March 2014 releases

Queen’s University discovery signals new treatment for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer
Dr Kienan Savage
Dr Kienan Savage

Cancer researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough which could signal new treatments for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Currently around one in 1,000 women in the UK carry what is known as a BRCA1 mutation - the same condition that prompted well-known actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy. They have up to an 85 per cent risk of developing breast cancer, and up to 40 per cent risk of developing ovarian cancer, in their lifetimes.

Until now, preventive surgery - mastectomy (breasts) and oophorectomy (ovaries) - has been the only way of reducing the risk of developing both types of cancers.

The new discovery by researchers in Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) may mean women affected with BRCA1 could use drugs, which are already available, to reduce their risk of developing the disease, rather than undergo irreversible surgery. In turn, such treatments would open up the possibility of some of these women, who might otherwise have an oophorectomy, still being able to have children.

The new research by Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin at CCRCB proves there is a direct link between high levels of oestrogen and DNA damage, which causes cancer, in the breasts and ovaries.

Specifically, the scientists discovered that the cells of women with the BRCA1 mutation cannot effectively fight the very high levels of oestrogen that exist in all women’s breasts and ovaries, leaving them vulnerable to DNA damage.

While this link between oestrogen, breast/ovarian cancer and BRCA1 mutation has been suspected by the scientific community for years, it has not been proven until now.

Dr Kienan Savage, from the CCRCB, and who led the research, said: “This discovery is very significant in the management of women with the BRCA1 gene mutation. It’s the first really credible evidence that oestrogen is driving cancer in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Because of this discovery, we now have the opportunity to propose an alternative treatment to surgery. It also opens up the possibility of pausing treatment for a period in order for women to have children, if desired.

“What also makes this exciting is that there are drugs already on the market which turn off oestrogen production. In theory, we could use these drugs to chemically reduce oestrogen production in women which could negate the need for irreversible surgery.” 

The Queen’s-led research, which has been ongoing for four years, was carried out with funding from Cancer Focus NI and Cancer Research UK. It is carried in the latest edition of the prestigious USA-based journal Cancer Research.

Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s, said: “This breakthrough by researchers at CCRCB is great news for women with the BRCA1 gene and the cancer research community as a whole. It is pivotal in that it reveals more about the mechanisms behind breast and ovarian cancer.

“This work of Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin is further example of the world-leading research being undertaken at Queen’s which continues to advance knowledge and change lives.”

Roisin Foster, Chief Executive, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: “Cancer Focus is delighted to fund this ground-breaking research into breast cancer, which has the potential in the forseeable future to benefit women all over the world. We are only able to support this vital work because of the generosity of our local community.”  

The researchers are currently seeking funding to launch clinical trials and hope to do so within 12 months. It is envisaged that, in the first instance, a small control trial will be carried out using a combination of two drugs on 12 women for a period of three months, using biopsy, blood and urine samples to track DNA damage.

For further information, contact the Communications Office on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 3087 or email

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Study shows invasive species in waterways on rise due to climate change
Floating pennywort (photo by John Early)
Floating pennywort (photo by John Early)


One of the most serious threats to global biodiversity and the leisure and tourism industries is set to increase with climate change according to new research by Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers at Queen’s have found that certain invasive weeds, which have previously been killed off by low winter temperatures, are set to thrive as global temperatures increase.

The team based at Quercus, Northern Ireland’s centre for biodiversity and conservation science research, predicts that invasive waterweeds will become more widespread over the next 70 years.

The researchers say that additional management and legislation will be required if we are to stop the spread of these pest species.

Four species in particular could establish in areas on average 38 per cent larger than previously thought due to projected climatic warming. The water fern, parrot’s feather, leafy elodea and the water primrose, are already highly problematic throughout warmer parts of Europe. Invasive species are considered to be one of the most serious threats to global biodiversity, along with climate change, habitat loss and nutrient addition.

The estimated annual cost of invasive species (plants and animals) to the UK economy is £1.8 billion, with £57 million of impact on waterways including boating, angling and waterway management.

Funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the research has been published in the journal Diversity and Distributions. It looked at the global distributions of 15 invasive plant species over a 69 year period.

Dr Ruth Kelly, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, who led the study, said: “Traditionally upland areas have been protected by low winter temperatures which kill off these invading weeds. Now these are likely to become increasingly vulnerable to colonisation.

“On the island of Ireland currently about six per cent of the island is unsuitable for these invasive species but we think this will drop to less than one per cent by 2080. This type of research from Queen’s is an example of how we are creating a more sustainable future and shows how monitoring the impact climate change is having is important for many reasons. This project will allow the NIEA and other agencies to begin their planning on how to address future issues and ensure our waterways remain a valuable economic and recreational resource.” Dr Kelly added: “It’s not all bad news, however, as our most common invasive waterweed, the Canadian pondweed, is likely to become less vigorous perhaps allowing space for restoration of waterways and native plant communities.”

Dr Michael Meharg, from the NIEA, said: “Invasive waterweeds can be a major problem in lakes and rivers throughout Britain and Ireland. Such plants are fast growing and often form dense mats of vegetation which may block waterways and cause problems for boating and fishing, and, therefore, to the leisure and tourism industries. Dr Kelly’s research is crucial in planning for the future as we know invasive waterweeds will also out-compete native aquatic plants species and alter habitats for insects and fish.”

The full research paper is available here:

For further information research in Quercus at Queen’s visit:  

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email:

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Queen's Students' Union creates first for Northern Ireland

Students from all over Ireland will flock to Belfast next month for the annual Board of Irish Colleges and Societies (BICS) Awards – marking the first time the event has been held in Northern Ireland in its 19-year history.

Building on the success of the ongoing GAA Festival at Queen’s, which has seen thousands of students from across the UK and Ireland congregate in Belfast, the BICS showcase at Titanic Belfast will host upwards of 400 students and 60 judges from all corners of the island of Ireland.

Last year at the BICS Awards in Athlone, Co Westmeath, Queen’s scooped the top prize of the night – that of overall Best Student Society, which was won by SWOT, a charity run by fourth-year medical students at Queen’s. The aim of SWOT is to raise money for hospitals in the developing world and to buy much-needed medical supplies and equipment for the same.

Queen’s currently has 125 societies with approximately 8,000 members. There are approximately 2,000 societies with over 100,000 students and associate members across the island of Ireland.

Sponsorship has been provided from Visit Belfast as well as from corporate partners including Dominos Pizza and The Signature Works in a bid to make the occasion particularly memorable, especially for those who may never have visited Belfast before. Students will be welcomed at Queen’s Students' Union during the day of April 10 to make their final presentations, before the awards ceremony that evening at Titanic Belfast.

“Queen’s University not only aims to make this a successful event, but to add the ‘wow factor’ and to enhance people’s perceptions of Belfast by showcasing the city at its best,” said David Bradley, Clubs and Societies Coordinator at Queen’s who is also this year’s BICS Chairman.

He added: “Queen’s aims to host the best BICS Awards to date and provide a positive experience of Belfast, and the University, that will have delegates returning to visit in the future as well as making an impression on potential post-graduate students.

“Our view is that if we are going to be hosts, then we need to ensure that they are the best BICS Awards to date and our rivals need to live up to the legacy of our awards in 2014.”

The BICS Awards recognise excellence in student societies in colleges and universities across the island of Ireland. Every society attending the event has already won an award at its own university.
For more information on the event, see

Media inquiries should be directed to the Communications Office at Queen’s on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 3087 or email

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Queen’s brings emotion out of the shadows

The role that emotion has to play in chronic illness, conflict resolution, reasoning, law, communication, human-computer interaction, and many other areas, will be explored at a free public symposium on Thursday (27 March) at the Ulster Museum, between 9.15am and 4.30pm.

Organised by Queen’s University’s School of Psychology, the event will feature a wide range of talks from those working in the area.

Common sense says that most of life is coloured by emotion, and yet until recently, most academic research either treated it as an intermittent nuisance, or ignored it. At Thursday’s event, noted figures from several fields will be providing a unique opportunity to see what is happening in these areas at present, reflecting the strong tradition of interdisciplinary research on emotion at Queen’s.

The event will be the first time such a wide range of experts have been brought together to discuss these issues. Among those speaking at the event will Professor J Cohn (U Pittsburgh, Psychology & Psychiatry), Professor J Brewer (Queen's, Sociology), Dr D Mickel (NHS/Therapy), Dr E Roesch (U Reading, Cognitive Sciences & Cybernetics), Dr A Feeney (Queen's, Psychology), Dr G McKeown (Queen's, Psychology), Dr J Stannard (Queen's, Law), Professor R Cowie (Queen's, Psychology).

Admission is free but those wishing to attend are asked to register at

Further information is available online at

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3091.

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Queen’s trainee barrister on top of the world after winning global competition
Trainee barrister Aidan Hughes (centre) celebrates with Barbara Jemphrey (left), Associate Director of Queen's University's Institute of Professional Legal Studies, and Director Paul Mageean (right).
Trainee barrister Aidan Hughes (centre) celebrates with Barbara Jemphrey (left), Associate Director of Queen's University's Institute of Professional Legal Studies, and Director Paul Mageean (right).

A trainee barrister from Portstewart has outshone aspiring lawyers from around the world to win a global mediation competition in Chicago.

Aidan Hughes, who is completing his barrister training at Queen’s University’s Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS), claimed first prize at the International Law School Mediation Tournament. He competed against 156 trainee lawyers from around the world to win the ‘Outstanding Individual Mediator’ award. The tournament is organised by the International Academy of Dispute Resolution and was attended by 52 teams from as far afield as the USA, Australia, Sri Lanka and Germany.

Aidan is a graduate of Queen’s School of Law and is former Vice-President of Queen’s Students’ Union. He is currently completing the one-year Bar course at the Institute, which provides internationally recognised training for barristers and solicitors.

Speaking about his success, Aidan said: “The competition was fierce in that there were a number of prestigious law schools represented from all over the world. Queen’s is known for the international opportunities it offers its students and this was a great experience for me, which was made possible through the support of Barbara Jemphrey and the IPLS. It was a valuable learning experience and a great opportunity to meet students from as far away as India, Australia and Ukraine, as well as getting to experience the busy Chicago lifestyle. Mediation is definitely a skill of the future, in that more people are looking for alternative forms to Court. I am very lucky to be able to say that I have been ranked among the best mediators in the world.”

Aidan was one of a team of three students from the Institute who took part in the tournament at Loyola University, Chicago, along with Bobbie-Leigh Herdman from Belfast, and Conleth Rooney from Holywood. The Queen’s trio claimed tenth place in the team competition. The team was coached by the Institute’s Associate Director, Barbara Jemphrey.

Paul Mageean, Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s said: “Aidan, Bobbie-Leigh and Conleth have excelled on the global stage and their success has helped put Queen’s and Northern Ireland on the world map in terms of professional legal training. Aidan’s victory in the individual competition is testament to his own hard work and to the high standard of training provided at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. Mediation skills are key to a successful legal career, and I have no doubt Aidan and his team mates have bright futures ahead of them.”

Aidan’s success follows that of fellow trainee solicitor Paula Fitzpatrick from South Belfast. Paula won the ‘Best Overall Mediator’ award at the UK Law School Mediation Competition, held at Queen’s in September. Queen’s also claimed second prize in the team competition.

For more information about Queen’s Institute of Professional Legal studies visit

Media inquiries to the Communications Office at Queen’s on 028 9097 5310 email

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Queen’s aim to defend O’Connor Cup title as Queen’s GAA Festival draws to a close

The O’Connor Cup brings the curtain down on the hugely successful Queen’s GAA Festival this weekend.

Holders and hosts Queen’s will be looking for some hometown glory as they take on a strong DCU outfit. In the other semi-final, University of Limerick face UCC in what is sure to be a closely contested Munster derby.

In the second tier Giles Cup, Mary I Limerick and IT Carlow will battle it out for a slot in the final against either NUI Maynooth or Athone IT. Meanwhile Dundalk IT or St Pat’s Drumcondra will play Cork IT or Robert Gordon University in the Lynch Cup final.

The previous three weekends of Queen’s GAA Festival have attracted impressive crowds to the Upper Malone venue and showcased some superb action in hurling, football and camogie.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, welcomed the visiting Ladies Gaelic footballers to Belfast. “It is great to welcome the ladies gaelic footballers from all the top College teams to our city,” he said.  “We have witnessed some brilliant action during the Queen’s GAA Festival and we are delighted to have showcased the best of sport over four memorable weekends here in Belfast.”

On Friday morning school pupils from Victoria College, St Louise’s and Malone College in Belfast will hear from leading female sports players including Caillin Duffy (Armagh GAA), Gemma Jackon & Claire McLaughlin Rugby (Ulster & Ireland) and Hannah McMillan, Hockey (Ulster & Ireland), at a Female Sports Participation Workshop supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Coaches and mentors from Queen’s Rowing, the IRFU, IFA and Ulster Council will be on hand to discuss with players how they can reach their true potential.

In welcoming the football squads to Belfast, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “The O’Connor Cup Final brings the hugely successful Queen’s GAA Festival to a close. With over 500 women footballers this is a fiercely contested competition and I wish everyone taking part the best of luck.

“For too long women have faced inequality and second class treatment in sport but I challenge anyone to dispute the elite level of footballing talent and skills on display this weekend. I am proud that Belfast has been the first city to host all four of the GAA Higher Education competitions including the Ashbourne Cup, the Sigerson Cup and the Fitzgibbon Cup.”

Pat Quill, President of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association said: “I wish to congratulate and compliment Queens University Belfast on already hosting the Ashbourne, Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups this year, and now, the jewel in the crown, the O’Connor Cup. I welcome the great efforts made by everyone in reaching this stage of the competition. It is a great honour to represent your college at these All Ireland finals and I have no doubt everyone will have many happy memories of the weekend.”

Looking forward to the weekend, John Devaney, Chair of the Organising Committee for Queen’s GAA Festival, said: “Ladies Football has developed at Queen's since its foundation over twenty years ago, to becoming one of our most successful and most active clubs at the University.  From small beginnings, we now have the honour of defending the O'Connor Cup title we won for the first time this year. We do hope that the players, mentors and supporters enjoy their time in Belfast this weekend and may the best teams win.”

Clare Scullion Chairman on the Queen’s LGFA Club added: “There is a great buzz at Queen’s University since we qualified for the O’Connor cup semi-finals this year. Countless hours of preparation have been invested to showcase our University and Belfast as a whole, and I am confident that the hard work has been evident in the Ashbourne, Sigerson and Fitzgibbon weekends. I believe the O’Connor Cup will be a great way to finish what has been a real spectacle of student sport and I hope many of visitors get the chance to come back to Belfast soon.”

Further details on Queen’s GAA Festival and fixtures on the Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup Weekend are available online at

Queen’s GAA Festival can be followed on Facebook and Twitter at @QUBGAAFestival

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer.  Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or 0781 44 22 572

For ideas of other great things do visit while in Belfast for the Cup visit

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Peter Higgs, Katie Melua and Dermot Desmond among Queen’s honorary graduates in 2014
Brian O'Driscoll at Leinster Rugby Squad training
Brian O'Driscoll at Leinster Rugby Squad training

Irish businessman Dermot Desmond, musician Katie Melua and Nobel Prize winning physicist Peter Higgs, are to receive honorary degrees from Queen’s University Belfast later this year. They are among 12 people from the worlds of business, sport, academia, science and the arts being honoured by the University.

Brian O’Driscoll, one of the most internationally-recognised Irish rugby players of all time, will be honoured for services to sport.  He will be joined by musician and singer Katie Melua who will be recognised for services to music and Nobel Prize winning physicist Peter Higgs who will be honoured for services to science.

Distinguished names from the fields of business and commerce are also being recognised for their services. They include; Irish businessman Dermot Desmond, the former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Sir David Fell, who is also a former Pro-Chancellor at the University; and founder of global software consulting company Infosys Limited, Narayana Murthy.

Also being recognised from the arts is columnist, literary editor, and drama critic Fintan O’Toole who will be honoured for services to broadcasting.  Being recognised for services to film and drama are Irish film, television and stage actor Ciaran Hinds and Mark Huffam, who is credited with producing Hollywood blockbusters including Saving Private Ryan, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Hours.

Former Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Professor Sir Peter Gregson will be honoured for services to the University and to Higher Education.  Under his tenure, Queen’s joined the Russell Group in 2006 and received two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher Education in 2006 and 2012, for work on for Northern Ireland's Comprehensive Cancer Services programme and for world-class achievement in green chemistry.

Others to be honoured for good works in 2014 include: Professor Alice Brown CBE who was the first Scottish Public Services Ombudsman for services to education and social justice and Professor Henrietta Moore, a distinguished social anthropologist, for services to social sciences.

Queen's awards honorary degrees to individuals who have achieved high distinction or given significant service in one or more fields of public or professional life, and who serve as ambassadors for the University and Northern Ireland around the world.

The full list of honorary degrees to be awarded is as follows:

  • Brian O’Driscoll, DUniv for services to sport
  • Katie Melua, DLit (Mus) for services to music
  • Professor Alice Brown CBE, DSSc for services to education and social justice
  • Dermot Desmond, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce
  • Sir David Fell, LLD for services to the University and distinction in public service and business and commerce
  • Professor Sir Peter Gregson, LLD for services to the University and to Higher Education
  • Ciaran Hinds, DUniv for distinction in film and drama
  • Mark Huffam, DUniv for distinction in film and drama
  • Professor Henrietta Moore, DSSc for services to social sciences
  • Narayana Murthy, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce
  • Fintan O’Toole, DLit for services to broadcasting
  • Professor Peter Higgs, DSc for services to science

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email:

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Survival rate for Leukaemia sufferers over 60 ‘alarmingly low’ according to leading expert
Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA launches Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI today with Chair of Experimental Haematology, Professor Ken Mills from Queen’s University Belfast in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA launches Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI today with Chair of Experimental Haematology, Professor Ken Mills from Queen’s University Belfast in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

The survival rate for Leukaemia sufferers over 60 is ‘alarmingly low’ according to a leading Haematology expert from Queen’s University Belfast.  

That was the message from Professor Ken Mills, Chair of Experimental Haematology at the launch of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI – Northern Ireland’s only dedicated charity for research into leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other related conditions.  

The 50 year old charity, formerly known as the Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund, recently underwent a major rebrand and was re-launched today by Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA at a high profile event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.  

Professor Ken Mills, Chair of Experimental Haematology in Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The launch of Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI today is welcomed by all those working to enhance the scientific research into Leukaemia and associated blood cancers in Northern Ireland.  

"With only a 20% chance of survival after two years for leukaemia suffers over 60 this is an alarmingly low in Northern Ireland (as elsewhere in the developed world) against a 70% survival for those suffers under 60. Overall, 40% of people with acute leukaemia survive after two years. Further support and funding is required to help break new ground in fighting blood cancers in the adult population, particularly those over 60.  

"We are keen to address the common misconception that leukaemia and lymphoma are cancers that affect children, in fact around 94% of all leukaemia and 99% of all lymphoma cases occur in adults.  

"Our research in Belfast into leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma is internationally renowned and our world class insights need to be supported. 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.   

"By reinvigorating the organisation that has supported the scientific research community over the last 50 years we will be able to continue our increasingly successful fight against these blood cancers”.  

Commenting at the launch Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said: “As we know, the outcomes for patients suffering from leukaemia and lymphoma can be poor. That is why it is important that we do all we can to ensure that we expand our research potential to improve outcomes for patients of all ages who are affected by these illnesses.  

"I am pleased to learn that the haematology research laboratories within the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) are doing good work in contributing to the research effort.  Particularly so in respect of researching  the cause of these diseases and the novel therapies which we hope will in the future deliver benefits to patients and improve outcomes in the way we would all like to see.  

"We are committed to working in partnership with others including organisations such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI to provide the best services that we can and I hope that that relationship will continue well into the future. I am sure that this event and your renaming will raise public awareness and understanding of leukaemia and lymphoma in Northern Ireland.”  

Mr Bill Pollock, Chair of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, said: “The launch of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI has been something we have anticipated for a few years and are excited to unveil the new branding. The charity in its previous form is 50 years old and has a deep local heritage. We are keen to build on that and reach out to new audiences to ask for their support across Northern Ireland to support scientific research into one of the most common forms of cancer.   We’ve just made a £1.5 million three year investment which will enable researchers and clinicians in Queen’s University Belfast and across Northern Ireland to expand their internationally recognised research.   The number of lives and loved ones that have been saved through the donations raised and spent here on scientific research is significant, and we are confident that we will be able to continue advancing the fight against blood cancers for many years to come. We’re now at the start of a major fundraising drive to inspire the giving public to donate to a charity that is making a real impact to people’s lives.”  

For more information on Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI log on to

For further information and to set up an interview please contact:  Chris Brown, MCE Public Relations DD:028 9026 7098 Mobile: 078 0197 3320

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New Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences appointed

Professor Stuart Elborn has been appointed as the new Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Queen’s University and Consultant Physician in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, he will take up post with immediate effect.  Professor Elborn founded and led the Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre in Belfast City Hospital from 1995 and was Director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity from 2010. He trained in Belfast, Nottingham and Cardiff where he developed Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centres and began his research in infection and lung disease.

Delighted to be accepting the role Professor Elborn said: “I am committed to delivering excellence in education and research in the School, so that when our students become doctors, dentists and scientists, they have a transforming impact on healthcare in Northern Ireland and beyond. Our international team of researchers will continue to be challenged to find innovative solutions to some of the difficult problems treating and preventing major diseases caused by cancer, infection and life style and I look forward to leading them in the coming years.”

Commenting on the appointment, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Professor Elborn is the right man, at the right time, to lead the School as it enters the next phase of its development. He is an international leader, who, in the field of Respiratory Medicine and Cystic Fibrosis, has helped develop transformative new therapies for patients with Cystic Fibrosis. His vision and commitment will play a vital role within Queen’s, as we continue our transformational journey to enhance the University’s position on the global stage.”

In addition to his work in Belfast Professor Elborn has taken the lead in the writing of International Guidelines for the care of people with Cystic Fibrosis, is a Trustee of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Trust and President of the European Cystic Fibrosis Society. His research group in Queen’s University and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have led in developing new treatments for Cystic Fibrosis and undertaken a number of key clinical trials into new drugs in this area. He was awarded a CBE for services to medicine in 2013.

Media inquiries to the Communications Office at Queen’s University Belfast on 028 9097 3091 email

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Queen’s trio take their science to Parliament

Three young researchers from Queen's University have been selected to showcase their work at the Houses of Parliament today (Monday, 17 March) as part of the national SET (science engineering and technology) for Britain 2014 competition.

Dr Andrew Brown from Newtownbreda, Georgina Milne from East Belfast and Matt Nicholl from Londonderry, have been chosen from hundreds of applicants across the UK, to present their research in the poster competition which is judged by a panel of professional and academic experts.

The annual event gives MPs an opportunity to engage with a wide range of the country's best young researchers.

Georgina’s poster focuses on her research about modelling how past climate change influences species evolution. Speaking ahead of presenting her science in Parliament,the PhD student from Queen's School of Biological Sciences said: “This competition allows up and coming scientists to present their research on a national stage to both specialists and non-specialists alike.  This event helps build bridges between the scientific community and policy makers who are best placed to make use of new findings.”

Dr Brown is a newly appointed lecturer in theoretical physics and Matt Nicholl is a second year PhD student in astrophysics. Both are from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s.

Dr Brown's research concerns the theory of ultrafast electron dynamics in laser atom interactions, and his poster 'Watching electrons move- ultrafast dynamics in multielectron atoms' draws on his doctoral research. Matt’s poster discusses his recent paper in the high profile scientific journal Nature on the nature of the brightest supernovae in the Universe.

This years success for the trio follows on from the success of another two Queen's researchers who were selected for the competition last year. Dr Gianluca Sarri, also from the School of Mathematics and Physics, and Roberto Caporali, an industrial research student in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, both participated in last year's competition.

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

The event is run by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in collaboration with the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.

Media inquiries to Joe Winters:Tel: 020 7470 4815, Mob: 07946 321473 Email:

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Queen’s encourages women to rocket ahead in physics

The Belfast woman credited with making ‘the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century’ is coming back to her native city for a special event aimed at encouraging more women to take up a career in physics.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first radio pulsars, and was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by the BBC’s Woman’s Hour programme, will be at Queen’s University to take part in Women in Physics – Ireland next Wednesday (19th March).

Over 250 school pupils, students, researchers and industry have already registered for the free event, which is a celebration of physics organised by Queen’s School of Maths and Physics in partnership with the Institute of Physics. Anyone interested in attending can still sign up for the event by emailing

Celebrating the women who study and work in this traditionally male-dominated subject, participants will have the chance to meet with some of Ireland’s leading female physicists, including Professor Bell Burnell and Doctor Debra McNeill, Managing Principal Engineer at Seagate Technology.

In addition, those who come along will have the opportunity to try their hand at several experiments, including constructing an invisibility cloak, creating their own rockets and seeing ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen.

During the event, Dr Rachel Edwards from the University of Warwick, will also explore the science behind theme park rides, in a free public talk. She will discuss how designers ensure passenger safety while maximising the excitement and thrill of rollercoaster rides. Dr Rachel Edwards’ talk ‘How to build a theme park ride’, will take place at the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Physics Building at Queen’s (beside the South Dining Hall, which is adjacent to the Whitla Hall) at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19th March.

Dr Miryam Arredondo-Arechavala from Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics said: “Women have traditionally been under-represented in physics, but events like Women in Physics – Ireland are addressing this by encouraging women who may be considering a career change, or a return to study, to consider a career in Physics.

“Queen’s is one of the leading Universities in the UK for supporting the career progression of women in science, engineering and technology. Building on this we want to show women, of all ages, that physics is more than rocket science. It is at the core of understanding how the world works, and a physics degree can open doors to a whole range of careers. From designing computer games to weather forecasting, to developing new ways to treat illnesses, a Physics degree can take you almost anywhere.  

“Physics trains the mind to think beyond boundaries, and the knowledge and skills developed while studying physics are useful in almost any job. So whether you want to split atoms, explore space, cure diseases, or build the super-structures of the future, come along and find out how physics can help you get ahead in your career.”

Women in Physics – Ireland will take place at the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University on 19 March. Attendance is free. For more information visit

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy at Queen’s University Communications Office. Contact +44 (0)28 9097 5310 or

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£1600 prize fund announced as Powerade Queen’s 5k Race Round the River opens for entries

Queen’s University has announced a prize fund of £1600 for participants in this year’s Powerade 5k Race around the River.

The Race, which is a popular event for those undertaking the Belfast Marathon, is taking place on Wednesday 2nd April 2014 at 7:00pm. Based along the River Lagan, it covers two laps around the King’s Bridge and Ormeau Bridge, with Queen’s Physical Education Centre (PEC) acting as the HQ for pre and post-race requirements.

This year, the first 500 entries will receive a Queen's 5k branded T-shirt, with each participant receiving a bottle of River Rock or Powerade after the race.

Last year’s winner Stephen Scullion completed the race in 14:27 minutes and is hoping for another quick time this year. Commenting on his success, Stephen said: “This Race allows you to challenge your personal best on a fast and exciting course around the River Lagan, and the atmosphere is always great on the night."

Stephen Prentice, Captain of Queen’s Athletics Club, said “Our Club and Queen’s Sport have put a lot of effort into planning this year’s race and with a prize fund of £1,600 up for grabs, along with a specially branded Queen’s 5k T-shirt and draw string bag available to all competitors, we expect the demand for entries to be even higher.”

Connor McCready from Coca-Cola HBC and title sponsor Powerade, added:  “We are proud to continue our partnership with Queen’s Sport by supporting the Powerade Queen’s 5k Race and are delighted with the ongoing success of this event.  As a company we wish to encourage our communities to live a healthy and active lifestyle, and this is one of a number of sporting initiatives we are working on, in partnership with Queen’s Sport and the University Development Office.  We are committed to developing the talent of the future, as well as the sports stars of today. We recognise the 5K as an important community sporting event and hope the number of participants continues to grow.” For more information on the race, entry fees and the course visit  

For further information please contact: Kevin Murray 07804249181 or visit the Queen’s Sport Website:

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Queen’s to plug cyber security gap

International experts in cyber security are at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), at Queen’s University today (Thursday 13 March) for the fourth annual cyber security summit.

The two-day summit brings together the world’s leading cyber security experts and government policy makers for a meeting of minds to combat future threats to global cyber security.

At the Summit Queen’s will announce a new Masters in Cyber Security.

Professor John McCanny, CSIT Principal Investigator, said: “The success of the annual World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit is reflected by the fact that the biggest names in global cyber security are attending so together we can produce a roadmap for the technology needed to secure our digital tomorrow.

“At Queen’s, we listen to the needs of industry and with an increasing demand for cyber security professionals, we are complementing our technology research centre by developing a Masters degree in Cyber Security to cater for that need.  Queen’s graduates have gone on to be industry leaders and we expect through this new Masters that the number of our graduates gaining significant roles in the world of cyber security will increase.”

The new Masters, which will begin in September 2014, aims to develop the next generation of industry leaders and address the shortage of cyber security professionals globally.  Currently, the demand for cyber security experts is growing at twelve times the rate of the overall job market.

Minister of Finance and Personnel, Mr Simon Hamilton MLA, said: “Today’s conference at Queen’s is an excellent opportunity to bring together top academic, industry and government cyber security experts, from over a dozen countries, to share their knowledge and to consider the cyber security challenges in the future.

“My Department is responsible for the information technology security for the whole of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and some other public sector bodies. It is vital that we are fully aware of and take the most appropriate steps to mitigate against the known risks, which are increasing in prevalence and scale across the globe. We use the best available technologies to provide resilient, secure systems, which enable us to carry out our daily work and to deliver public sector services more effectively.”

Professor Maire O’Neill, who will deliver a keynote address at the Summit Cryptography in a post quantum computing world and is Co-Ordinator of the MSc in Cyber Security, said: “The emphasis of the MSc is to provide graduates with a comprehensive understanding of the cyber security challenges facing industry and society, today and in the future, and equipping them with the skills necessary to address those challenges.  The Summit is illustration of the need to identify, map out and ultimately combat the biggest threats to our online security.”

PwC in Belfast operates a global forensics centre of excellence, advising organisations, multinational corporations and national governments on financial and non-financial investigations.   Director for Forensic Technology at PwC, Craig McKeown, said: “The industry needs more qualified forensics professionals.  Nearly half of CEOs worldwide say they are concerned about cybercrime and data fraud, with the UK’s largest companies experiencing an almost daily attack on their computer systems. Tackling cybercrime needs more professionals and this new Masters at Queen’s will help deliver them.”

Attendees at this year’s Summit include representatives from Facebook, Intel, Sophos, IBM, US Department of Homeland Security, Korea Information and Security Agency, Estonian Information System’s Authority and McAfee.

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email:

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Get a Flavour of Psychology at Queen’s
Dr Aidan Feeney
Dr Aidan Feeney

Rehabilitation for stroke sufferers, psychopathy and the issue of child soldiers are just some of the fascinating topics that will be addressed in a psychology showcase at Queen’s University that is open to members of the public, school groups and experts alike.

A Flavour of Psychology is a free event taking place on Thursday 13 March (9.30am-3.30pm) at the Whitla Hall at Queen’s, organised by Queen’s School of Psychology and the Northern Ireland branch of the British Psychological Society. It will feature presentations from six leading practitioners and academics from around the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Dr Aidan Feeney from Queen’s School of Psychology will share his research into the emotion of regret, demonstrating that children as young as six years old can experience regret and alter their future behaviour as a result. He said: “Regret used to be thought of as a dysfunctional emotion, all psychological pain but with no gain, but we are learning that the ability to experience regret can be highly useful. Those capable of regret go on to make better decisions. While the ability to experience regret can be useful in early life, it can also be harmful in old age, particularly if someone regrets decisions or actions that they are no longer able to redress.”

Other speakers at the one-day event include Dr John McMullen, a Queen’s Research Fellow and an educational psychologist with the Belfast Education and Library Board. His area of special interest is child soldiers in conflict zones and the effect of combat on those children’s mental health. A regular visitor to Africa, Dr McMullen was recently awarded the Praxis Care research award for his PhD thesis on child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His talk, entitled Child Soldier – Some Words Don’t Belong Together, explores this disturbing phenomenon in the context of conflicts in Uganda and DRC.

Among the subjects to be addressed are subclinical psychopathy, repairing brain damage, patterns of suicide in Northern Ireland and how the human visual system – i.e. How we see things every day – is arguably the most sophisticated computer system in existence.

A Flavour of Psychology takes place from 9.30am-3.30pm on Thursday 13 March. Attendance is free and members of the public are welcome to drop-in to the Whitla Hall on the day. For more information or to view the full programme visit

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3087 email

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'Older people denied proper access to cancer care' according to Queen’s study

Professor Mark Lawler

Older people globally are being denied proper access to cancer care, according to an editorial by Queen's University academic, Professor Mark Lawler of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology.

In an editorial in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) Professor Lawler said: "there is increasing evidence from around the world that elderly patients are being 'undertreated', leading to a 'survival gap' between older and younger patients.

"We need a fundamental change in cancer policy for the elderly patient. Our current practices are essentially ageist, as we are making judgements based on how old the patient is rather than on their capacity to be entered into clinical trials or to receive potentially curative therapy. It is disappointing that we see different principles being applied for older patients when compared to younger patients, with these differences leading to poorer outcomes in the elderly patient population."

Professor Lawler's findings are published in an editorial in the BMJ entitled, 'Ageism In Cancer Care: We Need to Change The Mindset'. It states the need to redress the disparities in the policy on cancer for older patients, citing a recent position paper from the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer, the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the International Society of Geriatric Oncology recommending that clinical trials should be without an upper age limit.

A high proportion of older women with a certain form of breast cancer ('triple negative') receive less chemotherapy than their younger counterparts - despite evidence of the treatment’s efficacy in this patient cohort, the authors claim.

They also point out that more than 70 per cent of deaths caused by prostate cancer occur in men aged over 75 years, who usually have more aggressive disease. Few older patients, however, receive treatment for localised prostate cancer, and in most cases they are denied access to chemotherapy for advanced disease, they add.

"Colorectal cancer is another disease of older people, yet the evidence again suggests that optimal treatment is not being provided to this patient cohort," Professor Lawler continues.

The paper sets its argument within the context of an ageing society – both locally and globally. Estimates for the UK suggest that 76 per cent of cancers in men and 70 per cent of cancers in women will occur in the over-65 population by 2030.

In the US, the number of over-65s is set to double at least, from around 40 million in 2009 to 89 million in 2050. Cancer is mainly a disease of the elderly. Given our ageing demographic, the paper argues, this will lead to an exponential increase in the number of cancer deaths unless we change our approach towards the elderly cancer patient.

The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership – a collaboration that compares clinical outcomes between Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Wales – has indicated decreased survival for patients older than 65 years. A EUROCARE 5 study confirmed this trend, suggesting that the survival gap was widening between older and younger patients in Europe.

The evidence provided highlights the 'urgent need' for a 'geriacentric' strategy that maximises clinical trial activity in older patients, makes existing treatments more available and develops new approaches that are well tolerated in older people, the paper says in its closing comments.

Professor Lawler concludes: "Such a strategy will also have to ensure that the principle of early diagnosis (underpinning more effective and less aggressive treatment) is applied in older patients as well as in their younger counterparts. Only then can we truly deliver a comprehensive cancer service to the elderly population in our society."

The editorial is by Professor Mark Lawler and two UK cancer experts, Professor Peter Selby and Sean Duffy (National Cancer Director NHS England), and Swiss oncologist and member of the executive of the International Society for Geriatric Oncology, Matti Aapro. It is available at 


For media inquiries please contact Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Communications Office on Tel. + 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email

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Art by the sighted and visually impaired explored at Queen’s

How we perceive the world, and how those perceptions change when one of our senses – such as vision – is impaired, is being explored by Queen’s University this week.

Ways Of Seeing And Touching: Ice Age Art and Pictures by the Blind is being staged by the Queen’s School of Psychology as part of its 55th birthday celebrations, in conjunction with the Ulster Museum.

The event includes a free public lecture by Queen’s School of Psychology graduate, Professor John Kennedy FRSC and an exhibition by the Japanese visually impaired artist, Eriko Watanabe.

Professor Kennedy, who is now based at the University of Toronto, is an expert on perception and cognition, particularly art produced by those who are visually impaired. His theories compare early cave art to works of arts produced by those who are visually impaired, identifying similarities between the two. He argues that children, sighted or unsighted, produce similar drawings.

His theories were previously described by The Times as one of the ‘top ten ideas of the year’ and by the New York Times as one of the ‘ideas that change the way we think’. His insights have supported major changes in education, publications, museums and art galleries throughout the world.

Eriko Watanabe’s artworks are tactile as well as visual. She makes them using raised lines, attempting to capture on paper what she experiences with senses other than her vision. Educated in Canada and now living in Germany, she began drawing in 2003. Speaking about her work, Professor Kennedy said: “Eriko Watanabe's drawing are wellsprings forcing us to rethink the history of art, philosophy and psychology.”

Professor Kennedy’s lecture takes place at the Ulster Museum on 13 March at 5pm and is open to members of the public. To register, visit

The exhibition by Eriko Watanabe takes places from 11-18 March at the Ulster Museum.

The event is sponsored by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, as part of Creativity Month.

Media inquiries to the Communications Office at Queen’s University Belfast on 028 9097 3087 email

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President Bill Clinton delivers leadership lecture at Queen’s University

President Bill Clinton will today deliver the inaugural William J. Clinton Leadership Lecture at Queen’s University Belfast.

President Clinton, who last visited Queen’s in 2001 when he received an Honorary Degree from the University, will also undertake the naming of the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute, Riddel Hall.

Welcoming the President, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “This is a historic occasion for Queen’s University Belfast. It is also a proud moment for me as I begin my tenure as Vice-Chancellor and it is a landmark event in the life of Northern Ireland.

“We are honoured that President Clinton has given his name to our Leadership Institute and we are delighted that he has joined us in person to set the seal on that partnership.

“Once again he is demonstrating his belief in Northern Ireland and its people, as he has done with such dedication and commitment in the recent past. Now he is giving his support to an Institute that will provide our community with the leaders of the future, in business and in public life.

“The William J Clinton Leadership Institute symbolises our purpose: to create positive change in our society, to provide opportunity for individuals, organisations and institutions to grow and, in his words, helping to build creative networks of co-operation.”

Delighted to be returning to Queen’s, President Clinton said: "I have long tried to support economic development in Northern Ireland and believe preparing young leaders is essential to long term prosperity. So I am happy to be associated with this institute."

Chairman of The Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation, Mr Tom Lynch said: “We are privileged that President Clinton will deliver the inaugural Leadership lecture also named in his honour.  As an Honorary Graduate of this University he is very much a member of the Queen’s family.

“Queen’s Foundation plays a vital role in securing philanthropic investment to help implement the University’s bold and imaginative plans.  Over the past ten years, generous giving has transformed the academic life – and face – of the campus and enriched the student experience.

“In December 2012 we secured the largest-ever philanthropic gift to the University, £15m for the Centre for Experimental Medicine from The Atlantic Philanthropies.  This enabled the University to leverage a further £10m from government and demonstrates the power of the collaborative efforts of the Foundation and the University.

“Queen’s Foundation Board greatly appreciates the generosity of the individuals and organisations who have supported the University and continue to do so.”

Director of the newly named Institute, Anne Clydesdale said: “At Queen’s, it is our mission to be innovative educators, to engage in research of global significance and to be a stimulus of growth in Northern Ireland. Queen’s is viewed as the powerhouse of the regional economy and as such is central to Northern Ireland’s ambition to become an internationally competitive region. To be associated with President Clinton who, during his Presidency, was also viewed as a powerhouse of the political world can only help the Institute achieve its goals of meeting the needs of local and global business.” 

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, said: “My Department is currently working in partnership with the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen's, to develop two exciting new leadership programmes for the ICT and Food and Drink Manufacturing Sectors. The Institute will play an important role as we work to ensure that these two key sectors receive the specific leadership development skills that will enable them to succeed.” 

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs at 028 9097 3259/07813 015431 or

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Queen’s scientists discover a new sense organ in deep-sea mollusc

Queen’s University scientists have made a breakthrough in international, marine-biology research by discovering a new sense organ in an ancient, deep-sea mollusc.

Chitons are small marine animals covered by eight shell plates and found in oceans all over the world. They are often called ‘living fossils’, as they look the same as their ancestors from 300 million years ago. Until now, it was thought that these animals were so basic and primitive that they lacked even a brain, but the new findings, which have been published in a leading zoology journal, challenge these ideas.

An international research team from Northern Ireland, Canada and Germany has been working together for almost five years, focussing on the ‘Schwabe organ’, a stripe of dark pigmentation found either side of the mouth of these extremely old, deep-sea group of chiton species.

The organ’s discoverer, Enrico Schwabe, a researcher at the Bavarian State Collection, Germany, is the scientist who first noticed the pigment. Intrigued, because he could not find any previous records of it, he sent photographs to Dr Julia Sigwart of the Queen's University Marine Laboratory at Portaferry, Co Down, who was at the time writing a thesis on deep-sea chitons, and together they started to investigate the mystery pigment patch. They were later joined by PhD student at Queen's Marine Lab, Lauren Sumner-Rooney.

Using cutting-edge technology, the group produced a digital 3D model of the chiton nervous system to understand how the Schwabe organ fits. Then, electron microscopes were used to examine the mystery pigment patch, and the team proved that it is full of nerves. According to researchers, this is positive proof that the patches are sense organs. Pigment is usually associated with light-sensing organs, like eyes or eyespots. But these animals live in the deep sea, on rocks, often buried in the sand at the bottom of the ocean. "Light detection is unlikely", according to Ms Sumner-Rooney, but “we're keeping our minds open as we design new experiments,” she added.

She continued: “The deep sea, once thought to be empty and barren, is home to many weird and wonderful creatures such as angler fish, yeti crabs and giant tube worms. Deep-sea molluscs range from minute slugs to highly intelligent giant squid. But what is special about this particular mystery of the deep is that some species of Leptochitons have crawled their way onto the shores of Europe and North America, allowing us to study them alive and healthy in the long-term in order to unravel the significance of the Schwabe organ. This truly reminds us how much more is out there waiting to be discovered. It's been amazing for me to be part of this study, at the very frontiers of our knowledge.”

Dr Sigwart said the new sense organ occurs in more than 100 species. “It’s clearly visible in the living animals, once you know it's there, but it was never before described in more than a century of detailed study,” she said. “So not only is this an exciting discovery for neuroscience, but also shows how many mysteries remain in the sea.”

The next step for the team in their exciting journey of discovery is to secure funding to determine the function of the new sense organ. Their research has been published in the Frontiers In Zoology journal and can be read here:

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Queen’s scientist in bid to battle pneumonia superbug

Professor José Bengoechea

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are embarking on a £600,000 bid to develop new treatments for a ‘superbug’ which causes around 10 per cent of all infections, including pneumonia.

Klebsiella pneumonia is one of a growing number of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which collectively cost the NHS around £10 million and lead to approximately 1000 deaths each year. Professor José Bengoechea from Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences will lead the three-year study, which is jointly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Professor Bengoechea, who will conduct the research at Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, said: “Klebsiella causes a range of infections, from urinary tract infections to pneumonia. The latter is particularly devastating with mortality rates between 25-60 per cent.

“Like all so-called superbugs, Klebsiella is largely resistant to antibiotics. With regard to pneumonia, the microbe manipulates the lung’s defence responses, leaving it unable to fight the infection. In particular, Klebsiella counteracts the lung’s inflammatory response, and this is key in allowing the potentially deadly Klebsiella microbes to attack the lung.

“This study aims to identify the ‘Achilles heel’ of lung defences – the particular weaknesses in the lung’s response to Klebsiella that the bug then manipulates for its own benefit. By identifying these vulnerable pathways within the lung, we will be able to develop new therapies to block the bug and stop it in its tracks.

“Crucially, these new treatments would target pathways within the lung, helping boost its own defences to the infection, rather than targeting the Klebsiella bug itself. Treatments that target the human body in this way are less likely to be met with the resistance that we are increasingly faced with when using conventional antibiotics.”

While this is initially a three-year study, Professor Bengoechea anticipates that it will initiate the development of drugs that will treat Klebsiella and other superbugs more effectively in the very near future.

He continued: “Our preliminary research suggests that there may be drugs that are already approved for use in humans, but for other purposes, that could help treat these infections. If that is found to be the case, this would take years off the drug development process, potentially leading to new treatments in less than 10 years.”

For more information about the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s visit

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:


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Queen’s named as one of UK’s World War One Engagement Centres

Dr Keith Lilley

Queen’s University Belfast has been chosen to help lead a major, international research project on World War One, as part of centenary commemorations of the Great War.

Queen’s has been selected, along with four other UK universities, to become a ‘World War One Engagement Centre’ with a remit to support community, academic and public research into the events of 1914-18.

Queen’s along with the Universities of Birmingham, Kent, Hertfordshire and Nottingham, will form a part of the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museum. Queen’s stands to receive £500,000  from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, to establish its Centre, which will be headed up by Dr Keith Lilley of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology.

Entitled ‘Living Legacies 1914-18: From Past Conflict to Shared Future’, the new research Centre is based at the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities (ICRH) at Queen’s. The Centre represents a partnership with the University of Ulster and National Museums Northern Ireland. It will be launched publicly on Monday, 19 May.

Dr Lilley said: “Connecting academic and public histories, the Living Legacies 1914-18 Centre will explore the enduring cultural impacts of the conflict and First World War heritage.”

A key focus of the Engagement Centres will be to provide UK-wide support for community groups funded through a range of Heritage Lottery Fund funding programmes, particularly its new £6million ‘First World War: Then and Now’ community grants scheme. 

Professor John Thompson, director of the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities at Queen’s, said it was a “tremendous achievement in such a competitive environment to have an AHRC-funded UK Centre based here.

"Dr Lilley is a founding Fellow of the Institute and, as such, has clearly demonstrated the huge advantage for all of us in Arts and Humanities working in conversation with each other, across the UK and Ireland, and with the larger communities we serve, when opportunities such as this arise.”

During the start-up phase ahead of the formal launch, the Centres will be extending links with the diverse programmes of community activities already being planned for the centenary as well as developing international links.

Professor Mark Llewellyn, AHRC Director of Research said: “The centenary of the World War One provides an occasion not only to commemorate its pivotal role in shaping the twentieth century but also to reflect on and reassess its legacy for the present. The distinctive combination of arts and humanities researchers and community groups working together to explore heritage has proved to be a powerful one. Through collaboration these new Engagement Centres will develop and foster rich and fascinating perspectives on the commemoration, including its meanings for contemporary culture and society.”

The Engagement Centres are funded through a joint initiative of the cross-Research Council Connected Communities programme and the AHRC’s Care for the Future theme. The Centres will complement other AHRC activities related to the centenary, including the collaboration with the BBC’s World War One at Home Project.

For further details about the Queen’s Centre please contact

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Queen's included in chemical engineering roll of honour

QUILL's Professor Jim Swindall receives one of three IChemE Awards from The Apprentice star Nick Hewer and Paul Haworth, Sellafield Ltd.

Queen's chemists are celebrating after being named on the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) roll of honour for 2013. The chemists have been recognised for their work in removing harmful mercury from natural gas.

The award of the IChemE Nicklin Medal is the latest accolade for the University's multi-award winning partnership with Malaysian oil and gas giant PETRONAS which has developed a much more environmentally friendly and safer gas production process.

The Nicklin Medal has been awarded jointly to Queen’s Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) and PETRONAS for the mercury removal project, which was also the major winner at the global IChemE Awards in November, receiving three awards.

Queen’s and PETRONAS are among 20 individuals and organisations from around the world being honoured by IChemE for their achievements and exceptional work across all aspects of chemical, process and biochemical engineering.

Their award-winning technology is being used to produce mercury-free natural gas at two PETRONAS plants in Malaysia. Explaining how it works, Professor Martin Atkins from QUILL said: “Mercury is one of the biggest threats to downstream processing in the oil and gas exploration industries, so it is a huge problem for companies like PETRONAS. It contaminates natural gas, corrodes processing equipment, and compromises the safety of processing plants and the quality of the end product. The amount of mercury present can vary considerably, which makes it incredibly difficult to manage.

"We developed a new ionic liquid based formulation which completely removes mercury from natural gas and is capable of handling the unpredictable surges of mercury in the gas stream. The result is a robust technology, providing a cost-effective and sustainable production process. It is a cutting-edge development, and we are delighted that it has been recognised yet again by IChemE.

"This latest accolade is further global recognition of the impact of Queen's world-leading research in ‘green’ chemistry and its potential for powering a more sustainable future. On behalf of QUILL and PETRONAS I would like to thank IChemE for this great honour."

IChemE chief executive, David Brown, said: "Announcing the IChemE medal and prize winners each year is one of my great privileges. It’s also a time to reflect on the excellent work that is taking place to 'advance chemical engineering worldwide'.

"2013's roll of honour includes winners from Japan, Austria, Italy, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, UK, France, Australia, Ireland and Germany. All have one thing in common – over the past year they have shown talent, expertise and sheer hard work to promote chemical engineering and the profession. I would like to congratulate them all and welcome their names to the rich and growing history of IChemE medal and prize winners."

QUILL is home to nearly 100 scientists who are exploring the enormous potential of ionic liquids or 'designer solvents'. QUILL Co-Director Professor Jim Swindall said: "Ionic liquids are salts that remain liquid at room temperature and do not release hazardous vapours. They can be used as non-polluting alternatives to conventional solvents, and are revolutionising chemical processes by offering cleaner, greener and smarter solutions to traditional methods.

"Queen's is dedicated to advancing knowledge and changing lives, and QUILL's work on ionic liquid chemistry has a bearing on most of our lives. Ionic liquids have huge potential to revolutionise how we live and work, and our impact on the environment. Our inclusion in the IChemE roll of honour enhances the University’s reputation as a global authority in this increasingly important area of research."

For more information on QUILL visit 

For more information on the IChemE visit

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office +44 (0)28 9097 5320 

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Queen’s University’s new leader to benefit Northern Ireland

Today (Monday 3 March 2014) marks the beginning of a new era for Queen’s University Belfast when one of the world’s top cancer researchers, Professor Patrick Johnston, becomes its President and Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Johnston, formerly Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, is the 12th Vice-Chancellor in the University’s 168-year history.

Speaking about his new role, Professor Johnston said: “Queen’s is one of the finest universities in the UK and Ireland and I am both honoured and privileged to be leading it. Together we are about to embark upon a journey in which it is my goal for Queen’s to become an international powerhouse in higher education. This will not only create significant benefits for Queen’s but for every single citizen in Northern Ireland.

“This journey will not be easy, but it is one that I am fully committed to, and by working alongside our exceptional staff and students and with the support of our stakeholders, we will achieve our objectives.

“Queen’s is Northern Ireland’s university. It is a university that is open and accessible to everyone. It is a university which contributes to every part of our society: economically, culturally, politically and socially. And it is a university that consistently delivers a world-class education and research experience. Let’s work together for the common good of everyone in our society.”  

Professor Johnston, originally from Derry/Londonderry, is married with four grown-up sons. Since 2007, he has led the development of a new international Medical School at Queen’s and a world-leading Institute of Health Sciences. He is also former Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s.

In 2012, he was recognised for excellence in medical science when he was elected to the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences.  In the same year, he received a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize awarded by Her Majesty The Queen, for the University’s leadership of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre and its achievement in reducing cancer mortality rates in Northern Ireland over the last decade.

Professor Johnston was appointed chair of the Translational Research Group of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2012. He received the 2013 international Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize, recognising his pioneering work in translating discovery science for the benefit of cancer patients. He also serves on the Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) Science Executive/Advisory Board.

In addition to his academic work, Professor Johnston is a founder of Almac Diagnostics, with its headquarters based in Northern Ireland and the Society for Translational Oncology which is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina.

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs at 028 9097 3259/07813 015431 or

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