheeler is Head of the School of Law at Queen’s and is a renowned scholar in commercial law. She pioneered socio-legal studies well beyond her area of expertise; is a world leader in her own scholarship on contract law, directors' duties, and corporations; was long-standing chair of the Socio-Legal Studies Association and is an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences.
Also amongst those admitted today were: Susan Denham, Chief Justice; Nuala O’Loan, former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman; and Michael McElroy, who was one of Al Gore’s advisers on climate change.

The Academy is an all-island institution.Those elected are entitled to use the designation ‘MRIA’ after their name. There are 474 Members of the Academy including: Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, TK Whittaker (public servant) Mary McAleese (President of Ireland 1997-2011), Frances Ruane (DG of ESRI), Maurice Manning (NUI Chancellor), Patrick Honohan (Governor of the Central Bank), and writer and cartographer Tim Robinson.

For further information please contact Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5384

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Leading Queen’s scientist recognised with international cancer award

Leading Queen’s University scientist, Professor Patrick Johnston, has been named as recipient of the 2013 Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize.

The award recognizes Professor Johnston’s pioneering work in translating discovery science for the benefit of cancer patients. His determination and leadership in establishing a Comprehensive Cancer Care and Research Programme in Northern Ireland is testament to his dedication to improving both clinical outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients.

This year's Pinedo Prize of $50,000 will be presented at the Society for Translational Oncology’s Fourth Annual meeting, to be hosted by the VU University Medical Center Cancer Center Amsterdam (VUmc CCA) at the ING House in Amsterdam on the 1st of October, 2013. Prof. Johnston will deliver the keynote lecture at the meeting which will be published by The Oncologist, STO's official journal.

In 2012, the success of Professor Johnston’s overarching vision was recognised when he was honoured to accept a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize awarded by Her Majesty, The Queen, for The Queen’s University Belfast-led Comprehensive Cancer Centre and its achievement in reducing cancer mortality rates over the last decade. This significant improvement in cancer outcomes, underpinned by best quality care and innovative research, is a direct result of Professor Johnston’s philosophy of placing the cancer patient at the centre of the cancer care and research agenda.

Speaking about the award, Professor Johnston said: “I am delighted and humbled to have been awarded The Pinedo Prize. It is a great honour to have my work and that of my research team recognised by the international cancer research community in this way.”

Queen’s University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: “Queen’s is bringing some of the finest minds in clinical and scientific research together to take medical translational research to new levels. It is developing a new £175M Institute of Health Sciences. This is happening under the leadership of Professor Patrick Johnston who has devoted his life to improving the lives of others. The Society’s award is testimony to his foresight and commitment and is recognition of the work he is undertaking on a global scale.”

Professor Johnston’s research has focused on understanding the cellular signaling pathways in gastrointestinal tumors (with a particular emphasis on colorectal cancer), and using this information as a foundation to identify novel prognostics and diagnostic biomarkers, and molecular targets to rationalize and improve patient care. His many significant papers on both cytotoxic and targeted therapies have expanded knowledge of the treatment of colorectal cancer and provided new insights on mechanisms of drug resistance.

“Professor Johnston is a unique physician-scientist and leader in the cancer field”, commented Dr. Bruce Chabner, editor-in-chief of The Oncologist. "He fulfills the traditional tripartite image of excellence in research, patient care, and teaching, but adds the extra measure of organisational skill and personal passion in his leadership of the remarkable medical centre at Queen’s University Belfast.”

Professor Johnston currently sits on the Cancer Research UK Scientific Executive Board. His other professional roles include being a member of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Strategy Board and Chair of the MRC Translational Research Group. He is a Founder and Director of Almac Diagnostics. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Oncology Scientific Program Committee, Chair of the International Academy for Advanced Oncology, Japan, and Board Member of Medical Schools Council UK. As a Senior Editor for The Oncologist, Co-Editor of The Oncologist European Edition, and Co-Chairman of the Society for Translational Oncology, Prof. Johnston advocates for ways to speed the discovery and translation of important new treatments in the field of cancer medicine to the practice of global oncology.

The Pinedo Cancer Care Prize honors Professor H.M. (Bob) Pinedo, founder of the VU University Medical Center (VUmc) Cancer Center Amsterdam (CCA), who weds world-class cancer research with a devotion to his patients and their families.
Media inquiries to Communications Office or email Tel: 028 9097 3091

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Queen's receives Bill & Melinda Gates grants

Queen’s University has been announced as a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Scientists at the University’s Institute for Global Food Security have been awarded grants to pursue two Innovative global health and development research projects aimed at tackling tropical diseases.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. The Queen’s projects are among the Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding Queen’s, and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10 winners, demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of four critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, neglected tropical diseases and communications. Applications for the next Round will be accepted starting September 2013.

The Queen’s Grand Challenges Explorations winners are striving to develop new approaches to help poor and underprivileged people who suffer from the impact of neglected tropical diseases. These diseases are prevalent in developing countries, where they condemn the poorest people on the planet to a lifetime of poverty and ill health. The Grand Challenges Explorations grants will help Queen’s scientists to develop new methods of disease detection and treatment. 

Dr Paul McVeigh’s project aims to develop new ways to diagnose Lymphatic Filariasis, a tropical disease affecting more than 120 million people in 73 developing countries. The condition is caused by a parasitic worm and is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.  The worms live in the body’s lymphatic  system, leading to severe disfigurement of the limbs, chronic pain and disability. Very little research has been carried out into the condition and current diagnostic tests are limited and often involve a painful method of collecting samples from patients. Dr McVeigh’s team will use the $100,000 awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate the usefulness of MicroRNAs – molecules found in blood, saliva, urine and breastmilk – as indicators of the presence of the infection. This has the potential to lead to the development of faster, more reliable, non-invasive diagnostic tests.

Dr Johnathan Dalzell will lead a $100,000 project to develop food crops containing drugs to treat neglected tropical diseases such as elephantiasis and trypanosomiasis. When humans eat the crop, the drug will circulate in their blood and be passed to blood-borne parasites and blood-feeding insects like mosquitoes, killing them and helping control the diseases that they spread, such as malaria and the many tick-borne diseases that can have a devastating impact on people and livestock. As well as generating an entirely new way of simultaneously treating tropical diseases and the insects that carry them, this approach would also lead to huge financial savings in terms of drug discovery costs, and the storage and delivery of medicines on a global scale.

The Queen’s Grand Challenges Explorations winners are based at the Institute for Global Food Security, a £33 million centre established to improve global food safety and play a key role in national and global efforts to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food. The Institute is preparing to host the Second Food Integrity and Traceability Conference in April 2014, which will showcase the latest developments in delivering safe and authentic food to consumers around the world.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute at Queen’s, said: “The Institute for Global Food Security is committed to research that aims to improve the safety of food worldwide. This is central to our efforts to build a global ‘food fortress’, ensuring that people around the globe – whether in developed or developing countries - have access to safe and authentic food. The food borne and tropical diseases that our Grand Challenges Explorations winners are researching affect millions of people across the developing world. By tackling these diseases, and the scourge of parasites, we can have a real impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email

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