January 2014 releases

Queen’s launches major study into Malta’s past

Details of a prestigious €2.5M research grant awarded to scholars at Queen’s University Belfast will be unveiled today.

Led by Dr Caroline Malone from Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, the international study is examining prehistoric society on the island of Malta.

Academics will not only be researching Malta from the first occupation of Neolithic farmers around 5,500BC until medieval times, but will also be looking at how to ensure long-term conservation.

The High Commissioner for Malta to the UK, Mr Norman Hamilton will address today’s project launch, which also involves Cambridge University and the University of Malta.

At 316 square km, Malta is less than the size of greater Belfast yet in pre-historic times, it was relatively densely populated, probably to the tune of 5-10,000 people, according to researchers.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Malone, said: “This grant is highly significant as European Research Council grants don’t come along every day. This grant is one of only nine awarded in this category across Europe in 2012.

“The island provides us with a fascinating laboratory. By a combination of fieldwork and exciting new forensic technology, we expect to uncover a wealth of new information. This may tell us about how early people managed to live in an unstable environment and develop coping mechanisms that reveal extraordinary resilience to change. This society created megalithic temples when most of Europe was far less sophisticated. Yet this civilisation disappeared quite unexpectedly around 2,400 BC. We hope to look at the unstable conditions – fluctuating rainfall, deforestation – to find out more about what happened and why even this remarkable island community had to change its cultural and economic world”.

Researchers will reconstruct the changing ecology at different periods in Malta’s history by using ancient pollen and extracted tiny invertebrates including snails and insects. The analysis of these and other environmental and archaeological materials will take place in Queen’s specialist 14CHRONO lab.

The full title of the project is Fragility and Sustainability in restricted island environments: Adaptation, Culture Change and Collapse in prehistory (FRAGSUS). The Framework 7 European Research Council grant for the work is one of only 50 awarded this year across all humanities and social sciences subjects.

Head of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP), Professor Keith Bennett said: “The FRAGSUS project is an excellent demonstration of the value of the close collaborative relationships between archaeologists and environmental scientists. We are delighted to be taking the lead role in this international research partnership.”

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Heritage Malta are also involved in the project. Further information on Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology is available online at www.qub.ac.uk/schools/gap

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office Tel: 028 9097 3087 or email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s hosts Civic Conversation on Haass-O’Sullivan proposals

Queen’s University, in association with the Royal Society of Arts, is providing an opportunity for members of the public to debate the Haass-O’Sullivan proposals.

The event, which is taking place between 5pm and 8pm on Thursday, 30 January in Queen’s Great Hall offers a twist on normal events.

Entitled The Civic Conversation, it has two keynote ‘listeners’ rather than speakers. Journalist Alex Kane and Louise Little, Chair of the North down Community Network, will listen to the group conversations during the evening then sum up the overall opinion at the end of the sessions.

Speaking about the event, which is currently oversubscribed, organiser Dr John Barry, from Queen’s School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, said: “It will be interesting to see if there is more support for the proposed Agreement with the public, or whether some of the same concerns and difficulties expressed by some of the political parties are also evident at the event.

“There has been a great demand for places at this event and we hope to run a similar Conversation in the coming weeks.”

For media inquirires, please contact: Judith Rance, Communications Office, 028 9097 5292, j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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Rainforests in Far East shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years

New research from Queen’s University Belfast shows that the tropical forests of South East Asia have been shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years.

The rain forests of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Thailand and Vietnam were previously thought to have been largely unaffected by humans, but the latest research from Queen’s Palaeoecologist Dr Chris Hunt suggests otherwise.

A major analysis of vegetation histories across the three islands and the SE Asian mainland has revealed a pattern of repeated disturbance of vegetation since the end of the last ice age approximately 11,000 years ago.

The research, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, is being published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. It is the culmination of almost 15 years of field work by Dr Hunt, involving the collection of pollen samples across the region, and a major review of existing palaeoecology research, which was completed in partnership with Dr Ryan Rabett from Cambridge University.

Evidence of human activity in rainforests is extremely difficult to find and traditional archaeological methods of locating and excavating sites are extremely difficult in the dense forests. Pollen samples, however, are now unlocking some of the region’s historical secrets.

Dr Hunt, who is Director of Research on Environmental Change at Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, said: “It has long been believed that the rainforests of the Far East were virgin wildernesses, where human impact has been minimal. Our findings, however, indicate a history of disturbances to vegetation. While it could be tempting to blame these disturbances on climate change, that is not the case as they do not coincide with any known periods of climate change. Rather, these vegetation changes have been brought about by the actions of people.

“There is evidence that humans in the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo burned fires to clear the land for planting food-bearing plants. Pollen samples from around 6,500 years ago contain abundant charcoal, indicating the occurrence of fire. However, while naturally occurring or accidental fires would usually be followed by specific weeds and trees that flourish in charred ground, we found evidence that this particular fire was followed by the growth of fruit trees. This indicates that the people who inhabited the land intentionally cleared it of forest vegetation and planted sources of food in its place.

“One of the major indicators of human action in the rainforest is the sheer prevalence of fast-growing ‘weed’ trees such as Macaranga, Celtis and Trema.  Modern ecological studies show that they quickly follow burning and disturbance of forests in the region.

“Nearer to the Borneo coastline, the New Guinea Sago Palm first appeared over 10,000 years ago. This would have involved a voyage of more than 2,200km from its native New Guinea, and its arrival on the island is consistent with other known maritime voyages in the region at that time – evidence that people imported the Sago seeds and planted them.”

The findings have huge importance for ecological studies of rainforests as the historical role of people in managing the forest vegetation has rarely been considered. It could also have an impact on rainforest peoples fighting the advance of logging companies.

Dr Hunt continued: “Laws in several countries in South East Asia do not recognise the rights of indigenous forest dwellers on the grounds that they are nomads who leave no permanent mark on the landscape. Given that we can now demonstrate their active management of the forests for more than 11,000 years, these people have a new argument in their case against eviction.”

The full article can be found on the Journal of Archaeological Science website at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030544031300441X

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3087 comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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BDO launches mentoring programme for Queen’s students
(l-r) Laura Jackson, BDO Audit Principal; Eddie Wilson, 2nd year Queen’s student and Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s University Management School
(l-r) Laura Jackson, BDO Audit Principal; Eddie Wilson, 2nd year Queen’s student and Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s University Management School

Leading Accountancy and Business Advisory firm, BDO Northern Ireland, is offering exclusive access to their student mentoring programme to the top three first and second year Financial Accounting students at Queen’s University.

This innovative mentoring programme is a three-part programme providing high achieving students the opportunity of work experience and summer placements. This work will be based in BDO’s Belfast office, giving the successful prizewinners the chance to learn the basics of accountancy and develop professional skills whilst working with a range of some of Northern Ireland’s successful businesses.  In addition to this, students are also being matched with a BDO Director, who will be their mentor for the remainder of their University career.  Students will also get to experience business travel and will have the opportunity to visit one of BDO’s high profile clients based in London.   

Nigel Harra, BDO Senior Partner and Head of Audit, said: “Traditionally, we have sponsored Financial Accounting modules at Queen’s but felt we could do more to help students gain the skills sets required as they begin to plan their future and their careers in the business world.   Our unique mentoring programme offers students access to our Senior Management team.  This additional support will provide a sounding board for students to help them prepare for the remainder of their Accountancy Degree and beyond.”

Three first year Queen’s Accountancy students will embark on the mentoring experience at the end of January and second year students will begin the programme in April.

Professor Ciaran Connolly from Queen’s University Management School, said: “The BDO(NI) sponsorship of the first and second year financial accounting modules provides Accounting students at Queen’s with an invaluable taste of working life, and the opportunity of a paid summer internship with a highly reputable accounting firm, together with the benefits of being mentored by a senior BDO(NI) member of staff throughout their time at Queen’s.”

This programme demonstrates BDO’s continued commitment to investing in future talent and enabling students to be confident in their ability to carve our successful careers, whether in accountancy, business or in future industry.

Jamie Armstrong, Employee Engagement Officer at Queen’s University, said: “We are pleased to have worked with BDO Northern Ireland on the module sponsorship initiative and are delighted that they have been able to offer students such a great opportunity. The short internships are a great way for students to be introduced to their chosen career but it is the mentoring scheme that makes this initiative so valuable. Through the mentoring scheme, students will have a dedicated contact at a Senior level in BDONI who can provide guidance and business insight on an ongoing basis throughout their University career.”

BDO has a strong reputation and commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and this programme represents their focus on creating a sustainable workforce for NI and beyond.

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Local charity announces research funding for leukaemia and lymphoma at Queen’s

Research charity, Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, has announced a £1.5 million investment to support research into leukaemia, lymphoma and other related disorders. The organisation will make this investment over a three year period.  

As part of the £1.5 million package, the organisation has launched a £500,000 Golden Anniversary research programme, one of the major scientific and awareness initiatives that the charity has planned for its 50th anniversary year.  The investment and research programme will enable researchers and clinicians in Queen’s University Belfast and across Northern Ireland to expand their internationally recognised research.    

Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI is the only charity in Northern Ireland solely dedicated to funding research into leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other related conditions. All of the funds raised by the organisation remain in Northern Ireland to promote research into the causes and cure of these conditions.    

New cases of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma account for over 9% of all types of cancer.  This makes this group of blood cancers the 5th most common type of cancer, with more males (55% of cases) affected than females.   Around 94% of all leukaemia and 99% of all lymphoma cases occur in adults.  

Figures from Northern Ireland, which are very similar to those across the United Kingdom, show that around 7 out of 10 acute myeloid leukaemia patients under 60 years will be alive after 24 months.  This decreases to only 2 out 10 if the patients are aged over 60 years old. The reported incidence of one type of lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has increased nearly three-fold in the past 20 years.

The Golden Anniversary research programme will enable research into aspects of leukaemia, lymphoma and other related blood cancers to improve our understanding of these diseases leading to better therapies and patient outcomes.  One of the projects will be the ‘Victoria Montgomery/Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI studentship’ which will focus on research into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and is named after a young mother from Portadown who lost her life to an aggressive form of leukaemia in November 2012.    

Mr Bill Pollock, Chair of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, said that “Over the past 50 years, the charity has supported leukaemia research and I very pleased that we are in a position to make this major investment to support the valuable and innovative research into blood cancers being undertaken in Northern Ireland.”  

Professor Ken Mills, Chair of Experimental Haematology in Queen’s University Belfast, said "Our scientists are highly respected experts in their field and their research aims to understand how leukaemia and other related diseases develop. From this we can discover better ways of treating all of these diseases and ultimately improve the outcome and quality of life for patients.   This exciting announcement by the Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI of a £1.5M commitment to research will greatly enhance the ability of our researchers in Northern Ireland to undertake globally significant research." 

Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, said "The funding of this research programme by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI demonstrates their continued confidence in the high quality research being undertaken in Belfast to identify novel therapies and improve patient outcomes. It is crucial funding such as this that allows researchers at Queen’s, along with our partners, to change and improve lives."  

For more information on Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI click www.leukaemiaandlymphomani.org.

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Science Shop celebrates 25th anniversary at Queen’s and the University of Ulster

A joint collaboration between Queen’s University and the University of Ulster, the Science Shop, which supports hundreds of community groups across Northern Ireland, today celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The Northern Ireland Science Shop benefits the community and voluntary sector across the region and is part of the wider European network of Science Shops. The Science Shops support community organisations in developing research projects which can be carried out by students as part of their degree programme.

Over the past 25 years the Science Shop has delivered almost 2,500 projects and worked with more than 650 community groups including sports clubs, youth groups and recycling centres.

This year’s winners of Queen’s University Science Shop Award are final year Management students; Tim Greeves, Aaron Hunter, Sarah Maxwell and Leanne Millar. They worked with Bryson Recycling’s Claire McCallum through the Business Analysis module at the Queen’s University Management School. The students examined the productivity of Bryson Recycling’s new vehicle design comparing it to the design of their older vehicle and the implications for waste collection.  They found that there was an 8.5 per cent productivity increase in the new vehicle and a 20 per cent increase when miles per gallon were factored out.

One of the University of Ulster’s Science Shop winners is Tomas Gorman a Social Policy with Politics graduate from the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus. Tomas worked with Trademark, an anti-sectarian organisation where he analysed worker-owned cooperatives to explore whether this represented a social policy approach to communal division and poverty.

Commenting on the benefit of the Science Shop to the local community, Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “The work carried out by the Science Shop projects is fantastic and has such a positive impact on our local communities. Not only do our communities benefit from the projects, the students also benefit from implementing the skills they have learnt during their degree studies. The Science Shop should be immensely proud of their achievements over the last 25 years.”

Queen’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay, said: “The Science Shop is a powerful initiative harnessing the talents, knowledge and enthusiasm of students at Queen’s and the University of Ulster. Over the past 25 years, it has become a tremendous force for good, making a real impact on communities around Northern Ireland. It encourages students to apply their knowledge and learning to real-life problems, helps them to understand the challenges facing various groups within our society, and encourages them to give back to the community.

“Today’s celebration is a tremendous milestone for all involved in the Science Shop, and both the universities and the community groups with whom they have worked over years should be extremely proud of this success story.”

Professor Anne Moran, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ulster said: “The Science Shop is a 25 year partnership between both universities which continues to contribute valuable research expertise and enable knowledge transfer into the community and voluntary sectors.

“It is a mutually beneficial endeavour in which students can see how their skills and knowledge can be applied and make a difference in the real world, while the voluntary and community groups can access expertise and research data that can shape and inform their services, policies and strategies. I am confident that the University of Ulster and Queen’s University can continue to build upon the success of the Science Shop for future generations.”

The Science Shops at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster is a joint community resource and are funded by the Department for Employment and Learning through their Higher Education Innovation

For more information on Queen’s University Science Shop visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/ScienceShop
For more information University of Ulster Science Shop visit http://ulster.scienceshop.org/home/default.asp   

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Wed) 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs/Fri) 028 9097 5310 at Queen’s University Communications Office, or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland

The Carnegie UK Trust has launched a new report in collaboration with The School of Law at Queen’s. Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland: A new conversation for new times, looks at how a focus on wellbeing could drive social change, improve public services and improve outcomes for citizens and communities. The report heralds the launch of a high-level Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland.

The report argues that wellbeing could be embedded in policy design and the Programme for Government for the benefit of Northern Ireland’s citizens. Northern Ireland has already begun this process with reform of local government including a new wellbeing mandate and a commitment to review how wellbeing is measured and used to influence policy development. 

The report highlights that current focus on GDP as the sole measure of social progress ignores the failure of GDP as a measure of what really matters to the population.  Wellbeing, on the other hand, includes a wide range of issues that affect people’s everyday lives including health, housing, education, employment, environment, safety, leisure, social relationships and democratic participation as well as income.

John Woods, Queens University Belfast and co-author of the report said:  "Moreover, the report notes that many of the outstanding post-conflict challenges are, at heart, questions of wellbeing. These range from the equalities challenge, mental and physical health, community safety and resilience, inter-generational educational under-achievement and failures in environmental governance."

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “GDP is a good tool to see how healthy an economy may be but it is not very good when it comes to measuring the wellbeing of citizens. It takes no account of inequalities or social mobility issues or even the hopes of people living in different areas.

“We have seen a wellbeing approach work well in governments in the USA and closer to home in Scotland where it has had a transformational effect on the ability of governments to deliver for citizens.  A wellbeing approach to government leads to greater integration of public services and a higher priority given to preventative action.  We believe that Northern Ireland is currently in a strong position to embed this approach in its framework for public services.”

Throughout 2014, the Carnegie UK Trust, in partnership with The School of Law at Queen’s University, will be convening a Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland to explore how the region can put wellbeing at the heart of government.

In a joint foreword to the report Simon Hamilton MLA Minister for Finance and Personnel and Daithi McKay MLA Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly said:

“We trust that the Roundtable will be an ideal platform for an inclusive and creative dialogue that will also feed into a number of related developments here in Northern Ireland, notably on-going work on public sector reform, the reform of local government and community planning, and the Executive’s commitment to Delivering Social Change.  It is time to place the wellbeing of our citizens at the heart  of what government is about, at the heart of a shared narrative.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here:  www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications 

Further information on the Roundtable and its membership will be available in Spring 2014 at http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/changing-minds/enterprise-and-society/measuring-progress,-measuring-wellbeing

For media enquiries, please contact Kirsty Anderson, Martin Allen, or Rory MacDonald at Grayling on 0131 226 2363 or cukt@grayling.com

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Queen’s welcomes new North/South Research Agreement
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and the Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton TD today signed a ground-breaking Collaboration Agreement which will allow Queens University and University of Ulster to participate as full academic partners in Science Foundation Ireland's well-established and highly prestigious,
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and the Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton TD today signed a ground-breaking Collaboration Agreement which will allow Queens University and University of Ulster to participate as full academic partners in Science Foundation Ireland's well-established and highly prestigious, "Investigators Programme".

Queen’s University has welcomed the launch of the exciting new funding opportunities offered through the SFI/DEL Investigators Programme Partnership.

The Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and the Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton TD signed a ground-breaking Collaboration Agreement which will allow Queen’s University and the University of Ulster to participate as full academic partners in Science Foundation Ireland’s well-established and highly prestigious, Investigators Programme.

The new SFI/DEL Investigators Programme Partnership will support collaborative projects involving universities from both jurisdictions to undertake internationally peer reviewed leading edge, discovery and fundamental research.

Dr Farry said: “I am grateful to the Minister, and to Professor Mark Ferguson, for their generous offer of collaboration in such an important and high-profile research programme.

“I am pleased to announce that my Department is making available funding of up to £8.4million over the next six years to enable Queen’s and the University of Ulster to participate in the next two annual calls, the first of which is due to be published by SFI next month.

“This is an extremely timely development, building on the success of my Department’s “Strengthening the all-Island Research Base” programme, while also providing real opportunity to develop new cross-border research collaborations with the potential, in the longer term, to bring further success under Horizon 2020 - the European Commission’s latest research framework programme and a major priority for both Governments.”

Speaking at the announcement, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton TD, said: “This new ‘SFI/DEL Investigators Programme Partnership’ will benefit the island of Ireland both socially and economically. Improving our research and development infrastructure is a key priority for both Governments, and a key pillar upon which the Irish Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is built. Building upon our current achievements in the sector and delivering partnerships which allow for the improvement and sharing of knowledge will only heighten the potential for economic and societal impact on an all-island basis.”

Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Queen’s welcomes the launch of the exciting new funding opportunities offered through the SFI/DEL Investigators Programme Partnership. It will provide a platform for the building of new high quality research relationships and strengthen the existing collaborative partnerships with our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland, developing further the many positive outcomes from the ‘Strengthening the All-Island Research Base Programme’ previously funded by the Department for Employment and Learning. As an international leader in research and education, rooted at the heart of Northern Ireland, this important opportunity will have a very positive impact on our research base at Queen’s and the wider community.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government, commented: “We are very pleased to see the Investigators Programme become accessible to even more members of Ireland’s talented scientific community. This partnership is a key stepping stone in helping Ireland maximise its potential funding opportunities under Horizon 2020. It will enable Ireland’s scientific community to work together on an all-island basis, create efficiencies by reducing the duplication of research and assist in the sharing of important new knowledge. The move towards building Ireland’s international reputation is linked heavily to partnerships such as this which offer the scientific community in Ireland, promising new opportunities.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk and 028 9097 3087.

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Investment of nearly £1 million set to boost local cancer research
Colleen Shaw, Chief Executive, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Prof Joe O’Sullivan, CCRCB and FOCC and Prof David Waugh, Director, CCRCB
Colleen Shaw, Chief Executive, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Prof Joe O’Sullivan, CCRCB and FOCC and Prof David Waugh, Director, CCRCB

Cancer patients in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from a landmark investment of nearly £1 million in cancer research from the Friends of the Cancer Centre Charity.

The Charity, based at the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, has partnered with Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) to provide a £900,000 funding injection for research into clinical trials – medical research trials involving patients - over the next three years.  The investment, which will be delivered through an annual grant of £300,000 over a three year period, will allow the CCRCB to increase the clinical capacity of the specialist team that plans and delivers clinical trials, through a number of critical new staff posts.  This increased capacity of the clinical trials research team will allow for further research and development of world leading cancer trials, an increase in patient recruitment numbers by consultants and clinical academics within the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital and ultimately improved outcomes for cancer patients. 

Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: “This is not a donation in our eyes; this is a financial investment in the future of local cancer research and in the future of cancer care in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has become a world leader in cancer care and the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital provides the highest level of treatment available. 

“Northern Ireland, through the team at CCRCB, has been at the forefront of the drive to find the latest and best ways to treat all kinds of cancer and clinical trials have become a vital weapon in this.   As a charity whose focus is on supporting those affected by cancer, we recognise the potential that lies in clinical trials and the direct benefits they can have on a patient’s life. For us, this investment is also hugely important as this is not money that will disappear into the often unseen world of cancer research, as it will directly impact people affected by cancer, here and now.”

The investment will fund a number of vital posts within the clinical trials team, including a clinical research nurse, research radiographer, senior data manager as well as dedicated pharmacy support.  These posts are vital in the development and implementation of clinical trials, as they provide the essential infrastructure to offer a more comprehensive and innovative trial portfolio, as well as more readily available access to trials.

David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University, said: “We cannot emphasis enough how important this funding is.  It permits us to increase the capacity of specialist staff we need to implement these world leading and life changing clinical trials.  Thanks to the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre, the next three years are set to be a very exciting time for us as we now have a dedicated resource in the Cancer Centre to conduct these trials that take forward innovative discovery from our research and strive for better outcomes for patients. 

“We have been at the forefront of some of the most ambitious and ground breaking research in recent years and some of our own trials have been adopted by leading cancer centres across the UK and Europe.  We can now continue to drive this transition from being a follower to an internationally recognised leader in individualised cancer treatment with research born in Belfast, led by Belfast.”

Professor Joe O’Sullivan, consultant clinical oncologist at the Cancer Centre and head of the clinical research programme in radiotherapy and prostate cancer at the CCRCB, said: “As a clinical researcher, I am very keen to have a large number of trials available to my patients and it would not be possible to achieve this without the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre.

“From the patients’ perspective, this investment is also hugely significant.  I see people every day who are faced with a life changing diagnosis and whilst for many the outlook is good with treatment, others need major improvements in our currently available treatment options. This is where clinical trials come in.  I have seen first-hand how a trial can impact and often improve a patient’s outlook.  This is very exciting for me as a consultant, especially when the trial is home grown and developed in Belfast, but most importantly this can be life changing and indeed lifesaving for the patient.”

Friends of the Cancer Centre is one of the leading cancer charities in Northern Ireland working to support cancer patients, their families and carers through key projects in the areas of research, patient comfort and care, clinical care and equipment.  In addition to the investment in clinical trials, Friends of the Cancer Centre also supports cancer research through funding a number of other projects, including the Northern Ireland Cancer trials Centre and the Northern Ireland Biobank.  Over the next three years, Friends of the Cancer centre has committed over £2 million to local research alone.  

For further information please contact Nuala Bannon at Friends of the Cancer Centre on 028 9069 9393 or nuala.bannon@belfasttrust.hscni.net

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International recognition for Queen’s microneedles research

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast, whose research into microneedles is taking the pain out of injections, have received international recognition from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical science journals.

The team from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s have received the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Pharmaceutical Research Meritorious Manuscript Award.

The award recognises outstanding achievement in the pharmaceutical sciences, as demonstrated by the author, in the quality and originality of a manuscript published in the official AAPS journal, Pharmaceutical Research.

It is the latest award for Dr Ryan Donnelly and his team whose breakthrough research has developed tiny projections which can painlessly penetrate the outer layer of the skin and can be used to deliver medication or to monitor the level of drugs in a patient's body without drawing blood.

Principal Investigator, Dr Ryan Donnelly from the School of Pharmacy, said: “We are delighted that our work has again been recognised by our peers. We have received a lot of industrial interest in our microneedle technology and are currently working on industrial scale-up of the manufacturing methods described in this paper.  This award is further recognition of how research at Queen’s is advancing knowledge and changing lives.

"We are pleased to acknowledge the sponsors of the work, the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and Invest Northern Ireland. We are also grateful to the other funders of our microneedles research, the Wellcome Trust, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council and Action Medical Research."

Head of the School of Pharmacy, Professor David Woolfson, said: “This award again recognises the high quality research on novel polymeric microneedle systems being carried out by Dr. Donnelly and his group, as well as the world leading research being undertaken at Queen’s. It is particularly noteworthy as it represents recognition from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical science journals.”

The Queen’s team won the award for their paper: “Design, Optimization and Characterisation of Polymeric Microneedle Arrays prepared by a Novel Laser-Based Micromoulding Technique”.

For further information visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016610/

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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President Bill Clinton to visit Queen’s University Belfast in March
President Clinton receiving his honorary degree from Queen's University Belfast in 2001.
President Clinton receiving his honorary degree from Queen's University Belfast in 2001.

President Bill Clinton will visit Queen’s University Belfast on 5 March 2014. His itinerary will include the opening of the University’s Leadership Institute, now known as the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute at Riddel Hall.

At the time President Clinton said: “I am honoured to be associated with this Institute. It will prepare future business leaders for a time that requires economic innovation, and in the process, will demonstrate the determination of Queen's in Northern Ireland to seize the opportunities that peace has made possible."

Speaking about the visit Queen’s Acting President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay, said: “Queen’s is honoured to once again welcome President Clinton to the University. He has a long and proud association with both Queen’s and Northern Ireland and he will have the opportunity to see at first hand our Leadership Institute to which he has given his name.

“The aim of the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s is directly aligned to the goals of the Clinton Foundation. It provides a focus at the heart of the local business community, supporting economic growth and the ongoing development of the knowledge economy.”

Media inquiries to Queen’s University’s Head of Communications and External Affairs, Kevin Mulhern at +44 (0)28 9097 3259 / +44 (0)7813 015431 or k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University in €1.6M bid to develop new animal doping test

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast and the Irish Equine Centre are to develop a new way to test for illegal drugs used in horses and cattle.

It will be the first animal doping test to work by detecting and monitoring the known biological effects of a banned substance, rather than the presence of the substance itself. It also has the potential to revolutionise animal drug testing by enabling the screening of large numbers of animals more quickly and efficiently than is currently possible.

Scientists at Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security will work with the Irish Equine Centre, and partners across Europe, to develop the test for banned growth promoters, hormones and antibiotics used on animals destined for the food chain and those involved in sport.

Dr Mark Mooney from the Institute for Global Food Security is leading Queen’s involvement in the EU funded DeTECH21 project. He said: “Current testing methods focus on detecting the presence of illegal substances in animals. These tests are expensive, time consuming and have failed to keep pace with black market developments in producing, distributing and administering banned substances. The danger is that these substances go undetected and find their way into the food chain. The new test will help mitigate that risk.

“We are developing an entirely new approach based on monitoring the physiological effects of banned drugs, rather than directly detecting the presence of those drugs. By identifying the unique biochemical fingerprints that banned substances leave behind in an illicitly treated animal’s blood or urine, we will be able to quickly identify horses or cattle that have been treated with an illegal drug.

“This has the potential to enable more efficient screening of larger numbers of animals than is currently possible.  Any animal in which the biological response of a banned substance is detected would then be singled-out for further tests to identify exactly which illicit substances are present.”

The test will be developed at Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security. The £33M Institute is a key player in improving global food safety, and in national and global efforts to provide the world’s population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food.

The Institute’s Director, Professor Chris Elliott, is currently conducting the official independent review of the UK’s food supply network, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Health following the horsemeat fraud.

Professor Elliott said: “Despite being banned for over 20 years, the use of illegal growth promoters, hormones and antibiotics is believed to still occur across parts of Europe and further afield. The criminal gangs that operate the global trade in illegal animal drugs have developed the means of avoiding detection by conventional testing methods and new ways to detect this illicit trade are urgently required.”

Progress in developing the new test will be discussed at a major international conference to be hosted by Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security in April 2014. ASSET 2014 – The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference - will attract leading scientists, food standards regulators and agri-food producers from around the world.

The Irish Equine Centre, based at Johnstown in Co. Kildare, will lead the overall management of the DeTECH21 project which they hope will revolutionise the battle against doping in equine sport. Project Co-ordinator Mark Sherry from the Irish Equine Centre said: “Greater testing efficiency will lead to higher and faster detection and give the upper-hand in the battle between testers and dopers back to those upholding the law. The new test will allow testers to identify the presence of performance or presentation enhancing drugs as soon as their desired effect becomes apparent.”

The two-year DeTECH21 project is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) managed by the Research Executive Agency under grant agreement n° [605411].
For more information on Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/InstituteforGlobalFoodSecurity/
For more information on ASSET 2014, The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/asset2014/

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office +44 (0)28 9097 5320 comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University’s Sinéad Morrissey win T.S Eliot prize for poetry

A Queen’s University award-winning poet has won this year’s T.S Eliot Prize for Poetry.

Dr Sinéad Morrissey, Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, won the prize for her collection Parallax.

It is the fourth time Dr Morrissey, who was appointed the first ever Belfast Poet Laureate last year, has been shortlisted for the £15,000 prize, first presented in 1993.

Professor Ciaran Carson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s, was the inaugural winner of the prize in 1993. Former Queen’s University student, staff member and honorary graduate Seamus Heaney also previously won the award.

Chair of the judges Ian Duhig, said: “In a year of brilliantly themed collections, the judges were unanimous in choosing Sinéad Morrissey’s Parallax as the winner. Politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book is as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests.

Dr Sinéad Morrissey, Reader in Creative Writing at Queen’s, said: “Having been shortlisted for the prize on three previous occasions, it's a joy and honour to have finally won. I'm thrilled.”

The prize, donated by the TS Eliot Trustees, was presented in central London on 13 January. Each of the shortlisted poets received £1,000.

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Queen's to make colleges GAA history

Queen’s is set to become an inferno of Gaelic Games next month when it hosts the first Colleges GAA Festival in Ireland.

With only one month to go, Queen’s GAA Festival is set to be the third largest sporting event to take place in Northern Ireland in 2014. Over 2,250 top players from throughout Ireland will participate over four weekends in Gaelic football, Ladies football, Hurling and Camogie.

This is the first time a university or college has ever hosted all four of the major higher education Gaelic Games tournaments in the same year, providing a boost to both the local economy and tourism when it begins on February 13.

The finals will take place at Queen’s Upper Malone facilities after its £13 million redevelopment.

Teams from all over the island of Ireland are currently battling it out to make it to the Queen’s Festival weekends which throw in on February 13 - 16 with Camogie’s Ashbourne Cup. The Festival continues on February 20 - 22 with Gaelic Football’s Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup, Hurling’s Irish Daily Mail Fitzgibbon Cup on February 27 – March 1 and Ladies Football’s O’Connor Cup on March 21 – 22.

Three of the hotly anticipated cup finals, Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup, Irish Daily Mail Fitzgibbon Cup and Ladies Football’s O’Connor Cup will be broadcast live on TG4.

Adding to the excitement of the action on the pitch, there will be a packed programme of events to offer players, supporters and those wanting to enjoy the festivities in Belfast. Events will include music and comedy nights, talks from well-known sports personalities, advice on nutrition, mental health and wellbeing and opportunities to try other sports.

Queen’s GAA Development Officer and former All-Ireland winner with Armagh, Aidan O’Rourke, said: “Queen’s is delighted to be the first University to host all four major colleges Gaelic Games competitions in one continuous festival.

“In creating Queen’s GAA Festival we are offering a big welcome to the thousands of players who will be taking part, and to the thousands of supporters that we hope will join them on the road to Belfast. We can promise them an inferno of Gaelic Games on the pitch, with a programme of entertainment, family activities and hospitality to match.”

The current Louth manager added: “Queen’s GAA Festival will be one of the largest sporting events in Northern Ireland this year, and in creating the Festival we hope participants and visitors can make the most of their time spent in Belfast beyond the matches.”

For further information on Queen’s GAA Festival please visit www.gaafestival.com

Media Enquiries: For further information please contact Lawrence Duffy, Michael Rafferty or Jen Higgins of Duffy Rafferty Communications on 028 9073 0880.

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6000 people sign up for first free massive online course at Queen’s

Almost 6000 people have enrolled for the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) offered by Queen’s University Belfast.

MOOCs, launched in the UK by FutureLearn at the end of 2013, are high quality, accessible online courses, which are offered free to a potentially huge number of learners.  The courses open up the possibility of Higher Education study at major institutions, without the requirements of entry qualifications or prior study, regardless of where people live in the world.

The first course to be offered by Queen’s is Critical Listening for Studio Production, which goes live on 13 January.  The seven week course is a technical programme designed to help train the ear in order to improve critical listening in a music studio context. Those registered for the course at Queen’s come from across the world, including Japan, China, Italy and Spain.

Queen’s has just announced details of a second course, Identity, conflict and public space: contest and transformation.  The six week course introduces the learner to issues around the use of public space to express identity. It is due to begin in March 2014.

Dr Dominic Bryan, from Queen’s School of History and Anthropology, developed the course. He said: “The second MOOCs course offered by Queen’s is hugely topical at the moment in many societies around the globe. Here in Northern Ireland we only have to look at recent issues surroundings flags, parades and memorials.  This free course, which is accessible to anyone with internet access, looks at issues around the use of public space to express identity. Ethno-political conflicts around the world tend to differ in detail but share common structural and political issues. Fundamental to the conflicts is the ability for groups of people to have access to representation in public space. We hope this course will have a positive impact at home and around the world.”

Educational Developer at Queen’s, Donna Hyland, said: “Our first MOOCs course has proven to be extremely popular, and we’re now delighted to announce details of our second course. Due to Queen’s global reputation in the area of identity and conflict transformation we expect a great deal of interest in the course from people at home and around the globe.  Queen’s prides itself on providing a world class education, and now, via our MOOCs courses, I am proud to say it is available for free across the world.”

For further information on MOOCs courses available at Queen’s or to enrol visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/home/Education/moocs/

To watch a video on this story visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/home/ceao/Qtv/Education/stories/Name,428575,en.html

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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BAFTA nomination for Queen’s University movie makers

Two staff members at Queen’s University Belfast have been nominated for a BAFTA Award for the Belfast-based film Good Vibrations.

Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry co-wrote the film, which tells the story of Terri Hooley who championed Northern Ireland punk music bands, including the Undertones, in the 1970s.

Glenn is a well-known novelist and creative writing lecturer at Queen’s School of English, and Colin – who has a background in short fiction and arts journalism - works in the University’s accounting department. Good Vibrations was Colin’s debut as a screen writer.

They received their nomination in the category of Outstanding Debut by a British, Writer, Director or Producer.

Congratulating the pair, Queen’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay, said: “This is a momentous achievement for Colin and Glenn. It is great to see local talent being recognised on the international stage, particularly for a film that showcases the city of Belfast. On behalf of everyone at Queen’s, I congratulate them both on their nomination and wish them well for the BAFTA Awards ceremony in London next month.”

The winners of this year’s BAFTA Awards will be announced on Sunday 16 February at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden. The ceremony will be hosted by Stephen Fry and will be broadcast on BBC1.

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Queen’s seeks volunteers to help investigate effect of vitamin D on diabetes risk

Researchers at Queen’s University and the Belfast Trust are appealing for volunteers to take part in a new study investigating whether or not improving vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease.

Funded by the Public Health Agency, the study will take place over a six month period and researchers are appealing for those who are overweight or at risk of developing type two diabetes or heart disease to take part in the study.

There are three million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 850,000 people who have the condition, but don’t know it.  It is estimated that by 2030, 438 million people worldwide will have the condition, with approximately 90 per cent of new cases diagnosed as type two diabetes.

Insulin resistance is a state where the body does not respond as it should do to the insulin it produces. Individuals who are insulin resistant are at increased risk of both heart disease and type two diabetes. Interventions that prevent or reverse insulin resistance may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. There is evidence that vitamin D may improve insulin resistance but further study is required.

Dr Helen Wallace, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University, said: “This trial is important as type two diabetes is on the increase and as a result is placing increased pressure on the health service.

“Individuals involved in the trial will be given a vitamin D supplement or a placebo tablet every day for six months. At the beginning and the end of the study volunteers will be asked to go to the Regional Centre for Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to undertake a number of assessments to examine risk of heart disease and type two diabetes.  We would encourage anyone who is concerned that they may be at risk of developing type two diabetes or heart disease to get involved in the study.”

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Dr Helen Wallace on 028 9063 4462/ 07912 042 848 or helen.wallace@belfasttrust.hscni.net  Those taking part will receive £150 on completion of the study.

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Moon and Jupiter Watch at Queen’s University

Queen’s University is inviting members of the public to use a range of powerful telescopes to view the Moon and the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, tomorrow evening (Tuesday, 7 January).

In association with the BBC, as part of Stargazing Live 2014, the free event takes place from 6pm to 9pm, in front of Queen’s landmark Lanyon building.

Professional astrophysicists from Queen's, and amateur astronomers from the Irish Astronomical Association, will be on hand to help locate the planets and explain what is being seen.

Visitors can view huge craters and mountain ranges on the moon, as well as the vast 'seas' formed by ancient lava flows. As Jupiter rises, participants can gaze at the clouds of a planet 11 times the diameter of the Earth and 318 times as massive. Also visible will be two of Jupiter's four largest moons - Europa and Callisto.

Dr Chris Watson, lecturer in extrasolar planets and low mass stars at Queen’s, said: "We have focussed our telescopes on Jupiter twice before, but this year the Moon is wonderfully placed before Jupiter rises high enough to see clearly.

“Even though Jupiter will be almost 400 million miles away at the time, this enigmatic gas giant is so large that we will still be able to clearly see clouds in its atmosphere, along with its two largest moons. Of course, astronomers will be on hand to explain what people are seeing. This event was very popular over the last two years and we hope many more keen stargazers will join us at the front of Queen’s on Tuesday evening.

“We want to remind everyone to wrap up warm and keep checking the website for our weather updates."

If inclement weather leads to the event being cancelled, a public lecture will be held instead by world-leading astronomer, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre. He will give a talk about the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora) at 7pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre at Queen’s.

There is no entry fee for Moon and Jupiter Watch. Should the talk by Professor Fitzsimmons need to take place, seats will be limited and people are asked to register in advance here.

For media inquiries, please contact Judith Rance, Communications and External Affairs Office, 028 9097 5292, j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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