01-2011 Press Releases

Space Agency investigates novel analogue self-steered antennas
Dr Neil Buchanan with a prototype of a Retrodirective Antenna.
Dr Neil Buchanan with a prototype of a Retrodirective Antenna.
Bulky present generation satellite dishes and ground terminals could become relics of the past thanks to research currently being conducted for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) aimed at developing discrete self-aligning flat antennas.

It is hoped the work could lead to a one-size-fits all solution that could be optimised for a variety of technologies presently used to deliver satellite broadband and television to travellers as well as customers in broadband ‘not spots’.

ECIT is currently working on an 18 month ESA project with the aim of developing a completely self-contained solid-state self-steering antenna that is much lighter and less power hungry than current alternatives.

The team being led by Professor Vincent Fusco plan to complete work on a 1.6GHz demonstrator - capable of providing transfer rates of 0.5Mbits/s - with a power requirement of just 2 watts. It is anticipated that the device will ultimately have the capability to operate at 20-30 GHz in order to provide much greater bandwidth.

The design currently being worked on is a 4x5 element planar array measuring 30cm by 40 cm and just 12 mm deep.

Uniquely, the circuits are entirely analogue and incorporate specially adapted phase locked loop circuits. By contrast, conventional circuits convert incoming signals to digital, process them electronically and then convert them back to analogue. This however limits their frequency, and increases their complexity, cost and power requirements.

Queen’s University has a strong reputation in this specialised field, having built the world’s first 65MHz self steered antenna a number of years ago. Since then, it has built a close relationship with ESA to whom it is now the main supplier of quasi-optical filters.

Dr Neil Buchanan the lead engineer on the project who recently received ESA’s Best Young Engineer award for his work in the field said:

“The work is especially exciting because it has involved taking a piece of pure university research and bringing it into the real world.  We believe that self-tracking antennas offer the prospect of much simpler and more cost effective alternatives to other current approaches. That, we believe, makes them ideally suited to a variety of end uses.    

“For example, satellite broadband aircraft antennas are extremely complex. They need to be linked into the plane’s onboard navigation system in order to find the satellite. In trains and road vehicles, they consume a lot of power and they require mechanical parts for tracking purposes.”

“We believe that across these applications the solution we are currently working on could reduce power consumption by a factor of 10, weight by a factor of five and cost by a factor of four.

“It clearly has a lot of potential,” he adds.

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Top Queen’s scientist gets UK recognition
Professor Alan Stitt
Professor Alan Stitt
One of Northern Ireland’s leading scientists has received a top UK award, to support ground-breaking research into vascular stem cells and eye disease at Queen’s.

Professor Alan Stitt, McCauley Chair of Experimental Ophthalmology and the Scientific Director of the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science (CVVS) at Queen’s, has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.  The award supports respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential, with the aim of retaining their expertise within the UK.   Only 30 of these awards are made each year to researchers in all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering.

On receiving the award Professor Stitt said: “This links to my research in the area of vascular stem cells and treatment of important sight-threatening eye diseases.   At Queen’s, we hope to continue to make significant discoveries in this field and improve the treatment of eye diseases for those with diabetes.”

He added: “As an individual, it is very flattering to be recognised in this manner but this also reflects the talent and hard work of my research team.  This Merit Award also underscores the excellent environment and international standard of research in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science at Queen’s.”

This Merit Award will support Professor Stitt’s research in the area of vascular stem cells and treatment of important eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy.  This research is pioneering the application of “cell therapy” using a very rare population of cells that promote repair of damaged blood vessels within the retina.

The award is presented by the Royal Society and jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the UK Office of Science and Technology.

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

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International conference puts food safety under the microscope
Professor Chris Elliott launches the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference, which will take place in March
Professor Chris Elliott launches the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference, which will take place in March
As food scares, such as the recent detection of dioxins in eggs from Germany, become more frequent, the public should be reassured that advances in science are helping reduce the risks from eating contaminated foods.

That’s according to Professor Chris Elliott from Queen’s University Belfast. The University, in partnership with safefood, is set to showcase the latest international developments in food safety and traceability at a major conference in March.

The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference will take place at Queen’s from 21-24 March. The event will welcome scientists, food standards regulators and food producers from around 32 countries, who will share their expertise in delivering safe and authentic foods to consumers.
Professor Elliott, from the Centre for Assured, Safe and Traceable Food at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “The number of food scares has increased significantly in the past decade. Imported foods found to contain dangerous contaminants such as drugs, dyes and bacterial toxins are being reported more frequently.

“These scares and product recalls can have a major impact on the public and the agri-food industry. From health risks, to financial penalties and the loss of consumer confidence, the effects can be far reaching and, as shown by the recent egg dioxin scare, they often transcend international borders.
“Scientists at Queen’s and around the world are developing new ways of detecting contaminants and reducing the risks to consumers and the agri-food industry. As public demand for safe and authentic foods continues to increase, consumers should be reassured by these scientific advances – many of which will be discussed here at Queen’s during the conference.

“The conference is attracting huge interest from those involved in agri-business around the world. High calibre international speakers will discuss a wide range of topics ranging from improvements in feed and food contamination identification, and methods for on-site analysis of food on farms and slaughterhouses, to the potential role of nanomaterials in food safety, and innovations in combating food fraud.”

The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference is jointly organised by Queen’s and safefood, the North-South body responsible for the promotion of food safety on the island of Ireland. Dr Gary Kearney, Director, Food Science, safefood said: “This conference will highlight emerging trends and challenges in food traceability as well as the latest methodologies for controlling food safety risks, which can have real benefits for consumers on the island of Ireland.”

Among the highlights will be Professor Garry Lee from the University of Western Australia and TSW Analytical P/L, who will present a new traceability system being trialled in the Australian pork industry. Following the Foot and Mouth crisis and the Irish pork contamination scare of 2008 and 2009, which highlighted the lack of traceability in pork production, this could have particular lessons for the pork industry in the UK and Ireland.

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

Dr Anthony Potter from Queen’s will share his research into product recalls and their consequences to the food industry, while Owen Brennan from Devenish Nutrition will discuss the controversial EU ban on GM crops and its negative impact on ensuring a sustainable EU food production system.

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

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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£1.74 million grant boosts Cystic Fibrosis research at Queen’s
Research team: Professor Gerry McElvaney, RCSI, Professor Ric Boucher, University of North Carolina, Professor Stuart Elborn, Queen’s University, Dr Marianne Muhlebach, University of North Carolina, Dr Michael Tunney, Queen’s University, Dr Deirdre Gilpin, Queen’s University
Research team: Professor Gerry McElvaney, RCSI, Professor Ric Boucher, University of North Carolina, Professor Stuart Elborn, Queen’s University, Dr Marianne Muhlebach, University of North Carolina, Dr Michael Tunney, Queen’s University, Dr Deirdre Gilpin, Queen’s University
Scientists at Queen’s have begun work into improving the lives of thousands of Cystic Fibrosis sufferers thanks to the award of a £1.74 million US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership grant.

The grant has been approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA with funding for the Queen’s component provided by Health and Social Care Research and Development (HSC R&D Public Health Agency), Northern Ireland and the Medical Research Council. The grant is the largest ever to be awarded in the UK to study the microbiology of Cystic Fibrosis pulmonary infection.

The study is a collaborative US-Ireland international study with researchers in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Dublin, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and the School of Pharmacy and the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Leading the study, Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s said: “The key goals of this study are to find out the role of anaerobes in causing damage to the lungs of people with Cystic Fibrosis. Anaerobes are bacteria that do not need oxygen to survive and we will determine whether their presence in the lung contributes to infection there.

"We will also examine whether the bacteria are able to produce chemicals that can damage lung tissue and break down antibiotics given to treat lung infection.  We will also look at how effective different antibiotics are in treating them.”

He added: “The results of the study will be of important clinical relevance to people with Cystic Fibrosis because if we show that these anaerobes are contributing to infection and inflammation in the lungs of Cystic Fibrosis patients, in the future, patients could potentially be given more appropriate and effective antibiotics which should improve their clinical outcome and quality of life.”

The research project has been funded for five years with an aim of recruiting a total of 450 Cystic Fibrosis patients across the three sites. The work will be performed in the ‘US-Ireland Anaerobe Laboratory’ in the Medical Biology Centre which has been recently refurbished - specifically to facilitate the delivery of this project.
For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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NI businesses to benefit from new China initiatives at Queen’s
Professor Richard Harrison
Professor Richard Harrison
Queen’s will today launch its China Management Research Institute, which will fast-track business opportunities in China for companies in Northern Ireland.

The new Institute, based in Queen’s University Management School, will encourage local entrepreneurs to look towards China as a potential source of new trading partners and markets.
It will also further strengthen the links between Queen’s and China, by working with a range of Chinese educational, business and government organisations to forge new academic and research connections.
Professor Richard Harrison, Director of Queen’s University Management School, said: “China is an increasingly important economy on the world stage and is emerging as a major research and education centre.
“The new Institute will lead research into Chinese management and business practices, which will enable Queen’s Management School to offer enhanced knowledge and expertise for the benefit of industry and commerce in both Northern Ireland and China.

“In particular, it will provide insights for managers in both countries which will help to underpin enhanced trade and business development links. 

“It is the latest in a series of international initiatives within Queen’s University Management School, which offer our students the chance to experience different and highly dynamic business cultures.”

The new Institute will be announced following the launch at Queen’s of the 4th China UK Entrepreneurship Competition, which will also strengthen the School’s existing partnerships with universities and government bodies in China.

The contest aims to encourage new business ventures between China and the UK, and replicates the process of entrepreneurs securing start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. There are two streams to the competition: one for students in the UK and China and one for businesses in both countries. Both promote business ideas that use internal resources or markets.
The competition is a joint venture between Queen’s, Lancaster University, University College London and the University of York, and is supported by the Chinese Government.
Keynote speakers at today’s events will include representatives of the China-Britain Business Council, the British Council, Invest NI, and Queen’s partner universities in the China-UK Entrepreneurship Competition.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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From Belfast to Zambia: Two Queen’s students win National Midwifery Award
Dawn Nelson and Lisa Darrah with their award.
Dawn Nelson and Lisa Darrah with their award.
Two Queen's students have won one of the UK’s top midwifery prizes at the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) Annual Awards - the UK’s most prestigious midwifery awards.

Dawn Nelson (Omagh) and Lisa Darrah (Ballyclare) scooped  a Pampers' Student Vision award for their proposal to learn about midwifery care within a developing country, Zambia.

Dawn and Lisa’s award will fund an elective placement to gain greater understanding of caring for women in Zambia, and allow them to observe the midwifery and obstetric difficulties women face in a developing country.

Dawn said: “We are delighted to receive this award from The Royal College of Midwives. Through our studies at Queen’s University Belfast, we have the opportunity to complete a four-week placement at a hospital in rural Zambia in March 2011. This will be a fantastic experience, allowing us to develop our knowledge of midwifery practice, and make a contribution to change for women in developing countries.”

Lisa said: “We are extremely fortunate to live in a country where maternity care and services are free and widely available. To observe midwifery care in a developing country will be an amazing yet contrasting experience to the well-resourced hospitals where we have spent most of our midwifery training to date. It will increase our awareness of maternal and child health care in other cultures, which will be invaluable as Northern Ireland continues to become a more culturally diverse place to work.”

Congratulating the students on their award, Professor Linda Johnston, Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s said: “I congratulate Dawn and Lisa on receiving this award. Their success is testament to the high quality of midwifery students at Queen’s, which is the foremost provider of Nursing and Midwifery education in Northern Ireland. Our students and graduates play a central role in delivering healthcare to everyone in Northern Ireland and, through overseas placements, to some of the most vulnerable mothers and babies in other parts of the world.”

Dr Gillian Marsh, Technical External Relations Manager at Pampers, who sponsor the student award, said: “Pampers understands the important role that midwives play in society. That’s why we are proud to support an award such as this, which recognises the hard work that students like Dawn and Lisa are doing and their dedication to the profession and the Mums and babies in their care.”

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This award highlights the important, innovative and pioneering international work being done by students like Dawn and Lisa.  I congratulate them on their commitment to the profession. It is important for people to know that midwifery education is not standing still and is constantly evolving. When student midwives are given the resources, support and freedom to develop their work and learning, the result is empowered midwives and better services, better care and better outcomes for mothers, babies and their families.”

The students will spend their four-week placement in rural Zambia in March/April 2011.  In the country, only 44 per cent of births are attended by a skilled midwifery practitioner. They will observe care for women who are HIV positive, and 16 per cent of the population are HIV positive. Nearly half the population are identified as living in extreme poverty and third in extreme hunger; women are at a further disadvantage.

For more information contact Claire O’Callaghan at Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 5391 email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s Vice-Chancellor pays tribute to ‘inspirational’ engineer
Professor Sir Bernard Crossland
Professor Sir Bernard Crossland

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson has paid tribute to one of the University’s most distinguished former members of staff, eminent engineer Professor Sir Bernard Crossland, who died on Monday. He was 87.

A former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University, where he was Head of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from 1959 to 1982, Sir Bernard enjoyed an international reputation as a research pioneer in high pressure engineering and explosive welding.

He was, however, perhaps best known for his role as an expert investigator of national accidents, and as a powerful advocate of strong integration between industry and education.

Speaking today, Professor Gregson said: “As an engineering educator and leader whose career spanned seven decades, Sir Bernard served at the highest levels within Queen’s and the engineering profession, and he did so with distinction.

“He was one of the most eminent engineers in the UK and Ireland, an exceptionally motivational teacher and research mentor, and a world-class researcher in his own right; he inspired successive generations of students and staff.
“His contribution to Queen’s and to Northern Ireland was immense, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family circle.”

Sir Bernard was once described in the Sunday Times as one of the engineers ‘who have enriched our lives quite as much as all the actors and artists, writers and musicians who are household names’.

He served as an expert investigator of several tragic accidents, the most noteworthy of which was the King's Cross Underground Fire in 1987, heading up the scientific committee which established the cause of the fire and made recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

He also chaired the Public Hearing following the Bilsthorpe Colliery roof fall in 1993, and played an active role in investigation of the Ramsgate walkway collapse, the destruction of a major liquid gas plant in Qatar, the Southall high speed train crash and the Ladbroke Grove rail crash.

Professor Crossland has lectured and published extensively throughout his career, and published his memoirs, “The Anatomy of an Engineer”, in 2006.

He served on and chaired several Government Committees in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and received many awards in recognition of his service to his profession and to higher education.
These include the Kelvin Medal of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Dickenson Medal of the Newcomen Society, the James Watt International Gold Medal of the IMechE, the Cunningham Medal of the Royal Irish Academy, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Engineers Ireland and, with others, the George Stephenson Research Prize and the Hawksley Gold Medal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Sir Bernard was a Fellow (and former Vice-President) of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers from 1986 to 1987.

In 1987 he was made a Freeman of the City of London, the city of his birth, and in 1990 he was knighted for services to education and industry. In June 2009 he was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Sustained Achievement Award.

Engineers Ireland established the annual Sir Bernard Crossland Symposium, the annual Sir Bernard Crossland Lecture and the Crossland Medal for Engineering Innovation in Sir Bernard’s honour, to celebrate and promote excellence in engineering.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Community engagement ‘vital for NI’s small businesses’
Award-winning students Paul Murray, Chris Canning and Shaun Trainor with Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher
Award-winning students Paul Murray, Chris Canning and Shaun Trainor with Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher

Continued engagement with their communities is vital if struggling voluntary groups and rural small businesses in Northern Ireland are to survive, according to Queen’s graduate Chris Canning, one of the winners of the University’s 2010 Science Shop Award.

With his colleagues Christopher Morgan, Paul Murray and Shaun Trainor, Chris scooped the award for a research project which helped Upperlands Community Development Ltd in Co. Londonderry to develop a focused marketing strategy.

He said: “Our main aim was to help Upperlands Community Development become self-sustaining, and to make the best use of the Internet technologies available to them. It was great to be involved in a project in which we were interacting with the client face to face – I felt as though our findings could be put to great practical use and could really make a difference.“

Chris, who graduated in 2010 and now works for New York Stock Exchange Technologies, added:  “One point that became very clear was that it is crucial for local communities to feel a sense of ownership for organisations in their area. The more that people who may benefit from these groups become involved in them, the greater the possibilities to attract support for new business.”

The Upperlands group’s Development Officer, Sheilagh Murphy, paid tribute to the Queen’s team.

She said: “We operate in a rural area and let out a number of retail and industrial units. We did have 100 per cent occupancy but recently, largely as a result of the economic downturn, we lost some of our tenants. We really needed marketing expertise and the students did an excellent job for us.

“They developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, which included recommendations on investigating different revenue streams, looking at our rental structure and setting up a new website.

“We are already attracting more expressions of interest as a result of putting their ideas into practice, and our new website is due to be launched in the near future.”

Eileen Martin of Queen’s Science Shop said: “This particular project is just one example of how our students can use their academic knowledge to benefit community organisations. This not only helps the organisations themselves but also the students involved, who learn a lot through the process.”

The Science Shop is a link between Northern Ireland’s universities and community and voluntary groups which enables students from all disciplines to develop their research skills. It accepts requests for information and research on all subjects including environmental issues, art and design, information technology, community health issues, local history, social policy and legal issues.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, a.langford@qub.ac.uk, 07815 871997

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£800,000 pumped into Queen’s heart research
Dr Anthony Collins
Dr Anthony Collins
Researchers at Queen’s are working towards new therapies to prevent irregular heart rhythms - known as cardiac arrhythmia - following a £200,000 grant from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Northern Ireland.

Over the past two years the BHF Northern Ireland has pumped almost £800,000 into research at Queen’s to tackle heart disease, Northern Ireland’s biggest killer.

Dr Anthony Collins, from the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science in Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences is leading the new research project.

He explained: “The pumping action of the heart has to be very regular in order to pump blood around the body efficiently.  In a diseased heart this pumping action can become irregular which means the blood is not delivered to the vital organs.

“This research is looking at the changes that take place in the muscle of a diseased heart – the changes that cause the irregular heart beat. Our long-term aim is to look at ways of making the heart muscle better by developing gene or drug-based therapies.

 “Our team is determined to do its part in translating the generosity of British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland supporters into real advances in cardiovascular medicine and we are also committed to enhancing Queen’s reputation as a world leader in biomedical research.”

The Queen’s team includes Dr David Bell, Dr David Grieve, Professor Barbara McDermott and Dr David Simpson.

Marjory Burns, BHF Northern Ireland Director said: “Thanks to the generous donations of our supporters across the UK we’re able to fund vital research to fight diseases of the heart and circulation. Funding to local researchers supports our ever-increasing portfolio of world-leading research to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of heart disease.”

Further information on the work of the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science at Queen’s can be found online at www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforVisionandVascularScience/

To arrange an interview with Dr Anthony Collins please contact Communications Office Tel: 00 44 (0)28 9097 5391 Email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Explore a New You this New Year with Queen’s

If you are hoping to broaden your horizons, learn a new skill or just take up a hobby this New Year, then look no further than Queen’s Open Learning programme.

With over 100 courses on offer; from comic book illustration to consumer rights, wine appreciation to water colour landscapes and family history to first aid; there is something for everyone looking to develop a new skill.

Dr Tess Maginess, Senior Teaching Fellow and Open Learning Co-ordinator at Queen’s School of Education, said: “Open learning is the perfect opportunity to learn something new, or pick up on an old hobby.  The courses are open to everyone over the age of 16 and no qualifications are required to enrol.

“While many  of our courses take place at Queen’s, others run in towns across Northern Ireland, including Armagh, Carrickfergus, Dromore, Holywood, Portrush, Randalstown and Whitehead.”

Step back in time with Folklife, Politics and Industry in Ulster Society 1840 – 1920 or delve into the lives of James Craig and Daniel O’Connell with Irish Biographies.  The very successful Blackbird Bookclub, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, will reconvene featuring writers like Sinead Morrissey, Christopher Marsh and Glenn Patterson.

For those hoping to indulge their creative side there is Creative Thinking and Writing: Visual Paths which offers practical advice on all aspects of writing.  Alternatively there is Painting Landscapes in Oil for Beginners where everything from brushes, paints and subject matter will be broken down and demonstrated in easy stages. 

Learn a new language with courses in French, German, Italian and Spanish.  Or enrol in A Short History of Spanish Music to take a journey looking at musical life in Spain from the 13th Century.

If you are stepping into the New Year with a positive approach to 2011 then some of the Personal Development Courses may be for you.  De-clutter your Life provides practical tools to help you clear a space for yourself.  Achieve Your Goals is a one-day workshop to motivate you to improve your health, relationships and finances this year.

Dr Maginess concluded: “With online registration at www.qub.ac.uk/edu/ol it has never been easier to sign up for our classes.  Many courses fill up quickly so we would encourage people to enrol early, online or by post.  Visit out website or telephone 028 9097 3323 / 3539 for more information.”

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

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Shellfish safer to eat thanks to breakthrough by Queen’s scientists
Professor Chris Elliott
Professor Chris Elliott
New technology to make shellfish safer to eat has been pioneered by scientists at Queen’s.

The new test, developed at Queen’s Institute for Agri-Food and Land Use, not only ensures shellfish are free of toxins before they reach the food chain but is likely to revolutionise the global fishing industry.

While the current process for monitoring potentially dangerous toxins in shellfish takes up to two days, the new test slashes the testing time to just 30 minutes using new biosensor technology and provides a much more reliable result.

The test detects paralytic shellfish poisons, which paralyse anyone who consumes them and kills around 25 per cent people who are poisoned.

Leading the project is Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, who said: “Toxins secreted by algae, and which concentrate in shellfish, are a major hazard to consumers and can bring huge economic losses to the aquaculture industry.

“While the existence of these toxins has been known for some time, there have been major concerns about the effectiveness of tests used to detect them. There is also growing evidence that climate change is causing many more toxic episodes across the world, resulting in the closure of affected shellfish beds. 

“The new test, developed at Queen’s, is much quicker and more reliable than existing methods. It works by using unique ‘detector proteins’ to seek out minute amounts of toxins present in mussels, oysters, cockles and scallops.

“The test will not only make shellfish safer to eat, but it will also have a significant impact on global aquaculture industries as they struggle to deal with the rising problems of toxins caused by climate change.

“The test has been developed as part of a €10 million (Euro) BioCop research project led by Queen’s and involving 32 international research partners and the European Commission.

“We have also signed a substantial contract with the UK-based company Neogen Europe to commercialise the idea. This will be the third such aquaculture product developed by Queen’s and Neogen Europe, helping the company to develop its unique portfolio of rapid food safety tests and reinforcing Queen’s reputation as a global leader in this area.”

Research at Queen’s will also be aided by a $500,000 (US dollars) grant from The American Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to further develop the test in the USA so it can be conducted in laboratories and on boats as soon as the shellfish are caught, and will help drastically cut the time taken to get the catch from fishing nets to supermarket shelves.

For more information on the Institute for Agri-Food and Land Use at Queen’s University visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/InstituteofAgri-FoodLandUse/AboutUs/

For more information about the BioCop project visit www.biocop.org

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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‘Something for the weekend’? Funding available for student ideas
Students with exciting ideas for cultural events to enliven Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter at weekends can now bid for funding to turn their dreams into reality.

Queen’s is funding a host of student-led weekend events for the University area, as part of the Seven-Day Week Initiative to encourage more students to remain on campus from Fridays to Sundays.

The initiative gives students the opportunity to explore their creative skills by supporting a range of activities such as dramatic performances, exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and cultural workshops.

Recent events included a ‘Weekend of Words’ in October, which featured a student production of Romeo and Juliet, a creative writing event, and special film screenings in the Queen’s Film Theatre.

PhD student Paula Blair, Chair of the Queen’s Quarter Weekends Committee, said: “The funding enables students to stage all sorts of weekend events, from new operas to cup-cake camps which will make Queen’s Quarter a more vibrant place.  I would urge all students who feel they have a good idea for a weekend event, and the energy and commitment to see it through, to apply.

“Many of these events are open to the public so they can also play an important role in enhancing community relations.”

Funding proposal packs can be downloaded from www.qub.ac.uk/qqw  The closing date for funding applications is 28 February 2011 and the event must take place no later than 28 August.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, on 028 9097 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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