02-2011 Press Releases

‘Show Off Your Label’ for Fairtrade
Vice President of Equality and Diversity at Queen's Students' Union, Samantha Tan shows off her label to launch Queen's Fairtrade Fortnight.
Vice President of Equality and Diversity at Queen's Students' Union, Samantha Tan shows off her label to launch Queen's Fairtrade Fortnight.
Queen’s is hosting a range of events over the next two weeks, including a coffee morning on the Wednesday 9 March to mark Fairtrade Fortnight which starts on Monday 28 February.

Samantha, chair of the University’s Fairtrade Steering Group, said: “Each year we host a number of events to highlight our commitment to Fairtrade.  This year’s campaign is called ‘Show Off Your Label’ which asks us to show off that we’re in support of Fairtrade.  As part of the ‘Show Off Your Label’ campaign we’re trying to break a world record for the longest, continual piece of bunting.  There are pieces of cotton bunting around the University to decorate which will then be sent back to the Fairtrade Foundation for the record attempt.  We encourage everyone to get involved in our Fairtrade events this Fairtrade Fortnight."

Queen’s was awarded University Fairtrade Status in 2006, and this was renewed last year.

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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Gene fuelled transporter causes breast cancer cells to self-destruct
Dr Helen McCarthy
Dr Helen McCarthy
Scientists at Queen’s have shown that they can deliver a gene directly into breast cancer cells causing them to self-destruct, using an innovative, miniscule gene transport system, according to research published today (28 February) in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Using a transport system called a Designer Biomimetic Vector (DBV), Dr Helen McCarthy, from Queen’s School of Pharmacy, funded by Breast Cancer Campaign, packaged a gene into a nanoparticle 400 times smaller than the width of a human hair, allowing it to be delivered straight into breast cancer cells in the laboratory.
The gene called iNOS, is targeted specifically to breast cancer cells using the DBV where it forces the cells to produce  poisonous nitric oxide; either killing the cells outright or making them more vulnerable to being destroyed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As this approach leaves normal healthy breast cells unaffected, this would overcome many of the toxic side effects of current treatments.
Further investigation is needed but it could be trialled in patients in as little as five years. Dr McCarthy’s next step is to turn the nanoparticles into a dried powder that could be easily transported and reconstituted before being given to patients.
Dr McCarthy said: “A major stumbling block to using gene therapy in the past has been the lack of an effective delivery system. Combining the Designer Biomimetic Vector with the iNOS gene has proved successful in killing breast cancer cells in the laboratory. In the long term, I see this being used to treat people with metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the bones, ideally administered before radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Dr Lisa Wilde, Research Information Senior Manager, Breast Cancer Campaign said: “Gene therapy could potentially be an exciting avenue for treating breast cancer. Although at an early stage, Dr McCarthy’s laboratory research shows that this system for delivering toxic genes to tumour cells holds great promise and we look forward to seeing how it is translated into patients.”

Media enquiries to Claire Learner, Media Relations Officer, Breast Cancer Campaign, 00 44 (0)20 7749 3705, clearner@breastcancercampaign.org M: 07736 313698

or Queen’s University Communications Office, 00 44 (0)28 9097 3087/3091, email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's solar experts help to unlock Sun's secrets
The ROSA equipment on the Dunn Solar Telescope optical benches
The ROSA equipment on the Dunn Solar Telescope optical benches
Solar scientists from Queen’s and Sheffield University have made a key finding that is helping to unlock the secrets of the Sun.

The researchers, led by Professor Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen, Head of the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC) at the University of Sheffield, and including Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis and Dr David Jess from Queen’s, have discovered massive waves in giant magnetic holes on the Sun’s surface.

This finding, published in The Astrophysical Journal, has shown that the magnetic hole they observed, known as a pore, is able to channel energy generated deep inside the Sun, along the magnetic field to the Sun’s upper atmosphere. The magnetic field emerging through the pore is over 1,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the Earth.

The energy being transported is in the form of waves, known as ‘sausage waves’, which the scientists observed using a UK-built solar imager known as ROSA (Rapid Oscillations of the Solar Atmosphere), designed by Queen’s University and in operation at the Dunn Solar Telescope, Sacramento Peak, USA. This is the first direct observation of ‘sausage’ waves at the solar surface.

The team believes these giant magnetic holes will play an important role in unveiling the longstanding secrets behind solar coronal heating.

The researchers now hope to use further similar solar images from ROSA to understand the fine substructure of these massive magnetic holes by reconstructing the images to view the holes’ interiors.

Professor von Fay-Siebenburgen said: ''I would like to congratulate Professor Francis Keenan, Head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s, and the University’s solar team who built the wonderful ROSA instrument that allows us to make unprecedented solar observations with relatively low costs."

ROSA was developed and constructed at Queen’s. The project was jointly funded by the University and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Media inquiries to Anne Langford, Communications Office, Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 97 5310, mobile 07815 871997 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s green chemistry pioneers 'top in UK'
Professor Ken Seddon (left) and QUILL Co-Director Professor Jim Swindall demonstrate some of the ionic liquids developed in the world-leading centre.
Professor Ken Seddon (left) and QUILL Co-Director Professor Jim Swindall demonstrate some of the ionic liquids developed in the world-leading centre.

A Queen’s professor who has pioneered world-leading research in green chemistry has been named the top chemist in the United Kingdom.

Professor Ken Seddon, who leads the University’s Ionic Liquids Laboratories (QUILL), came first in the UK in the Times Higher Education listing of the world’s 100 Top Chemists of the Past Decade.

Queen’s chemists took both the first and second UK places. Professor Seddon’s colleague, Dr John Holbrey, a Senior Research Fellow in QUILL, was the second highest ranking UK chemist. They are two of only four UK chemists included in the list, which is based on the impact of their work (the number of citations received).

Professor Seddon is acknowledged as a global leader in research on ionic liquids, which have the potential to impact on the daily lives of everyone in the world, massively reducing industrial pollution, improving working conditions and enhancing job and wealth creation. Ionic liquids are not flammable, release no fumes and can help make chemical reactions faster and cheaper.

Congratulating the two Queen’s chemists, Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “I am delighted to congratulate Professor Seddon and Dr Holbrey on this recognition, although it comes as no surprise. Queen’s is justifiably renowned for its research in green chemistry – an area of growth within the University.

“QUILL is a world-class centre working with international partners on research which will benefit global society. It demonstrably leads the world in the development of an exciting new scientific process, inspiring a whole new generation of international researchers and delivering solutions to a problem of global proportions.”

Professor Seddon said: “This news is an absolute demonstration that the work we carry out in collaboration with our 16 industrial members is an ideal combination of fundamental and applied chemistry, recognised by the worldwide chemical community.
“I am particularly pleased on behalf of Dr John Holbrey. For a Senior Research Fellow to come second in the UK, ahead of every other lecturer, reader and Professor in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is an amazing achievement.”
QUILL’s research partners include Shell, Procter and Gamble and Petronas, the Fortune 500 oil and gas corporation owned by the Malaysian government. QUILL houses the only Petronas academic-based laboratory of its kind in Europe.

In 2006 QUILL were awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. The award – part of the national honours system – recognises and honours outstanding achievement by universities and colleges in the United Kingdom.

The previous year Professor Seddon and Dr Holbrey were awarded the 2005 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from President Bush, and QUILL and Merck were jointly awarded the Teamwork in Innovation Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry, for “the development and commercialisation of ionic liquids in the chemical industry”.

Media inquiries to Anne Langford, Communications Office, Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 97 5310, mobile 07815 871997 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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World number one award for Queen’s academic
David Gibson
David Gibson

An enterprising academic from Queen’s University Management School has been named the ‘number one’ enterprise educator in the world.

David Gibson, from Ballinderry, is the first person in Europe to receive the accolade, from the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

He was recognised for his work in promoting enterprise education throughout Queen’s, the UK’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2009.  His work has seen him introduce a model of enterprise teaching into courses not traditionally associated with enterprise, including nursing and the arts.

This model is now in use in many universities around the world. It has also been adopted by the European Training Foundation to enhance the employability of graduates across the EU by providing them with enterprise, business and entrepreneurial skills.

Congratulating Mr Gibson, Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “This honour recognises the vital work which David and his colleagues carry out to nurture these vital skills among all our students.

“The development of our pioneering model of entrepreneurship education was a crucial factor in Queen’s receiving the Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year title in 2009.

Enterprise education is now embedded in 116 pathways across all academic disciplines, reaching 11,000 students across the University, and has led to over 1100 students directly engaging in business activity.”

David said: “Being entrepreneurial is not necessarily about making millions; instead it is about having the motivation and the know-how to turn ideas and opportunities into realities.

“We believe it is crucial for students to develop a spirit of enterprise to give them the edge in the highly competitive jobs market. Indeed, it is important for all of us to learn how to become more enterprising to deal with the challenges of the recession and to promote economic recovery.”

The author of five books, including The Enterprise Secret, a work of fiction published just before Christmas, David was recently appointed a Visiting Professor at the Ashcroft Business School in Cambridge.  

Media inquiries to Anne Langford, Communications Office, Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 97 5310, mobile 07815 871997 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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£6 million research centre poised for take-off
The Vice-Chancellor (second right) is pictured at the launch with (from left) Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, Planning Minister Edwin Poots, Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster; and Michael Ryan, Vice-President and General Manager, Bombardier Aerospace
The Vice-Chancellor (second right) is pictured at the launch with (from left) Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, Planning Minister Edwin Poots, Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster; and Michael Ryan, Vice-President and General Manager, Bombardier Aerospace
Queen’s is playing a leading role in a new £6 million research centre which will meet the needs of the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE), to be located on Airport Road, Belfast is scheduled to open this autumn.

The construction of the centre will be financed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) through the Strategic Investment Fund, Invest Northern Ireland and Bombardier Aerospace. Invest NI’s support is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Queen’s and the University of Ulster will co-own and operate the 3,700 sq m facility.

Launching the Centre, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "This flagship centre will become the focal point for advanced materials as well as engineering research and development in Northern Ireland. In particular, it will enable the advancement of composites technology across a range of industrial sectors.

"The state-of-the-art facility will offer firms the opportunity to develop technologies that will maintain their competitiveness and support their future business needs.

“The research centre will also encourage more companies to work together on their R&D projects, potentially leading to the development of cutting edge, commercially successful new products. This collaboration will protect and grow business in Northern Ireland especially within the advanced manufacturing sector, which is key to economic recovery.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: "All of us here today share a commitment to Northern Ireland’s future prosperity. We are also aware of the need to develop new, and innovative, technological solutions to ensure the competitiveness of our companies, both prime contractors and supply chain organisations. As part of the network of UK Advanced Manufacturing Centres, NIACE will provide world-class support for Northern Ireland in this important area of advanced engineering."

Environment Minister Edwin Poots, who attended the event, commented: "The tangible benefits of an efficient and effective planning system can be seen in this £6million investment project. Working in partnership with all the parties involved allowed the Planning Service to process the application for NIACE in nine weeks. This will enable the project to proceed on schedule and has highlighted what our planning system can deliver."

The Centre will develop advanced materials with a major focus on carbon fibre composites for Low Carbon Vehicles. Queen’s already has a strong track record as a leading centre in this area of research. The University’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, one of the top 10 in the UK in the 2008 RAE, works closely with research institutions and with the aerospace and allied industries worldwide.

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

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Queen’s leads new partnership to deliver world-class medical education

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has been nominated a Queen’s University Hospitals Campus in recognition of its contribution to delivery of a world-class training system for Northern Ireland’s future doctors.

And seven hospitals – Altnagelvin, Antrim, Causeway, Craigavon, Daisy Hill, Erne and Ulster – are to be awarded Queen’s University Teaching Hospital status, in recognition of their major contribution to medical education.
The new arrangements, to be announced at Queen’s later today, include the launch of educational sub-deaneries in each Trust to co-ordinate and implement the delivery of the undergraduate clinical educational programme within the Trusts.  
The sub-deaneries, and their close partnership with Queen’s Medical School, will ensure that the NHS is able to engage fully in undergraduate medical education.
The initiatives – part of a major new partnership between the University, Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and local Health Trusts – will ensure an integrated approach to medical education across Northern Ireland.
Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “Today’s announcement re-affirms the position of Queen's Medical School as a leading provider of medical education in the UK and Ireland.
“These developments provide an integrated framework which enables clinical academics and health service clinicians to work in partnership to deliver the highest standards of medical education. They also specifically recognise the role of Northern Ireland’s acute hospitals, which perform a critical role in delivering high-quality clinical placements for our students.”   
Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the University’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “The Medical School at Queen’s is driven by a commitment to enhance and improve the quality of life and health care provision for patients across Northern Ireland.

“The designation of Queen’s Teaching Hospitals and the development of educational sub-deaneries within the NHS Trusts reflects this commitment, by creating a world-class educational structure and training system for our future doctors.”
Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Communications Office, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Engineering essential for economic recovery, say leading entrepreneurs
Sir Bernard Crossland
Sir Bernard Crossland
Engineering is vital to Northern Ireland’s economic recovery, according to leading local entrepreneurs Seamus Connolly, CEO of Fast Engineering Ltd, and Alan Watts, Director of HALO, the Northern Ireland Business Angel Network.

Both men will deliver the annual Sir Bernard Crossland Lecture at Queen’s on Tuesday 22 February, at which they will explore the economic impact of engineering innovation, particularly during a time of recession.

They will also underline how an innovative approach to engineering processes and development can lead to wealth and job creation.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates Professor James McElnay said: “Northern Ireland has a rich history of engineering, particularly based around the manufacturing industry, but in recent years employment in this sector has declined.

“We at Queen’s recognise the important role that engineering plays in society and the economy, and are committed to using our expertise in this area to underpin local prosperity. The Crossland Lecture will reinforce this message, by demonstrating how engineering know-how can revitalise our industrial base.”

Seamus Connolly is Managing Director ofFast Engineering Ltd, which was established in 1981 to manufacture FASTANK, a patented water storage container for use in developing countries. Since then FASTANK has developed other niche markets including oil and chemical spill cleanup, fire fighting, civil defence, fish-farming, and animal rescue.

Alan Watts moved to the Northern Ireland Science Park as Director of HALO in 2009, having been a successful entrepreneurial business leader in the electronics manufacturing sector.  Halo has grown from 35 to 120 angels who have invested over £2m in NI start-up companies since he took over. In 2010 Halo was named British Business Angels Association Angel Network of the Year.

Professor Sir Bernard Crossland, who died last month at the age of 87, was one of the most eminent engineers in the UK and Ireland.

The Crossland Lecture series was established by Engineers Ireland in honour of Sir Bernard, a former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Queen's, who was Head of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University from 1959 to 1982. He served as expert investigator of several tragic accidents, including the King's Cross Underground Fire in 1987, and the Bilsthorpe Colliery Accident in 1994.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 9097 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s scientists in £4million geological project
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson (centre) alongside Tellus Border project partners from DETI, GSNI, DOE and SEUPB.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson (centre) alongside Tellus Border project partners from DETI, GSNI, DOE and SEUPB.
Queen’s scientists will play a central role in a £4million EU funded geological project to carry out further analysis of Northern Ireland’s natural resources. The project was launched today (Monday 14 February) by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

The cross-border Tellus Border project has been funded by the INTERREG IVA development programme of the European Regional Development Fund, which is managed by the Special European Programmes Body. This is the largest of the latest awards under the Environment theme of INTERREG IVA and is part funded by the Department of the Environment and the Republic of Ireland Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) will manage the project in partnership with Queen’s, Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT).

The project is an extension of the award-winning Tellus Project in Northern Ireland, which produced new maps and digital data of soils, rocks and stream waters of the whole of Northern Ireland.

The project will involve scientists from Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology and the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering. Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “Queen’s University is pleased to be part of this major investment in earth science and environmental research in Ireland. Our leading researchers in geosciences will use the latest scientific techniques to quantify and map levels of carbon in our soils and to identify and monitor groundwater pollution.

“Queen’s research will be a vital component of the Tellus Border project and will help us better understand our natural environment and work towards a more sustainable future for Ireland, north and south.”

Launching the Tellus Border Project in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster said: “This project will provide high quality geological information to ensure sustainable use of Northern Ireland’s natural resources. It will continue the analysis of the information gathered under the Tellus Project and help inform government development decisions including sustainable use of land in planning decisions, and enhance further private sector investment in areas such as mineral exploration.”

Minister Poots, whose department has injected £0.6million into the scheme, said: “This is an exciting project which will provide us with further detailed information on Northern Ireland’s natural environment and help us understand more the pressures which it faces. In particular it will provide important background information on geology, stream water quality, and potential pollution sources, which will help to inform the work of a number of different partners including my own Department.”

Welcoming the launch of the EU funded project Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the SEUPB, said: “Upon completion this innovative project will inform and improve sustainable land management practices across Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland. It has been supported under the cross-border infrastructure element of the EU’s INTERREG IVA Programme which is encouraging sustainable development in a number of sectors including environmental protection.”

Continuing the analysis of the Tellus data, the Border project will undertake innovative research, particularly in the scientific assessment and management of wetlands, soil-carbon and ground-pollution. The project will also integrate the geo-science information mapped on both sides of the border and improve cross-border collaboration in the management of earth resources and the environment.

The area covered by the project includes Northern Ireland, (excluding the Belfast Metropolitan Area) and the six northern counties of the Republic of Ireland (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan, Cavan and Louth).

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

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Queen’s University joins new search for earth-like planets

Astronomers from Queen’s are joining their counterparts from the Universities of Edinburgh, Geneva, Harvard, St Andrews and INAF-TNG in the hunt for extra-solar planets similar to the Earth. Together they will be building and using a new instrument called HARPS-N for the Italian 3.5-metre Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands.  The instrument will be able to analyze the light of candidates identified from NASA’s Kepler space probe.

Since its launch in March 2009, Kepler has been continually taking images of a single area of sky in the constellation of Cygnus. Of the hundreds of thousands of stars visible in these images, around 1200 show indications of having planetary systems.
Commenting on this latest development in space, Queen’s astronomer Professor Don Pollacco said: “Kepler looks for tiny tell-tale dimmings in the light of stars that occur when orbiting planets pass in front of them. However, to be able to understand what kind of worlds these planets are, the light has to subjected to more detailed examination with the HARPS-N instrument.”

HARPS-N will not directly "see" planets.  The Kepler planets are far too faint to be seen with any telescope. Instead HARPS looks at their stars and measures the tiny effect the accompanying planets have on their motion. The less massive the planet, the tinier the effect it produces on the star, and the more precise the instrument needed to detect it is.
“HARPS is able to detect movements at velocities of just a metre per second — the speed of a person walking — in a star hundreds of light-years away. This has allowed planets only a few times more massive than the Earth to be discovered,” says Professor Andrew Cameron of the University of St Andrews, who leads the UK contribution to the project.

The HARPS-N instrument, in combination with an analysis of the Kepler data, will allow the nature of many of the planets to be understood. Theorists predict that a broad spectrum of different kinds of planet are possible, ranging from solid iron planets through to “solid” water planets with an Earth-like planet somewhere in between. “Kepler and HARPS-N offer the first hope to find planets like the Earth that are at distances from their sun that would allow water to exist as a liquid and, potentially, life, as we know it, to evolve”, says Dr Ken Rice of the University of Edinburgh.

HARPS-N project
The HARPS-N project was officially launched in December 2010, with the signing of an international agreement by INAF (Italian National Institute for Astrophysics). HARPS-N will be installed on TNG (Telescopio Nazionale Galileo), the 3.6 meters INAF telescope hosted by the Roque de Los Muchachos observatory, in the Canary Islands.

The HARPS-N project is coordinated by an international consortium led by the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Geneva and comprising: the National Institute for Astrophysics (Italy); the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Harvard College Observatory and the Harvard University Origins of Life Initiative (USA); University of St Andrews; University of Edinburgh, and Queen’s University Belfast (UK).

The project partners are granted 80 observing nights per year to use HARPS-N coupled to the TNG. HARPS-N is currently under construction in Geneva and Edinburgh. Full operating status is scheduled for April 1st, 2012.

The HARPS-N spectrograph (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher-North) is being built at Geneva Observatory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh. It will operate in the Canary Islands from spring 2012, and will be the northern counterpart of HARPS in the Chilean Andes: currently the most powerful exoplanet hunter in the world.

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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Child Soldier Trauma in Uganda shares similarities with Northern Ireland
Paul O’Callaghan with some Ugandan ex-child soldiers
Paul O’Callaghan with some Ugandan ex-child soldiers
Psychology students at Queen’s have discovered similarities between child soldier trauma in Uganda and those children caught up in Northern Ireland’s Troubles. 

Post-graduate students from the Doctoral Programme in Educational, Child and Adolescent Psychology at Queen’s recently travelled to Uganda to a school for ex-child soldiers.  Their study analysed the levels of post-traumatic stress among ex-soldiers, explained the symptoms of trauma to the children and offered psychological therapy to the most traumatised children.

The children in the school were former abductees of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group notorious for kidnapping children, brutalising them and forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves.  Over 35,000 children are estimated to have been abducted over the last twenty-four years.

Paul O’Callaghan, one of the students leading the study said: “We screened 205 children for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.  We found that even four years after witnessing traumatic war events, rates of psychological distress were very high with 58 per cent of the children showing PTSD symptoms and 34 per cent having depression and anxiety.

“The study highlighted a large prevalence of ‘traumatic bonding’ – where children adopt an abuser’s views, attitudes and behaviours.  The study found that over time some of the children began to identify more and more with the values and attitudes of their captors and even began to blame the victims for the violence they were subjected to.

He added: “Most remarkably our research showed that the most disturbing thing for the child soldiers was not the murders, massacres, torture or atrocities that they witnessed, instead, it was the death of their mothers during the war.  The trauma and psychological distress of those who had lost their mother was much greater than those who had not.

“Although this research among child soldiers in Uganda may seem far removed from the lives of children in Northern Ireland there are strong parallels in the shifting sense of identity that can occur with children here who may initially have been coerced into joining criminal or paramilitary organisations but then go on to internalise the values, justifications and methods of these organisations over time.” 

The multi-disciplinary research team at Queen’s School of Psychology are continuing their work pioneering a group-based mental health intervention specifically designed to treat psychological distress among child soldiers the Democratic Republic of Congo this summer.

Their work is being released in advance of ‘Red Hand Day’, a worldwide annual commemoration day on 12 February to draw attention to the plight of the 250,000 children who are currently forced to serve as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts, and to remember the thousands who have lost their lives as a result.

For more information about Red Hand Day visit www.redhandday.org

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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Cancer breakthrough to prevent heart failure and increase survival rates
Dr David Grieve
Dr David Grieve
A breakthrough by scientists at Queen’s could help reduce heart failure in cancer patients around the world, and ultimately increase survival rates. 

Scientists at Queen’s Centre for Vision and Vascular Science have discovered the role of an enzyme which, when a patient receives chemotherapy, can cause life-threatening damage to the heart. This has, until now, restricted the amount of chemotherapy doses a patient can receive; but while protecting the heart, this dilutes the chemotherapy’s effectiveness in destroying cancerous tumours.

By identifying the role of the enzyme - NADPH oxidase - work can now go ahead into making chemotherapy treatments more effective and reduce the toxic effects of cancer treatment on the heart.

Dr David Grieve, jointly leading on the research at Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences said: “While chemotherapy drugs are highly effective in treating a wide range of tumours, they can also cause irreversible damage to the heart. This means that doctors are restricted in the doses they can administer to patients. In recent years, scientists have been searching for new drugs to prevent these side-effects.

“Although we have known about the NADPH oxidase enzyme for many years, until now, we were not aware of its crucial role in causing heart damage associated with chemotherapy. Our research findings hold clear potential for the creation of new drugs to block the action of the enzyme, which could significantly reduce heart damage in cancer patients.

“Ultimately, this could allow for the safer use of higher doses of chemotherapy drugs and make the treatment more effective against tumours. Despite improved treatments, cancer is currently responsible for 25 per cent of all mortality in the western world. By reducing the risk of heart failure associated with chemotherapy, patient survival rates could be significantly increased.”

Scientists at Queen’s are now concentrating their efforts on further studies to define the precise role of NADPH oxidase in the development of heart failure associated with cancer therapies. It is hoped that these may lead to the development of a drug which would have the potential to save lives among cancer patients.

The research by Dr David Grieve and Professor Barbara McDermott was funded by the British Heart Foundation in Northern Ireland and published in leading international journal, Cancer Research.

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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Queen’s young medics back in primary school!
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride is ‘checked out’ by Megan McNulty, a P7 pupil at Lisnasharragh Primary School, at the Medics in Primary Schools launch
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride is ‘checked out’ by Megan McNulty, a P7 pupil at Lisnasharragh Primary School, at the Medics in Primary Schools launch
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has launched the 2011 Medics in Primary Schools programme at Queen’s. The joint initiative, run by Queen’s and Sentinus and supported by the Education and Library Boards, offers undergraduate medical students the opportunity to spend time in primary schools, giving pupils a better understanding of their own health.

Dr McBride said: “This programme is extremely important. Not only does it give medical students the opportunity to enhance their communication skills, it also makes a real difference to the lives of children by teaching them how to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

Dr McBride praised the aims of the initiative, which includes encouraging children to take up STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) that help provide the basis for future health-related study and jobs. He said: “It is important that we look forward to the doctors, nurses, dentists, scientists and other professionals who will be needed in our health service in the years to come.”

Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the University’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “We are delighted to once again collaborate with Sentinus on delivering this programme.

“Medics in Primary Schools is a unique initiative, which is expanding year on year. It not only introduces schoolchildren to the benefits of healthy living and encourages them to think about a career in health or life sciences, but it also helps our medical students to gain valuable communications skills.”

Bill Connor, Sentinus Projects Director, said: “As Northern Ireland’s leading promoter of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects in schools, Sentinus aims to provide educational experiences that will engage the younger generation and enrich their future career decisions.

“The Medics in Primary Schools programme helps to raise awareness of health and lifestyle issues in school children through interactive learning that departs from the standard classroom routine – it’s by making learning exciting that we will help younger students discover firsthand the benefits of pursing study in STEM. During the programme the medical students act as positive role models who can help shape primary children’s decisions regarding their future career while also developing their own communication skills.”

Since its inception in 2000 almost 450 medical students have taken part in the initiative. More than 10,000 pupils have benefited. This year, 70 second-year medical students will be in 47 primary schools in the Greater Belfast area. The young medics will guide the participating school children through a health education programme including Healthy Body, Healthy Heart and Lungs, Healthy Skin and Healthy Brain.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, on 028 9097 5310, Mob 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s workshops give primary school children the science bug

Queen’s is offering primary school children the chance to be microbiologists for a day with its one-day science workshops.

Experts from the School of Biological Sciences at the University and the Society for General Microbiology will be showing children, in two schools, practical ways to learn about microbiology and its role in everyday lives. Experiments conducted on the day will include showing the role yeast plays in the production of bread and the importance of hand washing in preventing the spread of disease.

P7 pupils in St Colmcille’s Primary School in Ballymena will participate in the workshop on Thursday (3 February), the following day the workshop will take place in Friends’ Preparatory School in Lisburn.

Dr John McGrath Senior Lecturer and Convenor of the Microbiology Degree at Queen’s, and organiser of the workshops said: “There is currently a shortage of microbiologists in the UK. Workshops such as these are designed to encourage children to think about a career in science and microbiology.”

He added: “Last year’s workshops were such a success we decided to do it again this year. The feedback from the schools was great with many of the pupils repeating the yeast experiment at home to show their parents.”

The workshops are aimed at increasing the interest in science and microbiology among students at a young age as well as learning about microbes through practical experiments throughout the day.

Please note this event is not open to the public.

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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Alastair Campbell ‘on the record’ at Queen’s University
Alastair Campbell, one of the leading political communicators of his time, will be at Queen’s on Monday 7 February for the official Northern Ireland launch of his new book.

The book – Power and the People – extensively outlines the first two years of the Tony Blair government and covers in intimate detail the key moments of the Northern Ireland peace process. These details describe the moment Tony Blair decided to make the peace process a priority, the first visit of the Sinn Fein leadership to Downing Street, the tortuous negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement, the referendum campaign which followed, and the many ups and downs thereafter.

The Northern Ireland story, and the role of the Northern Ireland politicians, is one of the dominant themes of Power and the People, the second volume of Campbell’s unexpurgated diaries.

Speaking about his visit to Queen’s, Alastair Campbell said: “I am delighted to be back in Northern Ireland and grateful to Queen’s for inviting me to speak at the University.

“Of all the events and issues I was involved in with Tony Blair, the Northern Ireland peace process was one of the most compelling. I have said before that the day the Good Friday Agreement came together was perhaps the best of the many hundreds of days I spent in TB’s company. He made the issue a priority very early on and like a lot of others just never gave up.

“I hope the diaries will provide students and future historians with a close-in account of what it was like to be at the centre of that process, not just the highs of the Good Friday Agreement but the many lows which followed, perhaps worst of all the Omagh Bombing, and also give people a sense of the key characters, many of them of course politicians from Northern Ireland itself, who shaped history.”

Welcoming Alastair to Queen’s, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher said: “When people look back and begin to study the events of the peace process they will find the writings of Alastair Campbell an important tool in learning how the process unfolded. His visit today will allow us to gain an upfront and personal recollection of those trying but eventually fruitful days.”

During his visit to Queen’s, Alastair Campbell will also address students from the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy and provide an insight into the detailed workings of the Northern Ireland process.

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications, Queen’s University, on 028 9097 3259/07813 015 431 or k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk

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£2.6 million project to protect Irish and Scottish waterways
Giant Hogweed growing on the banks of Newry Canal.
Giant Hogweed growing on the banks of Newry Canal.

A £2.6 million project to protect the waterways of Ireland and Scotland will be launched today (Tuesday 1 February) at Queen’s University Belfast. This critical project aims to control invasive plants, such as the giant hogweed, which are taking over river banks; limiting their use for angling and recreation, destroying ecosystems, and causing health problems for those who come into contact with the aggressive plants.

Invasive species are the second biggest cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. Their economic impact in Europe has been estimated at over €12 billion per year, and they cost around £7.5 million to control each year in Britain alone.
These species are plants that have been introduced to a place where they do not naturally occur. They can be bigger, faster growing or more aggressive than native plants, therefore upsetting the balance of the ecosystem. They may also have fewer natural predators to control numbers, meaning that native plants are often unable to compete and the invasive species quickly take over.

The EU funded CIRB project (Controlling Priority Invasive Species and Restoring Native Biodiversity) will control ‘invasive species’ like the giant hogweed, rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. in river catchments in border regions of Ireland and Scotland.

The CIRB project will focus on the River Faughan in Co. Derry/Londonderry, the Newry Canal/Clanrye River, and the Rive Dee/River Glyde in Co. Louth, alongside twelve catchments within the Argyll, Ayrshire, Galloway and Tweed areas of Scotland.

CIRB project manager Dr Cathy Maguire from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences said: “As well as damaging natural biodiversity, invasive species can cause serious problems for local communities. They take over river banks, preventing their use for angling and recreation. The giant hogweed also contains toxic sap that can cause painful blisters on anyone who comes into contact with it.
“The CIRB project will allow us to develop new approaches to controlling invasive species and restoring river catchments. By combining the latest scientific research with action on the ground, and by engaging with local communities to train people in how to identify and control invasive plants, we can prevent further environmental, economic and social damage.”
Professor Christine Maggs, CIRB project leader and Head of Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “These species, and their environmental, social and economic impact, are a growing problem in the UK and Ireland.
“Through the CIRB project, scientists at Queen’s, in partnership with the Rivers and Fisheries Trust Trusts of Scotland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the University of Ulster, aim to control or eradicate invasive species and restore the natural biodiversity of our waterways.”
SEUPB’s Chief Executive, Pat Colgan, commended the project saying: “I would like to welcome the launch of this project, which addresses key objectives of the INTERREG IVA Programme concerning the sustainable development of the eligible region, as well as the EU’s broader objectives in environmental protection. This project is a great example of how the overarching priorities of the Programme can successfully be applied to local and region-specific environmental challenges.”

The CIRB project will run until December 2014 and is part financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-border Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320, Mobile 00 44 (0)7814 415451 email anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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