04-2012 Press Releases

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Taste of 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s to ‘PRESENT’ later this month

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s has announced that ‘taster’ events for this year’s Festival will take place, beginning on Monday 30 April with ‘PRESENT’ – a six day festival of performance art and video taking place across Belfast.

All of these performances are free and open to everyone, with full details available at www.naughtongallery.org

With performers from across the world, including Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands, taking part, the ‘PRESENT’ festival programme also includes a series of screenings of video works, as well as discussion and talks.

In collaboration with Belfast-based performance collective Bbeyond, and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, this new platform for video and performance art, will culminate in a dynamic imaginative event by internationally-renowned group, Black Market International.

Announcing the international line-up for ‘PRESENT’, new Festival Director, Shan McAnena said: "2012 is an important year, not only for the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, but also for the city of Belfast and Northern Ireland, as we showcase our creative and artistic talents to a global audience. The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is delighted to celebrate its own significant year by putting on an exciting line-up of taster events which is open to everyone.

"Next week’s ‘PRESENT’ programme is a brief flavour of what is to come this autumn when the main 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s gets underway.”

Commenting on taking over the role of Festival Director Shan continued: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead such an iconic arts festival, especially in such a momentous year.  I am relishing the challenge and the adventure in working with a huge range of talented partners inside the University and across the region to bring together a Festival which will astonish, delight and seduce the widest possible audience.”

Richard Donnan, Managing Director, Retail Markets at Ulster Bank said: “This year marks the 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s and we are proud to support the Festival in showcasing  the vibrant arts culture in Northern Ireland in such a special year.  This first taste of the Festival will help whet the appetite for what promises to be a very exciting programme.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s has firmly established itself as a highlight of our cultural calendar, annually attracting tens of thousands of visitors from across the city and beyond. ‘PRESENT’ will give a flavour of what we have to look forward to in this 50th anniversary year, drawing together the very best of local and international arts.”

Full programme details can be found at www.naughtongallery.org

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

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Sir Steve Redgrave encourages children to row their boat at Queen’s

Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave has visited Queen’s to launch a new indoor community rowing initiative for Belfast.

Funded by the Steve Redgrave Fund, and delivered by Queen’s University Belfast in partnership with Belfast City Council and the Belfast Education and Library Board, the initiative aims to develop and deliver a new community indoor rowing programme for the City of Belfast that will improve the health, fitness and well being of young people.

Sir Steve was welcomed to Queen’s and Belfast by Professor Sir Peter Gregson, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University and Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile. To celebrate the launch Sir Steve started an indoor relay race between local secondary schools and community groups at Queen’s Sport’s Physical Education Centre.

The five times Olympic champion said: “It’s really exciting to be here at Queen’s University today and see the rowing machines in action. Everyone has been incredibly positive about the initiative and it’s so rewarding to see the young people using the machines so enthusiastically. Sporting activity is essential for children’s growth and development - and rowing is a great way to do just that. I’m sure the programme here in Belfast will be a huge success.”

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, hailed the project as a great example of good partnership working.

“The benefits to our city and our residents will be enormous. I am sure we will all be inspired to support this programme and, in doing so, encourage everyone to be more active and enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle”.

Liz McLaughlin, Head of Queen’s Sport added: “It is a privilege to welcome Sir Steve Redgrave today. Community involvement is a key aspect of our vision for sport at Queen’s as we know it acts as a powerful force for good, creating a sense of fun and vibrancy while providing multiple health and wellbeing benefits. I would like to thank the Sir Steve Redgrave Fund and Comic Relief for helping us provide such a unique sporting opportunity.”

The Steve Redgrave Fund works with Sport Relief to harness the power and passion of sport to change lives for the better. It has already helped over 100 schools across the UK purchase rowing machines and provided training and support to help teachers add value to all areas of the curriculum by using them.

This Belfast programme will be delivered in four local schools, four community centres and at Queen’s Physical Education Centre. During the first year of the programme, 55 indoor rowing machines will be distributed between the schools and community venues.

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Queen’s is UK leader for female scientists and engineers

Queen’s has been named as the lead university in the United Kingdom for tackling the unequal representation of women in science and engineering.

It is the only UK University to be awarded a Silver institutional honour at the Athena SWAN Charter awards, which recognise the commitment of institutions, and science, engineering and technology (SET) departments, to addressing gender inequalities and improving career progression for female academics.

In addition to the institutional award, Queen’s is the University with the most departmental silver awards. Seven individual Schools (Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology; Psychology; Biological Sciences; Chemistry and Chemical Engineering; Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering; Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), also received silver awards.

These recognise that in addition to institution-wide policies the department has a significant record of activity. The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Mathematics and Physics and Pharmacy received bronze awards for their work and commitment to furthering the careers of female academics.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s, Professor Tom Millar, said: “This award confirms the reputation of Queen’s University Belfast as the UK leader in promoting the careers of female staff in SET subjects (science, engineering and technology). It is recognition of the enormous contribution and commitment, for more than a decade, of many staff, academic and non-academic, male and female, to ensure that the University continues to lead the way in supporting the careers and career ambitions of female academic staff.”

Director of Queen’s University’s Gender Initiative, Professor Yvonne Galligan said: “The Silver award is recognition that Queen’s is committed to women in science and engineering. This award marks the University out as a national leader in gender equity in employment. As Director of Queen’s Gender Initiative, I am very aware of how much Queen’s and the wider economy benefit from enabling women in science to achieve their potential. To do so, we have devised concrete, targeted actions across the sciences that we will be implementing in the coming years. These actions build on over a decade of work, and a remarkable team effort across the University.”

Sarah Dickinson, Senior Policy Advisor from Athena SWAN said: “This award, given to Queen’s University, is the first Silver Athena SWAN University award to be conferred since the criteria for this level of award were amended, and as such it confirms the University’s status as a national leader in gender-equitable employment practices.”

Manager of the Equal Opportunities Unit, Paul Browne said: “The award recognizes the work undertaken to address the gender balance at Queen’s and is testament to those who have ensured the adoption of best practice aimed at providing a more equal workplace for all employees of the University.”

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3087 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

If you would like to view the Queen's SWAN submission for the silver award, please click here

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Women face a higher risk of care home admission due to their partner’s age
Dr Mark McCann
Dr Mark McCann

New research from Queen’s University Belfast, published today in the journal Age and Ageing, has investigated why women are 40 per cent more likely to be admitted in to a care home than men.

The study found women were often married to older partners who cannot provide care for them due to their age-related frailty. 

The study, entitled ‘Gender differences in care home admission risk: Partner’s age explains the higher risk for women’, used data from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) derived from the Northern Ireland Health Card registration system, to which the 2001 Census return is linked. The research focused on NILS members aged 65 or over at the time, and living in a household with two people as a couple.

A total of 20,830 people aged 65 and over were living with a partner in a two person household.  This represents 37.8% of all non-institutionalised people at the time of the census.  Of this group, 45% (9,367) were female, 31% were aged 75 or over, and 47% of the group reported having limiting long term illness (LLTI).  A Cox proportional hazard model was used to investigate the relationship between the risk of admission and the cohort member and partner’s characteristics over a period of 6 years. 

The data showed that women do tend to have partners who are on average older than them and the average age difference between male and female partners is approximately 5 years. The prevalence of ill health increased with age in both sexes but at all ages women had sicker partners, except for the 85 year or older group. In the period studied, 415 people were admitted to care homes. The risk of admission for married women compared to married men was assessed controlling for both the age and health status of the individual. After adjusting the results to consider participant’s age, there is a 40% excess risk for female admittance to care home. Once the age of their partner is taken into account, women are no more likely than men to be admitted to care homes.

Mark McCann from Queen’s Institute of Childcare Research, author of the study, comments that “the higher admission risk for women in comparison to men appears to be due primarily to the differences in the age and frailty of their partners.  This research has gone some way to debunking the myth that older men do not want to care for their partners.  The findings clearly show that the main reason more women are admitted to care homes is that their partners are unable to provide sufficient support. Age differences between partners are evident in most societies so it is important that issues raised in this paper are considered in future health planning. The projected narrowing of the gap in life expectancy between men and women may mean that there are more men around to provide such support in future years.”


  • Women have a higher risk of care home admission
  • Analyses suggests that age-related frailty, not unwillingness to undertake a caring role explains the increased admission risk.

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UK-wide increase in number of children identified as needing protection

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have identified a 46 per cent increase since 2006 in Northern Ireland in the numbers of children being recognised as in need of protection and on the child protection register.

The research team also found that in the same period, England experienced a 60 per cent increase, Wales a 33 per cent increase, and Scotland a 19 per cent increase.

On 31 March 2011, 42,330 children were on the child protection register in England, up from 26,400 in 2006.

The table below reveals the numbers of children on the child protection register at 31 March in 2006 and 2011, in each country.

Child Protection Register Figures2006 (number of children)2011 (number of children)
England 26400 42330
Wales 2165 2880
Scotland 2157 2571
Northern Ireland 1639 2401

The figures have been revealed ahead of a major international child protection conference organised by the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN) being held at Queen’s University between 15 – 18 April.

The event is providing professionals from across the world with the opportunity to discuss and debate why children become vulnerable, how professionals can respond, and how society can reduce the longer term negative consequences for children of experiencing adversity in childhood. Professor Brigid Daniel, University of Stirling; Dr John Devaney, Queen’s University Belfast; District Judge Nicholas Crichton, London and DI John Gedden, Hampshire Police, are just some of the experts who will speak a on wide range of developments in the area, including:

  • Hunting and convicting travelling sex offenders
  • Child deaths as a result of abuse and neglect
  • Sexual exploitation of children and young people
  • An initial investigation of the apparent suicide cluster in Bridgend in 2007-8
  • Forced marriage and children
  • Young witnesses in criminal proceedings
  • Young who die through suicide
  • Family drug and alcohol courts
  • Lifecourse trajectories of young people who sexually harm
  • The impact on children of domestic violence
  • The abuse of children through new technologies

Dr John Devaney from Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work and convenor of Baspcan’s congress, said: “Over the past five years there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of children referred to social services due to concerns for their well being. Whilst some commentators may feel that this increase is a reflection that services for children and their families are failing, at Queen’s we are stating that the opposite is true. We have highlighted the importance of ensuring as many of these children as possible are brought to the attention of professionals.

“The latest NSPCC Child Maltreatment prevalence survey indicates that 1 in 4 young adults report experiencing severe physical, sexual or emotional harm in childhood.

“At a time when the Government in Westminster is expressing concern about the consequences of families who are experiencing multiple problems, the research on the association between childhood adversity and negative outcomes in adulthood, when considered together, provides some very powerful messages for policy and practice across the areas of mental health and social functioning, physical health, and later offending behaviour, all of which has implications for service use and the wider economy.”

Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots MLA said: “This is an important international conference that will allow us to both hear and learn about developments nationally and internationally and showcase child protection practice in Northern Ireland. The protection of children must be a high priority in all our societies and it requires good effective multi-agency inter professional input and sharing of best practice and research. I commend BASPCAN for choosing Belfast and Queen’s University for its 2012 Congress. I look forward to both speaking at the event and seeing the contribution the Congress will make to our wider understanding of the protection of children across the globe.”

Dr Catherine Powell, BASPCAN Chair, added: “This is difficult work, and there is no doubt that the uncertain times that we are living in have a major impact on the most vulnerable families in our societies. This Congress will give those who strive to ensure the safety and well-being of children and young people an unrivalled opportunity to learn, to reflect and to refresh. Importantly, delegates will be inspired to return to their challenging, yet also rewarding, work with new knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. We are delighted to be holding our 8th National Congress in the wonderful historic city of Belfast. We are looking forward to welcoming the Minister, Mr Edwin Poots and the Children’s Commissioner Ms Lewsley-Mooney, and delegates from around the world to share the latest research and developments in safeguarding and child protection.”

Further information on the BASPCAN International Congress and the full line-up of speakers and presentations is available online at http://www.baspcan.org.uk/

For further information please contact Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5384 or m07814 422 572 email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk or Colin Reid, NSPCC, Tel 07920234278 or creid@nspcc.org.uk

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Queen’s University Belfast announces intention to establish College in China

Queen’s University Belfast today announced its intention to establish a China Queen’s College in partnership with the China Medical University, in Shenyang, one of China’s top ranked universities for Health Sciences.

This partnership will see some 1000 Chinese students studying for Queen’s University Belfast degrees in pharmaceutical science in the new College. The students will be trained jointly by staff from Queen’s and the China Medical University. The China Queen’s College provides a valuable opportunity for Queen’s to establish a physical presence in China, building on its current strengths and enhancing the University’s profile in one of the largest markets in the world for international students. 

The new College, based in Shenyang, China, a city of 14 million people, will be announced today at a special ceremony at Queen’s, in the company of Madame Liu Yandong, State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China.

The State Councillor, one of China’s most senior government ministers, was visiting Queen’s to offer her support to the new China Queen’s College and to witness the signing of collaborative agreements with Shanghai Jiaotong University, Peking University and the Chinese Scholarship Council. These institutional agreements build upon the University’s existing links in China which include the £2.3 million Science Bridge project. This project has seen Queen’s technologies being used in the construction of the China Bird Nest Olympic Stadium, Hangzhou Bay Sea Crossing Bridge, and thermal power generation plants and power systems across China.

Welcoming the new College, Queen’s President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “The year 2012 in China is known as the ‘Year of the Dragon’, a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. Today’s agreements with Shanghai Jiaotong University, Peking University and Chinese Scholarship Council and the announcement of our intention to establish the China Queen’s College are a sign of the powerful relationships that Queen’s University has built with its Chinese partners and a symbol of the good fortune for Northern Ireland through its strengthened links with an internationally recognised super power.

“The creation of a joint College with one of China’s top Health Sciences universities is based on a real and vibrant partnership. It will provide many opportunities and deliver real outcomes for society in China, in the UK and in Ireland.

“Madame Liu’s visit today confirms her government’s intention to continue to support Queen’s partnerships in China and, we in turn, are committed to developing mutually beneficial partnerships with institutions in China.

“Today is a red letter day for Queen’s University Belfast, for Northern Ireland and for China.”

Speaking about the importance of the new China Queen’s College to Northern Ireland, the Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry said: “This truly exciting and innovative venture highlights the value of international higher education collaboration and will bring many long term academic, economic and social benefits to both the institutions and the people they serve.”

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs, 028 9097 3259 / 07813 015431 or k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk

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UK more resilient to cyber attack thanks to Queen’s University

Research by Queen’s University Belfast into making the UK more resilient to a cyber attack has been recognised through the award of an ‘Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research’ status by GCHQ in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

One of only eight UK universities selected to become a Centre of Excellence, Queen’s will benefit the UK by:

  • Enhancing the UK’s cyber knowledge base through original research
  • Providing top quality graduates in the field of cyber security
  • Supporting GCHQ’s cyber defence mission
  • Driving up the level of innovation

Queen’s, as part of the award, will receive £50,000 to further develop its work in this area and along with the other seven Centres of Excellence will help make the UK government, business and consumers more resilient to cyber attack by extending knowledge and enhancing skills in cyber security.

Responding to the announcement Queen’s University Professor John McCanny, CSIT Principal Investigator, said: “The Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s is delighted to have been awarded ‘Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research’ status by GCHQ. CSIT’s vision is to establish itself as a global thought leader in cyber security technologies by linking with industry, academia and government to combat emerging cyber threats, through the creation of innovative and world leading technology. This award recognises the international quality of the research carried out at CSIT and its contribution and impact in ensuring the UK is a safe and secure place to do business.”

Minister for Cyber Security Francis Maude said: "We want to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business, by investing in the best expertise to keep pace with technological change. That is why promoting academic excellence is at the heart of the Government's Cyber Security Strategy. These first eight Centres will play a vital role in boosting research, expanding our cyber skills base and fostering innovation in the field."

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Britain has one of the largest online economies in the world and a growing cyber security sector. Supporting universities to carry out more research and training skilled graduates to work in the cyber-security industry will help build further confidence in doing business online.

“There was strong competition among universities to be selected as a Centre of Excellence in cyber security research and I congratulate those who have been successful.”

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs, Queen’s University Belfast, 028 9097 3259 / 07813 015431 or k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk

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How colds cause coughs and wheezes

Cold-like infections make ‘cough receptors’ in the airways more sensitive, making asthmatics more prone to bouts of coughing and wheezing, reveal scientists presenting their findings at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Dublin. The work could lead to drugs that reduce virus-induced coughing in those suffering chronic lung diseases.

Asthmatics often report bouts of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness when they have a cold and there is no current medicine that sufficiently treats this problem. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are investigating ‘cough receptors’ that line the cells of the airway and how these are affected by rhinovirus – a virus frequently responsible for the common cold. The team showed that rhinovirus infection caused an increase in the number of these cough receptors– making the airways more sensitive.

Dr Hani’ah Abdullah, who is working on the project, explained how these receptors, called transient receptor potential (TRP) receptors, work. “TRP receptors respond to chemical and physical stimuli in the environment such as pollutants in the air, a change in air temperature and some of the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Once activated, these receptors cause the individual to cough and wheeze.” she said.

Professor Louise Cosby and Dr Lorcan McGarvey from the Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen’s University Belfast, are jointly leading the research team of scientists and clinicians. Their group took airway cells from mild asthmatics and healthy individuals and infected them in the laboratory with rhinovirus, which is the most common virus to exacerbate symptoms of asthma. The results showed that rhinovirus infection caused an increase in the number of TRP receptors in the airway cells and that this effect was most pronounced in the mild asthmatics. “The increase in receptor numbers makes individuals more sensitive to environmental stimuli, making them more likely to suffer from prolonged bouts of coughing,” explained Dr Abdullah.

The findings of this study may lead to new drugs that reduce virus-induced cough and wheeze in asthmatics and those with other chronic lung diseases. “It’s feasible that therapies could be developed that block either the sensitivity of cough receptors or their increase in number. This would keep symptoms under control and ultimately improve the lives of asthmatics,” said Dr Abdullah.

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‘Bacterial shock’ to recapture essential phosphate

Bacteria could be exploited to recapture dwindling phosphate reserves from wastewater according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s recent Spring Conference in Dublin.

Phosphorus – in the form of phosphate - is essential for all living things as a component of DNA and RNA and its role in cellular metabolism. Around 38 million tonnes of phosphorus are extracted each year from rock. Most of this extracted phosphorus goes into the production of fertilizers to replace the phosphates that plants remove from the soil. However, it is a scare natural resource and current estimates suggest that reserves of phosphate rock may only last for the next 45-100 years.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) are developing a novel biological process to remove extracted phosphate from wastewater – where it ultimately ends up after manufacturing. Dr John McGrath who is leading the project explained, “Phosphate in wastewater is a pollutant that causes increased growth of algae and plants, reducing the oxygen available for aquatic organisms. This is known as eutrophication and poses the single biggest threat to water quality in Northern Ireland and indeed globally.”

The work at Queen's has focused on microorganisms that capture and store phosphate from wastewater, and how this process varies under different nutritional and environmental conditions. “A variety of microbes in wastewater accumulate phosphorus inside their cells and store it as a biopolymer known as polyphosphate. In some cases, this can represent up to 20% of the dry weight of the microorganism!” explained Dr McGrath. “If we can harness this process we have a feasible biotechnological route to remove and recycle phosphate from wastewater.”

The team have recently discovered a physiological ‘shock’ treatment which significantly increases microbial uptake of phosphorus and its accumulation inside cells. “It’s similar to jumping into the sea on a winter’s day – the first thing you do is take a sharp intake of breath. When we shock the microorganisms, their response is to take in phosphorus,” explained Dr McGrath. “We’ve demonstrated this using activated sludge, containing a variety of microbes, from wastewater treatment works and shown this shock treatment is effective at producing a phosphorus-rich biomass suitable for phosphorus recycling.”

Dr McGrath believes that developing such biotechnological processes is essential for regenerating valuable mineral resources. “No alternative to phosphorus exists – we urgently need to find ways of recovering and recycling phosphates. It’s a pollutant we can’t live without.” he said. “Phosphates are currently removed from wastewater by chemical methods, however this is expensive and results in the production of large volumes of sludge. In contrast, the process we are developing is sustainable and efficient.”

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