June 2014 releases

Queen’s scientists exhibit the ‘designer liquids’ turning industry green

A groundbreaking process for removing toxic mercury from natural gas – using a new class of fluids called ionic liquids - is just one of the exciting new pieces of research to be showcased by Queen’s University Belfast at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition.

Researchers from QUILL – the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories – will display their latest, award-winning findings into making the chemical industry more environmentally friendly at the exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, July 1, at Royal Society headquarters in central London.

On average 12,000 members of the public, including families and school-groups, visit the exhibition every year. This year’s show runs from July 1-6, and admission is free.

QUILL is the only exhibitor from Northern Ireland at this year’s event, and central to its stand will be two as-yet unpublished pieces of research – how to remove toxic mercury from natural gas and, also, a new process for trapping carbon dioxide from power plants and gas fields.

Petro-chemical giants PETRONAS and Clariant recently signed a licensing agreement for the mercury-removal material developed with QUILL, enabling this novel, sustainable technology to be available to all. Researchers at QUILL have also developed a suite of ionic liquids capable of capturing carbon dioxide from power-station flue gases as well as deep-sea oil wells. Both breakthroughs have potentially massive benefits to industry, and the health of the wider public and planet.

Displaying the ionic liquids in a range of stunning, fluorescent colours, the QUILL exhibit will focus on the amazing properties of these liquids, which are essentially salts that are liquid at room temperature. With low to zero potential for pollution, ionic liquids are much ‘greener’ than the solvents traditionally used in industry. QUILL’s interactive stand will allow members of the public to explore first-hand the many amazing properties of these liquids – for example, how they can be made magnetic.

Co-Director of QUILL, Professor Ken Seddon said: “There are two main things about ionic liquids which sets them apart and make them ideal for developing ‘greener’ alternatives to solvents. They have no vapour pressure, which means they can’t burn or explode. The other thing is that their structure allows them to be manipulated in order to perform pre-designed functions. So where there are 300 conventional molecular solvents, there are over a trillion available ionic liquids.

“That’s why we call them ‘designer liquids’ as we can alter their properties to suit specific purposes. That’s how we came up with the method of removing toxic mercury from gas, research we carried out in association with the oil and gas giant PETRONAS, and which has already won us multiple awards. It’s also how we tailor make ionic liquids to trap carbon dioxide.”

Another co-director of QUILL, Professor Jim Swindall said: “The work we have been doing here at QUILL has been taking industry by storm, offering a credible alternative for the first time to the use of dangerous, volatile solvents. In conjunction with our industrial partners, we have created ‘super-hero’ liquids, with superior abilities, low pollution and enhanced safety features.

“QUILL was one of the first research centres in the world to follow a model of collaborative research between industry and academia and, so far, it’s been a big success. QUILL is also the only centre in the world focusing on ionic liquids. We are very excited about sharing this hopeful, good-news story with the greater public.”

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition takes place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG. Further information can be found at: http://www.sse.royalsociety.org/2014  

For more information, contact the Communications Office at Queen’s University on Tel. 0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or by email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Northern Ireland’s top students battle it out to receive a free education at Queen’s

Some of Northern Ireland’s best and brightest students will compete this week to become a prestigious Queen’s Scholar, which comes with the benefit of a free education at Queen’s University (Monday 30 June and Tuesday 1 July).

70 students have already gone through a rigorous selection process to reach the final stage of the intense Queen’s Scholars competition, having been nominated by their schools.

The final contenders will compete to become one of ten Queen’s Scholars, each of whom have their annual tuition fees paid by the University for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

This is the second year of the Queen’s Scholars competition, which offers one of the most prestigious awards packages available from any university in the UK and Ireland. The awards are worth a total of some £150K to the ten winning students, whose names will be announced in September.

Over the next two days (Monday, 30 June and Tuesday, 1 July), the 70 finalists will complete a series of interviews and a presentation on a previously unseen topic in front of a judging panel.

Isabel Jennings, Director of Student Plus at Queen’s, said: “Each of the Queen’s Scholars finalists has already demonstrated their exceptional record, both inside and outside the classroom, whether in sport, music and the arts, business and enterprise or through community work.

“Over the next two days we are really going to test their leadership and enterprise skills, their sense of social responsibility and their ability to think on their feet and perform under pressure. It’s these skills and attributes that, alongside their academic strengths, will mark them out as Queen’s Scholars – the best and brightest young people Northern Ireland has to offer, and the leaders of tomorrow.

“I wish each of our finalists the very best of luck, and I look forward to welcoming the ten successful candidates back to the University in September to begin their student experience as Queen’s Scholars.”

This year’s finalists are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the ten inaugural Queen’s Scholars who have just completed their first year at Queen’s.

Pharmacy student Aaron Hutton from Carrickfergus said: “As an aspiring researcher, one of the highlights of my first year has been getting to know some of the world-class pharmacy researchers who work and teach at Queen’s. Ten years from now, I’d like to be a researcher at Queen’s, having completed by degree and hopefully a PhD. As a Queen’s Scholar I am getting access to some of the best teaching staff and facilities in the UK, if not the world. Outside the lab and the lecture theatre, I’ve made an effort to embrace the whole student experience and I’ve made some great friends through Queen’s Motor Club. On top of that, I know that my fees are being taken care of. So at the moment, I feel like the world is my oyster.”

Sam Mathers from Straid is studying Architecture at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering. Sam said: “My first year as a Queen’s Scholar has been great. My role as an ambassador for Queen’s has taken me back to my old school, Ballyclare High School, to speak to other students who hope to avail of the Queen’s experience. I’ve been given a real insight into the breadth of activities available at Queen’s, including more than 200 clubs and societies available to students, and I’ve made some great friends through my studies, my involvement with the Queen’s Symphony Orchestra, in which I play percussion, and my weekly Swedish language class. My first year at Queen’s has been an amazing experience, and to know that my fees are being paid is a huge bonus.”

The Queen’s Scholars awards are an integral part of Queen’s annual scholarship package, which is worth around £250,000 and benefits almost 200 students per year, representing a crucial investment in Northern Ireland’s future prosperity.

For more information on all Queen’s undergraduate scholarships visit www.qub.ac.uk/scholarships

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) or Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5310/5320 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  

Top of Page

Queen’s scientist makes major cystic fibrosis breakthrough

A Queen’s University doctor has played a key role in a major breakthrough to change the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Queen’s University’s Professor Stuart Elborn, an international authority in respiratory medicine, with colleagues from the United States and Australia have led pivotal studies of a new treatment for people with Cystic Fibrosis. The combination therapy, developed by Vertex (a Boston, USA company), improves lung function and reduces hospitalisations for patients with the most common type of cystic fibrosis.

Two Phase 3 studies of the drugs ivacaftor and lumacaftor, which included over 1,100 patients worldwide, built on previous studies of ivacaftor in patients with G551D and other related mutations.  Ivacaftor is the first drug to treat the underlying causes of cystic fibrosis rather than just its symptoms and is currently approved for patients with the ‘celtic gene’ mutation carried by about four per cent of all patients and 10-15 per cent of patients in Ireland. This therapy is a leading example of precision medicine, where treatment is based on a test for genetic mutations.

This recent trial looked at the treatment of patients with two copies of the F508DEL mutation which is carried by roughly half of all cystic-fibrosis patients.  It found that a combination of ivacaftor with lumicaftor was effective in improving lung function between 2.6 and 4 per cent.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal lung disease affecting 75,000 children and adults world-wide, and is caused by inherited genetic mutations that vary among different patient groups.

Professor Stuart Elborn, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, and the European lead on the study, said: “This is a very significant breakthrough for people with cystic fibrosis.  While we had previously found an effective treatment for those with the ‘celtic gene’ this new combination treatment has the potential to help roughly half of those with cystic fibrosis, those who have two copies the F508DEL mutation.

“This is another example of how Queen’s scientists are working internationally to change lives around the world.”

The study was led by a team from Europe – Dr Stuart Elborn, Queen’s University Belfast, the USA - Dr Bonnie Ramsey, and Dr Michael Boyle, and Australia - Dr Claire Wainwright.  Twelve patients from the Northern Ireland Adult and Paediatric Cystic Fibrosis Centres participated in the study.  The local investigators were Dr Damian Downey and Dr Alistair Reid from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk


Top of Page

Queen’s seeks volunteers wanting to enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are calling for volunteers to take part in a new study to find out how best to support people in adopting a Mediterranean-style diet and thereby changing their eating habits.

Scientists at Queen’s Centre for Public Health are looking for 75 people to take part in the one-year study. Participants must be aged 40 or over and be overweight, but generally in good health with no history of diabetes or heart disease.

The TEAM-MED (Trial to Encourage Adoption and Maintenance of a Mediterranean Diet) study aims to determine whether different ways of giving dietary advice and support have an impact on people’s ability to change their eating habits.

Professor Jayne Woodside from Queen’s Centre for Public Health said: “As we all know, changing our diet is easier said than done. Despite all our good intentions, we often slip back into old habits. The question is, how can we best support people in making a real and lasting change to their eating behaviour?

“We are looking for 75 people, who are willing to try a Mediterranean-style diet for a year, to help us answer this question. Participants will be offered varying levels of advice and guidance, and we will monitor their progress to find out which support mechanisms work best and, ultimately, the impact on their health.”

A Mediterranean diet typically involves a high intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and bread, nuts, seeds, beans and olive oil, and with poultry and oily fish eaten in preference to red meat. Alcohol can be consumed in moderation. It has already been shown that people who follow this type of diet have a reduced risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes – chronic conditions which are on the rise in Northern Ireland.

The National Prevention Research Initiative are funding the study, which will be led by nutrition experts at Queen’s Centre for Public Health, which conducts cutting-edge research into how diet and lifestyle factor affect the risk of developing chronic diseases. The Centre’s ultimate aim is to translate their research findings into improvements in patient care and healthcare policy in Northern Ireland.

Explaining how the study will work, Dr Claire McEvoy said: “Volunteers will be randomly allocated to one of three groups, and each group is given a different level of support. The first group will be given some easy-to-follow written material, the second group will meet regularly with a dietitian and receive key Mediterranean foods such as olive oil and nuts, while the third group will meet regularly with other volunteers to share experiences and support one another to make changes to their diet.

“On four occasions during the year-long study, volunteers will be asked to complete some questionnaires and take part in a simple health assessment which involves giving a blood sample and having their blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested.

“At the end of the study, we hope to understand what type of support proves most successful in helping people make lasting changes to their diet, and have a better insight into the effects of a Mediterranean diet on health, particularly the risks of developing heart disease.”

Anyone who wishes to take part in the study should Dr Claire McEvoy at the Centre for Public Health, Tel: 028 9063 2764, Email: c.mcevoy@qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310, Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  

Top of Page

Queen's celebrates Belfast's scientific heritage

Members of the public are being invited to a celebration of Belfast’s contribution to world science - including Ireland’s only Nobel laureate in the field - which takes place this week at Queen’s University.

The Physicists and Mathematicians of Belfast event aims to celebrate the many local scientists whose research had international influence, including Nobel prize-winner Ernest Walton, laser physicist Dan Bradley and Joseph Larmor, who carried out pioneering work on relativity eight years before Einstein.

The one-day event takes place tomorrow, June 25, and will feature guest speakers from the worlds of media and academia, including the former deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday, Brian Cathcart; and Donal Bradley, a Fellow of the Royal Society and the son of Dan Bradley.

Over the past two centuries, Belfast physicists and mathematicians have made enormous contributions to the international development of science. Perhaps the most famous of these, Ernest Walton (1903-1995), was jointly awarded (alongside colleague John Cockcroft) the Nobel Prize in 1951 for being the first person to split the atom, thereby ushering in the nuclear age. He remains the only person from Ireland to win a Nobel Prize in science. Although originally from Co Waterford, Walton was a boarder at Methodist College, Belfast from 1915-1922 and returned to live in Belfast in later life. A special schools session at tomorrow’s event will focus on the work of Walton and another fellow scientist, Dan Bradley.

Originally from Derry, Dan Bradley (1928-2010) began his academic career at Royal Holloway College, London before moving to Queen’s University in 1966 as a Professor of Physics where he made his name with pioneering work in laser physics. The talk on Dan Bradley will be given by his son, Donal, an influential physicist in his own right.

Another major scientist to be acknowledged at the Queen’s University event is Joseph Larmor (1857-1942), born in Belfast and educated at Queen’s. He was the first person to write down the famous ‘Lorentz transformations’, the heart of relativity, two years before Lorentz and eight years before Einstein.

Other prominent scientists with Belfast connections whose work will be celebrated on June 25 include James Thomson, an engineer who helped develop thermodynamics; David Bates who set up the internationally renowned School of Atomic and Molecular Physics; and John Bell, the scientist who made major contributions to the understanding of quantum theory at the CERN laboratory in Geneva.

The event is supported by the Institute Of Physics Ireland, the Institute of Physics’ History of Physics Group, the British Society for the History of Mathematics, and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s.

The one-day seminar is free and takes place at the Department of Physics at Queen’s, beginning at 9am on Wednesday. Those wishing to attend should inform Andrew Whitaker or Mark McCartney at a.whitaker@qub.ac.uk or m.mccartney@ulster.ac.uk

For further information, please contact the Communications Office at Queen’s on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Ireland’s smallest mammals under threat from white-toothed invaders

An invading species of shrew first discovered in Ireland in the pellets of barn owls and kestrels in 2007 by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast is spreading across the landscape at a rate of more than five kilometres a year, according to findings published (today, 23 June 2014) in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Scientists from Queen’s and University College Dublin believe that the invading species, the greater white-toothed shrew could colonize field boundaries and abandoned farmland across the entire island by 2050 and this could lead to the disappearance of the pygmy shrew  which has been on the island for thousands of years. 

Dr Allan McDevitt, University College Dublin, the lead author of the paper, says that ‘the invading population of the greater white-toothed shrew currently covers an area of 7,600 km2 and is found in Counties Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Offaly.’  There are also small satellite populations in Cork city and north of Mullingar, but it has not yet crossed the Shannon. The displacement of the pygmy shrewwill continue in Ireland as the greater white-toothed shrewcarries on spreading rapidly, with the invader only being temporarily hindered by rivers and other barriers.  The sheer speed of the invasion of the greater white-toothed shrewand its competitive superiority in eating large insect prey could have severe negative impacts on the population of Irish pygmy shrews, and even lead to its local extinction.

In a further paper, published in the journal Biological Invasions, Professor Ian Montgomery and co-workers based in Biological Sciences at Queen’s, show that the white-toothed shrew and the bank vole which is also invasive in Ireland, are replacing both the indigenous small mammals, the pygmy shrew and the wood mouse, in agricultural land which comprises up to 80% of Ireland’s land area.  

Both Dr McDevitt and Professor Montgomery appealed “to the appropriate authorities in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to address the issue of invasive mammal species causing severe ecological impacts across the island.”  Professor Montgomery added that the invasive small mammals of Ireland, the greater white-toothed shrew and the bank vole, “should be recognized as an invasive species that has the potential to have a large negative impact on the Irish ecosystem” and that “the ecological impact of these alien species is likely to be far greater than, for example, the grey squirrel.”

The research led by Professor Ian Montgomery suggests that the only means of limiting the impact of invasive small mammals is to encourage bigger hedgerows and more deciduous woodland across Ireland as these habitats favour indigenous species against invaders.  He added that ‘Ireland has a pitifully small area of woodland and biodiversity would be greatly enhanced by a serious effort to increase the ecological value of hedgerows and expansion of woods and forests throughout the island. But Governments must act quickly and together. ’

The pygmy shrew is one of the world’s smallest mammals. Adults weigh between 3 and 6g. They have iron deposits at the tip of their teeth which give them a red colour. They have browish hair on upper surface and whitish grey on the belly. Their tails are thick, hairy and long relative to its body size.

The greater white-toothed shrew can weigh between 8 and 14g, or about three times the size of the pygmy shrew. As their name suggests, they have distinctive white teeth. They are bicoloured, with greyish brown hair on upper surface and yellowish grey lower belly. They have prominent ears and long, white hairs on their tail.



Media enquiries to Queen's Communications Office on 02890973087 or comms.office@qub.ac.uk 

Top of Page

Study reveals less than half of people from minority ethnic groups feel a sense of belonging in Northern Ireland

Less than half of people from minority ethnic groups surveyed in a new study by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster feel a sense of belonging in Northern Ireland.

The results are published today in a report, Belonging and Alienation in the New Northern Ireland, during Community Relations Week.

The report, which is based on the survey results of the 2013 Life and Times (NILT) and Young Life and Times (YLT) surveys, also found that 80 per cent of all respondents from varying backgrounds feel some sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and to Northern Ireland.

1,210 adults and 1,367 16-year olds across Northern Ireland took part in the 2013 NILT and YLT surveys respectively. Both surveys are undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. The surveys aim to capture attitudes across a range of social issues, which in 2013 included a sense of belonging and say and involvement at both neighbourhood and Northern Ireland level.

Respondents were given four options in response to whether they feel they have a sense of belonging: ‘definitely’, ‘probably’, ‘probably not’, and ‘definitely not’.

The key findings on people’s sense of belonging include:

  • Adults from Catholic backgrounds were more likely than those from Protestant backgrounds to say they definitely felt a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood (64 per cent compared with 54 per cent).
  • The reverse was true for a sense of belonging to Northern Ireland with 53 per cent of Protestants, but only 43 per cent of Catholics saying they definitely felt a sense of belonging to Northern Ireland.
  • 81 per cent of Catholics and 82 per cent of Protestants said they probably or definitely felt some sense of belonging to Northern Ireland.
  • Among respondents from minority ethnic groups, the sense of belonging was much weaker with 41 per cent saying they probably or definitely felt a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and 39 per cent saying probably or definitely felt a sense of belonging to Northern Ireland respectively.
  • 16 year old YLT respondents were the least likely of all age groups surveyed to express a definite sense of belonging to Northern Ireland at 24 per cent, whereas 55-64 year olds had the greatest definite sense of belonging to Northern Ireland at 52 per cent.

Respondents were also asked about the sense of influence they felt they had on decisions at neighbourhood level and in Northern Ireland. Only eight per cent of all NILT respondents felt a definite sense of influence on decision making at local level, whilst this figure was even lower, five per cent, at Northern Ireland level.

Respondents with no religious background were much more likely (42 per cent) to say they had definitely no influence on any decision making than Catholics (35 per cent) and Protestants (32 per cent). This pattern was repeated among YLT respondents, except that 16-year olds felt an even lesser sense of influence on decision making at both local and Northern Ireland level than adult respondents did. Only two per cent of 16-year olds felt that they definitely had an influence on decision making in Northern Ireland, whilst half felt they definitely had no influence.

Dr Katy Hayward, from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University, and Lead Author of the Research Update, said: “What we see, overall, is a society with generally high levels of belonging, especially at local level, but low levels of perceived influence in decision-making at any level.

“However, we also see a society in which those who are often identified as holding the key to a more peaceful future – younger people and those who are free from any one religious denomination – are the people who have the strongest feelings of alienation and pessimism.”

More information and results tables on the 2013 NILT and YLT survey are available from the YLT website: www.ark.ac.uk/nilt and www.ark.ac.uk/ylt

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 02890975391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s celebrates women who ‘engineer’ success

The woman who advises Jenson Button on how to get the best performance from his McLaren Formula One car is one of a number of female engineers to be featured in an exhibition celebrating Women In Engineering Day at Queen’s University on 23 June.

Bernadette Collins from Enniskillen graduated from Queen’s in 2009 and is now a Performance Engineer with McLaren Formula One racing team. She will feature in a poster exhibition highlighting Queen’s female staff and graduates who are making their mark on engineering in Northern Ireland and around the world.

Other women featured in the exhibition include Lecturer Dr Danielle Soban, whose life-long love of planes led her to a career in aircraft design and a passion for mentoring young women in aerospace. Graduates include Marie Butterfield whose Queen’s degree opened the door to a varied career spanning four global industries and the opportunity to travel the world; and Wendy Patton, who advises the nuclear industry on the safe disposal of nuclear waste.

The free exhibition will also feature demonstrations of the University’s flight simulator and the Queen’s Formula Racing Car, which is designed and built by Mechanical Engineering students to compete in the Formula Racing competition at Silverstone.

Women of all ages are invited to come along and find out more about female graduates and academics from the School, and those interested in in engineering can also take part in a Twitter chat with Queen’s graduate Sinead O’Sullivan between 10.30am-9pm on Monday 23 June, using @SineadOS1 and #MAEwomen or follow the conversation at @MAEQUB. As a Queen’s student, Sinead completed a Space Studies Programme at the International Space University in Strasbourg and is now studying for a PhD at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, USA.

Lecturer Dr Beatrice Smyth, who is an expert in clean energy and how to get energy from waste, spoke about why Queen’s is playing its part in encouraging more women to choose engineering as a career: “Queen’s is one of the leading Universities in the UK for supporting the career progression of women in science, engineering and technology. We want to show women, of all ages, that engineering is more than just big buildings and heavy metal.

“Engineering is at the core of understanding how things work. From the clean energies that will power the homes of tomorrow, to the small components that keep aeroplanes in flight, to designing supercars, a Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering degree from Queen’s can take you almost anywhere. Every student who graduated in 2012, having undertaken a placement year, secured a graduate level engineering job.

“This event is an opportunity for young women to find out about the courses on offer and the career prospects for female engineers. Female applicants to the Mechanical Engineering degree are eligible to apply for the Schlumberger Female Scholarship Programme, which offers a support package of up to £10,000, including an internship at the company, which is the world’s leading oilfield services provider.

“All students in the School have the opportunity to complete a one-year work placement with leading engineering companies, including Schrader, B/E Aerospace, Andor Technologies, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Airbus. Our strong industry links are crucial in ensuring that we produce well-qualified, experienced graduates who are best-placed to meet the needs of Northern Ireland’s engineering sector.”

Speaking about her own career choice, Dr Smyth continued: “In school I loved maths, but I didn’t want to narrow my options to just one subject, so I chose engineering because it is such a broad field of study with lots of sums and definite job prospects.”

The Women in Engineering exhibition will run from 10.30am to 5.00pm on 23-24 June in the Ashby Building foyer, Stranmillis Road, Belfast. Admission is free and all are welcome.

For more information on Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofMechanicalandAerospaceEngineering/

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

50 new jobs for Queen’s graduates

Up to 50 graduates will be offered jobs with some of Northern Ireland’s leading employers thanks to new partnerships between Queen’s University, PwC and top IT companies.

The PwC Scholarship Programme will see up to 30 graduates per year, over the next three years, from Queen’s University Management School provided with job opportunities at the global management consultancy’s Belfast office. Successful candidates will be selected from those who will have secured 2:1 degree and who have completed a series of work placements and internships during their studies, and the three-day PwC Academy Course.

In similar partnerships with IT companies Asidua, Citi, Kainos and Liberty IT, up to 20 first year students will work for the sponsor company over the summer months and throughout their placement year. Subject to satisfactory performance, each student involved will receive a job offer on graduation.

The opportunities will be available to students enrolling on specific courses at Queen’s University Management School and the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from September 2014.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie said: “Employability is at the heart of everything we do at Queen’s. The University prides itself in attracting top quality students and producing world-class graduates. We work closely with employers in Northern Ireland and internationally to maximise opportunities for our students and to ensure that they have the skills to meet the needs of business and industry. These new partnerships with PwC, Asidua, Citi, Kainos and Liberty IT will further cement our relationships with some of Northern Ireland’s top companies, while providing an important boost to the graduate job market.

“Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills Service has ongoing links with almost 3,000 local, national and international employers, and these new scholarships will enhance the already extensive portfolio of placement, internship and graduate opportunities available to our students. They will provide valuable learning opportunities and practical experience for the next generation of IT and business leaders.”

94 per cent of Queen’s graduates are in employment or further study 6 months after graduation , and around 80 of Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies have Queen’s graduates in senior leadership roles.

The University is seeking to build on this success through its Employability Framework, an ambitious approach to ensuring graduates are equipped with attributes necessary to secure graduate-level employment or further study. These latest employer partnerships are a key development in this area.

Paul Terrington, PwC’s Northern Ireland regional chairman said: “PwC is an enthusiastic partner in the programme. PwC is already Northern Ireland’s largest graduate recruiter and our ambitious growth programme will almost double our graduate recruitment ambitions over the next few years.

“Our ideal graduate entrants have employability skills that complement their academic achievements and work placements, internships and real-world experience are a vital component in that employability mix.

“The PwC Scholarship Programme will be a key element in our plans and I’m looking forward to working with Queen’s to make this programme an outstanding success.”

John Healy, Director and Head of Citi’s Service Centre in Belfast is a member of the Employers’ Forum at Queen’s – a group of business and industry leaders with whom the University regularly discusses employability issues. Mr Healey said: “Through the Employers’ Forum and other initiatives, Queen’s regularly engages with the business community on issues that are of interest to all of us with a commitment to Northern Ireland’s future. Today’s graduates face tough competition for jobs, and businesses face tough competition in local and global markets, so it is vital that we work together for everyone’s benefit – to create opportunities and stimulate growth. We at Citi are delighted to be involved in this new partnership with Queen’s and look forward to welcoming our first placement students next summer.”

For more information about Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/sgc/careers

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

Top of Page

Belfast scientists’ effort to beat blood cancer receives funding boost

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded a £126,000 grant by blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research for research to improve treatments for blood cancer patients.

The two year research project will be led by Professor Ken Mills, Dr Kienan Savage, Professor Mary Frances McMullin and Dr Fabio Liberante. They will develop new treatments that are more effective at seeking out and destroying abnormal white blood cells.

The research will focus on a genetic fault found in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is a group of blood disorders where the balance of healthy blood cells in the body is disrupted by the growth of ‘master’ cells. Patients with these types of disease are usually elderly and are often unable to cope with intensive treatment like chemotherapy.

Professor Mills, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, said: “Several genetic abnormalities have been connected with MDS but we don’t know their role in the onset or progression of the disease. In particular a gene called SF3B1 is known to be mutated in the blood cells of around a third of patients with MDS. As many as 85% of patients with a type of MDS called refractory anaemia with ring sideroblasts (RARS) have the error. The ultimate aim of our research is to improve treatment for patients with MDS, particularly RARS, by identifying a specific drug that can target this SF3B1 mutation.”

The researchers will study this particular genetic fault and use cutting-edge genetic techniques to identify exactly how the mutated SF3B1 gene influences the development of MDS. They will look at how the abnormal SF3B1 affects the ability of the cell to repair damaged DNA, how this impairment influences disease progression, and whether it’s possible to block it with drugs.

Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “The majority of patients diagnosed with MDS are over the age of 60 and most are unable to cope with the current treatments available. This research shed light on how a genetic error in SF3B1 affects blood cell development and behaviour. Improving treatments and tailoring them to target specific rogue cells will enable a safer and more effective way of combating the disease for patients.”

Top of Page

Adopt a seat at QFT
BBC Arts Broadcaster and Susan Picken from the QFT
BBC Arts Broadcaster and Susan Picken from the QFT

Northern Ireland’s leading independent cinema, the Queen’s Film Theatre, is inviting members of the public to ‘adopt’ a seat in a new scheme designed to further improve the movie-going experience.

Under the 'Take Your Seat' scheme, individuals can sponsor a seat at the Belfast cinema for £150 for five years, while companies can adopt a seat for £300. In return, sponsors get their name entered on a QFT Hall of Fame plaque or, if they prefer, remain anonymous.

In a poignant turn of events, the first seat allocated under the scheme will be donated to the memory of Michael Maultsaid, one of the QFT’s most dedicated patrons, who attended the cinema almost daily for the past decade until his death in February of this year.

Speaking about the QFT’s unique place in Northern Ireland cinema-goers hearts, actor Ciaran Hinds, who is due to receive an honorary degree from Queen’s this summer, said: “The QFT offers something unique in Belfast – a rich mixture of thought-provoking, independent, experimental, new and classic films from around the world. It’s a real treasure trove of experiences.”

Local actor Ian McElhinney, currently thrilling audiences in Game Of Thrones, added: “The QFT is by far the most civilised place to see films in Belfast.”

A double-auditoria cinema with pioneering digital projection in Screen 1, the QFT shows a range of mainstream and independent films and is also home to a popular café bar at its premises on University Square, Belfast. The only art-house cinema in Northern Ireland, it stole a march on the multiplexes when it exclusively screened The Artist ahead of its Oscar glory in 2011.

The Head of QFT, Susan Picken said: “The small size of the cinema gives it a unique intimacy that is loved by audiences. It also prevents us, however, from covering our costs through ticket sales alone, and without additional support, we could simply not open our doors. Our seats have suffered most of all from their years of supporting keen film-goers and we would dearly love to replace them but require the help of our generous supporters to do it.”

BBC Northern Ireland arts broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir, who helped launch the scheme, said: “Belfast would simply not be the same without the QFT.

“It’s a unique institution and we need to look after it. So many important and influential films have been seen here and they have inspired young people to follow careers in film and the arts. Any time I go the QFT, I know I am in a space that is different from what the multiplexes provide – a space where ideas about film can be discussed, debated and enjoyed. We need the QFT more than ever in a world of instant media and images.”

The QFT originally opened as a tiny, one-screen cinema in 1968, with an alleyway entrance from University Mews. Older patrons will remember seats with flip-down tables (the space doubled as a lecture theatre) and coffee dispensed from flasks. The QFT was then given a major overhaul in 2005, including the addition of the foyer area and a new entrance, as part of Queen’s Drama and Film Centre. The Jameson Bar materialised in 2011.

To enrol in the scheme or for more information about it, see www.takeyourseatatqft.co.uk

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s lecturer named among outstanding teachers in UK

A Queen’s University academic, involved in pioneering innovative teaching methods with carers and service users, has been named among the most outstanding teachers in the UK.

Joe Duffy, from the Rosetta area of Belfast and a lecturer in Social Work at Queen’s, has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) – widely viewed as the most prestigious, annual awards in higher education in the UK. One of only two winners from Northern Ireland, he will receive his award, and £10,000 to be used towards his own professional development, at the National Teaching Fellowship Awards ceremony at Liverpool Cathedral in October.

Joe Duffy teaches mainly in the area of law for social workers and co-ordinates the Service User and Carer Group at Queen’s. This groundbreaking scheme brings in members of the public, for example, someone with a mental illness or the parent of a child with a disability, to talk to students about the experience of having a social worker. Mr Duffy is also particularly interested in the contribution that people affected by the Troubles can make to students’ understanding of the complex role of social workers in a post-conflict society.

Mr Duffy said: “I am delighted to be recognised in this way by the National Teaching Fellowship scheme. This award is an important recognition of the active contribution made by many service users and carers across Northern Ireland to enriching the educational experience of our Social Work students at Queen’s. I would like to express my gratitude to my colleagues in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, our students and service user and carer representatives who have all supported me in leading these important innovations in pedagogy.”

Head of the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, Professor Mike Tomlinson said: “The Social Work education led by Joe Duffy has been a pioneering and innovative force in addressing the social and psychological damage of the past, and its continuing impact in the present. The direct involvement of a range of victims and survivors of the Troubles in our Social Work training means that students benefit from a concentrated encounter with differing experiences and needs in this complex area.

“Joe Duffy has outstanding skills of persuasion, appreciation and ethical sensitivity, as well as having the commitment to see challenging projects through. Never satisfied with one initiative, he both builds on past experience and shares his knowledge with national and international audiences, engaging in wide-ranging conversations around how teaching and learning translate from one context to another.”

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the HEA, said: “Each year I look forward with great anticipation to the announcement of our new National Teaching Fellows. Our students deserve the best possible learning experience and it is colleagues like those we celebrate today who can make a real difference to their futures.”

The 2014 winners were selected from 180 nominations across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Academics and teachers were nominated by their institutions and submissions had to show evidence of three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

The National Teacher Fellowship scheme is funded by the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. For further information, or to read profiles of NTF winners including Joe Duffy, click here: www.heacademy.ac.uk


Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091. Email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen's researchers helping to make the 'big C' smaller
Professor David Waugh
Professor David Waugh

The scientist behind the development of a new drug to treat ovarian cancer will showcase her work at a free public event at Queen's University this evening (Wednesday 11 June).

Professor Tracy Robson is one of four of Queen's world-class cancer researchers who will provide an insight into their work and its impact on cancer patients in Northern Ireland.

Cancer Research: Advancing Patient Care will take place at Riddel Hall, Stranmillis Road, this evening (Wednesday 11 June) from 5.30pm-7.30pm. It will feature scientists and clinicians from Queen’s Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences whose work is helping develop new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.

Members of the public are invited to drop-in for a chat with those working in cancer nursing, palliative care, drug discovery and the running of clinical trials, and to hear presentations by four of Queen’s top cancer researchers, including:

• Professor Tracy Robson, who pioneered the development of a new drug which inhibits the growth of cancer tumours by starving them of oxygen and nutrients. The drug, developed with Almac Diagnostics, will be trialled on ovarian cancer patients in Northern Ireland later this year.
• Professor Joe O’Sullivan, a world-leader in the development of new radiation treatments for prostate cancer, including a new way to combine radiation therapy and chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer which has spread to the bone.
• Professor Richard Kennedy who, in collaboration with Almac Diognostics, has developed new tests to guide oncologists and patients in their choice of chemotherapy treatment, allowing it to be ‘tailored’ to an individual’s specific needs.
• And Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s, which gathers ‘cancer intelligence’ and provides an information hub for clinicians, policy-makers, charities, and all those working to reduce the burden of cancer.

Professor David Waugh, Director of Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, said: “Around 8,600 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland, but thanks to developments in diagnosis and treatment, more people than ever are surviving the disease.

“There are now at least 50 people walking around Northern Ireland each year who, less than twenty years ago, would have died. Our cancer survival rates are among the best in the UK and that is due, in no small part, to the work of Queen’s cancer researchers.

“Queen’s scientists and clinicians are at the forefront of some of the most ambitious and ground breaking research in recent years, some of which will be highlighted at this evening’s event. I would encourage anyone with an interest in cancer research and treatment – whether as a patient, survivor, carer or medical professional – to come along and find out how Queen’s and Northern Ireland are leading the way in improving outcomes for cancer patients.”

Around 300 experts from 40 countries currently work across cancer research programmes at Queen’s. Last year, the University received the Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Care Services programme, and its impact in reducing cancer mortality rates over the last decade. The award is the most prestigious honour available to any UK higher education institution.

Queen’s was one of the first locations in the UK to be designated a Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence in 2009. Since then, the University has also become a national Movember Centre of Excellence in Prostate Cancer Research. It has also strengthened its links with industry and is now home to a dedicated Almac Discovery laboratory, where Almac and Queen’s scientists are driving forward a £13million partnership to identify parts of tumours that are susceptible to treatment, and to develop new drugs to target them.

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s top cancer researchers, said: “People often read and hear in the media about the world-class cancer research that is taking place at Queen’s, and this event offers people the opportunity to actually meet and hear more from the people behind the headlines.

“Queen’s is leading on the initiative to create a European Cancer Patients Bill of Rights, launched in the European Parliament on World Cancer Day earlier this year. As part of the European Cancer Concord we are urging member states to help underpin improved and equal access to cancer care for all European citizens.

“Today’s showcase features gifted scientists and clinicians who work with partners across academia, industry and the health service to drive discovery and innovation in cancer care. Their vision and commitment is transforming cancer from a killer disease to a chronic disease. Together, we are helping make the ‘big C’ smaller, and we will continue to do all that we can to erase it all together.”

Cancer Research: Advancing Patient Care is the latest in a series of events organised by Queen’s Research and Enterprise Directorate to allow members of the public to meet the people behind Queen’s research and find out how the University’s work is changing lives – and saving lives - in Northern Ireland and further afield.

The showcase event will take place from 5.30pm-7.30pm on Wednesday 11 June at Riddel Hall, Stranmillis Road. Tea, coffee and refreshments will be provided. For more information, or to book your place visit http://go.qub.ac.uk/impact, email Brenda.carabine@qub.ac.uk or telephone 028 9097 1153.


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk 

Top of Page

Royal Irish Academy appoints new members from Queen’s University

Nuala Johnson, a Reader in Human Geography at Queen’s University Belfast, and Stephen Kingon an advisor to the Board of The Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation and Honorary Treasurer of Queen’s, have been admitted as Members of the Royal Irish Academy, continuing a 229 year Academy tradition of recognising outstanding achievement in the world of learning.

Nuala Johnson is internationally known for her research on the relationships between identity politics and representation, particularly through the performance of social memory; the history of botanical gardens as spaces of both science and aesthetics; and on the role of place, language and heritage in the articulation of national identities.

Stephen Kingon is also the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Centre for Competitiveness and of Northern Ireland Electricity PLC. Mr. Kingon previously served as the Managing Partner of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers in Northern Ireland and is former Chairman of InvestNI and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. He received his Honorary degree from Queen’s in December 2012.

Also elected to Membership of the Academy this year was Professor Paula Reimer of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen's. Director of the 14CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment, and Chronology, Paula is internationally recognised for her work with radiocarbon calibration.

Dermot Diamond who graduated Ph.D (1986) from Queen’s in 1987 was also elected. He is now director of the National Centre for Sensor Research, and a Funded Investigator at the SFI INSIGHT Centre at Dublin City University. His research is focused on the fundamental science of stimuli-responsive polymers, the development of futuristic autonomous chemical sensing platforms, and the use of chemical sensors as information providers for Cloud-Computer systems i.e. building a continuum between the digital and molecular worlds.

At the ceremony admitting the new members, Professor Mary E. Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy said: ‘There is a major onus on researchers to ensure that Europe remains a world leader in the twentieth first century. But the emphasis on research that yields a return, in the form of patents, company formation or new drugs, tends to deny researchers the necessary breathing-space, the time to reflect, to allow for the wrong turns, the brilliant idea that collapses, or the unexpected lines of inquiry that might ultimately deliver something different to the original proposal, but something that is much more exciting.  When the Royal Irish Academy elects members, it does so, on the basis of a candidate’s publications and research record – the sole criterion is quality.  This research may help in the treatment of disease, or it may enhance our understanding of a past civilisation.  Members of the Academy should not shirk from their responsibility to tell people that basic research is important and that government support for fundamental research is a hallmark of a civilised society’.

The other new Members admitted included Morgan Kelly, the economist who predicted the property bubble would burst, Geraldine Byrne Nason, the former Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach and one of Ireland’s most distinguished diplomats and civil servants, and Rose Anne Kenny the founder of the Trinity Ageing Research Centre and the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.

New Members in the Humanities and Social Sciences Professor Ciaran Brady (TCD); Ms Geraldine Byrne Nason (Dept. Foreign Affairs); Professor Daniel Carey (NUIG); Dr Iseult Honohan (UCD); Dr Nuala C Johnson (QUB); Professor Morgan Kelly (UCD); Mr Stephen Kingon (QUB) New members in the Sciences Professor Andrew Bowie (TCD); Professor Dermot Diamond (DCU); Professor Padraic Fallon (TCD); Professor Rose Anne Kenny (TCD); Professor Anita R. Maguire (UCC); Professor Richard O'Kennedy (DCU); Professor Mani Ramaswami (TCD)

Further information on the RIA is available online at www.ria.ie

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 02890973087


Top of Page

Queen's launches new Sales Leadership Programme

A new sales leadership programme designed specifically for sales leaders has just been launched by the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University Belfast.

The programme is targeted at those wishing to bring a more strategic approach to their sales effort, whether they are sales directors or managers, executives new to senior sales roles, entrepreneurs or owners.

The Sales Leadership programme, which commences in October 2014, is delivered over three, two-day modules, with action learning groups combined with a strategic project. It also has the added options of one-to-one coaching and Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) accreditation.

At the programme launch, Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, said, “Sales and marketing leadership is a distinctive characteristic in the board rooms of successful companies. We have designed this programme with input from some of Northern Ireland’s top performing companies and we are focused on working with sales leaders from all sectors to bring sales into a strategically focused position within businesses and organisations.”

The programme is fully supported by the professional body Sales Institute of Ireland, who see this programme as bringing a higher level of professionalism to the sales role.

Noel Brady, Chairman of the Northern region of the Sales Institute of Ireland added: “The Sales institute welcomes this new offering from the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s. This will add an exciting option for Sales Professionals to enhance their careers."

BT, a company at the forefront of strategic sales leadership, is one of the organisations supporting the new programme. Peter Russell, General Manager, BT Business N.I. said: “This is a great new Sales Leadership programme and is one that I would definitely recommend both for aspiring and experienced sales professionals.”

Further details on how to enrol on the programme at the William J Leadership Institute at Queen’s are available online at  www.leadershipinstitute.co.uk or Tel: 028 9097 4394 or email: leadershipinstitute@qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Queen's Communications Office. Email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Major business honour for ‘Homework Club’ initiative

A major ‘Homework Club’ initiative, run by Queen’s University’s Students’ Union, to assist primary and post-primary school children across Belfast has won a top award at the Business in the Community Northern Ireland Impact Awards 2014.

The Education Partner Award was won following a unique initiative by Queen’s students assisting hundreds of school children across Belfast with their homework. Hundreds of school children have now been given greater hope of going on to further and higher education as a result.

Queen’s Students’ Union currently supports 10 ‘Homework Clubs’ across Belfast with over 100 Queen’s students assisting children at both primary and post primary level. Accepting the award on behalf of the students, Volunteer and Development Support Officer at Queen’s, Lucia Kearney said: “Many children in Neighbourhood Renewal Areas across Belfast may not have the opportunity, resource or support to complete their homework, often leading to underachievement at school. This may result in reduced confidence and limited opportunities for the future.

“Our unique ‘Homework Club’ initiative is co-ordinated by local community groups and supported by Queen’s student volunteers, providing free homework support to children on a regular basis within a safe environment.

“Queen’s Students’ Union is delighted that the scheme has been recognised by this significant award and our student volunteers should be very proud of their achievements.  They are making positive changes at a grassroots level and their efforts are exceptional.  Thanks must also go to the community groups who have welcomed us into their communities, given us the chance to work with their children and provide continuous support to our student volunteers.

“The ‘Homework Clubs’ are improving the academic achievement and building the confidence of local children, alongside raising their aspirations to believe in their potential and ability to participate in further and higher education.

“The ‘Homework Clubs’ also play an important role in the personal and professional development of Queen’s students’.  The voluntary role enables them to build their confidence, improve their communication skills, broaden their horizons, boost their employability prospects and feel rewarded for the support that they are giving to children.”

Nicola Johnston, Project Co-ordinator of Education and Youth at Belfast South Community Resources said: “We have seen good progress in pupils’ education through feedback from teachers and parents on specific individuals and the raising of standards in their homework. This makes them proud and instils self-belief that if they work hard they can achieve their goals.

“In previous years we did not have a single pupil who said they wanted to go to university as they believed that this was not an option for them, some of these same young people are now aspiring to go on to further or higher education.  None of this would have been achievable if it were not for the support of the Queen’s University Student Volunteers.”



Media inquiries to Claire O'Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk<mailto:comms.office@qub.ac.uk> or 02890973087

Top of Page

Queen’s University scientist leads €4m bid to tackle superbugs

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are leading a €4 million international research project to develop new treatments for some of the world’s top killer infections.

The project aims to develop new ways of tackling antibiotic resistant bacteria, viruses and intestinal parasites which account for 6 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organisation. Around half of these deaths are caused by respiratory infections, which will provide a major focus for the project which is known as INBIONET (Infection Biology Training Network www.inbionet.eu).

Professor José Bengoechea from Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences is co-ordinating the four-year INBIONET project which is funded by the European Commission, under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions scheme. He is leading a team of researchers from ten partner organisations, including academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies across Europe.

Professor Bengoechea, who is Chair of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, said: “Infectious diseases are on the increase worldwide and represent a major threat to global public health.

“An increase in world travel, climate change and the continuous transfer of viruses to humans from other organisms have all contributed to the growth and spread of infections, and the growing number of so-called ‘superbugs’, which are largely resistant to antibiotics. The INBIONET project aims to develop new preventative methods and therapies to help protect the global population against these deadly infections.

“Our international team of scientists will follow an innovative drug discovery model, known as ‘host-directed therapeutics’. This approach is based on understanding how microbes manipulate the human body’s own defenses, leaving it unable to fight infection. We aim to identify the ‘achilles heels’ of the body’s defenses – the particular weaknesses that bacteria, viruses and parasites manipulate for their own benefit. By identifying these vulnerable pathways, we will be in a better position to develop new therapies to block the offending microbes and stop the infection in its tracks.

“The anticipated results of the research should initiate the development of drugs to treat infections caused by superbugs such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Streptococci, and viruses such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. We would hope to see new treatments being available to patients in 10 to 15 years. Crucially, these treatments would target pathways within the human body, helping boost its own defences against infection, rather than targeting the infection itself. Treatments that target the human body in this way are less likely to be met with resistance to conventional antibiotics.”

The research may also shed light on other inflammatory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as some of the pathways manipulated by the microbes are involved in both diseases.

The four-year INBIONET programme will train 15 European scientists, including 11 early-career research fellows, working at the interface between microbiology, immunology and cellular biology. The INBIONET training programme is designed to equip these scientists with the skills they will need for successful careers in academia or industry.

Academic partners in the INBIONET project include Trinity College Dublin, the University of St Andrews (UK), Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology (Germany), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), the University of Vienna (Austria), and Institut Pasteur (France). Industrial partners are Sanofi-Aventis (France), Preclin Biosystem (Switzerland), and ParcBit (Spain).

Professor Andrew Bowie, Head of Immunology at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said: "INBIONET presents exciting opportunities to engage with world-class infection biology labs across Europe. This provides my research with a broader appreciation of host-pathogen interactions and with unique opportunities to collaborate. The structure of the network provides a very rich training experience for the research fellows."

Professor Pavel Kovarik, from the Max F. Perutz Laboratories at the University of Vienna, said: "INBIONET is generating new and exciting collaborations that have already been hugely beneficial to the people involved. The network brings together a unique combination of renowned and experienced scientists and excellent young research fellows, facilitating the expansion of expertise, knowledge and ideas. INBIONET holds the potential to establish new pathogen systems for studying host-pathogen interactions and employ new approaches for assessing the activation of the immune system with promising implications for therapeutic exploitation. It is a pleasure and honour to be member of the INBIONET community."

Bettina Ernst, CEO of Swiss company Preclin Biosystems, said: "The INBIONET project is an excellent example of how academia and industry can work together to advance medical research and improve our understanding of infectious diseases.”

For more information about the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforInfectionandImmunity

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy (Thur-Fri) or Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5310/5320 email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Lasers create table-top supernova

Laser beams 60,000 billion times more powerful than a laser pointer have been used to recreate scaled supernova explosions in the laboratory as a way of investigating one of the most energetic events in the Universe.

Supernova explosions, triggered when the fuel within a star reignites or its core collapses, launch a detonation shock wave that sweeps through a few light years of space from the exploding star in just a few hundred years. But not all such explosions are alike and some, such as Cassiopeia A, show puzzling irregular shapes made of knots and twists.

To investigate what may cause these peculiar shapes an international team led by Queen’s University and Oxford University scientists has devised a method of studying supernovae explosions in the laboratory instead of observing them in space. A report by the team is published in Nature Physics.

Dr Brian Reville from Queen’s University Physics and Astronomy said: “This is a very important result, as it opens a new window into the complex processes occurring in some of our Galaxy’s most fascinating objects, supernovae.”

‘It may sound surprising that a table-top laboratory experiment that fits inside an average room can be used to study astrophysical objects that are light years across,’ said Professor Gianluca Gregori of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, who led the study. ‘In reality, the laws of physics are the same everywhere, and physical processes can be scaled from one to the other in the same way that waves in a bucket are comparable to waves in the ocean. So our experiments can complement observations of events such as the Cassiopeia A supernova explosion.’

The Cassiopeia A supernova explosion was spotted about 300 years ago in the Cassiopeia constellation 11,000 light years away. Optical images of the explosion reveal irregular ‘knotty’ features and associated with these are intense radio and X-ray emissions. Whilst no one is sure what creates these phenomena one possibility is that the blast passes through a region of space that is filled with dense clumps or clouds of gas.

To recreate a supernova explosion in the laboratory the team used the Vulcan laser facility at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. ‘Our team began by focusing three laser beams onto a carbon rod target, not much thicker than a strand of hair, in a low density gas-filled chamber,’ said Jena Meinecke, an Oxford University graduate student, who headed the experimental efforts.  The enormous amount of heat generated more than a few million degrees Celsius by the laser caused the rod to explode creating a blast that expanded out through the low density gas. In the experiments the dense gas clumps or gas clouds that surround an exploding star were simulated by introducing a plastic grid to disturb the shock front.

‘The experiment demonstrated that as the blast of the explosion passes through the grid it becomes irregular and turbulent just like the images from Cassiopeia,’ said Professor Gregori. ‘We found that the magnetic field is higher with the grid than without it. Since higher magnetic fields imply a more efficient generation of radio and X-ray photons, this result confirms that the idea that supernovae explosions expand into uniformly distributed interstellar material isn’t always correct and it is consistent with both observations and numerical models of a shockwave passing through a ‘clumpy’ medium.’

These results are significant because they help to piece together a story for the creation and development of magnetic fields in our Universe, and provides the first experimental proof that turbulence amplifies magnetic fields in the tenuous interstellar plasma.

The Oxford team included the groups of Professor Gregori and Professor Bell in Atomic and Laser Physics and Professor Schekochihin in Theoretical Physics alongside researchers from the University of Chicago, ETH Zurich, Queen’s University Belfast, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the University of York, the University of Michigan, Ecole Polytechnique, Osaka University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

For media inquiries please contact Queen's Communications Office on 028 9097 3091 or emailcomms.office@qub.ac.uk


Top of Page

Queen’s & BT collaborate to promote STEM learning across Northern Ireland

BT today marked the launch of the 2015 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition by announcing an exciting new partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, that will see both organisations come together to foster greater engagement in STEM subjects across Northern Ireland.

In addition to encouraging more schools to get involved in the BT Young Scientist & Technology exhibition, the partnership with Queen’s provides BT with a platform to bring its successful ‘BT Business Bootcamp’ to Northern Ireland for the first time. The BT Business Bootcamp was launched in 2010 in the Republic of Ireland as a way to help students bridge the gap between education and business.  Each year, 30 students who participate in the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, and who demonstrate entrepreneurial flair and business acumen, are invited to attend this four day innovation and skills camp. With the help of established business leaders, the bootcamp inspires creativity and innovative thinking, and gives students the practical skills and know-how to take their commercially viable ideas to the next level.

The 2015 Northern Ireland BT Business Bootcamp will also include collaboration with the NI Science Connect programme, to offer additional support to those students who want to turn their idea into a business prospect.

Peter Morris, Director of Corporate Services, BT Ireland commented, "At BT we are extremely proud of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and are delighted that Queen’s, a world renowned academic institution recognises the exhibition as an outstanding forum for driving interest and up-take in STEM subjects.

“Through the Queen’s outreach network, we will be engaging directly with more students and by delivering a dedicated Northern Ireland BT Business Bootcamp we are giving selected students real practical skills that will equip them to turn an idea into a viable business prospect. We hope that even more Northern Ireland schools will get involved this year to showcase the tremendous talent of our young people on both a national and international platform.”

Professor Tom Millar, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s added: “Queen’s is committed to increasing the opportunities available to all our young people, and is therefore pleased to support the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition and its Business Bootcamp. Some 58 per cent of all new jobs are going to be STEM related in the years ahead, and so we are delighted to be part of an event which helps pupils develop the kind of STEM skills that will enable them to have a well-paid and satisfying career in the years to come, and which are key to meeting some of the biggest challenges we face as a society today.”

Emma Crothers and Kenneth Millar from Wellington College Belfast won 1st prize in their category and a Display award for their project ‘The Miracle Citrus: By nature or by nuture?’ at the 2014 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. Commenting on her experience, Emma said, “We were absolutely delighted to win this award as the competition was incredibly tough; it justifies all the hard work the team put into our entry.  We can’t say strongly enough about how hugely rewarding taking part in the BT Young Scientist & Technology competition is and we would encourage other students to get involved next year as it was an amazing experience, it really was the highlight of our year.”

The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, now in its 51st year, has attracted almost 70,000 students and received over 33,000 projects since its inception. Today’s announcement will be a major force in helping to further drive the focus of STEM subjects in schools and encourage more students to seek a career within the fields of science and technology, which accounts for 11% of total employment in Northern Ireland*.

The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition is organised by BT Ireland, Northern Ireland’s leading communications and networked IT service provider, and is supported by a number of valued partners including the Department of Education & Skills, Matrix NI, Analog Devices, Intel, and RTE.  The 2015 exhibition will take place in the RDS, Dublin from January 7th-10th and the closing date for entries is October 1st 2014.  For more information on the exhibition and for details on how to enter, log onto www.btyoungscientist.com<http://www.btyoungscientist.com>, follow the exhibition on Twitter @btyste or find it on Facebook www.facebook.com/BTYSTE<http://www.facebook.com/BTYSTE>

Top of Page

Queen’s launches new employment scheme for people with disabilities

A unique programme launched by Queen’s will this week see 12 people with disabilities beginning a one-year paid placement at the University.

The Queen’s Inclusive Employment Scheme, which is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning, aims to give individuals the opportunity to regain skills, learn new skills and enhance their employment opportunities.

The placements range from clerical work to technical and manual work and span a range of School and Directorates at the University. 

Speaking at the launch of the Programme, Director of Human Resources at Queen’s, Sean McGuickin, said: “We are delighted to launch the University’s first ever Queen’s Inclusive Employment Scheme and believe that these placements will be mutually beneficial to both Queen’s and the individuals in the roles.  We are committed to providing pathways to professions.  This Programme is a great opportunity for those who have been unable to get work, or have had to leave work because of a disability, to develop skills and gain valuable work experience.”

Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry said: “People with a disability share the same employment and career aspirations as everyone else. I am delighted that Queen’s University have worked in close partnership with my Department’s Disability Employment Service and the various disability organisations to make this happen. The Queen’s Inclusive Employment Scheme can be used as a template for others to follow, and I wish all those involved every success over the coming year and beyond.”

William Houppy, one of those starting a twelve month paid work placement under the scheme, said: "Queen's is a world-class research university and I am proud to have been offered this unique opportunity with the support of the Department for Employment and Learning. I am looking forward to working in the lab with my team in biochemistry."


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

Top of Page

Rivalry to reach fever pitch in tenth year of Queen’s University Boat Race

Rowing is set to reach fever pitch on the River Lagan this weekend (Saturday 7 June), as Queen’s University hosts the tenth annual University Boat Race.

The race, which is sponsored by the Department of Social Development and has become one of Belfast’s premier sporting events, sees Trinity College Dublin take on Queen’s University in a repeat fixture of the first ever Boat Race in 2004.

In addition to the top men’s and women’s crews competing for the third-level honours, the event has grown to include a comprehensive schools schedule, which this year sees teams from Methodist College Belfast, Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Coleraine Academical Institution, Portora Royal School and Bann Rowing Club compete.

Spectators are encouraged to come along and enjoy the action from the shores of the River Lagan from the new location at Ravenhill Reach.  A marquee enclosure is offering live music, children’s entertainment, food and refreshments from 10am on the day.

Head of Queen’s Sport, Liz McLaughlin, said: “This unique event run by Lady Victoria Boat Club and Queen’s Sport has developed into a truly spectacular event for Belfast, another example of how Queen’s is at the heart of the city.  It has set a new standard for rowing regattas on these islands and I have no doubt that this will continue with this year’s event.”

Mick Desmond, Queen’s Rowing Coach, said: “The tenth annual Boat Race promises to be as exciting as ever with the two institutions who competed in the first race ten years ago competing against each other again this year.  Both crews contain some of the best rowers in action at the moment and we are expecting a very close finish. We look forward to some promising rowing from the schools teams and welcoming their supporters to the event”

The races will take place between 10.00am and 5.00pm on Saturday 7 June 2014 with the starting point between the upstream side of the Ormeau Bridge and Queen’s PEC and the crew’s will finish at Ravenhill Reach on the Ormeau Embankment.

For further information on the Boat Race visit: http://www.queenssport.com/sites/QueensSport/StudentSport/CommunitySport/UniversityBoatRace2014/




For media inquiries contact Claire O'Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office 028 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page