June 2015 Press Releases

Leading Rosetta mission scientist gives the latest on Philae at Queen’s University

In the wake of the Philae probe ‘waking up’ last weekend as part of the Rosetta space mission, Queen’s University Belfast is to host a free public lecture by one of Rosetta’s key scientists.

Monica Grady CBE, Professor of Planetary and Space Science at the Open University, is a leading scientist in the Rosetta mission which oversaw the landing of the Philae space probe back in November. Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University, also provides research support to the mission by telescopic observations from Earth.

Professor Grady will deliver the Royal Irish Academy 2015 McCrea Lecture at Queen’s on Friday 26 June, including a detailed account of the Rosetta mission to date, along with a more general insight into comets and why some people think they may hold the key to how life originated on Earth.

Philae made history and captured the public imagination as the first spacecraft to successfully land on a moving comet, but scientists at the European Space Agency lost contact with it three days after touchdown when the primary battery ran out.

Since then, space scientists at ground control have been hoping that sunlight would recharge Philae’s batteries and allow it to resume contact. That happened last Saturday and the hope now is that Philae may be able to relay more information about comets back to Earth.

With more than 2,000 people involved around the world, and a ten-year lead-in for the project, the Rosetta mission is one of the most complex and ambitious ever undertaken in space exploration.

Given recent events, it is expected that this free public lecture will be very popular, so advance registration is essential here

The Royal Irish Academy 2015 McCrea Lecture will be held in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast. The location can be seen here on Friday 26 June 2015 at 7pm

For media inquiries please contact Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on Tel. 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on Tel. 028 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk



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Queen’s unveils Donegall Pass ‘Wall of Hope'

A vibrant ‘Wall of Hope’ aimed at nurturing respect and understanding amongst the community in Belfast’s Donegall Pass area, has been unveiled by Queen’s University.

The unique community art work, which will be displayed on the back wall of the St Mary Magdalene Church, features over 150 Japanese wooden tablets (called e-ma) that have been painted with images of hope by groups including the Donegall Pass Youth Club, the Chinese community, and a local women’s group.

Led by Andrew Woollock, a PhD student in the School of Education at Queen’s, the project is based on a concept from Japan that creates a focal point of pride for a community, where everyone has equal voice and can share their aspirations.

Find out more at: http://www.projecte-ma.org/

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384

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Queen’s researchers in hospital superbug breakthrough

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a cutting-edge new medical therapy that could protect UK hospital patients against a lethal superbug.

The new treatment, which uses a molecule called an inhibitor to prevent the new superbug Klebsiella pneumonia from blocking the body’s natural defences, has the potential to save thousands of lives in the UK each year. Klebsiella, which has mortality rates of 25-60%, can cause bladder infections and pneumonia and is resistant to all major antibiotics.

The research team, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, found that Klebsiella can survive inside white blood cells called ‘macrophages’, which are meant to protect the human body from infection. The superbug takes over a protein in the blood cell called ‘Akt’, paralyzing the cell and making it the perfect shelter to avoid being killed by antibiotics. 

The team showed that by treating the cell with the inhibitor - which stops ‘Akt’ protein from working - the blood cell is once again capable of killing Klebsiella and the infection can be completely eliminated.

Team leader, Professor Jose Bengoechea, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “The global problem of antimicrobial resistance is fast becoming one of the major health issues of modern times. Of particular concern is the mounting prevalence of infections caused by Klebsiella pneumonia which has been identified as an urgent threat to human health by the UK government and the World Health Organisation due to extremely drug resistant strains.

"Our research has helped us gain a better understanding of the vulnerable pathways of human defences, meaning we have been able to develop a potentially ground-breaking new therapy that will block the bug and stop it in its tracks. This is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society.”

The research team at Queen’s plan to carry out pre-clinical trials over the next months to further confirm their findings and move the therapy forward into human clinical trials. Read the research report: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cmi.12466/abstract

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.


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Queen’s Engineering Students Awarded £25K NIE Scholarships

Six students in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queen’s University have been awarded prestigious scholarships by Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE).  The scholarships, which are each worth £25K, include financial support as well as the opportunity to spend a year’s placement and each summer working for the Company.

NIE launched the Scholarship programme with Queen’s University in 2011 to recruit graduates into their Electrical Engineering Graduate Scheme.  There is currently a shortage of electrical engineering graduates in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK, as they are in high demand across a broad range of sectors, from IT to connected health.  The power industry, in particular, is experiencing a particular shortage with demand for graduates expected to increase even further over the next 10-15 years.

The six new NIE scholars at Queen’s University are all first year students in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and they are: James Burns (Armoy), Chloe McDonald (Hamiltonsbawn), Kyle Whiteside (Belfast), Margaret Taggart (Toomebridge), Joshua Watson (Cookstown) and Brendan Digney (Newry).

Randal Gilbert, Programme Management manager at NIE said: “There are excellent opportunities for well paid, highly skilled and secure jobs within the power engineering sector with an estimate 38,000 new power engineering jobs across the UK over the next 10 years and beyond. However, there is a significant shortage of electrical engineering graduates to fill these jobs. Our NIE Scholarship programme aims to help develop young engineering talent. We offer the successful engineering students invaluable experience working on real projects with a confirmed opportunity of employment in a growing and fast moving sector."

Dr David McNeill, Assistant Director of Education for Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queen’s said: “I would like to congratulate all of the students on receiving their scholarships from NIE and wish them all the best in their future careers as electrical engineers. They are joining the industry at an exciting time, as engineers face global challenges, including the provision of clean, green energy for all.”  

Dr McNeill continued: “There is a particular shortage of Electrical Power Engineers not only locally, but globally, and NIE has adopted a pro-active approach in trying to address this.  NIE are also sponsoring a unique project with the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in which a DeLorean vehicle is being converted into an electric vehicle by our students, so we collaborate with them on a number of levels in order to attract and engage the best students.”

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s launches Northern Ireland’s first drugs and alcohol network

Researchers at Queen’s have joined forces with the Public Health Agency and the Department of Health to form the first ever Drugs and Alcohol Research Network (DARN) in Northern Ireland which will be launched tomorrow, 11 June 2015.

DARN aims to provide a one-stop platform for all researchers, policy-makers and practitioners in Northern Ireland and internationally, in order to develop a more informed research base on drugs and alcohol issues.

Inside Queen’s, DARN will act as an inter-disciplinary forum where findings from areas as diverse as social work, public health, education, economics, sociology, psychology, law and pharmacy can be pooled and feed into wider discussions outside the University, including directly informing government policy and comparative studies with other countries.

Lead organisers, Dr Anne Campbell and Dr Kathryn Higgins from Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work said: “It is recognised that practitioners, strategists and researchers in the area of addictions largely work in silos where there is little cross-fertilisation of ideas and how they may be put into practice. Queen’s has a reputation for producing rigorous academic research in this area and forging links with public systems and relevant institutions so the University is well-placed to lead this new initiative. Queen’s researchers meet regularly with local, national and international policymakers and voluntary and statutory treatment providers. DARN will help ensure that important findings are more firmly placed directly in the hands of those who can best use them.”

Simon Hamilton MLA, the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety said: “Our substance misuse strategy, the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2, commits us to taking a clear evidence-based approach to preventing and addressing the harm related to substance misuse and to developing policies and strategies that work. I therefore welcome the launch of the Drug and Alcohol Research Network, which will help build up the local evidence base and ensure we are investing in services that can effectively deal with local problems. It will also let us test innovative solutions and approaches and help us address one the key public health challenges we face.”   

Cathy Mullan, from the Public Health Agency said: “The Public Health Agency is committed to ensuring that public money is used in the most effective ways possible to reduce the harm caused to the people of Northern Ireland by the misuse of drugs and alcohol. The Drug and Alcohol Research Network will be a valuable resource to ensure that we do what works. It will help inform and support us so that we can embrace new and innovative ways of working that are known to be effective.”

DARN follows the success of the Queen’s Drugs and Alcohol app which was launched last year to provide an overview of the rapidly changing picture of substance misuse in Northern Ireland as new legal highs become available on an almost-weekly basis. The app includes relevant policy and legislation, up-to-date drug and alcohol statistics, the principles and values in working with substance misuse and a regularly updated directory of service via a regional map. It is intended for use by both addicts and those working to help addicts. The app is free to download from Google Play Store or Apple store and is called Drugs and Alcohol: A Guide.

For more information on DARN, see http://go.qub.ac.uk/DARN15

 Media inquiries to Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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International cancer experts and patients gather at major conference in Belfast for first time

Some of the world’s leading cancer experts will converge with patients and charities in Belfast next week for a major conference co-hosted by Queen’s University’s Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.

Over 500 delegates from as far as New Zealand, Australia and the US as well as mainland Europe will attend the annual Cancer Outcomes Conference which is being held for the first time in Northern Ireland at the Europa Hotel from June 8-10.

High-profile participants include Professor Sir Richard Peto from the University of Oxford; leading epidemiologist Professor Michel Coleman from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine;  Sara Hiom from CRUK and Professor Jane Maher of Macmillan Cancer Support. The conference will also feature a rare gathering of all five Chief Medical Officers or their representatives from the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland.

Delegates will be a mixture of academics, researchers, policy makers, charity representatives and around 100 cancer patients who will contribute to discussions on health economics, the latest findings in treatment outcomes and international issues. The main theme will be how routine data generated during contact with health services can be used to inform current thinking about prevention, treatment and improving outcomes for cancer.

The conference is being held in Northern Ireland to mark the 21st anniversary of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, which is part of Queen’s University Belfast. The other conference co-hosts are the National Cancer Intelligence Network (part of Public Health England) and the UK and Ireland Association of Cancer Registries.

Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the NI Cancer Registry said: “As Queen’s scientists and clinicians are at the forefront of some of the most ambitious and ground-breaking cancer research in recent years it is ideal for us to host this conference. We will debate and discuss the future of cancer services and how Queen’s and Northern Ireland are working collaboratively to lead the way in improving outcomes for cancer patients here and around the world.”

Chris Carrigan, Head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network, said: “This is the first time that the annual NCIN Cancer Outcomes Conference has been held outside of England, demonstrating the need for all parts of the UK to work collectively to improve the diagnosis, lives and experience of patients, wherever they live.”

For further information on the conference read here.

Media inquiries to Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s academics honoured by Royal Irish Academy

Two Queen’s University academics have been named as new members of the prestigious Royal Irish Academy (RIA).

Professor Matthew Zepf, Director of the Centre for Plasma Physics at Queen’s, and Queen’s graduate and Honorary Professor Stephen Myers, are among 19 leading Irish scholars who have been elected as members of the RIA - Ireland’s leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities.

Professor Zepf is also Director of the Helmholtz Institute in Germany, leading a group that continues to pioneer studies of the interaction between short pulse lasers and matter. 

Professor Myers, who was the Director of Accelerators at CERN when the Higgs boson particular was discovered in 2012, has been recognised for his contributions to the field of accelerator science.

2015 is the 230th anniversary of the Royal Irish Academy. Founded in 1785, membership of the RIA has been keenly competed for, as it is the highest academic honour in Ireland. Those elected use the designation ‘MRIA’ after their name.

There are now 493 members of the Academy and 76 honorary members, in disciplines from the sciences, humanities and social sciences. Members include President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, Baroness Nuala O’Loan and Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank. See the full list of this year’s elected members at: https://www.ria.ie/

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384

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Queen’s University Boat Race making a big splash

There will be a party atmosphere along the River Lagan this Saturday, 6 June 2015, when Queen’s hosts the Lagan Construction Group University Boat Race.

The event has emerged as one of the highlights in the Northern Ireland sporting calendar and is aimed at schools, families and communities as well as keen rowers. Spectators are encouraged to enjoy the action this year from a new public enclosure at Belfast Rowing Club, Lockview Road, Stranmillis, where there will be live music, children’s entertainment, food and refreshments from 10am on the day.

Now in its 11th year, the event will be stacked with over 20 races culminating in the main university races as Queen’s goes head to head with Trinity College Dublin in a repeat of the first-ever Boat Race back in 2004.

In addition to the top men’s and women’s crews competing for the third-level honours, there is a comprehensive schools schedule, with teams from Methodist College Belfast, Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Portora Royal School and Bann Rowing Club competing for the Craig, Bobby Platt Perpetual Trophy and Ulster Schools Cups.

The races take place between 10.30am-5.00pm on Saturday with the starting point upstream of the McConnell Weir, opposite Ormeau Park and below Ormeau Bridge. The crews will finish the 1,550yrd course opposite Cutter’s Wharf bar, adjacent to the Annandale Embankment, Stranmillis.

Tickets for a VIP enclosure are also available and include access to the terrace and rear of Cutters Wharf with excellent views of the sprint for the finish line plus a gourmet barbeque, drinks and live jazz. VIP tickets cost £25, payment by card or cash from Queen’s PEC, or telephone 028 9068 1126. Tickets can be collected from Queen’s PEC reception or posted out on request.

Lagan Construction Group is the title sponsor for this year’s event which is also supported by the Department of Social Development and Belfast City Council. Cutters Wharf and Belfast Rowing Club have generously agreed to act as hosts as Queen’s continues to re-develop its own Boathouse facilities.

Head of Queen’s Sport, Liz McLaughlin, said: This 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. We look forward to some promising rowing from the schools teams and welcoming their supporters to the event.”

Kevin Anthony Lagan from Lagan Construction Group said: We are delighted to be part of this great rowing and social event for the city of Belfast.  It’s great to have Trinity College Dublin involved along with so many schools, families, students and rowing alumni who combine to make this into a truly unique event, which we are proud to be a part of. We wish all the crew, volunteers and coaches well and hope all guests and spectators have a memorable experience on the Lagan and at Cutters Wharf and Belfast Rowing Club.”

For further information see: http://www.queenssport.com/sites/QueensSport/StudentSport/Events/UniversityBoatRace/

For media inquiries, contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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