06-2012 Press releases

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Queen’s wins Outstanding Fundraising Team of the Year title
Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Norma Sinte and Marcus Ward, Head of Major Gifts accepting the Award
Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Norma Sinte and Marcus Ward, Head of Major Gifts accepting the Award

Queen’s Development and Alumni Relations Office has been named the Outstanding University Fundraising Team of the Year at the Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards in London.

The team won the award for the fundraising campaign which raised almost £5 million for the new Graduate and Executive Education Centre at Riddel Hall.

The judges admired the way in which the University had managed not only to raise an impressive sum but also to link the project to its own aims and to Northern Ireland’s strategy to retain more highly skilled graduates and improve its business leadership.

The Riddel Hall Founders’ Club which saw 24 businesses contributing over £1.5 million to the project was also praised by the judges. Judges found the focus on building ever stronger links with the local business community to be a key aspect of Queen’s impressive philanthropic performance for the financial year.

Speaking about the award, Director of Development and Alumni Relations Norma Sinte said: “This is a tremendous accolade for the team.  It recognises a significant achievement  and a great deal of hard work.  The success would not have been possible without the cooperation of colleagues across the University and the Board of the Queen’s Foundation, in particular Ed Vernon, who led the fundraising campaign on behalf of the Foundation.”

For more coverage of the awards, photos and information on all the winners across the 15 categories, visit www.thelmawards.co.uk or pick up a copy of Times Higher Education, available in newsagents from 28 June.

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Cultural clashes explored at Queen’s

Social work students and staff from universities across Europe have gathered in Belfast for a two week intensive programme at Queen’s.

Different language – same culture; same language – different culture aims to improve social work trainees’ and trainers’ practical knowledge of dealing with needs and rights of minorities in Europe.

Jointly organised by the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast and Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, Austria, the programme is funded by European Union Erasmus Lifelong Learning.

Belfast was selected as the perfect location to learn about Same language-different culture following years of high-profile conflict.   Over the past 10 days students have been assisting local non-government organisations WAVE and NICEM in research projects, focusing on inter-cultural engagement.

Dr Janet Anand, Queen’s social work lecturer, explained: “The Difference language – same culture section of the intensive programme was held in Carthina in May.  Delegates experienced first-hand the conflicts of different languages living together based on the Austrian region’s history of balancing the Slovene speaking minority and the German speaking majority.

“As part of the projects in Belfast, students are examining the Polish community in Northern Ireland, as part of this the president of the Polish Association will discuss how communities integrate and change”.

For further information on Different language – same culture; same language – different culture, please contact Janet Carter Anand, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University, 028 9097 5158, j.anand@qub.ac.uk.

For media inquiries, please contact Judith Rance, 028 9097 5292, j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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Research capacity building in Morocco

Academics from the School of Education have just returned from an event in Morocco that was focused on building social science research capacity in the universities there. The event was organised jointly by the British Council, Ministry of Education and University of Ibn Zohr and involved keynote inputs from Queen's, Sussex and the ESRC. Paul Connolly and Lesley Emerson from the School of Education were invited to talk specifically about the development of interdisciplinary research centres and innovative approaches to research with children and young people respectively.

Paul Connolly, Head of the School of Education, focused on the experiences of establishing the School's Centre for Effective Education and the wider cross-university initiative Improving Children's Lives. Lesley Emerson, Deputy Director of the School's Centre for Children's Rights shared some of the innovative child rights-based methods that the Centre has developed.

Speaking of the event, Paul Connolly said: "We were absolutely delighted to have been invited to contribute to this strategically important event for higher education in Morocco. The fact that we were invited specifically demonstrates the strong reputation the School of Education has for applied and interdisciplinary research internationally in the area of children and young people. While in Morocco we made a number of important connections and plan to follow these up over the year ahead."

For further information contact Lesley Emerson at l.emerson@qub.ac.uk

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McGuigan says Belfast will give Olympic boxers a head start
Barry McGuigan helps Queen’s students, Joanna Milis,Athletics – 400 meters and Chris Quinn, Men’s Rugby, celebrate knockout sporting year with the Head of Queen's Sport, Liz McLaughlinBarry McGuigan helps Queen’s students, Joanna Milis,Athletics – 400 meters and Chris Quinn, Men’s Rugby, celebrate knockout sporting year with the Head of Queen's Sport, Liz McLaughlin
Barry McGuigan helps Queen’s students, Joanna Milis,Athletics – 400 meters and Chris Quinn, Men’s Rugby, celebrate knockout sporting year with the Head of Queen's Sport, Liz McLaughlin

Boxing legend Barry McGuigan has praised the facilities available to the Cuban and Australian Olympic Boxing teams in Belfast ahead of their arrival in Northern Ireland for pre-games training.

Both squads are set to arrive in Northern Ireland in a few weeks time to train at Queen’s University and several boxing clubs in the Greater Belfast area ahead of the London Games.

Speaking at Queen’s annual Blues Sporting Awards Ceremony held in the Whitla Hall, the former World Featherweight Champion said: “When I started out, I didn’t have access to anything like the amenities on offer in Belfast today. But to be a successful competitor nowadays you need access to the best facilities, the best coaches and to harbour a great ambition.

“Today those kinds of facilities are here in Belfast, thanks to the work of Queen’s University and the people behind our local boxing clubs. Whether the Olympians are training in Queen’s PEC or at the University’s new Upper Malone outdoor venue, or in our local boxing clubs, I think they will all be knocked out by what is on offer to them here in Northern Ireland.

“I hope people realise how amazing it is to have the world’s best amateur boxers training on their doorstep. The Cuban guys are the world’s most successful nation in Olympic boxing and have produced some of the world’s best boxers. I am envious as I would love to be here to watch them train and it will be interesting to see how Australia fare against them. It might help lift Australia’s game. I’m also looking forward to seeing the positive impact of their arrival on grassroots boxing here in the years to come and us creating yet more of our own Olympic winners.”

The sporting icon was presenting a range of sporting awards to Queen’s coaches and students after a year that saw the University open its £13 million Upper Malone Playing Fields.

Head of Queen’s Sport Liz McLaughlin said: “Tonight is a special night at the end of the sporting year where we award students who have excelled not only on the playing fields but also in their studies. Barry has emphasised tonight the need to manage both a sporting and academic career and we’re honoured to have such a sporting legend join us tonight to celebrate a great year for sport in Queen’s.”

2011/12 was a particularly successful year for individual and team sports at Queen’s. Their Gaelic Footballers became All-Ireland freshers’ champions for the first time in a decade and last weekend brought success for all of Queen’s rowing teams at this year’s Ramada Plaza University Boat Race. Seven netball players have also been selected to play for Northern Ireland in the World Championships in South Africa later this year.

The Men's Soccer Second Team won the Crowley Cup for the first time since 1993, the Men's Rugby team, now among the top twenty teams in Ireland, achieved their highest ever All-Ireland Division Two league and the Ladies Rugby team were crowned All-Ireland Division Two champions.
Around 120 students were from across the University were awarded Full and Half Blues in recognition of their sporting achievements.
Individual awards went to:

  • Sports Achievement (Individual) Award: Iain Henderson, N Belfast, Mens’ Rugby
  • Sports Achievement (Team) Award: Mens’ Gaelic Football
  • Coach of the Year Award: Julie Lynch, Belfast, Women’s rowing
  • Special Contribution to Sport Award: Catrin Watts, Wales, Ladies Rugby

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan at Queen’s Communications Office on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 / 07814 415 451 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Virtual playing pitch to help Ulster rugby heroes
Professor Cathy Craig from the School of Psychology at Queen's University demonstrates the new virtual reality playing pitch to help improve Ulster Rugby's tackling technique.  Pictured with Chris Colvin from the Queen’s Rugby Team and a second year psychology student.
Professor Cathy Craig from the School of Psychology at Queen's University demonstrates the new virtual reality playing pitch to help improve Ulster Rugby's tackling technique. Pictured with Chris Colvin from the Queen’s Rugby Team and a second year psychology student.
Chris Colvin from the Queen’s Rugby Team, a second year psychology student, demonstrates the new virtual reality playing pitch which has been developed at Queen’s to help improve Ulster Rugby's tackling technique.
Chris Colvin from the Queen’s Rugby Team, a second year psychology student, demonstrates the new virtual reality playing pitch which has been developed at Queen’s to help improve Ulster Rugby's tackling technique.

Ulster’s rugby stars, with the help of Queen’s University’s School of Psychology, have been taking part in an exciting new virtual reality project to help improve their tackling technique.

The project, developed by Queen’s Professor of Psychology Cathy Craig, uses virtual reality to understand how expert players deal with deceptive movement on the field of play.

Collaborating with Dr Seb Brault, Dr Benoit Bideau and Dr Richard Kulpa from the University of Rennes 2, Professor Craig has spent the past two years on the project, enlisting the help of players from the French National League and the heroes of Ulster rugby.

She explains: “In both the natural and the sporting world, the movement of the body is used to deceive. Whether it’s a lion chasing a zebra or a defender trying to catch an attacker on a rugby pitch, deceptive movement helps to gain a competitive advantage and beat an opponent.

“The side-step in rugby is an excellent example of how an attacker uses the movement of the body to trick a defender into thinking they’re going in one direction when they really intend to go in the opposite direction.”

In her new Movement Innovation Lab at the Physical Education Centre at Queen’s, she has now created her own virtual rugby stadium, using computer simulations of real-time action on the pitch.

Both professionals and novice players have been taking part. Professor Craig continued: “It’s fair to say that the top players are less easy to fool. The less experienced players are more likely to be taken in by deceptive movement but the professionals focus on what we call honest signals – what the opposing player’s body is doing, rather than the clever footwork.”

She added: “Our findings in this latest research suggest that what a player wears could make a difference. Colour could have an effect. For example a team that wears an all-black strip but fluorescent boots, could attract attention away from the honest signals – i.e. the pelvis area and towards the deceptive signals – i.e. the placement of the foot.”

Professor Craig is an international specialist in the study of movement and perception. Before coming to Queen’s she spent eight years at the Sports Science Faculty at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille where she worked on research involving players from top football clubs such as Marseille and AC Milan. She also plays rugby herself – she is a fly half - and has represented Ulster.

This work is part of a much larger project – funded by a prestigious European Research Council starting independent researchers’ grant – that aims to understand how perceptual information picked up by the brain is used to guide action.

The work has just been published in PLoS ONE, an open access scientific journal (http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.10.1371/journal.pone.0037494.

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on +44 (0) 28 9097 5391 / (0) 781 441 5451 or at c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Citizens asked to put Belfast’s sounds on the map
Sound Map
Sound Map
Professor Pedro Rebelo
Professor Pedro Rebelo

Queen’s University researchers are calling on the people of Belfast to help develop a new map of the city based on its sounds.

The Belfast Sound Map is an online resource where people can upload sound recordings from their favourite parts of the city for others to hear. It is part of the Sounds of the City project involving community groups in north and east Belfast, and led by a team from the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s School of Creative Arts. 

Professor Pedro Rebelo is leading the project. He said: “We are all familiar with Belfast’s landscape, from well-known sites like Cavehill, to iconic structures such as the Harland and Wolff cranes, and new landmarks like Titanic Belfast. We know how our city looks, but do we really pay attention to how it sounds?

“The Belfast Sound Map is a constantly evolving collection of sound recordings that characterise the city and its communities. We are encouraging everyone in Belfast to record the everyday sounds of the city and upload them to the Map. Choose a location – it may be a place that means something special to you, or somewhere that forms part of your daily routine – like your kitchen at breakfast time or your journey to work. There is no need for fancy technology – most mobile phones have sound recorders and will allow you to upload your recording directly to the Map at www.belfastsoundmap.org

“The Belfast Sound Map is an open resource for the whole community, and I would invite everyone to log-on and listen.”

The Map forms part of the Sounds of the City exhibition, which is currently running at the Mac in Belfast. The exhibition takes people on a journey of the sounds of Belfast’s past and present, from its industrial history to the modern family home.

The sound installations featured in the exhibition were developed by the SARC team at Queen’s, involving PhD students Rui Chaves, Matilde Meireles and Aonghus McEvoy, along with members of Dee Street Community Centre in East Belfast and Tar Isteach in North Belfast.

Professor Rebelo continued: “Sounds can be very powerful in terms of their association with events in people’s lives. They can evoke strong memories and emotions. Older members of the community told us that one of their most powerful sound memories was that of horns from the shipyard, factories and mills across Belfast calling tens of thousands of people to work each morning. Younger members of the community groups involved in the project helped recreate these sounds for the Sounds of the City exhibition.

“Similarly, the sound of the footsteps of thousands of shipyard workers returning home through the streets of Belfast evokes strong memories of the city’s industrial heritage. This has also been recreated for the exhibition, and as you walk through the MAC, your own footsteps become part of that iconic aspect of Belfast’s identity.
Community engagement played a central role in the Sounds of the City project. Without community participation, the exhibition and the development of the Belfast Sound Map would not be possible.”

The Belfast Sound Map is available online at www.belfastsoundmap.org. The Sounds of the City exhibition will run at the MAC until 28 June. For more information visit www.soundsofthecity.info

Media inquiries to the Communications Office Tel: 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Number of new cancer cases in Northern Ireland now passing 8,000 annually

Over 8,000 new cases of cancer (4,100 in men and 4,000 in women) were diagnosed on average each year between 2006-2010 in Northern Ireland - a rise from an average of 6,288 cases diagnosed each year between 1993-1996.

In addition there were 3,000 cases diagnosed per year of non-melanoma skin cancer, an easily treated cancer.

In 2010 specifically there were 4,133 male and 4,107 females diagnosed with a serious cancer, (excluding 1,725 men and 1,304 women diagnosed with non melanoma skin cancer).

The latest figures are contained in a report launched today by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s University Belfast, entitled, Cancer Incidence and Survival in Northern Ireland 2006-2010. The report is an official statistics publication.

In the 2006-2010 period cancer incidence rates in the most deprived quintile of the Northern Ireland population were higher than for those in the least deprived areas.

The most deprived quintile saw 410 cases per 100,000 women, and 520 cases per 100,000 men, while the least deprived saw 340 cases per 100,000 women and 410 cases per 100,000 men. A large proportion of the difference was due to lung cancers.

The report shows that if the lower levels of lung cancer found in affluent areas of Northern Ireland applied to the most deprived areas, there would be 197 fewer lung cancers in women and 236 fewer cases in men each year.

This higher level in more deprived areas is due to the higher levels of tobacco use and points to an area of ongoing work to reduce tobacco use especially among women and the more deprived areas of the Northern Ireland population. In the period 2006-2010 the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area had the highest incidence rates of lung cancer in Northern Ireland.

Other findings included in the report are:

• In women, numbers of breast, lung and malignant melanoma are increasing with time.
• During 2006-2010, the most common cancer in women was breast cancer with 1,209 women diagnosed in 2010, an increase of approximately a third from 820 diagnosed per year 1993-1996.

• Lung cancer incidence rates decreased for men, while prostate and malignant melanoma rates increased.
• Prostate cancer was the most common male cancer with 942 men diagnosed in 2010 a doubling from the 450 diagnosed on average each year 1993-1996.

Malignant melanoma
• Malignant melanoma is the most rapidly increasing cancer in NI, rising from an average of only 30 cases per year in males and 62 cases per year in females in 1984-1986 to 116 male and 157 female cases per year during the 2006 to 2010 period. This represents a 1.9 per cent annual rise in women, and a 2.7 per cent per year rise in men.

Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s said: “While some of the rising numbers are related to the increasing age and number of the population, breast cancer, melanoma and prostate cancers have increased at a rate above other cancers.

“Lung cancer is a preventable disease if tobacco use was reduced. It has shown a fall in numbers among men but not among women, efforts should be doubled to reduce tobacco consumption in our society. 

“The rapid rise in melanomas which is increasing in men, faster than women and is more common in residents of more affluent areas, is related to changing dress and sunbathing behaviour in the sun, and the use of sunbeds. The population should be advised to avoid sunbed use completely and to enjoy the sun but avoid sunburn especially among children.” 

Survival has improved for many cancers since the start of data collection by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s in 1993. Five-year survival rates increased over 1993-2010 for breast, colorectal, prostate cancers, but only slightly for lung cancer.

The full report is available to view online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/ 

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke. Tel: 028 9097 5320 or email Anne-Marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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New research focuses on teen sexual health in Northern Ireland

Sex education at school is young people’s preferred source of information about sex, according to a new report from Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.

Forty-two per cent of 16 year olds from across Northern Ireland who completed the 2011 Young Life and Times Survey identified sex education at school as the source of the most helpful information about sex. It is seen as the most reliable and trustworthy source of information, with many respondents saying that they would have liked more lessons.

1,434 teenagers across Northern Ireland completed the Young Life and Times Survey, an annual survey of 16-year olds undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative by Queen’s and the University of Ulster. The survey gives an insight into lives of 16-year olds across Northern Ireland, addressing a number of key issues.

The key findings relating to sexual health have been published in a new report, entitled Messed up? Sexual Lifestyles of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland. They include:

  • 26 per cent of respondents reported that they had had sex.
  • Around one half (46 per cent) of those who had had sex were 16 years of age when they first had sex, 31 per cent were 15 years old whilst the remaining 22 per cent were younger.
  • 30 per cent said that this had happened on the spur of the moment, while 29 per cent said they had planned it together with their partners.
  • 62 per cent of respondents felt that the first time they had sex came at the right time; however, 34 per cent felt it happened too early. The older respondents were when they first had sex, the more likely they were to say that the timing was right.
  • Curiosity (54 per cent) and the feeling that sex seemed like a natural follow-on to the relationship (46 per cent) were the two main reasons why they first had sex, for both males and females.  Females were much more likely than males to say that they had sex because they were in love – 43 per cent of females compared to 29 per cent of males.
  • About three in ten were still in a relationship with their first sexual partner.
  • 54 per cent of those who had had sex only ever had one sexual partner. Eight per cent had more than five sexual partners.
  • Whether they’d had sex or not, 62 per cent said they would find it easy to access contraception.

Dr Dirk Schubotz from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, and author of the publication said: “All these findings are myth-busters in the face of those who portray young people as irresponsible, promiscuous beings who don’t think about the consequences of entering a sexual relationship.

“However, the findings also show that those teaching sexuality education with a ‘no sex before marriage’ agenda need to acknowledge that at least one in four young people don’t make this choice.

“School-based sex education is clearly young people’s preferred source of information. However, many of the respondents were critical of the negativity with which sexuality education is taught in school, and few felt at ease talking to their teachers about sex. Despite the fact that Relationship and Sexuality Education now forms part of the compulsory post-primary curriculum, some respondents reported that they had received none. This would suggest that a more open and positive approach to sex education is required.”

A second publication from ARK, entitled Young Men and Sexual Health, has been published to coincide with Men’s Health Week (11-17 June). Drawing on information from a number of sources, it highlights that:

  • Young men found it easier to talk about sex to their girlfriend/boyfriend and close friends, than to their parents.
  • 24 per cent of males in Year 8, but 80 per cent of those in Year 12, said they would find it easy to get contraceptives. When asked where they would get contraceptives, 53 per cent said from a shop or chemist, and 35 per cent said public places, such as bars or public toilets. Only one in ten said they would go to a family planning clinic or doctor.
  • Knowledge of some sexually-transmitted infections was high among 11-16 year old boys, although some diseases were less well-known.
  • The number of diagnoses of some diseases in Northern Ireland, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are higher among males than females, particularly among those aged 20-24.

Report author, Dr Paula Devine from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, said: “The fact that high number of diagnoses of some sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia and gonorrhoea, are particularly high among young men shows that there is a need for more education in this area.”

Both reports - Messed up? Sexual Lifestyles of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland and Young Men and Sexual Health¬ – are available from the ARK website at www.ark.ac.uk/publications

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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£340,000 funding boost for Queen’s heart researchers

Heart scientists at Queen’s University have been awarded prestigious grants of more than £340,000 by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as part of a multi-million pound boost for research in the UK. BHF Northern Ireland announced the funding as part of Support Our Science (SOS) month – a month long celebration of the charity’s life-saving research.

The new grants were announced as your heart charity sends out a call to support heart science. The BHF is the single biggest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. Last year, it gave more than £88m to research at Universities and hospitals all over the UK.

Queen’s University Belfast is a leading centre for heart disease research in Northern Ireland.   In the past five years, it has received more than £1.4m of funding from BHF Northern Ireland for vital life-saving science.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF said: “We are very pleased to be announcing a number of research awards in Northern Ireland this June, when we are sending out an ‘SOS’ to ask the public to Support Our Science.

“We couldn’t fund the UK’s leading scientists like the teams at Queens University without you. Thanks to all of those in Northern Ireland who are helping us through volunteering, donations or fundraising – your support is giving real hope of finding new treatments for heart patients.”

Professor James McElnay, Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates said: “Heart and circulatory disease are major killers within the UK and this research at Queen’s, funded by the British Heart Foundation, is literally life-saving work. Without the support of organisations like the BHF our scientists would not be able to make the discoveries they do, many of which go on to have such a positive impact on all of our lives.”

The grants awarded to Queen’s include £182, 289 for Professor J Graham McGeown and Dr Tim Curtis for a study looking at the effect of bursts of calcium – called ‘calcium sparks’ – on veins and small arteries called arterioles. These calcium sparks are known to help regulate the stiffness of blood vessels, which affects blood pressure, but interestingly seem to have different effects in arterioles and veins than they do in larger arteries. This team’s discoveries could lead to a new understanding of natural blood pressure regulation.

A further £161,630 was awarded to Dr Curtis, Professor  McGeown  and Professor  Alan Stitt . They hope to help find new ways of treating disease of the eye caused by mistakes in the development of new blood vessels – an area they are experts in. By improving our understanding of how blood vessels form and grow, this work may also inform strategies to mend broken hearts after heart attack.

To find out more about SOS month at BHF Northern Ireland visit bhf.org.uk/science

For more information contact Jayne Murray, Public Affairs & Communications Manager, BHF Northern Ireland on 07984 672158 or email murrayj@bhf.org.uk

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Student awards include £20K bonanza for local charities

A £20K bonanza for local charities is on the cards at Queen’s Students’ Union tomorrow (Fri, 8 June) when the SU’s RAG group presents cheques to Autism NI, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, The Stroke Association and Youthlife, as part of its Volunteering Excellency Awards 2012 ceremony.

The evening celebrates the positive contribution students make to society in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Awards on the night include Voluntary/Charitable Event or Activity of the Year, sponsored by Sword Security; Staff Volunteer of the Year; Queen’s Improvement to Society Award; Voluntary/Charitable Club or Society of the Year; Student Volunteer of the Year and Special Contribution Award.

Those shortlisted for awards include the Students Working Overseas Trust (SWOT) whose annual fashion show raised £30,000 this year, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) who brought students from schools across Northern Ireland together to encourage enterprise, with sales of their products reaching £9,000 and Amy Keegan from Queen’s RAG Society, whose fundraising efforts have included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Pictured, right, ahead of the event  with Aidan Hughes, Vice-President for Community, Queen’s Students’ Union and Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s, is South Belfast resident Ellison Craig, who is presenting the Improvement to Society Award.

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‘Powerful’ Scholarship for Engineering Students

Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), the electricity network company, has awarded two top electrical engineering students a Scholarship worth £24,000 each.

Daniel Robinson and Mark Lindsay are the first students to benefit from the NIE Electrical Engineering Scholarship Programme, which is being run in conjunction with Queen’s University Belfast.
The Scholarship is open to first year electrical engineering students and includes an annual bursary and a book allowance every year and payment towards university fees.  It also includes paid summer placements and a one year training experience with NIE.

Professor Stan Scott, Head of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen's is delighted that the students have achieved the scholarship. He said; “I congratulate Daniel and Mark in securing the NIE Scholarships which will benefit them greatly during their studies and future career.  There is a shortage of Electrical Power Engineers not only locally but globally, so NIE should be applauded for adopting a proactive approach in addressing this.  This scheme will offer our students the opportunity to receive financial support during their studies, as well as invaluable work experience with the Company.  Engineers face global challenges including the provision of energy for all.  I would therefore encourage more pupils from schools to undertake a degree in engineering which will equip them to shape and benefit modern society in exciting ways.”

Daniel and Mark, who received the Scholarship, are delighted to have got through the process.  Daniel said, “I am really pleased to be given this opportunity with NIE.  This is a great chance to develop a first hand understanding of the electricity industry.” Mark added, “I’m looking forward to starting my training experience at NIE and developing my skills as an engineer.”

Speaking at the event at Queen’s, Gordon Parkes, Human Resources Director at NIE said; “There is a significant shortage of electrical engineering graduates and these skills will be in big demand into the future. NIE took a decision to sponsor our own students. I’d like to congratulate Daniel and Mark in achieving the NIE Scholarship particularly as they came through a thorough selection process.  The NIE Scholarship programme will provide these students with excellent experience working on real engineering projects as they study for their degree.  From day one they will be mentored by a professional electrical engineer who will ensure that their classroom learning is complimented by the appropriate practical experience. Electrical engineering is an interesting and challenging career that offers continuing career development and opportunity. NIE has recognised that in order to attract the best possible engineers we need to be working closely with our local universities in order to generate interest and develop graduates at an early point in their career.” 
NIE estimates that it will need to recruit a number of engineers every year for the foreseeable future to meet the growing demands placed on the electricity network.  The key drivers are the need to replace specialist skills as a result of a significant number of key employees retiring over coming years and the requirement to replace the ageing electricity network in Northern Ireland.

Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning, presented the students with their scholarship.  Dr Farry said: “I commend Northern Ireland Electricity for providing these excellent scholarships and also their pro-active collaboration with the higher education sector. These scholarships are not just financially valuable, but will provide an excellent opportunity for local students to develop their skills and knowledge in the industry, gaining important experience for their future careers and also making a valuable contribution to the company.

“A workforce skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths [STEM] is fundamental to Northern Ireland’s future competitiveness. There are a vast amount of varied career opportunities available to those studying STEM subjects. It is important to encourage these individuals to pursue a career in STEM if true success is to be realised.”

The NIE Scholarship is now closed but it will reopen in Autumn 2012.  For more information on the programme visit www.nie.co.uk.

For further information contact Gemma O’Donnell, EEECS. Tel  +44 (0) 28 9097 4618 or email g.odonnell@qub.ac.uk


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Exploiting industry and university research key to business growth
Professor Donald Siegel, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management at the University at Albany, State University of New York
Professor Donald Siegel, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management at the University at Albany, State University of New York

Business leaders from around Ireland are being told that exploiting industry and university research is key to business growth.

The message is the focus of the 2012 Annual InterTradeIreland Innovation Conference which aims to promote and encourage innovation across the island of Ireland. It brings international expertise in innovation from Queen’s University Belfast, NUI Galway, University College Dublin and University College Cork.

The Conference, which takes place at NUI Galway from 12-13 June, aims to provide practical insights into how businesses, academics and policy makers on the island of Ireland can best exploit industry-university research, development and innovation to best effect in context of economic recovery.

The Keynote Speaker is Professor Donald Siegel, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management at the University at Albany, State University of New York, USA. He has spent his career building knowledge and expertise on issues relating to university technology transfer and entrepreneurship, the effects of corporate governance on economic performance, productivity analysis, and corporate and environmental social responsibility. He serves as President of the Technology Transfer Society in the US and was recently ranked number two in the world for academic research on university entrepreneurship.

According to Professor Siegel: “In recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the commercialization of intellectual property at universities. A concomitant trend has been a substantial rise in university-industry research partnerships, often with that same goal in mind. I will present some lessons learned for managers and policymakers who are interested in stimulating academic entrepreneurship and managing university-industry partnerships more effectively.  If you are interested in learning about ‘best practices’ in university technology commercialization, you should attend this conference.”

In the packed two-day conference programme, a number of business leaders and academic experts from both sides of the border will explore why the exploitation of industry and university-based research, development and innovation is crucial to the development of a sustainable economy. Delegates will also hear the results of cutting-edge research into innovation and entrepreneurship that is being undertaken in our third level institutions across the island.

The two-day Conference takes place at the Institute for Business, Social Sciences and Public Policy, NUI Galway on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 June 2012. For more information and to register online to attend this free event, visit www.conference.ie and follow the link to the InterTradeIreland Annual Innovation Conference.

A Twitter Hashtag has been setup so that conference delegates can share their thoughts on the day: #aiiconf2012
For media inquiries please contact Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3087 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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National recognition for Queen's University
(l-r) Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs; Internal Communications Officer, Claire Patterson; Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Planning, Staffing and External Relations, Professor Tony Gallagher, and Jennifer Harrison, Public Affairs Officer.
(l-r) Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs; Internal Communications Officer, Claire Patterson; Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Planning, Staffing and External Relations, Professor Tony Gallagher, and Jennifer Harrison, Public Affairs Officer.

Queen’s University Belfast has won a national CIPR Excellence Award for its campaign to safeguard the future of higher education in Northern Ireland.

Recognised as the ultimate public relations accolade in the UK, the University’s Communications and External Affairs Office (CEAO) received the Excellence Award in the Integrated and Marcomms Campaigns category for its Higher Education Funding Campaign.

At the time of the campaign, the Higher Education sector in Northern Ireland was dealing with a loss of £28m through efficiency savings, with a further £40m cut also being considered. In light of this, Queen’s developed their campaign in early 2011 to demonstrate the value of higher education in Northern Ireland, and gain support for maintaining levels of government funding in the sector. In September of that year, The First and Deputy First Ministers announced that additional government funds have been secured to meet the Higher Education funding gap.

During the ceremony, which was held at the Hilton Park Lane Hotel in London, and attended by 900 PR professionals from across the UK, the judges praised Queen’s campaign as “A model cost-effective, integrated campaign”, adding “It was a seemingly impossible challenge: to overturn a political decision to slash Higher Education funding by £40m and safeguard the future of the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland. Yet, through a concerted blend of PR and public affairs, the team engaged with diverse stakeholders through multiple communications tactics to rally political representatives, staff, University alumni, business leaders, teachers and prospective students.”
Commenting on the award the University's Head of Communications and External Affairs Kevin Mulhern said: "This is a great honour for Queen's and in particular the Communications and External Affairs team who played an exceptional role in securing a national CIPR award. The strength of the entry was recognised by the judging panel who described it as a model, cost effective, integrated campaign.
"Staff, students, alumni and friends of Queen's should also be thanked for supporting the campaign, as without their valued contribution higher education in Northern Ireland would have been greatly weakened."  

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Gallagher, who oversaw the campaign, said: “Ensuring we have a sustainable higher education sector is of vital importance to everyone in Northern Ireland. This award is recognition of Queen’s efforts to demonstrate the positive impact the University has on all aspects of life in Northern Ireland, and also provides us with another opportunity to thank all of those who supported us in the course of our successful campaign.”

Compere for the event was British Olympic Medallist, Colin Jackson, CBE. The evening commenced with Lord Coe KBE being presented with the CIPR’s President’s Medal for his outstanding contribution to public relations surrounding the Olympics.

Queen’s Communications and External Affairs Office has also been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award in the Outstanding Marketing and Communications Team category to be announced in London next month.

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

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£425K Queen’s study could lead to new treatments for reversing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

A novel study at Queen’s University Belfast which could eventually lead to new treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been awarded £425K by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Currently some 100,000 people in the United Kingdom have MS which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and eye, to communicate with each other effectively.

The new study, based in Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, will investigate how parts of the immune system can help repair the damage caused by MS attacks. 

The project is being led by Dr Denise Fitzgerald, who herself experienced a condition similar to MS, called Transverse Myelitis when she was 21. As a result of inflammation in her spinal cord, she was paralysed in less than two hours.

Dr Fitzgerald had to learn to walk again as the damage in her spinal cord repaired itself over the following months and years. It is this natural repair process that often becomes inefficient in MS, a chronic life-long condition, and this failure of repair can lead to permanent disability.
Boosting this natural repair process in the brain and spinal cord is the next frontier in treating MS, as currently there are no drugs that are proven to do so.

Speaking about the importance of the new study, Dr Fitzgerald said: “The central goal of our research is to identify new strategies to treat MS and other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.

“Nerve cells communicate by sending signals along nerve fibres which are contained within a fatty, insulating, protective substance, known as Myelin. In MS, Myelin is attacked and damaged (demyelination) which can lead to either faulty signalling by nerves, or death of the nerve cells. As a result, patients experience loss of nerve function in the area of the brain/spinal cord that has been damaged. This research project centres around understanding Myelination, a process of insulating the nerve fibres with Myelin, and Remyelination, a natural regenerative process that replaces damaged Myelin.

“We already know that the immune system is implicated as a potential culprit in MS, as the damage is thought to be caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS; brain, spinal cord and optic nerve). But in recent years we have learned a great deal about how the immune system also supports tissue repair in the CNS.

“In particular, there is a group of immune cells called T cells which have recently been shown to support remyelination. There are different subsets of T cells, however, and little is still known about which subsets are beneficial in this process. In our study we aim to discover if these different T cell subsets influence remyelination of the CNS, and if ageing of the T cells impairs remyelination in older individuals.

“The outcomes of this study will include new knowledge of how the immune system, and T cells in particular, influence remyelination in the Central Nervous System. We will also learn a great deal about how ageing affects the ability of T cells to help tissue repair.

“Given the profound neurological impairments that can accompany ageing, and our growing aged population, is it imperative that we understand how normal CNS  repair can become impaired with age.

“By understanding this process of CNS repair in detail. we will also gain an insight into other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.”

Further information on Dr Fitzgerald’s research group within the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University Belfast can be found online at http://go.qub.ac.uk/FitzgeraldGroup

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

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