10 - 2010 Press Releases

‘Wireless’ humans could form backbone of new mobile networks
Dr Simon Cotton
Dr Simon Cotton

Members of the public could form the backbone of powerful new mobile internet networks by carrying wearable sensors.

According to researchers from Queen’s, the novel sensors could create new ultra high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures and reduce the density of mobile phone base stations.
The engineers from Queen’s renowned Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), are working on a new project based on the rapidly developing science of body centric communications.

Social benefits from the work could include vast improvements in mobile gaming and remote healthcare, along with new precision monitoring of athletes and real-time tactical training in team sports.

The researchers at ECIT are investigating how small sensors carried by members of the public, in items such as next generation smartphones, could communicate with each other to create potentially vast body-to-body networks (BBNs).

The new sensors would interact to transmit data, providing ‘anytime, anywhere’ mobile network connectivity.

Dr Simon Cotton, from ECIT’s wireless communications research group said: “In the past few years a significant amount of research has been undertaken into antennas and systems designed to share information across the surface of the human body. Until now, however, little work has been done to address the next major challenge which is one of the last frontiers in wireless communication – how that information can be transferred efficiently to an off-body location.

 “The availability of body-to-body networks could bring great social benefits, including significant healthcare improvements through the use of bodyworn sensors for the widespread, routine monitoring and treatment of illness away from medical centres. This could greatly reduce the current strain on health budgets and help make the Government’s vision of healthcare at home for the elderly a reality.

“If the idea takes off, BBNs could also lead to a reduction in the number of base stations needed to service mobile phone users, particularly in areas of high population density. This could help to alleviate public perceptions of adverse health associated with current networks and be more environmentally friendly due to the much lower power levels required for operation.”

Dr Cotton has been awarded a prestigious joint five-year Research Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) to examine how the new technology can be harnessed to become part of everyday life.

He added: “Our work at Queen’s involves collaborating with national and international academic, industrial and institutional experts to develop a range of models for wireless channels required for body centric communications. These will provide a basis for the development of the antennas, wireless devices and networking standards required to make BBNs a reality.

“Success in this field will not only bring major social benefits it could also bring significant commercial rewards for those involved. Even though the market for wearable wireless sensors is still in its infancy, it is expected to grow to more than 400 million devices annually by 2014.”

Further information on the work of ECIT’s Wireless Communications Research Group can be found online at www.ee.qub.ac.uk/wireless/

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Communications Office. Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 97 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Action needed to tackle ‘ticking time bomb’ of overweight children

The current generation of overweight children is an ‘obesity time bomb’ just waiting to impact on the National Health Service, according to Florence Mitchell, a lecturer in Nursing at Queen’s University.

Ms Mitchell was speaking ahead of the international Taking Action on Childhood Obesity event which is being hosted by the Queen’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Queen’s Improving Children’s Lives initiative, on 11 November in the University’s Whitla Hall.

Leading obesity and childcare experts from across the world will descend on Queen’s to learn how research and best practice can be used to tackle this major public health concern. 

Florence Mitchell said: “Over the last few decades there has been a worldwide increase in obesity. At a young age it is linked to immediate health risks such as asthma and type 2 diabetes, and there are longer-term health risks, including increased middle-age mortality and morbidity.

“With childhood obesity we have a ticking time bomb in our society. In light of recent cuts, and at a time of increasing financial pressure on the National Health Service, this can no longer be ignored by Government and wider society. Our politicians and health service managers must act now to tackle this problem at its root cause, or we will all share the pain in future years, with increased demand for services.

“I would urge anyone with an interest in this area to register for this vital event.”

The event will be opened by Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health for Northern Ireland. In her recent Annual Report she highlighted a number of Public Health programmes available in Northern Ireland to tackle obesity issues.

Speakers attending the event include Doctor Laura Stewart of Edinburgh’s Children’s Weight Clinic. She believes children ‘just have to eat less’  and that children should never be put on a diet, but instead be educated and supported in achieving a healthy lifestyle. She will look at how families must make lifestyle changes to tackle this growing epidemic.

Professor Paul Gately from Carnegie Weight Management, whose work has helped over 5,000 young people lose weight, will speak on the importance of public health and childcare professionals working together to tackle the problem.

And Dr Laura McGowan, a chartered psychologist from University College London who is currently working in the field of obesity prevention with families with young children, will discuss how psychology can help tackle childhood obesity. She will outline some promising interventions in this area.

Professor Peter Bundred, a leading academic in the field of the epidemiology of childhood obesity, and a former Senior Lecturer in Primary Care at the University of Liverpool, will argue that the epidemic is not necessarily caused by genetics, but by children’s behaviours and their environment. He said: “The increase of both carbohydrates and fats in children’s diets is a major factor in childhood obesity.

“Children take less exercise. Families are increasingly reliant on cars, and there are fewer facilities where children can play safely - so they tend to watch TV instead. Put simply their energy intake is now greater their energy expenditure.”

The Taking Action on Childhood Obesity event is open to anyone working in related sectors and registration is now open.

Further details are available online at www.qub.ac.uk/sites/childhoodobesityconference or by emailing childhoodobesityconference@qub.ac.uk

The closing date for registration is 3.00pm on Wednesday 10 November.

Media inqueries contact Donna McCullough 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or 00 44 (0) 28 9097 3091

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Masterclass takes pulse of health sector

Leaders from the public and private sectors are joining forces at Queen’s today to focus on stimulating opportunities for economic growth within the social economy.

They are taking part in one of a series of masterclasses aimed at promoting best practice to social entrepreneurs, policy-makers, business leaders and public sector managers. Today’s event is highlighting activity in the Health Sector.

The event will feature two case study presentations, given by Margaret Elliott OBE, founder of Sunderland Home Care Associates and Ciaran Sheehan, MD of Care Circle Group Ltd. The series is funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest Northern Ireland.

Professor Paddy Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Life Sciences at Queen’s, who is chairing today’s masterclass, said: “A focus on ideas, entrepreneurship and venture capital is the way forward and is a sustainable way for Northern Ireland to prosper.

“At Queen’s we have exciting plans to create a new Institute of Health Sciences research centre. This will place Northern Ireland as a world leader in the fields of medicine and biomedical research – a strategy that will stimulate business activity in Belfast and further afield. This initiative is sure to have a massive impact on health service provision in Northern Ireland and Ireland and place the region in a position to create a whole range of jobs.”

Ciaran Sheehan, who was recently named IoD Director of the Year for a Large Company, said: “There is an opportunity to promote and explore the potential synergy between the Health and Social Economy sectors and to develop thinking on how the two can work in partnership to deliver real benefits for all. The social economy sector is well-positioned to help the Executive meet many of its social and economic goals and has a unique contribution to make to the broad health service in Northern Ireland”.

He added: “Our business has generated £1.5m in sales, paid out over £1m in local salaries and now employs almost 40 people many of whom were previously long-term unemployed. It is a great example of how local people can deliver home care services in their area while also receiving excellent training and development. According to Ciaran this model could be rolled out across all Health Trust areas in Northern Ireland”.

The series is the brainchild of the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Ireland – a joint venture of the Flax Trust and the University of Ulster. The SSEI has organised the events with the support of partner organisations UCIT, the Social Economy Network, Enterprise NI and Charity Bank.

The masterclass takes place in The Canada Room on Wednesday, 27 October from 6.15pm-8.15pm.

Attendance at the masterclass is free, although pre-registration is essential. For more information on the event, visit www.podiem.com/socialeconomy.aspx or email socialeconomy@podiem.com to reserve your place.

Media inquiries to Dolores Vischer, Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 2573 or email d.vischer@qub.ac.uk

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Red Cross Provides First Aid Training for Medical Students

Queen’s University, in collaboration with the British Red Cross, has become the first medical school in the UK to provide compulsory first aid training, resulting in the award of a First Aid certificate, to over 320 first year medical and dental students. Red Cross trainers deliver a seven hour, Basic First Aid course in two sessions, which covers a wide range of essential, life-saving skills.

The move follows a successful three-year pilot, which saw the British Red Cross provide an optional training module to the school’s third year students. Feedback from this pilot revealed that the acquisition of first aid skills was rated highly by participating students.

Course Director, Dr Nigel Hart, explains why the medical school was so keen to ensure that all students received first aid training during their first semester; “We have been eager to include a compulsory first aid module for students for a number of reasons. We have seen how the training gives students greater confidence in dealing with unexpected situations, even at an early stage in their medical and dental careers. In addition, the provision of first aid training to medical students was a key recommendation of the GMC’s ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors’ report of 2009, and this is our response to that recommendation.”

Medical student, Mary Elizabeth Finnan, who has just finished the training said: “I found the first aid training very beneficial as a first year medical student. After completing the course I feel confident to react in emergency situations, which is essential as I am studying medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found the first aid trainers extremely helpful.”

Paula Powell, the Red Cross’ Project Manager for community based first aid, said: “We’re delighted to be working so closely with Queen’s Medical School. Of course we believe that first aid is a skill that everyone should learn. You don’t have to be a medical professional to provide appropriate help in an emergency and we’d encourage ordinary members of the public to either enrol for one of our courses, or at the very least, to go to the Red Cross website and read up on some basic common-sense advice that could make all the difference in a crisis.”


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Queen’s graduates share secrets of ‘success and the City’

A panel of Queen’s University graduates now pursuing high-flying careers in the financial sector in London will return to the campus tomorrow to share the secrets of their success.

They will be taking part in a special event, to be chaired by TV presenter Lynda Bryans, which will give Queen’s students a competitive edge in the graduate job market. Most of those attending will be students from Queen’s University Management School.

The guest speakers will provide an insight into the factors that led to their successful careers, and advice and guidance on the job-related skills and abilities required to succeed in the corporate financial world.

Jean Stirrup, Head of Careers, Employability and Skills, said:“The marketplace for graduates is truly global, and our distinguished panel are well-placed to give valuable, strategic advice on how to succeed in a challenging environment anywhere in the world.

“This event provides a unique opportunity for Queen’s students to learn from high-achievers who will share their experience of working in the financial world during a period of global economic recession, and their expectations for the future.”

The panel includes Patrick Magee, a Managing Director in the JPMorgan Cazenove Industrials Corporate Finance Team; Aiden McKeown, a Structurer for StormHarbour Securities; Declan Tiernan, a Managing Director at UBS Investment Bank; and Sean Hunt, a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank.

They will be joined by Garrett Curran, a member of The Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation Board and a Managing Director of Credit Suisse, and by recent graduate Caroline Pyers who won a place on the prestigious graduate scheme of Japanese bank Nomura International.

The ‘City Event’ will take place in the Great Hall, Lanyon Building, Queen’s University at 6.30pm on Tuesday 26 October. Admission is free. 

For media inquiries please contact: Anne Langford, on 028 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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'Exceptional' McClay library wins global award
Queen's Director of Estates Gary Jebb with the RICS Sustainability Award 2010, for the University's £50 million McClay Library. Included is Alistair Dunn, Chairman of the RICS NI judging panel.
Queen's Director of Estates Gary Jebb with the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Sustainability Award 2010, awarded for the University's £50 million McClay Library. Included is Alistair Dunn, Chairman of the RICS NI judging panel.

One of Northern Ireland’s newest landmark buildings – the £50 million McClay Library at Queen’s University – has won a global award for its role as a model of sustainable design.

At the Grand Final of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Awards in the Guildhall in London, the McClay Library won the Sustainability category, defeating prestigious property projects from around the world.

More than 450 building projects entered the RICS Awards which are regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of the built and natural environment. The McClay Library was one of only four category winners.

Queen’s Director of Estates Gary Jebb, who received the award from Michael Portillo, said: “The McClay Library reflects the University’s commitment to scholarship, the environment, and the future. Sustainability was a critical factor in its design and construction, in keeping with the University's environmental policy, and we are obviously delighted that this has been recognised by the RICS.”

The Awards’ Sustainability Judge, Jim Ure, described the library as “an invaluable resource for students at Queen’s University Belfast.”

He said: “The building achieves excellence on two fronts: in terms of providing essential educational support, and through its distinction in sustainability. On both counts, it is an exceptional project.”

RICS Northern Ireland Director, Ben Collins, paid tribute to the project team. He said: “This project illustrates the capacity of chartered surveyors and other building professionals in Northern Ireland to have a hugely positive impact in economic and social terms. When resources are tight, it is more important than ever to ensure that buildings are as efficient as possible and provide maximum benefit to communities.”

Named after the late Sir Allen McClay, one of Queen’s greatest benefactors, the Library is illuminated by a multi-storey open atrium, has 2,000 reader places and houses 1.2 million volumes. Ground floor facilities include IT training rooms, a Language Centre, Library and Computer support areas and a cafe. The upper storeys house the University’s Special Collections, subject-related enquiry points and a vast range of printed works.

The building was designed by Boston-based architects Shepley Bulfinch, who had previously designed and developed major academic libraries at Yale and Harvard, and who worked in association with RPP, Belfast. The building attracts more than 10,000 users and visitors each day.

The design aimed to reduce energy loads and provide energy input as efficiently as possible. Energy, fuel and water consumption is recorded and reviewed against targets on a quarterly basis. During the design and specification process, environmentally-friendly materials were selected, all of which can be refurbished or recycled after use.


For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, on 028 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

Photographs to accompany this release will be forwarded to picture desks.

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RNID NI & Queen’s shortlisted for deaf communication award

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UK banking chief to address local business leaders
Angela Knight CBE, Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association, who is addressing The Chief Executive Club at Queen's on Monday, 18 October.
Angela Knight CBE, Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association, who is addressing The Chief Executive Club at Queen's on Monday, 18 October.
Today’s banks are ‘more careful, more realistic and more mindful of societal responsibilities’. That’s according to the Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association, Angela Knight CBE, who will address the Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s on Monday.

A high level business networking forum, The Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s, facilitates knowledge transfer between higher education and industry. Monday’s event will offer local business chiefs the opportunity to hear from Angela Knight on the role of banks in growing the economy.

She will also report on:
  • The most recent changes affecting banking
  • The future implications for the economy
  • The implications of changes arising from both UK and European Union reform agendas
  • The likely effects of a range of international standard setters, including new capital rules being proposed by the Bank of International Settlements in Basel and the International Accounting Standard changes.
Ms Knight has stated that banks understand their societal responsibilities and are committed to constructive and productive relationships as the right way forward. Speaking before Monday’s event she said: “Banking is always evolving to meet its customers' needs and that is the case today as much as in the past.

“Our members are fully aware of their responsibility to their customers and to our wider society. We want to play our full part in helping customers thrive and grow and to help finance the private sector recovery through the work of the Business Finance Taskforce. We recognise that, along with government and the regulators, we must take responsibility for our part in past mistakes. We have already made great changes to how we operate and are at the table for further change."

Monday evening’s event will be chaired by Sir David Fell, Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s University, and a Director of National Australia Group Ltd and Clydesdale Bank plc, as well as Chairman of Goldblatt McGuigan, Chartered Accountants.

Further information on the Chief Executives Club can be found online at www.qub.ac.uk/rrs/webpages/cec/index.php or by telephoning the Club’s Co-ordinator on 00 44 (0)28 90 97 5323

Media inquiries to: Lisa McElroy, Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Nicky means business at Queen's
Tracy Hamilton, co-director, Mash Direct; Nicky Kinnaird, founder Space.NK; Professor Peter Gregson and Rose Mary Stalker, operations director, McMullen Architectural Systems.
Tracy Hamilton, co-director, Mash Direct; Nicky Kinnaird, founder Space.NK; Professor Peter Gregson and Rose Mary Stalker, operations director, McMullen Architectural Systems.
Leading Belfast-born businesswoman Nicky Kinnaird is returning to the city today to give an insight into successful entrepreneurship.

The founder of retail venture Space.NK will meet with some of Northern Ireland’s key business leaders at an Entrepreneurs Lunch hosted by Professor Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University.

She will later speak to students from Queen’s University Management School about her journey to success, in a special presentation entitled From ideas to Bloomingdale's.

An honorary graduate of Queen’s, the UK’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year, Nicky has previously praised people from Northern Ireland for their reputation for hard work and gritty determination, urging them “not to waste it, go out and capitalise on it.”

Speaking ahead of today’s event she said: “All of us in business are faced with a constantly changing environment which presents challenges. Today, I will be encouraging my counterparts to embrace that change, support innovation and be proud of what each of them is creating. I will also be reminding students of the opportunities that are out there, and of the tools they can use to grab them. And I can think of no better environment in which to do this than at Queen’s, the UK’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year.

“As a businesswoman I know the importance of partnership and of developing international links, and it is heartening to see that Queen’s recognises this too. By doing so it is continuing to contribute to economic growth in Northern Ireland. The development of Queen’s new Leadership Institute at Riddel Hall and its continued commitment to inspiring the next generation of business leaders through its Management School, means I am confident that Queen’s, and the business leaders and students I’ll meet today, will help steer Northern Ireland towards its rightful place on the world stage.”

Space.NK currently has 62 stores in the UK and 16 in the United States of which 12 are shop with shops at Bloomingdale's. Later today, students from Queen’s University Management School will hear Nicky speak about her career, including how she identified her initial business idea, the development and internationalisation of her business and the personal traits and characteristics she believes are essential to become a successful business leader.

Business leaders attending today’s lunch include: June Burgess, owner of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Group and Graffan properties; Tracy Hamilton, co-director of Mash Direct; Nikki McQuillan, co-director of The Streat café chain; Rose Mary Stalker, operations director at McMullen Architectural Systems; Alyson Hogg, owner of Vita Liberata; Tracy Meharg, MD Innovation and Capability Development Group, Invest NI.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Communications Office. Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 97 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Asteroid collision revealed by Queen’s astronomers
Asteroid P/2010 A2 as seen by the camera system OSIRIS onboard ESA’s space probe Rosetta. © ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS-Team
Asteroid P/2010 A2 as seen by the camera system OSIRIS onboard ESA’s space probe Rosetta. © ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS-Team

A collision between two asteroids has been revealed by an international team of astronomers, including staff from Queen’s.

The impact resulted in 400,000 tonnes of rock being blasted from the surface of the 120-metre asteroid by a much smaller one, estimated at 6-9 metres across.

Marking the collision was a trail of asteroid debris, with pieces ranging in size from millimetres to centimetres, stretching over 100,000 kilometres. Such collisions can create the smaller asteroids and meteorites that land on Earth.

The signs of previous collisions between objects in the asteroid belt have been known for decades, but almost all of these happened millions of years ago or more.
Now, using telescopes on Earth and on a spacecraft beyond Mars, the discovery of the collision, named P/2010 A2, has given astronomers their first detailed look at the fascinating processes taking place in the asteroid belt.

In the work, published this week in Nature, the astronomers discovered the collision occurred sometime between the 5th and 15th of February last year (2009). A companion study of P/2010 A2 using the Hubble Space Telescope and published in the same issue of Nature magazine agrees with the team’s findings.

The study was lead by Dr. Colin Snodgrass at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany (MPS), and included Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr. Snodgrass originally obtained his PhD at Queen’s before taking up a prestigious ESO Fellowship in Chile and Germany. The team also included Dr. Stephen Lowry at the University of Kent, another graduate of Queen’s.

P/2010 A2 was first discovered by the Earth-based LINEAR telescope in January this year, orbiting the Sun between the planets Mars and Jupiter. It was first thought to be a small 200-metre icy comet because it seemed to have a striking dust tail. Its orbit around the sun, however, was more akin to the hundreds of thousands of rocky asteroids that exist in that part of the Solar system.

Professor Fitzsimmons said: “We suspected we might be seeing the aftermath of a collision between two asteroids, but no-one had actually seen it happen.

“Another problem was that from the Earth we only had one vantage point, which made it very difficult interpreting what we were seeing from 100 million miles away.”

Out in the asteroid belt, however, was the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, with its powerful onboard OSIRIS camera system. Still four years from its planned encounter with a comet, camera team member Dr Snodgrass realised it was in the perfect spot to get a second vantage point on P/2010 A2 and reveal the true structure of the object.

Dr Snodgrass said: “With the help of the images from Rosetta we could see the true three dimensional shape of the trail. We found that the shape is not typical for a comet continuously emitting material and points to the trail of debris due to a collision of asteroids.”

Together with further images taken from Earth, these pictures allowed the researchers to reconstruct exactly how the trail had evolved in time. They fed their computer program with an initial assumption about the size of the currently visible grains of debris. In a next step they calculated how the distribution of these grains evolves in time.

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Vincent from MPS, who performed the simulations said: “By comparing these results with the actual distribution, the assumption for the size can be refined step by step – until the exact reconstruction is found.”

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

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Lung injury study could save lives in critically ill
Professor Danny McAuley
Professor Danny McAuley

Researchers at Queen’s are investigating a potential new treatment for lung disease that could help save many lives each year.

The research team are studying how statins, drugs which are commonly used to treat high cholesterol, can be used to treat lung disease.

There is currently no effective treatment for acute lung injury. The team hopes the work could boost survival rates for those who become critically ill and suffer lung failure after incidents such as road traffic accidents or severe infections.

Leading the research is Professor Danny McAuley from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity. He said: “When people are critically ill their lungs can fail. This is termed ‘acute lung injury’ and means that the lungs fill with water instead of air. Breathing becomes difficult and a ventilator is needed to take over.
“Statins have the potential to improve lung injury by reducing inflammation in the lung, reversing the damage and therefore decreasing the amount of water in the lungs. This helps fight infection.”

The team includes Queen’s researchers, Dr Celia O’Kane and Professor Cliff Taggart, along with Professor John Laffey from National University Ireland, Galway.

The research has the potential to free up healthcare resources and allow more people to return to the workplace sooner following spells in hospital.

Professor McAuley added: “There may be up to 45,000 cases of acute lung injury each year in the UK and Ireland and up to 22,000 deaths. Only around half of those who survive are able to return to work 12 months after discharge from hospital. After recovery from lung injury, patients can go on to experience a poorer quality of life and many are unable to look after themselves.

“But this treatment has the potential to reduce the impact of acute lung injury and the time patients need to stay in intensive care units. It could also significantly reduce the strain on hospital beds.”

The study is being managed by staff from the Clinical Research Support Centre in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and has been supported by the infrastructure provided by the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network. The Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway is providing additional support. The study is taking place over four years in approximately 25 other intensive care units throughout the UK and Ireland.

The research is being funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme (www.eme.ac.uk) which is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The Health Research Board and the Intensive Care Society of Ireland have also provided additional funding.

Professor McAuley’s previous research, which lead to this study, has been funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland and REVIVE.

Media queries contact Donna McCullough Tel: 00 44 (0)28 9097 5391 Email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s wages war against alien killer shrimp invaders
Acanthocephalan worm, Echinorhynchus truttae, in the invader Gammarus pulex,
the parasite extending from the host’s head to about half way along the body
Acanthocephalan worm, Echinorhynchus truttae, in the invader Gammarus pulex, the parasite extending from the host’s head to about half way along the body

A scientist from Queen’s, who first predicted an invasion of killer shrimps in UK and Irish waters a number of years ago, is teaming up with leading environmental experts to fight against the vicious shrimps.

Dr Jaimie Dick from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences has joined forces with academics from Cambridge and Leeds Universities, and a range of other experts, in a bid to beat the aliens.

A discovery last month confirmed the killer shrimps, known as Dikerogammarus villosus, are currently invading the UK for the first time. The invaders pose a serious threat to a range of native species such as freshwater invertebrates, particularly native shrimp, and even young fish.

It has the ability to alter the ecology of habitats it invades and can cause extinctions. According to the Environmental Agency this shrimp often kills its prey and leaves it uneaten.

Dr Jamie Dick is convinced that the only way forward is to make a two-pronged attack on the invaders and secure funding to enable scientists to take on what is a huge threat to biodiversity.

He said: “One of the first things the working group is doing is looking at a way of containing the invasion and stopping it spreading.This must include enhanced biosecurity at the invasion site in Cambridge, for example cleaning boats, and much more vigilance at our ports and harbours.

“Preventing this invader arriving is the key to protecting Ireland, as if it arrives and becomes established, eradication might be impossible or very expensive and damaging to other wildlife. Control measures might have to include poisons that will kill other animals and plants.

“Next it is vital that we survey our waters. It is important that we secure funding to investigate the science of this invasion as this can be useful in enabling us to predict its predatory behaviour and the impact it will have if it spreads.”

Dr Dick will report his findings to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The predatory animal was first spotted at the beginning of September by anglers at the Grafham Water reservoir in Cambridgeshire and sent to the Environment Agency for identification. It can be as small as 3mm but may grow up to 30mm long, making it much larger than native freshwater shrimp.

Environmentalists also fear that insects such as damselflies and water boatmen could be at risk, with knock-on effects on the species which feed on them.

Dr Jaimie Dick is giving a public lecture on another damaging invasive species that has already reached Ireland, the Chinese Muntjac Deer, on Wednesday 13th October at 8.15pm (reception from 7.30pm) in the Medical Biology Centre, Lisburn Road, Belfast.  Entry is free and everyone is welcome.

Further information on the work ongoing in the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s can be found online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/

Media queries contact Donna McCullough Tel: 00 44 (0)28 9097 5391 Email: d.mccullough@qub.ac.uk

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Deputy Prime Minister visits Queen’s
President of Queen's Students' Union, Gareth McGreevy and Vice-Chancellor, Professsor Peter Gregson, welcome Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to Queen's
President of Queen's Students' Union, Gareth McGreevy and Vice-Chancellor, Professsor Peter Gregson, welcome Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to Queen's
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes questions from School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy students.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes questions from School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy students.

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The Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Nick Clegg, today visited Queen's University Belfast – the Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year – as part of his two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

The highlight of Mr Clegg’s visit was a ‘town hall’ question-and-answer session with students and staff from Queen’s School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy in the University’s Great Hall.

Speaking about the historic visit, the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson, said: “Queen’s is honoured to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister to our campus. Mr Clegg’s visit could hardly be more timely, coming during a period when universities, their vital role in society and their funding, are never far from the headlines.”

Professor Gregson also welcomed the recent comments by Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he highlighted the need for highly-qualified graduates to support the knowledge economy.

He said: “Queen’s is a magnet for inward investment and a leader in enterprise and innovation, as recognised by the prestigious title of Entrepreneurial University of the Year. The quality of our graduates, and their loyalty to Northern Ireland, is a strong factor in attracting international companies to the region, further underpinning economic growth.”

The Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, attended the event. Speaking afterwards, he said: "This was an excellent opportunity for Queen's students to question our Deputy Prime Minister on the Government's future plans for Higher Education provision.”

"These are interesting and challenging times for Higher Education, with the forthcoming publication of the Browne Review and announcements on the Comprehensive Spending Review. Amidst the challenges, I trust colleagues in the Executive and Assembly will join with me in working to maintain vibrant and world-class Higher Education provision in Northern Ireland."

One of the top-ranked universities in the UK and Ireland for research and teaching in Politics, Queen’s recently introduced two innovative courses to its curriculum. A new degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics gives students a unique insight into the synergy between politics, business and commerce, while a Masters in Legislative Studies and Practice, developed in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Assembly, is the first course of its kind in Ireland or the UK.

Further information on the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy is available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofPoliticsInternationalStudiesandPhilosophy/  

For media enquiries please contact Anne Langford, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0) 28 9097 5310: Mobile 07815 871 997

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Eminent historian joins Queen’s University
Professor Colin Kidd
Professor Colin Kidd

One of the UK’s leading historians has joined Queen’s University. Professor Colin Kidd, from Ayr in Scotland, specialises in the history of relationships between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the idea of ‘Britishness’. He has joined Queen’s School of History and Anthropology as Professor of Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought.

Professor Kidd, who was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in July 2010, said: “I have a long-standing interest in the ‘British question’, namely the relationships of the four nations of these islands with each other, and the idea of ‘Britishness’.

“Among my interests are Unionism, particularly Anglo-Scottish Unionism, and the labels that are used to describe people in terms of their political ideology. For example, Scots who wanted their own home rule parliament tended to be called Nationalists, while those in Northern Ireland who supported home rule from Stormont were called Unionists. This is just one example of the disjunction in the labels used in British and Irish politics. It raises the question of how useful labels like Unionist and Nationalist really are, as they often conceal more than they reveal.”

Professor Kidd’s research interests span the period between the late seventeenth century and the present. His research themes include ethnicity, race, nationhood and the Enlightenment. He also has an interest in British and American constitutional theory and the history of anthropology.

Professor Peter Gray, Head of the School of History at Queen’s, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Kidd to Queen’s. His appointment will help cement Queen’s reputation as a leading centre for historical teaching and research.”
For more information on History at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/history

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

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Diners invited to enjoy food Gloria-ous food at Queen’s
BBC presenter William Crawley serves up the new series of 'Out to Lunch'
BBC presenter William Crawley serves up the new series of 'Out to Lunch'

The opportunity to dine with a host of well-known names is on offer at Queen’s this month as the popular Out to Lunch with William Crawley series returns.

Diners can enjoy lunch in the University’s Great Hall, while host William Crawley interviews special guests including broadcaster Gloria Hunniford; Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MP MLA; author Edna O’Brien; and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell.

Other speakers on the menu include Professor Sean Connolly and Dr Eamon Phoenix who will provide a double helping of history, while Irish rugby legend Dr Jack Kyle OBE is the guest at a special Christmas lunch.

Lynn Corken, Queen’s Welcome Centre Manager, said: “This tasty series is open to everyone. Out To Lunch with William Crawley provides a wonderful opportunity to hear from some of our most well-known faces in the wonderful surroundings of Queen’s Great Hall. Our guests are guaranteed a wonderful afternoon’s food and company, making Out to Lunch with William Crawley an unmissable feast.”

Tickets and further details are available online at www.whatsonatqueens.com or by telephoning the Queen’s Welcome Centre 028 9097 5252.

Media inquiries to Judith Rance, Press and PR Unit, 028 9097 2592, j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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£200,000 on offer to Queen’s freshers in scholarship package

Queen’s is encouraging this year’s freshers to take advantage of its unique £200,000 scholarships scheme.
The package, which this year includes prestigious new awards targeted at high-quality students from low-income backgrounds, offers scholarships across all academic disciplines.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said that the awards scheme both rewards excellence and helps to ensure a first-class learning experience for all eligible students.
He said: “We believe that the Queen’s experience offers our students the chance to achieve their full potential by making the most of the many opportunities – academic, cultural, sporting and social – that the University offers.
“Our scholarships package helps to ensure that our students can make the most of this experience. This is particularly important in the challenging economic climate, and I encourage all eligible students to apply for the wide range of scholarships available.”
Queen’s is among the UK institutions taking part in a new UK scheme offering crucial financial support to students from low-income backgrounds. The Eliahou Dangoor Scholarships were launched by the Russell Group and 1994 Groups of universities, following a generous donation made by Dr Naim Dangoor, a 95-year-old property tycoon who fled to Britain to escape anti-Semitic persecution in Iraq. Queen’s is offering 33 scholarships of £1,000 to eligible first year students studying one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at the University.

The Vice-Chancellor said: “This is a major initiative which plays an important role in encouraging the brightest students to enrol in courses in vital areas which underpin economic growth. It complements Queen’s own STEM Scholarship scheme under which students achieving three As at A-level and enrolling on a STEM subject automatically receive a £1,000 award.”
Other major awards include A-level Entrance Scholarships, worth £1,000 each, for the best A-level student entering each of the University’s Schools (with the exception of the School of Education). Queen’s Centenary Gold Medal Entrance Scholarships of £7,500 are available for the best A-level student entering each of the University’s three Faculties. One scholarship worth £7,500 is also awarded to the best performing student in the Leaving Certificate entering Queen’s from the Republic of Ireland. The closing date for these is 4.30pm on Friday 15 October.

A range of other scholarships, including travel awards for students from outside Northern Ireland, are also available. Scholarships are also awarded annually on the results of university examinations.

Further information on Queen’s Scholarships scheme is available at www.qub.ac.uk/scholarships
For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, on 028 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Box office sales soar as Belfast gets ready for 48th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s
With a week to go until the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s gets underway, organisers behind one of the largest international arts festivals on these islands, are urging audiences to book now to avoid any last minute disappointments.
Since tickets went on sale at the end of August, almost 20,000 have been snapped up with box office sales already exceeding £300,000.
Tickets for world-class comedian and travel writer Michael Palin were snapped up in a mere 36 hours but there are still a limited number of tickets available in the Hennessy Talks programme to see broadcast journalist Jenni Murray, politician and international diplomat Paddy Ashdown, Peter Hain on Nelson Mandela and novelist Roddy Doyle who will all be performing at the Elmwood Hall, Queen’s University.
Several nights of the National Theatre of Scotland’s famous army regiment drama Black Watch, Colin Bateman’s first ever play National Anthem and the exhilarating Circa, are sold-out but festival goers can still bag tickets for selected performances and also for Alan Bennett’s latest smash-hit play The Habit of Art, jazz legend Kenny Wheeler’s Big Band, Dublin Gospel Choir and Grammy award-winning artist Mary Chapin Carpenter’s appearance at the Grand Opera House.
Speaking on the amount of interest in this year’s festival Graeme Farrow, Festival Director said: “We have been truly overwhelmed by the fantastic response to this year’s festival programme. With a week to go until the festivals kicks-off we have 70% of our box office target already met which is no mean feat, especially in the current economic climate.
“I think that what audiences are searching for is a quality experience which will stay with them long after the festival is over. You will never forget Black Watch, Paul Brady’s first appearance with a symphony orchestra, or Leon’s Enchanted Garden in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. Covering everything from the war on terror, to feminism, espionage, teenage suicide but also magic, circus and comedy we aim to provide audiences with a unique opportunity in Northern Ireland to see such world-class performances and productions.”
The festival, which is supported by Ulster Bank, Queen’s University Belfast, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Belfast City Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and receives public funding and lottery funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, is estimated to have generated a whopping £3.4million additional impact for the local economy last year.
This year’s festival runs from the October 15-October 30. For more information on the festival programme or to book tickets, log on to www.belfastfestival.com or contact the festival box office Mon-Fri 9am-6pm and Sat 10am-2pm on 028 9097 1197.

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Queen’s study focuses on mephedrone use in Northern Ireland post-ban

Researchers at Queen’s have completed one of the first studies of mephedrone use in Northern Ireland since the drug was outlawed earlier this year. They found that the ban did not deter those mephedrone users surveyed from taking the substance. 

Interviews with 23 mephedrone users were completed during a two-month period (May and June 2010) following the legislation that made the drug illegal in the UK. Study participants were aged 19 to 51 years, around half of whom (12) were female. 19 of the 23 people who took part in the study were employed, and most occupations were affiliated with business, trades, the service industry or the public sector.
The research was led by Dr Karen McElrath at Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work.

The key findings from the study were:

  • 21 of the 23 study participants had used mephedrone after the ban.
  •  Only one person was very much opposed to using the substance again.
  • Approximately half the sample preferred mephedrone to cocaine or ecstasy. Some had experienced negative effects, for example, sleeplessness, difficult comedowns and next-day depression, but these factors generally did not deter them from using the substance again.
  • None of those who took part in the research felt that ‘legal highs’ were safe simply because they were legal.
  • None of the study participants recalled an initial interest in using mephedrone because it had been legal. Rather, its legality before April 2010 meant that it was easier to access and cheaper than many illegal substances.
  • Prior to the ban, only three interviewees had purchased mephedrone from ‘head shops’ and four interviewees had purchased mephedrone from online suppliers. The majority tended to access mephedrone through friends or dealers.
  • The majority of interviewees had prior experience of taking ecstasy, amphetamine or cocaine. 
  • During their most recent use of mephedrone, all the study participants had also consumed alcohol, although the timing and amount of alcohol varied.
  • During their most recent use of mephedrone, six of the 23 participants had used another psychoactive substance, other than alcohol.
  • During their most recent use of mephedrone, most participants had consumed between one-two grams of the drug, although half recalled bingeing on mephedrone, sharing upward of seven or eight grams with two to three other people.

Dr McElrath said: “This is one of the first studies into mephedrone use in Northern Ireland since it was made illegal earlier this year. The findings suggest that the ban did not have a significant impact on those who already used mephedrone, at least during the two-month period that followed the ban. We are keen to develop this research further and to compare our results with a similar study conducted in Waterford prior to the ban on mephedrone in the Republic of Ireland in May 2010.”

The study was part of a cross-border research partnership with Marie Clare Van Hout at the Waterford Institute of Technology.
Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Press and PR Unit on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or +44 (0)7814415451 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Speech recognition ‘Connects’ Queen’s team with award
Mike Short, O2 (left) and Louis-Marie Aubert and Professor Roger Woods from ECIT, pictured at this year’s NISP CONNECT £25K Awards.
Mike Short, O2 (left) and Louis-Marie Aubert and Professor Roger Woods from ECIT, pictured at this year’s NISP CONNECT £25K Awards.

A team from Queen’s has won the High Technology Award at this year’s Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) CONNECT £25K Awards Gala in Belfast.

Researchers from ECIT were recognised for their proposed company Mobile Voice Recognition (MVR) which provides speech recognition solutions that will revolutionise the way people interact with most mobile devices.

The company has the technology to enable large vocabulary continuous speech recognition to be embedded in small electronic devices. It provides the solution for complex speech-to-text applications, while satisfying the constraints of battery-operated mobile devices which traditionally have limited computational capabilities and low power. The technology has been validated and is currently the subject of intellectual protection. A demonstration prototype is being finalized.

Professor Roger Woods from MVR said: “By bringing together internationally recognised researchers in embedded systems and speech recognition experts, we have made a major advance in creating speech recognition solutions for embedded or handheld solutions.” 

“We are delighted to have won this prestigious award, which has given us real impetus to commercialise this research. I am particularly delighted for Louis-Marie Aubert and Richard Veitch and other team members who have worked so hard on this project.”

The event in the Pump House, Titanic Quarter, was hosted by the NI Science Park, and was compered by the BBC’s Wendy Austin.

The awards event was sponsored by Bank of Ireland, Invest NI, University of Ulster, Queen’s and the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). The team received a prize of £2.5K on the night.

Further information on research within the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s is available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/eeecs/

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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New era for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Queen's
President Zhao Qu of Chinese Medical University (CMU) pictured with Queen's President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson at the Heads of Agreement signing.
President Zhao Qu of Chinese Medical University (CMU) pictured with Queen's President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson at the Heads of Agreement signing.
Staff from CMU and Queen's who witnessed the signing of a new Heads of Agreement between the two institutions
Staff from CMU and Queen's who witnessed the signing of a new Heads of Agreement between the two institutions

Queen's and China Medical University (CMU) have joined forces to develop a strategic alliance for an undergraduate programme in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.

Representatives from CMU recently visited Queen's to sign a Heads of Agreement for the new partnership.

The programme will lead to the award of a first degree in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology from Queen's. The course has just had its first intake of students at CMU and is now in its first semester. The new agreement between Queen's and CMU will also see the establishment of a joint research facility on CMU's campus in the area of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. The facility will enable students progressing from the Queen's MPhil in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology to undertake some of their PhD research at CMU.

China Medical University (CMU) in Shenyang City in the province of Liaoning, was the first medical school established by the Chinese Communist Party and over 50,000 senior specialized medical personnel have been educated by CMU since its establishment.

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