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November 2013 press releases

Queen’s unveils new HIV pregnancy resource to mark World Aids Day

A resource on HIV and pregnancy, developed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, is to be unveiled by the Chief Medical Officer today (Thursday 28 November) to mark World Aids Day.

Last year, 95 new diagnoses of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland. Around 100,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK, and globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV.

The new web-based resource, developed by researchers in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s, aims to prepare health care professionals to better understand the care needs of HIV affected women and their partners, from reproductive decision-making to post natal care.

The resource is primarily aimed at maternity care staff and the various modules follow the reproductive journey from deciding to have a baby, antenatal diagnosis, impact of HIV on pregnancy and finally obstetric management in pregnancy. In addition, a HIV positive woman, who was part of the consultation group, tells her own story.

The project analysed the experiences of ten women and five men from the preconception to post-natal period, and was supported by a Knowledge Transfer Award from the HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency.

Dr Carmel Kelly,Nurse Consultant in Sexual Health, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, who led the study said: “This research is hugely significant as it gives a voice to people with HIV into their care in this area.  While our resource incorporates key medical information, an equally important focus was on developing an innovative way of communicating the human stories from our research. The key finding is that pregnancy is a normal and achievable goal for any HIV positive woman and her partner.

“Advancing knowledge and changing lives is at the core of the work we do at Queen’s and this resource is doing just that.  Healthcare professionals will have a better understanding of the needs of HIV affected women and their partners as a result of this resource and in turn the care for patients and meeting their needs will be improved.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer said: “World AIDS Day is a global opportunity to raise awareness, reduce stigma and improve education to better our response to HIV and AIDS. Mother–to-child transmission of HIV infection can be greatly reduced through early diagnosis of maternal HIV infection, early intervention, and proper antenatal and post-natal care. Understanding the needs of HIV-positive women who are considering family planning is the first step to preventing this mode of HIV infection.”

Professor Fiona Alderdice, Director of Research at the School of Nursing & Midwifery at Queen’s, said: “Improving health and healthcare experience requires that nurses and midwives have access to education which is evidence based and clinically relevant. We are committed to working with our partners in health and social care to ensure that the learning from the research we conduct, impacts on the practitioner at the patient’s bedside.”

For further information and to view the resource visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/hivandpregnancy

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Public invited to enjoy a ‘life-changing lunchtime’ at Queen’s

Queen’s is inviting members of the public to enjoy a lunchtime with a difference this Wednesday (27 November) and find out more about the life-changing research that is happening on their doorstep.

A free Queen’s Researchers are Changing Livesearth asteroids, and hybrid bus engines.

Robin Swann MLA, Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Employment and Learning, will open the showcase. He said, “This event highlights the world-leading research carried out on our own doorstep. From health to education, engineering to the arts, researchers at our universities are changing lives in Northern Ireland and further afield.

“I would like to congratulate Queen’s on its many flourishing connections with business, healthcare providers and government agencies, which impact positively on all our lives. Northern Ireland’s universities are central to its economic health and societal well-being, and it is important that they continue to receive the support and funding necessary to allow their important work to continue.”

Those who attend will have the chance to view various examples of the type of impact Queen’s research has, including a double-decker Wrightbus fitted with a mobile lab to demonstrate the Queen’s-designed waste heat recovery system that is driving forward London’s transport future, and a working model of a concrete flexi-arch bridge, an award-winning structure developed by Queen’s academics in partnership with local concrete company Macrete Ireland Ltd.

Speaking about the event, Queen’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay, said: “People often read and hear in the media about the world-class research that is taking place at Queen’s, but this event offers people the opportunity to actually meet and hear more from the people behind the headlines.

“Today’s showcase highlights how Queen’s connects with society. It features gifted academics from across the University, the ways in which they exchange knowledge with industry, their partnerships with major commercial companies, with hospital trusts and government agencies – and how their work is influencing major societal change.”

The event marks the launch of the new publication, The DNA of Innovation, Volume 3: Creative Connections, which includes profiles of many of these researchers, their cutting-edge work and its impact on society.

The DNA of Innovation, Volume 3: Creative Connections illustrates the work of 30 leading academics and their teams including: Award-winning young pharmacist Dr Ryan Donnelly, whose Microneeedles – tiny needles that penetrate the skin painlessly - have the potential to revolutionise the way drugs are delivered, particularly to premature babies; Professor Sally Shorthall whose research underpins rural policymaking; Dr Nicholas Dunne who is leading the development of injectable bone cement used in hip and knee replacement surgery and to repair spinal injuries; Professor Su Taylor, whose research on reinforced and pre-stressed concrete is, quite literally, building bridges around the world; and Belfast’s first Poet Laureate Dr Sinéad Morrissey.

The Research Showcase is the latest in a series of events aimed at highlighting how Queen’s impacts on society. Several of the academics taking part in the showcase are also featured in Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject, a special exhibition at the University’s Naughton Gallery, which will run until Friday (29 November).

The event Queen’s Researchers are Changing Lives is free and open to the public and takes place in the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University between 12 noon and 2.30pm on Wednesday.  Short presentations by several leading academics will be given at 12.30-1.00pm.

For media inquiries please contact Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  

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New festival encourages women to rocket ahead in physics

The Belfast woman credited with making ‘the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century’ is coming back to her native city for a special event aimed at encouraging more women to take up a career in physics.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first radio pulsars, and was recently named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by the BBC’s Woman’s Hour programme, is returning to Belfast to take part in Women in Physics – Ireland. The event is a celebration of physics organised by Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Maths and Physics in partnership with the Institute of Physics.

Queen’s is calling on aspiring female physicists of all ages to sign-up now for the event which is taking place on 19th March 2014.

Celebrating the women who study and work in this traditionally male-dominated subject, participants will have the chance to meet with some of Ireland’s leading female physicists, including Prof Bell Burnell and Dr Debra McNeill, Managing Principal Engineer at Seagate Technology, as well as gaining hands-on experience with live physics experiments.

The event is free to attend, and those who come along will have the opportunity to try their hand at several experiments, including constructing an invisibility cloak, creating their own rockets and seeing ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen.

Dr Miryam Arredondo-Arechavala from Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics said: “Women have traditionally been underrepresented in physics, but events like Women in Physics – Ireland are addressing this by encouraging women who may be considering a career change, or a return to study, to consider a career in Physics.

“Queen’s is one of the leading Universities in the UK for supporting the career progression of women in science, engineering and technology. Building on this we want to show women, of all ages, that physics is more than rocket science. It is at the core of understanding how the world works, and a physics degree can open doors to a whole range of careers. From designing computer games to weather forecasting, to developing new ways to treat illnesses, a Physics degree can take you almost anywhere."

Dr Solveig Felton, from Queen's School of Mathematics and Physics, added: “Physics trains the mind to think beyond boundaries, and the knowledge and skills developed while studying physics are useful in almost any job. So whether you want to split atoms, explore space, cure diseases, or build the super-structures of the future, come along and find out how physics can help you get ahead in your career.”

Women in Physics – Ireland will take place at the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University on 19 March 2014. Attendance is free, but numbers are limited. Women who want to attend can register by emailing mp.outreach@qub.ac.uk.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/womeninphysicsdayireland                                                             

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

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Queen’s Professor recognised for work on personalised cancer treatment

A Queen’s Professor from East Belfast, whose work has led to the ability to develop tests which can help personalise cancer treatment, has been named the 2014 winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Prize. Professor Richard Kennedy’s work has led to tests which can identify patients with colon cancer who are likely to develop the disease again after surgery, and also patients with breast cancer who would benefit from chemotherapy after surgery.

Professor Kennedy accepted the reward on behalf of a collaboration established between Queen’s and Almac Diagnostics, a spin out company from the University, which has developed tests to personalise cancer treatment worldwide. This leading edge research on prostate, colon and breast cancer is giving patients a better chance of recovery and survival.

In addition to his role at Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Professor Kennedy is Vice-President and Medical Director of Almac Diagnostics. Over the past five years, 50 new positions have been created in the company across areas such as molecular biology, bioinformatics, project management, business development and marketing.

In announcing the winner, Queen’s acting Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay said: “I am delighted to present Professor Kennedy with the Impact prize for 2013. This year our awards have the theme of ‘Future Impact’ and the work carried out by Professor Kennedy and his team is a perfect example of this, and will have enormous impact on the treatment of cancer worldwide.

“The Impact Prize celebrates the diverse range of activities taking place across Queen’s that engage the public and external organisations with our research. From the treatment of cancer, diabetes and cystic fibrosis to gender equality, human rights and food security, our academics collaborate with businesses, government and charities to translate their ground breaking research into policy and practice.

“Along with his fellow nominees, Professor Kennedy highlights how Queen’s researchers are advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Professor Kennedy said: “I am honoured to receive this award and I just want to take this opportunity to thank my team and my colleagues Professors Paul Harkin and Patrick Johnston. Without their support, this research would not have been possible. This event demonstrates the excellent, international impact of Queen’s research. I am honoured to have been recognised alongside such outstanding colleagues.”

The awards were presented by Queen’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Prof James McElnay during the annual Chief Excutives’ Club Gala Dinner in the University’s Whitla Hall.

Also receiving an award was Dr Ruth Hunter from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biological Sciences. She won the Young Researcher Prize for the importance of successfully engaging end-users to ensure and enhance impact in public health research.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Prize aims to celebrate the impact Queen’s University’s research has on the wider community. Both winners received a contribution of £5000 to their research group’s budget.

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office - Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s astronomer in ‘starring’ role in BBC’s Horizon programme

A leading Queen’s University Belfast astronomer is featuring in the BBC’s Horizon programme this weekend, in an episode devoted to a very special comet currently in the sky above Northern Ireland.

In Comet of the Century: A Horizon Special on BBC 2 at 9.15pm tomorrow night (Saturday 23rd November), Professor Alan Fitzsimmons will be explaining why comet ISON is so important to science, and how it might appear to sky watchers in early December.

Professor Fitzsimmons, said: “Comet ISON was discovered last year, and astronomers quickly realised that it was a one-of-a-kind comet. It has never been around the Sun before, but on November 28th it will pass just over a million km above its surface. The intense heat may reveal aspects about comets we have never before discovered.”

Scientists around the world are training telescopes on the comet. When closest to the Sun, it will probably be invisible from Earth, but it will followed by an armada of spacecraft observatories.

Professor Fitzsimmons, added: “The intense heat when it is closest to the Sun next week should cause much of the surface to evaporate away into space, causing it to grow very bright and allowing us to study its make-up and structure, however, the comet will not come anywhere near to Earth so it is fainter than it otherwise would be.”

Professor Fitzsimmons studies comets and asteroids in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s.  He is currently on the island of La Palma, filming the final programme of the BBC’s Sky at Night before it restarts in Spring next year, and hoping for one last look at the comet before it rounds the Sun.

Comet ISON has been hyped as a potential “Comet of the Century”. It has only become bright enough to be seen in the pre-dawn sky during the past week, with a tail millions of kilometres long.

In the first week of December the comet should reappear low-down in the sky before sunrise. Astronomers are hoping for a much tail larger than the apparent size of the Moon, and bright enough to be obvious by eye.

Professor Fitzsimmons, said: “We don’t even know if the comet will survive. But if it is broken up by the Sun’s intense gravity and heat then that could release vast quantities of material, making it even brighter. Everyone is just waiting and hoping for a great comet in our morning sky.”

Further information on the work of Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre can be found online at http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/

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Higher Education in Northern Ireland: Competing with the best in the world
Showing their support for the first ever joint universities showcase at Stormont today are students Niall McShane, President, Queen’s University Students’ Union; Matthew Clarke, University of Ulster and Ryan Adair, Open University.
Showing their support for the first ever joint universities showcase at Stormont today are students Niall McShane, President, Queen’s University Students’ Union; Matthew Clarke, University of Ulster and Ryan Adair, Open University.

‘Higher Education in Northern Ireland is competing with the best in the world, but needs to be adequately resourced if it is to continue to do so’, that is the message from Northern Ireland’s three universities at a special event being held today in Parliament Buildings.

The unique showcase, the first time The Open University, Queen’s University and University of Ulster have combined to put on such an event, outlines the impact and value of higher education for Northern Ireland directly to Ministers and MLAs.

Hosting the event on behalf of the universities is the Committee for Employment and Learning. Speaking ahead of the event, Committee Chairperson, Robin Swann MLA, said:  “It is with real enthusiasm that the Committee is hosting today’s event at Parliament Buildings. For the first time, Northern Ireland’s three universities have come together to showcase what the higher education sector here has to offer. Indeed, in a cross-party motion being brought to the floor of the Assembly today, we will hear MLAs highlight the key role that universities play in growing the economy as well as information about their excellent work across many areas, including in the fields of innovation, technology and creativity.

“The theme of the event – advancing knowledge, changing lives – is increasingly relevant in today’s knowledge-based economy. By equipping our young people with the skills they need to excel, universities can make a real difference to their lives. We have been encouraged by the spirit of collaboration on display today, and we look forward to supporting our universities as they continue to develop our world-class higher education sector.”

Commenting about the unique occasion The Open University’s National Director John D’Arcy said: “Today shows what the three universities have achieved in recent years for the citizens, society and economy of Northern Ireland. It goes without saying that we can only continue to grow and succeed in the future. The question now is just how much we do that – how far we can push the boundaries – to innovate and excel for the future of our graduates, our researchers, our employers.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay said: “Ensuring the future of high-quality higher education is one of the greatest things we can do on behalf of the generations to come. Today’s showcase celebrates collaboration. Our universities compete at many levels but we are united in our approach to delivering public benefit.   “Northern Ireland is also developing a reputation as a place of innovation and ambition, extending its influence beyond these shores, and our universities are enhancing this reputation every day. We may not be the biggest place in the world but in higher education we compete with the best in the world – and we’re winning.”

Speaking on behalf of the University of Ulster, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Innovation, Professor Hugh McKenna, said: “Our universities are creative powerhouses, vital to the economic, social and cultural future of Northern Ireland. They offer a blend of research capacity, international networks and innovative environments that not only enable home-grown talent to flourish, but which are also magnets for foreign direct investment.

“Our people are the innovators who are helping our society seize new opportunities, the people who will drive innovation and growth in our economy and in our community.

“Today’s showcase event sends a powerful message about the importance of a strong, vibrant university sector that nurtures the skills, talents and savoir-faire that Northern Ireland needs to prosper in the modern world.”

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Modern Slavery Bill not currently fit for purpose according to new report

The researchers behind a new report into forced labour in cannabis cultivation and the food and construction industries in the UK, are calling on the Government to address the issue in its forthcoming Modern Slavery Bill.

Launched today (Monday 18 November), the report from Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Law explores how businesses make money from forced labour – where workers are forced to work against their will and face penalties, ranging from the loss of rights or privileges, or loss of their job to physical violence, if they refuse to co-operate.

The report, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is the first to analyse forced labour in the UK from a business perspective. 

With commercial cannabis cultivation growing rapidly in recent years, the report highlights how those forced to work in ‘grow-ops’ are usually Vietnamese children and adults who are smuggled into the UK and coerced to work through debt-bondage and threats to their families. It also examines the factors at work in the food and construction industries which lead to forced labour.

Speaking ahead of the report, Professor Jean Allain from the School of Law said: “As the Government prepares its Modern Slavery Bill, this is a timely analysis of how certain businesses in the UK profit from forced labour. While a great deal of attention has rightly been paid to the experiences of victims, very little consideration has been given to how people actually make money using forced labour. This understanding of the business dynamics of forced labour is crucial if we are going to try to end such exploitation.

“Businesses use forced labour to make money, and they do this in one of two ways – by either minimising costs as a result of offering minimal pay and failing to provide basic entitlements such as pensions or sick pay; or generating revenue by charging workers for additional services, including visas, travel expenses, accommodation or transport to and from the workplace.

“The UK is unique as its percentage of agency workers is more than double that of any other EU country. That sector of the labour market which works at or near the minimum wage and often on zero hour contracts is susceptible to forced labour.  This is the reality of a ‘flexible workforce’ for people at the wrong end of the labour market.

“While the report explores forced labour in three specific sectors, it is an issue right across the UK economy. Forced labour in supply chains of UK businesses is something that policy makers must address and the upcoming Modern Slavery Bill is the ideal opportunity to do so. I hope that today’s report will inform that process.”

Highlighting some of the characteristics of the food and construction industries that make workers in these areas susceptible to forced labour, Professor Allain said “The food sector employs 3.7 million workers in the UK, which is 13 per cent of the workforce. Over half of these jobs are part-time, and low-wage migrant work is increasingly common. The seasonal nature of agricultural food production, along with the constant pressure for low prices by the supermarkets means that a section of agricultural workers at or near the national minimum wage are at increased risk of forced labour.

“The construction industry employs over 2 million people in the UK, around 40 per cent of whom are part-time. Lengthy labour supply chains are characterised by high numbers of sub-contractors and unregulated labour hiring agencies. 90 per cent of the UK’s construction firms employ fewer than ten workers, and these small businesses face huge pressures to reduce labour costs. The practice of bogus self-employment is sometimes used by employers and labour agencies to evade rights and entitlements such as holiday and sick pay and pensions. In this context, and where the industry is often cash-in-hand, the possibility of finding forced labour in your labour supply chains is real.”

The report is co-authored by Professor Andrew Crane from York University, Canada; Dr Genevieve LeBaron from the University of Sheffield; and Laya Behbahani from Simon Fraser University, Canada.

The full report, Forced Labour’s Business Models and Supply Chains, is available online at http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/forced-labour-business-models-supply

Media Inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 or email j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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Rare Seamus Heaney material on show in new exhibition at Queen’s University
Professor Phil Scraton
Professor Phil Scraton
Dr Sinéad Morrissey, first ever Belfast Poet Laureate
Dr Sinéad Morrissey, first ever Belfast Poet Laureate

A selection of Seamus Heaney’s notebooks from his days as a student and professor at Queen’s are currently on display in the University’s Naughton Gallery as part of a new exhibition, Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject.

Rare handwritten drafts of some of the late Nobel Laureate’s poems, and examples of his work on the translation of Beowulf, are also on display, alongside a ‘giant’ handwritten inscription by Belfast’s Poet Laureate, Dr Sinead Morrissey, of a poem from her fifth collection Parallax.

The free exhibition also includes a compelling display of the work of Professor Phil Scraton in relation to his research on the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 men, women and children lost their lives. As primary author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, Professor Scraton led a research team at Queen’s which reviewed over one million documents. The Report brought about an unreserved Government apology, new inquests, an unprecedented criminal investigation and reviews of emergency services' disaster response.

The exhibition tells the story of how Queen’s staff are putting Northern Ireland in the global spotlight and shows the impact Queen’s, as a world-class University, is having on the world around it.

An array of objects, including  one of the original portable defibrillators developed by Professor Frank Pantridge, sit alongside striking images of Queen’s researchers from photographers Christopher Heaney, Paul McErlane, Simon Kirwan, Martyn Boyd and Ivan Ewart.

Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject runs until Friday, 29 November in the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s (closed Mondays). Admission is free and visitors to the exhibition have the opportunity of winning a two night B&B stay in the Hastings Slieve Donard Hotel and Spa Resort, Newcastle, Co. Down.

Further information is available from the Communications and External Affairs at Queen’s. Telephone 028 9097 3091 or email m.e.donaghy@qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: 028 9097 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

 

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Largest lake in Britain and Ireland has lost three quarters of winter water birds

The largest lake in Britain and Ireland, Lough Neagh, has lost more than three quarters of its overwintering water birds according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

The study by Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, found the number of diving ducks migrating to the lake for the winter months has dropped from 100,000 to less than 21,000 in the space of a decade.

The research, published in the journal Freshwater Biology, found the ecosystem of the lake has dramatically changed since 2000/01 leading to a huge decline in the numbers of insects and snails living at the bottom of the lake. This combined with the effects of global climate change dramatically affected the numbers of migratory and overwintering water birds, a feature for which the lake is designated a Special Protection Area.

Dr Irena Tománková, from Quercus at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's and who led the study, said: “Our research found there was a 66 per cent decline in the numbers of insects and snails in the lake and that this was associated with a decline of algae. As the water birds, which migrate from Northern and Eastern Europe to spend the winter months on the lake, depend on these invertebrates, we partly attribute their decline to the lack of food as well as the effects of climate change.

“Historically the lake was heavily affected by organic pollution as a result of nutrients from agricultural run-off. This artificially boosted its productivity. Now that conservation schemes are beginning to have an effect and reduce levels of pollution we are seeing increasing water quality and the unexpected consequence is fewer invertebrates and as a result less duck food.”

An associated study published earlier this year showed that numbers of some key water bird species declined throughout south-western Europe at the same time as numbers equally dramatically increased in north-eastern Europe. The reason is that winter temperatures in Northern Europe have increased by 3.8oC in the past 30 years, meaning that lakes which used to be frozen over in winter are now available for the birds to feed on. Less food in Lough Neagh and more ice-free lakes closer to the bird’s natural breeding grounds mean that ducks simply no longer need to fly as far south-west and as a result Lough Neagh has lost some of its importance for overwintering water birds.

Ian Enlander, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), said: “It is critically important for conservationists and policy makers to understand the reasons behind the dramatic changes that have been recorded at Lough Neagh. This work has been an outstanding contribution to improving our knowledge for this site. It underlines the need for international conservation measures to apply across the entire range of these migratory species."

For further information research in Quercus at Queen’s visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/Quercus/

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s chemists on top of the world with treble success at global awards

The Apprentice's Nick Hewer with Professor Jim Swindall, Co-founder of QUILL and Paul Haworth, Chief Process Engineer at Sellafield Ltd.

Queen’s University Belfast chemists are celebrating after winning three global awards for cutting-edge work to remove harmful mercury from natural gas.

The project by Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL), in collaboration with Malaysian oil and gas giant PETRONAS, was the major winner at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Awards.  As well as collecting the award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering, the team won the Sustainable Technology Award and Chemical Engineering Project of the year, marking it out as the best chemical engineering project for innovation in waste reduction.

The QUILL and PETRONAS team were presented with their awards by The Apprentice star and Countdown host Nick Hewer at the awards ceremony in Bolton.

QUILL scientists beat off competition from companies and universities around the globe to win the awards. Their lab, the first of its kind in the world, developed a new ionic liquid material to remove hazardous mercury from natural gas. Ionic liquids or ‘super solvents’ are salts that remain liquid at room temperature and do not release hazardous vapours. They can be used as non-polluting (green) alternatives to conventional solvents, and are revolutionising chemical processes by offering a much more environmentally friendly and sustainable solution than traditional methods.

The award-winning technology, developed by QUILL at its dedicated PETRONAS laboratory at Queen’s, has been used to develop two full-scale commercial plants at PETRONAS gas terminals in Malaysia, which have been producing mercury-free, sales-quality natural gas since the first unit was opened in November 2011.

Explaining the mercury removal technology, known as HycaPure Hg™, Professor Martin Atkins from QUILL said: “This really is cutting-edge technology, and we are delighted that it has been recognised on the world-stage by IChemE. Mercury is one of the biggest threats to downstream processing in the oil and gas exploration industries, so it is a huge problem for companies like PETRONAS. It contaminates natural gas, corrodes processing equipment, and compromises the safety of processing plants and the quality of the end product. The amount of mercury present can vary by the hour, which makes it incredibly difficult to manage.

“At our dedicated PETRONAS laboratory here in QUILL, we have developed a new ionic liquid which completely removes toxic and corrosive mercury from natural gas and is capable of handling the unpredictable surges of mercury in the gas stream. We took the research from concept to commercialisation in less than four years, which is twice as fast as the industry norm. The result is a unique technology which performs three times better than other commercial mercury-removal products and is much more cost-effective. It really is a cutting-edge development, and we are delighted that it has been recognised on the world-stage by IChemE.”

QUILL founded by Professor Ken Seddon and Professor Jim Swindall is home to nearly 100 scientists who are exploring the enormous potential of ionic liquids. Professor Swindall said: “Queen’s is dedicated to advancing knowledge and changing lives, and QUILL’s work on ionic liquid chemistry has a bearing on most of our lives. This award enhances the University’s reputation as a global authority in this increasingly important area of research.

“Ionic liquids have huge potential to revolutionise how we live and work, and our impact on the environment. They can dissolve almost anything, from elements such as sulfur and phosphorus, which traditionally require nasty solvents, to harmful bacterial biofilms which protect MRSA from attack. They can also be used as lubricants, heat pumps, compression fluids – the list is endless.”

Dr David Brown, IChemE’s chief executive said: “The IChemE Awards represent the hard work, inventiveness and achievements of thousands of chemical engineers across the world. From reducing the cost of carbon capture, to improving safety, cleaning up the environment, advancing medical science and healthcare, reducing waste, improving efficiency, through to the development of new technologies like QUILL’S and PETRONAS’ mercury removal unit, they all demonstrate the impact and importance of the work we do.”

The global IChemE Award is the latest in a string of successes for QUILL. The global IChemE Award is a follow-up to the Malaysian IChemE Sustainable Technology Award, which QUILL and PETRONAS received for the same project last month. Earlier this year, ionic liquids were named the Most Important British Innovation of the 21st Century in recognition of their potential future impact on the world, in a poll initiated by the Science Museum, beating the Nobel Prize winning Higgs boson discovery. In addition, QUILL scientists Professor Ken Seddon and Dr John Holbrey were named the top two research chemists in the UK by Times Higher Education.

QUILL’s partnership with PETRONAS began in 2007 and has brought together Queen’s expertise in green chemistry with PETRONAS’ experience in oil and gas production.  In addition to the mercury removal process, a number of other joint projects are at a mature state of development.

For more information on QUILL visit http://quill.qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Jane Veitch, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5310 email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Ana Botin, Santander CEO, visits Queen’s

Students and staff at Queen’s today attended a lecture given by the head of Santander UK entitled: The Future of the UK Economy and the Role of Entrepreneurs. Ms. Botin’s talk was followed by a Q & A session with the CEO and a visit to the Queen’s University Belfast Santander branch.

Queen’s University Belfast has strong links with the bank after the signing of a collaboration agreement in 2008. Ms. Botin was introduced by the Acting President and Vice Chancellor, Professor James McElnay.

Santander, through its Santander Universities Global Division, has been funding scholarships, travel grants, awards and entrepreneurial activities at Queen’s University Belfast for nearly 6 years. The University is also receiving funding for part-funded internship opportunities with local SMEs through their agreement with Santander.

In total, 69 UK universities have now signed agreements with Santander. The Bank has committed £7 million in 2013 to fund UK universities.

Since the signing of the agreement Santander has committed funding for the following activities: 53 scholarships, 10 Language scholarships, 74 travel grants, support for 4 years of business and enterprise activities, support to Brazilian research awards, and Luso-Brazilian Studies lectureship, support to Essay writing competitions in schools in Northern Ireland, and support to the Degree Plus employability project among other activities. In addition, the Bank has part-funded 30 paid internships for students of the university to work in an SME (Small and Medium Enterprise).

A good example of this support isSantander Universities intern Megan Herron from Kilkeel, Co Down, who delivered the vote of thanks on behalf of her fellow students after the lecture, said: “We are privileged to have had such a prestigious speaker as Ms Botín, and someone who is such a strong role-model for women, with us at Queen’s today. 

"Education is key to economic growth in Northern Ireland. I know that Santander Universities' support of my University will help Queen’s to play its part in developing this corner of the UK economy and to nurture future generations of entrepreneurs."

Queen's Acting President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay said: "Queen’s has been part of the Santander Universities network since 2008. Since then we have developed a very rewarding partnership with the Bank; in the past three years alone over 100 students and staff have directly benefited from Santander funding, scholarship support and employability projects.

"Our scholars profit immensely from the opportunities provided by study and research placements in the Santander Universities Network in the UK and overseas. Today’s keynote lecture by Ana Botín, CEO of Santander UK, is further evidence of this important and growing relationship."

Ana Botin said: "Queen’s University Belfast is a key institution in Northern Ireland; a cradle of knowledge and research and the stepping-stone for students and entrepreneurs before they access the job market. At Santander we are proud to be partnering with a university of such high caliber and I am delighted to see that the support we provide has made such a difference to so many students. 

Through our partnership, the University has been able to strengthen its ties with other international counterparts and I have no doubt that this will be extremely beneficial not only to Queen’s University but also to Belfast and Northern Ireland."

For further information please contact Gerry Power on g.power@qub.ac.uk or 02890975321

 

 

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Ulster Carpets through the John Wilson Memorial Trust and Queen’s University in health partnership
L-R: Nick Coburn, MD Ulster Carpets; Desiree Schliemann, PhD student; Professor Ian Young, Director of the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s and Jeremy Wilson, Trustee of the John Wilson Memorial Trust
L-R: Nick Coburn, MD Ulster Carpets; Desiree Schliemann, PhD student; Professor Ian Young, Director of the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s and Jeremy Wilson, Trustee of the John Wilson Memorial Trust

Details of a unique £60,000 studentship, which hopes to increase fruit and vegetable intake in Northern Ireland, have been revealed. Over the next three years, PhD student Desiree Schliemann, from the Centre for Public Health (CPH) at Queen’s University Belfast, will explore how to increase fruit and veg consumption through workplace interventions.

Speaking at the launch of the studentship, which is set up by Ulster Carpets and funded by the John Wilson Memorial Trust, Nick Coburn, Managing Director of Ulster Carpets & Chairman of the Trustees said: “The health and well being of all Ulster Carpets’ employees is very important to us so we are delighted to be involved in this research through the John Wilson Memorial Trust. I hope that this study will have a long term impact on Public Health in the local community and Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Despite the knowledge that fruit and vegetable-rich diets are good for health, intake is still below recommended levels in Northern Ireland. Diets rich in fruit and veg can reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer, and help with obesity prevention and weight maintenance.

CPH Director, Professor Ian Young, said: “The support offered by the John Wilson Memorial Trust in the form of this PhD studentship, is central to the work of the Centre for Public Health, which seeks to improve public health by encouraging lifestyle change.  Desiree Schliemann will focus her PhD research on interventions to promote a healthier diet in the workplace.”

The challenge facing public health specialists is to encourage more people to eat their 5-a-day and to sustain this behaviour in the long-term. The information collected as part of the PhD has the potential to impact directly on the health of people in Northern Ireland.

Visiting the Co Armagh factory for the first time, Desiree Schliemann said: “I am delighted to be the recipient of the Ulster Carpets Studentship and I am grateful to all those involved with the John Wilson Memorial Trust and the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast, for making this important research possible.

“Working closely with staff at Ulster Carpets in Portadown, my work will explore strategies to help people increase their fruit and vegetable intake and to make smart food choices that will contribute to their overall well-being and aid the prevention of  chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

“Without the funding which the John Wilson Memorial Trust is providing over the next three years, I am certain that this important research would not be possible.”

The John Wilson Memorial Trust support for the studentship is one of a number of medical fundraising initiatives which are part of the Queen’s University ‘Beyond’ campaign. The Campaign is focused on improving outcomes for patients in many of the major diseases of the 21st century through speeding up the process of taking new lab discoveries through to the patient’s bedside.

Media inquiries to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University (tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321, g.power@qub.ac.uk) or to Tracey Braziel Marketing Manager, Ulster Carpets (tel: +44 (0)28 3839 5105, tracey.braziel@ulstercarpets.com).

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Queen's in funding bid to be new UK Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence

Queen's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB)  is bidding to become a new Centre of Excellence dedicated to research into brain tumours. If successful, Queen’s will enter a funding partnership with the charity Brain Tumour Research, defining a new chapter in long term sustainable research. Currently brain tumours receive less than one per cent of the national spend on cancer research, despite more children and adults under 40 dying of a brain tumour than any other cancer.

Brain Tumour Research’s vision is to establish a network of seven brain tumour research centres throughout the nation, placing the UK at the forefront of research. The funding partnership will secure key salaried positions at the new Centre of Excellence, freeing the team from the limitations of applying for one specific project grant after another. As specialist brain tumour expertise and knowledge builds across the seven centres, experienced researchers will be able to move between them, collaborating on best thinking at the cutting edge of research. It is anticipated that, with greater job security through sustained funding, promising researchers will be trained up through the ranks to fulfil their potential, rather than being tempted into other areas of cancer research which currently attract greater funding.

The Belfast application is led by Queen’s University’s Dr Tom Flannery (Consultant Neurosurgeon with a subspecialty interest in Oncology) and Professors Kevin Prise & Chris Scott, who in partnership with colleagues in the CCRCB and the local brain tumour charity (Brainwaves NI) have developed a Glioma research group in Belfast. The focus of this research programme has been to identify mechanisms of brain tumour invasion and how this can be blocked with targeted therapies to stop tumours from spreading into the brain. Not only will these novel therapies potentially help with surgical removal but also help eradicate tumour cells by making them more sensitive to subsequent radio/chemotherapy treatments.

Commenting on the bid Dr Flannery said: “With the existing expertise at Queen’s, we know we can make a significant impact for patients suffering from these currently incurable tumours. The support of Brain Tumour Research will provide the funding that will help us make the breakthrough in this field. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bid for this support in conjunction with our colleagues in Brainwaves NI and to be considered is such a fantastic endorsement of our work.”

Internationally acclaimed scientific experts in the world of cancer research and neuro-oncology in particular are currently reviewing the applications. Brain Tumour Research will announce the name of the successful institution later this month.

Brain Tumour Research is currently supporting a Centre of Excellence based in The University of Portsmouth, which is the biggest brain tumour laboratory in the UK. Here a dedicated team is looking at the mechanisms that cause tumour cells to invade healthy brain tissue, with the aim that this work will improve survival times for patients and potentially, one day, lead to a cure.

As Chair of Brainwaves NI, Sandra McKillop commented, “The efforts to date of everyone, right across Northern Ireland, who supports Brainwaves NI in its mission to fund brain tumour research in Belfast has to be commended. As the local brain tumour charity, we know only too well of the devastation that the diagnosis of a brain tumour brings. With research into brain tumours receiving less than one per cent of UK national cancer research funding and brain tumours killing more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, the opportunity for a brain tumour Centre of Excellence to be opened in Belfast is indeed excellent news.”

Alan Williams (aged 46) of Ballywalter, Newtownards, is battling with an aggressive brain tumour under the care of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and the Cancer Centre in Belfast City Hospital.  The same disease took his younger brother James in 2002, aged 31.  Alan’s wife Michelle said: “When Alan was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2007, it was a devastating blow to the family, coming just five years after losing James.  During our journey through this illness, Brainwaves NI has been our rock, offering advice and information when needed and, of course, invaluable support.

“Nothing can prepare you for the devastation that the diagnosis of a brain tumour brings to your family, and when you hear that research into brain tumours receives less than one per cent of UK national cancer research funding and that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer things can feel even more desperate. All our hopes are pinned on the amazing work carried out at places like the Portsmouth Centre of Excellence, and it’s great to hear that there is a chance of a second centre opening right on our doorstep.”

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: “Opening a second Centre of Excellence will dramatically increase the chances of a researcher having that ‘eureka moment’ which could dramatically improve outcomes for brain tumour patients. Only 18.8 per cent of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years, compared with an average of 50 per cent across other cancers, and we are determined to do all we can to change this.

“Helping to raise the £7 million a year needed to run seven Centres of Excellence will be a huge challenge, but we are backed by thousands of loyal and committed fundraisers. We will continue to encourage the public to support us, as well as lobbying for a larger share of UK cancer research funding, with the aim that one day we will be able to defeat this disease that claims many more lives than it should.”

Brain Tumour Research was launched in April 2009 to raise the awareness of and funding for scientific research into brain tumours and improve outcomes for brain tumour patients.  It is the only national charity in the UK that is dedicated to granting 100 per cent of its funds to continuous and sustainable scientific research into brain tumours.

In collaboration with its member charities and fundraising groups, the charity jointly raised over £2.5 million in 2012 and Brain Tumour Research now supports an annual £1 million programme of research into brain tumours at The University of Portsmouth.  The research team are gleaning new layers of understanding about this disease and are continually publishing their peer-reviewed results in leading international scientific journals.

Brain Tumour Research has evolved to become a leading voice calling for greater support and action for research into brain tumours in the UK.  Funding for this research has been woefully inadequate for far too long. 

For further information about Brain Tumour Research go to www.braintumourresearch.org or email media@braintumourresearch.org

Further information on the work of Queen’s CCRCB is available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforCancerResearchCellBiology/  

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5292.

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Queen’s diabetes and pregnancy research receives national recognition

Research led by Queen’s University to improve pregnancy outcomes for women with diabetes has received national recognition.

The innovative pre-pregnancy care resource, which informs women with diabetes about how best to plan and manage their pregnancies, has been awarded the Best Improvement Programme for Pregnancy and Maternity at the UK Quality in Care Diabetes Awards.

Known as Women with Diabetes: things you need to know (but maybe don’t!), the resource was first made available in 2010. It is now embedded into routine care in Northern Ireland with two thirds of women with diabetes who attended for antenatal care between 2011 and 2012 receiving the resource as an aid to planning for pregnancy. 

Dr Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University led the project. She said: “While women with diabetes are at increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, including pre-eclampsia, and their babies are at risk of congenital malformations including Spina Bifida, heart and kidney anomalies, it is well established that good blood glucose control before and during pregnancy can reduce this risk.

“It is important that women with diabetes are aware of the risks involved and of the importance of planning their pregnancy. Almost all women with diabetes can have healthy babies if good pre-pregnancy blood glucose control is achieved.  At Queen’s we are committed to advancing knowledge and changing lives and winning this award is recognition that we are doing just that.”

Women with Diabetes: things you need to know (but maybe don’t!) was developed by Queen’s, along with healthcare professionals from the Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts and funded by Diabetes UK.

Professor David McCance, Consultant Endocrinologist, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “Only one third of women currently receive optimal preconception care and the lack of awareness about pregnancy planning and reproductive health may be one reason why women are not seeking pre-pregnancy care before becoming pregnant.”

Professor Fiona Alderdice, Director of Research in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University, said: “There are many health professionals involved in the care of women with diabetes in the perinatal period so there is much to communicate. It is great that women have a comprehensive resource that they can digest in their own time and that also facilitates an informed dialogue with their health care team.”

Originally produced as a DVD the resource is now available as a website to women with diabetes and their healthcare professionals. The Women with Diabetes team remain committed to ensuring sustainability of the resource and have recently secured HSC Public Health Agency Knowledge Transfer funding to maximise the beneficial impact of this work both within and beyond Northern Ireland. For further information and to view the resource online visit: http://go.qub.ac.uk/womenwithdiabetes

ENDS Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Children’s voices are being heard, survey suggests

The old adage that children should be seen but not heard appears to be becoming a thing of the past in Northern Ireland, according to findings from the latest Kids’ Life and Times survey.

Around three out of four children who participated in the 2013 survey felt that their views were sought and were taken seriously in their school on issues including what they do in the classroom and how to make the school better, while four out of five children believed it was easy to give their views.

More than 3,700 P7 pupils across Northern Ireland responded to the online survey, which was undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative between Queen’s University and University of Ulster.  The survey included questions on children’s participation rights designed to assess children’s perceptions of how seriously their views are taken by adults in schools and within the wider community.

The results of the survey will be unveiled in St Ita’s Primary School on Wednesday 6 November as part of the national Festival of Social Science, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The survey results suggest, however, that the wider community has some catching up to do. In response to the question ‘In my community the adults ask me for my views’, only around half the children agreed that this happened quite often, very often or always, while the other half said it happened seldom or never.  Six out of ten children believed their views were taken seriously much of the time within the community.

Researchers from the Centre for Children’s Rights (CCR) at Queen’s University worked with six 10-year-old children from St Ita’s to develop the questionnaire as a way to measure children’s participation rights within society.

“Over the last number of years we have developed and applied a children’s rights-based approach to a wide range of research projects”, said Lesley Emerson, Deputy Director of the CCR. “This approach seeks to ensure that children are engaged actively in the research process from the design of the questions through to analysis and interpretation of findings. It ensures that children’s views and children’s perspectives are placed at the fore of our research.”

Professor Gillian Robinson, Director of ARK, and based in the University of Ulster said: “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.

"This is the sixth Kids’ Life and Times survey and, so far, around 21,000 children have been able to express their views on a range of issues that are important to them. By inviting respondents to suggest topics for the next year’s survey, we make sure that the issues covered are relevant to the lives of children in Northern Ireland today.

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

Joanne Browne, Principal of St Ita’s Primary School said: “The pupils have thoroughly enjoyed their work with CCR and as a school we were delighted to be involved in this project. Children’s participation in surveys, in particular assisting with the construction of survey questions on children’s rights, is crucial. This ensures that their perspective and opinions are better understood and valued. The six pupils feel so proud that their work has led to a very meaningful survey which engaged so many P7 pupils.”

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Top Study USA Award for Geography Student

Lucy Trotter (front) received her award from Dr Stephen Farry. Pictured with other Study USA finalists - Queen's students Sinead Loughran (back left), Henry Robinson and Rachel Scullion (back right), and UUC student Roisin McSparron.

Queen's  Geography student Lucy Trotter is celebrating after being named 'Student of the Year' following her completion of the Study USA programme.

Lucy, from York, was one of 72 students who took part in the year long programme, organised by the British Council. It gives higher education students in Northern Ireland the opportunity to study business related modules in a number of US universities.

From the total cohort, five students were selected based on achieving top academic marks and given the opportunity to complete an essay highlighting how their experience has helped further their employability. Four of the finalists were from Queen's University and came from a range of disciplines including Geography, Law and English.

Lucy explains: "The essay was about how the Study USA programme helped my employability, which I found quite easy to write, as it was a fantastic experience and it has helped me in a number of different ways. For example I will be able to show future employers that I can adapt to new situations and structures and quickly pick up new skills, as I demonstrated in studying in a different discipline for the first time. Also the American education system has a greater work load which involved managing my time effectively in order to achieve my results."

The award was announced at a graduation ceremony in Belfast, which was attended by the students who took part in the programme along with British Council representatives, sponsors and Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning.

Patrick Black from the British Council coordinated the Study USA programme: "Congratulations to Lucy our Study USA Student of the Year and runners up Sinead Loughran, Roisin McSparron, Harry Robinson and Rachel Scullion. This competition is only open to the top academic achievers on the programme and all of the entrants should be extremely proud of their accomplishments over the past year.

Study USA seeks to develop the employability skills of Northern Ireland’s undergraduates and the Class of 2012 – 2013 represents another group of students who are now more confident and motivated as they approach their final year of studies and seek to enter the graduate recruitment market in 2014."

Past students, from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, have used the Study USA experience as an opportunity to further develop their own career plans and, combined with their undergraduate degree learning, it has helped them to secure graduate level employment in the IT, public and voluntary sectors.

If you would like to know more about the Study USA programme please visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/northernireland-learning-susa-prospective-students.htm

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For more information contact the Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3091 email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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