October 2015 Press Releases

Queen’s University given prestigious UNESCO Chair status for work on shared education
Professor Joanne Hughes

Queen’s University Belfast is to be honoured by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) by becoming an international example of how shared education can promote reconciliation in divided societies.

Professor Joanne Hughes, Director of the Centre for Shared Education at Queen’s University, will be appointed the first ‘UNESCO Chair on Globalising a Shared Education Model for Improving Relations in Divided Societies’.

Her role will be to take forward a model of shared education that can be used as a template around the world. Working in collaboration with partner organisations, her team will undertake comprehensive, comparative research to examine the impact of shared education in different contexts, with a view to developing best practice and feeding into government policy within the UK and beyond. Shared education is broadly defined as any collaborative activity between schools that can contribute towards academic improvement, provide access to opportunity, encourage more effective use of resources and promote social cohesion.

Queen’s University ran a shared-education programme between 2007 and 2014, involving more than 130 schools and 9,000 pupils and through the Centre for Shared Education has supported initiatives in other divided regions, including Israel and Macedonia. Professor Hughes leads an extensive research programme that examines the reconciliation outcomes for pupils and teachers involved in shared education and other forms of inter-group contact.

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said: “I welcome this prestigious honour which recognises the exceptional work that Professor Hughes has done, and continues to do, in shared education.  Through her role, as the first ever UNESCO Chair on Globalising a Shared Education Model for Improving Relations in Divided Societies, Professor Hughes will continue to extend her work internationally. This accolade is further evidence of the world-leading research from Queen’s University, which is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Professor Hughes said: “Shared education has appeal in divided societies because it offers opportunity for sustained interaction between members of different groups, without compromising their right to separate schools. In making the boundaries between schools divided on ethnic and religious lines more porous, shared education has been shown to reduce prejudice and promote more positive social attitudes. I am delighted to have the opportunity through UNESCO to extend our work internationally and to access those networks that will allow us to contribute to policy making at an international level.”

The UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Higher Education Director, Professor Kiran Fernandes, said: “Queen’s University Belfast will be joining a dynamic, global network of UNESCO Chairs; eminent research institutions that, within their different fields and academic focus, are all working to further UNESCO's goal to build peace and sustainable development.

“Professor Hughes’s work connects closely to UNESCO’s global mandate for peace and we hope that, by collaborating with the Organisation’s universities network, and working under the powerful UNESCO brand, that Professor Hughes’s critical work in using education to promote peace and intercultural understanding between divided societies will be enhanced and strengthened”.

This is not the first time that Queen’s University Belfast has come to UNESCO’s attention. In 2012, Dr Geetha Srinivasan was awarded the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowship for her work in Ionic Liquids and Their Biomedical Applications.

For further information, contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Claire Kelly on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 5391 or email c.m.kelly@qub.ac.uk

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Spectacles for millions of Chinese schoolchildren, thanks to Queen's University and the Ulverscroft Foundation

A Queen’s researcher will be advising on a Chinese government plan to distribute millions of free and low-cost spectacles to schoolchildren in China in order to dramatically improve educational achievement, especially in impoverished, rural areas.

Professor Nathan Congdon, the newly appointed Ulverscroft Chair of Global Eye Health at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, met with the Chinese Ministry of Health in Beijing last week to urge the implementation of a national programme to hand out free and low-cost glasses.

The work of Professor Congdon and his team is being made possible by a gift of £800,000 from the UK visual-impairment charity, The Ulverscroft Foundation.

The proposed project will fund spectacles for millions of children in all 31 administrative areas of China and will cost around £100m over three years. It is envisaged that training for rural eye doctors in making measurements for glasses will also be included.

Traditionally, there has been a misconception in China that wearing glasses weakens the eyes, with the result that very few children wear them. Additionally, schools in many rural and poor areas tend to use blackboards more than textbooks, meaning that near-sighted children are not able to keep up with their lessons.

The proposal builds on years of research by Professor Congdon and his colleagues in China and at Stanford University into eye health in China and its effect on schoolchildren’s performance. His latest research study, ‘Seeing is Learning’, was the first published trial to examine whether giving out free spectacles could improve academic results. Carried out in rural western China in 2012-13, it involved 20,000 children at 250 schools and the results were published recently in the British Medical Journal.

Among the main findings were:

  • Providing spectacles to rural children in China had a significant impact on education outcomes – a bigger impact than other factors such as family income or parents’ education
  • The benefits were larger in areas where blackboards were used more frequently in the classroom, such as poorer areas that cannot afford textbooks.  This provides further plausibility of the educational effect of glasses, as near-sighted children (the very large majority of those needing glasses in China) are at a major disadvantage in seeing distant targets such as a blackboard
  • The benefits of providing these children glasses were found to be increased up to five-fold in classrooms where all teaching was on the blackboard, equating to a full year of additional learning
  • Traditionally, there has been a misconception in China that wearing glasses weakens the eyes, with the result that very few children wear them. Additional work by Congdon and his colleagues at Stanford and in China, recently published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology (AJO), has shown that being given glasses not only does not weaken children's vision, but in fact protects it 
  • An additional barrier to the success of glasses programmes in China has been children's failure to wear the glasses in school where they are needed. A trial recently published in AJO has shown that simple incentives directed at teachers can double the rates of glasses wear among children needing them, reaching 70-90 per cent
  • The ‘Seeing is Learning’ projects have already led to free-glasses programmes in two provinces in western China, in partnership with the American NGO Orbis International, with plans to roll out the programme nationally

Professor Congdon from the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s said: “Our latest research really underlines the importance of handing out free glasses to children in China on a major scale. The problem is, if we don’t give them out, they won’t be worn in big enough quantities to make a difference. There are cultural reasons why glasses have not been worn in the past, and there are also financial reasons. We need to make sure that poorer families have access to free, or very cheap, glasses.

“But we also want to make sure that the regional hospitals can continue to sell glasses as this is an important revenue stream for them. We have also done research in China which proves that giving out free glasses will not impact on the sales of glasses – we need both approaches and they can be complementary. I am very optimistic that our proposal will be taken up by the Chinese authorities as the evidence is indisputable.”

David Owen, Chair of the Ulverscroft Foundation said: “The Ulverscroft Foundation is a small to medium-sized charity which helps visually impaired people and to this end we have funded substantial projects in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Bolivia, Australia and the Indian subcontinent. In addition we have funded a series of textbooks on eye surgery and eye disease in hot climates by eye surgeon John Sandford-Smith. A gift of this magnitude represents a significant proportion of our resources - this demonstrates our confidence in the team at Queen’s University and our desire to develop partnerships with organisations and institutions to make a greater impact on global eye health.”

Originally from Massachusetts in the USA, Professor Congdon lived with his family in China from 2006-2015 and he speaks and reads fluent Chinese. Previously, he has helped design and evaluate eyecare projects in Mongolia, Laos and Vietnam. He was educated at Johns Hopkins University and worked for many years at the John Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. He now lives with his family in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. Among many awards and professional distinctions, he has received the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology’s highest recognition for blindness prevention work in 2009.

For further information, contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Una Bradley on +44 (0)28 9097 5384, email u.bradley@qub.ac.uk (Mon-Thurs). Alternatively, contact Senior Communications Officer Claire Kelly (O’Callaghan) on +44 (0)28 9097 5391 or email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Seals not competing with Irish fishing stocks, says new Queen's University research

Seals are not threatening commercial fishing stocks in Irish waters, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon, according to new research led by Queen’s University Belfast.

The findings show that seals are having no significant impact on populations of the most popular species of fish caught for commercial purposes along the south and west coasts of Ireland, from counties Galway to Waterford.

The research was led by Queen’s University, in collaboration with University College Cork and the Marine Institute (Co Galway). The first comprehensive study of its kind, its conclusions suggest that the seals do not compete with fishermen over the stocks. The issue of seals in Irish waters has been controversial in recent years and there have been calls from some quarters for culls.

Lead researcher Dr Keith Farnsworth from Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Food Security said: “We need to emphasise that this work in no way says that seals cause no problems for the fishing industry. They do create significant problems for static fishing gear, such as the fixed nets used by estuarine salmon fishers, and they may also impact on numbers of wild salmon, although most salmon eaten on these islands is farmed.

“What we are saying is that for most commercially fished species off the south and west coasts of Ireland – herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species – seals are having no significant negative effect on numbers.

“This is because the seals are eating much smaller fish than the larger, mature specimens that fishermen are required by law to catch. So seals are often eating the same species of fish as we buy in the supermarkets, but younger versions of them. And there are hundreds more younger fish than mature fish in any given species.

“In fact, we found evidence that seals may actually be doing the fishermen a favour, by eating some species that prey on the valuable stocks the fishermen are after.”

Professor David Reid from the Marine Institute said: “What this work shows is that the only way to really resolve questions like this one is to be able to actually look at the detail, and work out what is going on. This work used material as diverse as the gut contents of the seals and the fish, through seal 'scat', to samples taken from commercial catches and research vessel surveys, and elaborate mathematical models. The idea of seals being direct competitors with the fishing boats for the fish out there intuitively seems pretty obvious. But actually, in this case, it is not really true. They both ‘eat’ fish. But not the same fish, and they do not compete with each other.

“This is not to say that seals do not compete with fishermen in other ways. In other recent work we showed that fishermen who use set nets round the coast of Ireland can lose fish straight out of their nets to seals. But as with this study, we needed to go into the detail, and get our hands dirty to prove that.”

The findings of this new research are based on data from an area roughly 100 miles off south and west Ireland, encompassing the coastlines of counties Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway. The data was collected from seal droppings of both grey and common seals and collated by researchers from University College Cork. Supplementary information was obtained from the Marine Institute and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

The data was then interpreted by researchers at Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security. Their conclusions have been published today in The Journal of Applied Ecology.

The study was funded by a Beaufort Marine Research Award, with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme of the Irish National Development Plan 2007-2013.

For more information, or a copy of the full research report, contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Una Bradley (Mon-Thurs) on 028 9097 5384, email u.bradley@qub.ac.uk or Senior Communications Officer Claire Kelly (O’Callaghan) on 029 90097 5391, email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Belfast named as location for a Precision Medicine Catapult centre of excellence

Queen’s will be involved in a new UK centre of excellence to understand and treat patients’ illnesses more precisely.

The Precision Medicine Catapult today announced that Belfast will be one of six initial locations for its regional centres of excellence network, alongside Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford.

Each centre will act as a hub for research and development in precision medicine, which uses diagnostic tests and data-based insights to understand a patient’s illness more precisely and select treatments with more predictable, safer and cost-effective outcomes.

Speaking about the announcement, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Queen’s is pleased to be involved in the UK’s new national innovation centre for precision medicine. The decision to establish a regional centre of excellence in Belfast is testament to Northern Ireland’s excellence in terms of research and clinical expertise in precision medicine. Queen’s is already conducting life-changing and life-saving research in this area. We look forward to continuing that important work alongside our partners in the Precision Medicine Catapult to make the UK the most attractive place in the world in which to develop precision medicine tests and therapies.”

Catapults are a UK Government initiative, established and part-funded by Innovate UK, where the best of the UK’s innovative businesses and researchers work together to bring new products and services to commercialisation. The Precision Medicine Catapult was established in April 2015 to harness the breadth of UK expertise, developing innovative technologies and solutions for broader use across the UK’s healthcare sector.

A physical presence will be established at each centre, with local recruitment to build expert teams. The centres will work collaboratively with local, national and global stakeholders including government, academia, health systems and SMEs, with broad industry engagement to identify and resolve barriers to building a leading UK precision medicine industry.

John McKinley, CEO of the Precision Medicine Catapult, said: “We're delighted to announce the location of these centres of excellence, each with access to a unique blend of regional expertise. Project development work has been ongoing across the UK and we will be launching offices and related programmes over the coming months. As well as growing the UK's strong position in precision medicine, we believe our network will deliver health and economic impact at a local and national level.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “Precision medicine allows clinicians to select treatments for patients which are more targeted, more predictable in terms of response and ultimately safer and more cost-effective.  Northern Ireland already has world leading companies and expertise operating in this growing field. 

“The location of a Precision Medicine Catapult centre of excellence in Northern Ireland recognises the expertise and innovation that exists within our health and care service and can help ensure that the care we provide to our patients becomes ever more effective.”

Jennifer Welsh, Director of Surgery and Specialist Services in Belfast Trust said: “This announcement is recognition that Belfast is in a leading position in terms of developing precision medicine tests and therapies. This is building on years of collaboration between Belfast Trust and key partners such as the Pathology Network and Queen’s University. It is an exciting time which will bring significant long-term benefits to our patients.”

For more information visit www.catapult.org.uk

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office. Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri), T:+44 (0)28 9097 5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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National recognition for Queen’s University’s public health research

Research from Queen’s University will feature in an exciting new online programme, ‘Improve and Protect.’ The programme will explore some of the UK’s major public health challenges and the work being carried out to address these issues by various organisations including the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, based at Queen’s University.

‘Improve and Protect’ provides a unique platform to raise awareness and debate around some of the threats to the public’s health and will highlight the need to educate and empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health.

This new programme features the research at Queen’s University being carried out by Dr Mark Tully and Dr Ruth Hunter on the Physical Activity and the Rejuvenation of the Connswater (PARC) study, a successful partnership with Connswater Community Greenway to evaluate the development of a 9km linear park with the aim of improving the environment, enabling physical activity with new pathways and cycle ways and connecting local communities.

The documentary also features Dr Aisling Gough and Dr Gary McKeown from Queen’s University, who are working in partnership with Cancer Focus NI and the Public Health Agency to test the effectiveness of using social media to communicate public health messages. This novel project investigates how Twitter can be used to spread messages about skin cancer prevention within the adult population in Northern Ireland.

Professor Frank Kee, Director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence at Queen’s University said: “This programme highlights how the world class research being undertaken at Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.

 “It is important that all of the research that we do is relevant to the needs of end users, for this is key to having an impact on policy and practice, and the two examples showcased in this documentary highlight how it is possible to partner with communities and practitioners to have a real impact on their needs.”

The current affairs style programme, which was launched at the Royal Society for Public Health Annual conference and Awards Ceremony in London, will combine news-style reports highlighting what some of the leading organisations aims are to improve the public’s health.

You can access the programme on UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland.

To view the film click here.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thur-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +(0)4428 9097 5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  


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Queen’s University goes Back to the Future with Electric DeLorean

Queen’s will unveil its electric DeLorean, on the exact date that Marty McFly went Back To The Future in the iconic Belfast-built car – 21 October 2015.

Doc Brown famously modified the DeLorean as a time machine in the Back to the Future movies, the second of which saw Marty McFly travel to 21 October 2015 to prevent his future son being sent to prison.

On that exact date, Queen’s and NIE Networks will unveil the latest version of the famous car, which students and staff have modified as a hi-tech electrical vehicle – the first of its kind in the UK or Ireland. It is thought to be the first DeLorean to be built in Northern Ireland since production came to a halt at DeLorean’s Belfast factory in 1983.

Students and staff from Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, supported by NIE Networks, have painstakingly restored and modified the DeLorean DMC-12 over the last eighteen months. It will be revealed on Wednesday at the Ulster Museum. Local school children will get a preview of the car on Wednesday morning, with the opportunity to find out more about the Electrical Engineering courses on offer at Queen’s, while members of the public can find out more about the Queen’s Electric DeLorean project at a free public lecture at the Ulster Museum at 6pm. Anyone who wants to attend is asked to register at http://goo.gl/tPEHDE

Dr David Laverty, who leads the project is the ‘Doc Brown’ of Queen’s Electric DeLorean. He said: “In the future, more and more of our energy will come from renewable electricity – whether to power appliances in the home or our means of travel. The electrification of transport is a major global challenge, so projects like the Queen’s Electric DeLorean are crucial in equipping young engineers with the knowledge and expertise to build the electric vehicles of the future.

“This project was about modifying a car into an electric vehicle, but we wanted to do it in style. The DeLorean was the obvious choice because of its strong connection to Belfast and its starring role in the Back to The Future movies.

“As Doc Brown said, ‘if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything’. We are very proud of what our students have accomplished during this project. Queen’s Electric DeLorean has equipped them with the skills, knowledge and experience for a career in electrical engineering.”

Gordon Parkes, HR Director at NIE Networks, said: “It’s fantastic to see the electric DeLorean conversion completed.  This has been a unique and exciting project that NIE Networks has been proud to sponsor.

“We’ve supported this project because it’s an original and innovative way of engaging and promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects to school children and students. What better way to prove that anything is possible with Engineering than with a project that has used ‘smart’ technology to convert the iconic DeLorean car into an electric vehicle.

“At NIE Networks we predict a skills shortage in power engineering throughout the next ten years and beyond, this is despite the power industry providing many opportunities for, highly skilled and secure jobs with circa 38,000 new power engineering jobs across the UK over the next decade.  The essence of engineering is to find solutions to new challenges and this project has enabled Queen’s students to gain excellent learning and build essential skills for the job market. Working with Queen’s we have a stimulating agenda planned for the future, where the DeLorean will visit schools and careers events to promote engineering and hopefully inspire the Electrical Engineers of tomorrow.”

Professor Stan Scott, Head of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s said: “Today’s unveiling of Queen’s Electric DeLorean is not only an opportunity to celebrate the work of our students and staff, it is also a chance to give school children an insight into the exciting courses on offer at Queen’s. This project has attracted interest from around the world with students from world-renowned Princeton University joining us at Queen’s over the summer to work on the project. Projects like this, alongside industry placements and study abroad schemes, ensure that Queen’s graduates are equipped with skills that set them apart in a very competitive job market – I doubt there are many others who can claim to have built an electric DeLorean! ”

For more information visit QUB Electric Delorean on Facebook or follow @QUBDeLorean on Twitter

For more information on Electrical Engineering at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/eeecs


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thur-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +(0)4428 9097 5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University Belfast research could revolutionise farming in developing world

A brand new technology developed by researchers at Queen’s has the potential to reduce crop losses across the developing world and boost the incomes of subsistence farmers.

The technology is designed to combat parasitic ‘nematodes’ - microscopic worms which infect crop plants from the soil, and are responsible for a 12.3% reduction in global agricultural productivity, a loss of around £100 billion annually.

The research, which involves using ‘peptide mimics’ – versions of the parasites' own brain chemistry – to confuse the real parasites and ultimately, render them impotent, has been awarded a Phase II Grand Challenges Exploration grant of $1million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be developed in Belfast and proceed to trials in Kenya.

The project will focus on banana and plantain – although in theory it could extend to other crops – which are cultivated across 130 countries, making them the eighth most produced staple in the world. The fruits are often grown by smallholders in the developing world and can account for up to 30 per cent of farmers’ income. Despite their popularity, however, the crop is highly susceptible to a variety of plant parasitic nematodes, which typically reduce yields by 30-50 per cent.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Johnathan Dalzell from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security said: “This project builds on our previous research where we developed a novel way of interfering with parasitic nematode host-finding behaviour. Through our lab work we have identified a family of peptide mimics, which specifically and potently interfere with their neurobiology, disorientating the parasites so they can’t find the host plant. They then die quickly through lack of food. Importantly, these peptide mimics appear to have no impact on non-target animals. This is a clean, and robust approach to parasite control.

“Our aim is to develop a variety of approaches which harness this new technology in order to protect crops plants from these parasitic worms. We have chosen to focus on banana and plantain as these crops are highly susceptible to a range of pests and diseases, including nematodes, insects, viral and fungal pathogens. Developing a broad-spectrum nematode control strategy represents a significant challenge, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, which is a hotbed for pathogens which can break resistance strategies. This is yet another example of how Queen’s is having a global impact and is using its research findings to improve how our world functions.”

As a result of the Gates Foundation grant and other funding, the Queen’s-led project will proceed to glasshouse trials, in association with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya. Subsequently, field trials will be conducted and regulatory approval sought.

For further information, contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Una Bradley on 0044 (0)28 9097 5384 (Mon-Thurs) or email u.bradley@qub.ac.uk. Alternatively, contact Anne-Marie Clarke on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy on 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s Contractor O’Hare & McGovern Take Top Award

O’Hare & McGovern was announced as the ‘Overall Winner’ of the Construction Excellence Awards 2015 in recognition of its work on The Wellcome-Wolfson Building, Centre for Experimental Medicine, at Queen’s University Belfast.

The new Centre is part of an investment of £350m in buildings and facilities over the next ten years to support the University’s Vision. It provides accommodation for 330 staff specialising in researching cures for eye disease, respiratory disorders and vascular complications linked to diabetes.

Hosted by the Construction Employers Federation in partnership with Specify magazine and in association with Ulster Business, the award was presented on 8 October at the Culloden Estate & Spa to O’Hare & McGovern, long-term partners of Queen’s, by guest of honour, Dame Mary Peters.

Congratulating O’Hare & McGovern, Damien Toner, Director of Estates at Queen’s, said: “We congratulate O’Hare & McGovern in delivering this world class facility at Queen’s. The new Wellcome-Wolfson Building, Centre for Experimental Medicine, is an interdisciplinary research facility and is designed to enhance our internationally recognised excellence in education and research.”

“The building will achieve an environmental BREEAM rating of Excellent, as it incorporates a range of measures to deliver a more sustainable building. Environmental sustainability is integral to the University’s objective of reducing carbon emissions by 2020.”

O’Hare & McGovern has been winning quality and partnership awards with Queen’s University Belfast for the last 25 years.  But this latest accolade, overall winner of the Construction Excellence Awards 2015, is probably the most special of them all, according to Managing Director, Eamon O’Hare.

Eamon said: “This was an outstanding achievement by a special team involved in a very unique project.  It required massive effort and total commitment.  We are immensely proud of the building and it strengthens our long partnership with Queen’s University Belfast.”


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5292 email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Former President FW de Klerk delivers leadership lecture at Queen’s University

Former President of South Africa, FW de Klerk will be at Queen’s tomorrow evening (Thursday 15 October) to deliver the second William J Clinton Annual Leadership Lecture.

Mr De Klerk played a key role in dismantling apartheid and initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic Constitution. He was President of South Africa from 1989 until Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in May 1994.

During his lecture at the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Riddel Hall, Mr De Klerk will address an invited audience of business, education and political representatives on ‘the role of leadership in a rapidly changing world’.  

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “FW de Klerk is one of the world’s most eminent elder statesmen and we are honoured and delighted to welcome him to Queen’s.

“The William J Clinton Leadership Institute brings together leading academics and industry experts to deliver world-class executive education and leadership programmes. The Institute is committed to stimulating and growing the Northern Ireland economy by providing the next generation of leaders, in business and in public life.

“The Institute’s Annual Leadership Lecture is a platform for global thinkers to inspire the leaders of the future, and I have no doubt that Mr De Klerk’s words will resonate with all of those who are committed to promoting strong leadership in Northern Ireland.” 

Former President FW De Klerk said: “I regard it as an honour to speak at Queen’s University Belfast, with its great history and achievements including being in the top 1% of global universities and a UK top ten research intensive University. 

“I will be speaking on the role of leadership in a rapidly changing world. My experience has taught me that the difference between politicians and statesmen is that politicians follow and react to public opinion: statesmen lead public opinion and channel it into new directions. 

“I am convinced that South Africa’s experience in changing public opinion and channelling it into new directions are relevant to the challenges which Northern Ireland have to deal with.”

Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, said: “FW de Klerk is one of the most distinguished political leaders of our generation. He presided over one of the most tumultuous periods in South Africa’s history and his leadership has since continued to have an impact on peace and democracy around the world through the work of the FW de Klerk Foundation and the Global Leadership Foundation. We are honoured to welcome him to the William J Clinton Leadership Institute and we look forward to his insights into the role of leadership in a rapidly changing world.”

For more information on the William J Clinton Leadership Institute visit http://www.leadershipinstitute.co.uk/schools/LeadershipInstitute


For further information please contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on +44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s grabs top award for security at INVENT Awards

Queen’s has won the top award at the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT Awards 2015.

Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) CONNECT awarded its prestigious INVENT Award to PicoPUF, a spinout from Queen’s University’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT).

The INVENT competition, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, is an opportunity for anyone with an innovative concept to be recognized as Northern Ireland’s next big thing. The competition has long been considered the foremost Night of Invention in the region.

PicoPUF invented a tiny semiconductor IP core that provides strong, unique authentication for even the cheapest microchip, and not only won the Electronics category but the overall grand prize. PicoPUF was deemed by judges to have the most innovative product with the biggest global commercial potential.

The award, which is a further example of Queen’s innovation and excellence was presented to the University’s trio of researchers who invented PicoPuf; Neil Hanley, Maire O’Neill, and ChongyanGu. Their invention means that any grade of device can have the highest grade of security. They took home a prize package of £13,000, a fast-track to NISP’s Springboard programme, and a space on the NI TechMission to California in January 2016.

They faced stiff competition from 11 other finalists in categories including Agri-Food, Life and Health, and Enterprise Software.

PicoPUF founder, Neil Hanley said: “There is a perfect storm happening in IT security right now. The huge number of devices on the market, combined with the low-cost nature of these devices, makes it impossible to use heavily-computationally-resourced security solutions. Lightweight security will be a game-changer and we are set to capitalize on that. This INVENT competition has been a massive step towards that goal, and we thank the Science Park for the chance to get involved. We can’t believe we won.

The other five category winners, who received £3,000 and a place on the TechMission were:

  • Agri-Food –NextGenBiopesticides

Insect parasitic nematodes selectively bred to be a safe, effective biopesticide for the control of crop pest insects

  • Enterprise Software– Cognition Video

A processing framework that enables the effective understanding of media content using intelligent automated algorithms

  • Life and Health –Re-Vana

A new drug delivery system that provides long-term benefits for patients suffering from eye diseases that lead to blindness. The solution also saves the NHS considerable cost on treatment.

  • Creative Media and Consumer Internet –ChipIn

A platform for goal setting that provides motivation via rewards that are either crowd-funded or self-funded

  • Engineering –Skunkworks Surfboard Company

Robust soft (learner) surfboards that are 100 per cent recyclable and unbreakable

These category winners rose to the top after a challenging six-month programme that began with 80 entrants in Spring this year. They were whittled down to 12 at the semi-finals event in May, which was open to the public, where they also received mentoring to support the final stage business plan and Big Pitch delivery.

Brian Conlon of First Derivatives also addressed the audience, after he was given the highest honor of the 2015 Innovation Founder Award. Brian has built his software business from grassroots into one of Northern Ireland’s biggest success stories. More on Brian’s contribution to the local and global economy can be found here.

Julie Ann O’Hare, Bank of Ireland UK’s Head of Business Banking Strategy & Sectors NI said: “Brian, PicoPUF, all of this year’s winners and participants clearly demonstrate the top quality, creative and vibrant entrepreneurial potential that is growing in Northern Ireland. The Bank is delighted to continue to support this important initiative and believes that a sustained focus on developing the Knowledge Economy is vital to the future health of Northern Ireland’s economy.

“INVENT is the leading night of innovation in Northern Ireland, and securing the Internet of Things is one of the hottest topics on the global IT agenda at present,” said Steve Orr, Director of NISP CONNECT. “It’s a huge pleasure to see that our INVENT competition was topped by a group addressing a global concern. Candidates in the INVENT competition have their finger on the pulse of innovation everywhere, with true Northern Irish roots. It has been incredible to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room tonight. We’re showing the world that the best innovation comes from right here in the Titanic Quarter.”


For further information please contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Anne-Marie Clarke (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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Brian Friel Statement

“For more than 50 years, Brian’s plays have brought Irish theatre to the international stage and the Field Day Theatre Company, which he co-founded in 1980, transformed the landscape of Irish theatre.

“In 2008, Queen’s established the Brian Friel Theatre and Research Centre and has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the playwright. Brian showed a keen interest in the work of our students and, in 2011, the Brian Friel Medal was inaugurated for the highest mark in theatre practice.

“With his active encouragement and support, the University organised the first Brian Friel Summer School this year in Donegal.

“Queen’s awarded Brian an honorary degree in 1992.

“Everyone at the University would like to extend their deepest condolences to Brian’s wife, Anne, and the wider family circle.”


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New supercomputer software takes us one giant step closer to simulating the human brain

Breakthrough computer software created by Queen's and the University of Manchester that will be used to power the world’s fastest supercomputers of the future is now being tested for use at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory, at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire.

Developed as part of a major £960k project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the ground-breaking software will increase the ability of supercomputers to process masses of data at higher speeds than ever before.  This next generation of software is now being tested, evaluated and optimised for use by computational scientists.

Supercomputers are the key drivers of scientific advancement in every aspect of research. By simulating detailed models of natural phenomena such as ocean currents, the blood flow of a human body and global weather patterns using thousands of computer cores in parallel, scientists can use the information they produce to help address some of the big global challenges including sustainable energy, the rise in global temperatures, and worldwide epidemics.

The new software will be critical to the next generation of Exascale supercomputers, that could exist within the next 5 years, and will be capable of performing 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, or one billion, billion calculations per second. This is a thousand times more powerful than the Chinese Tianhe1A – the fastest supercomputer in operation today. But Exascale supercomputers will also rely on the development of equally as powerful, cutting edge software that will enable them to process masses of data at higher speeds than ever before. The new software will also contribute to increased energy efficiency, without which the supercomputers will be limited by the power they consume.

Dr Mike Ashworth, Head of Application Performance Engineering at STFC’s Scientific Computing Department, said: “Our next generation of supercomputers will enable scientists to tackle challenges that seem impossible today, such as detailed simulation of the whole Earth system and of the human brain. As well as tackling big global challenges, they are becoming absolutely crucial to industry for breakthroughs in faster and cheaper development of new products and materials.  I am very excited that STFC’s world leading expertise in software development is playing a key role in enabling our collaborators to develop this next-generation software, which will be vital for tomorrow’s exascale systems.”

The project’s Principal Investigator, Professor Dimitrios Nikolopoulos, from the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Software that exploits the capability of Exascale systems means that complex computing simulations which would take thousands of years on a desktop computer will be completed in a matter of minutes. This research has the potential to give us insights into how to combat some of the biggest issues facing humanity at the moment.”

The Scalable, Energy-Efficient, Resilient and Transparent Software Adaptation (SERT) project is funded by the EPSRC under the Software for the Future II programme.


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Queen's celebrates multi-million pound contribution to Northern Ireland economy

Queen’s will host a Northern Ireland celebratory event this evening (Thursday) to mark the 40th anniversary of the successful Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. The UK-wide initiative has contributed millions of pounds to the Northern Ireland economy over the years and has become one of the largest graduate recruitment programmes across the UK.

Since 1993 Queen’s University has collaborated on 350 successful KTPs, leading to careers for 400 KTP Associates and generating £350m in increased profits for the Northern Irish businesses involved. In the process, 700 jobs have been created, representing an investment in plant and machinery of £67m. 

Benefits to the University and its researchers from the long-term-collaboration with industry have included new opportunities to research and develop solutions to real-world problems, with associated spin-off benefits in the publication of hundreds of research papers and articles.

KTP at Queen’s has become the standard-bearer for the whole of the UK. Queen’s consistently tops the UK league table for both quantity and quality of University KTP projects, in spite of our comparatively small regional size and pool of businesses. There have been 13 national awards In Northern Ireland, for our partnerships, our academics and our KTP Associates.

In the 40th year of KTP, this special anniversary event will see the mobilisation of KTP Ambassadors from among our KTP Associate Alumni from across Northern Ireland and further afield.  Short presentations will be given to share what KTP has meant to graduates and business-people and the effect it has had on their company or subsequent career.

Among the distinguished guests will be Jeremy Fitch of Invest NI and Mike Biddle from Innovate UK – the main funders for the KTP initiative in Northern Ireland. 

Invest NI contributes £1.4m annually into KTP projects, delivered by Queen's University, Ulster University and the FE Colleges, which are typically co-funded equally by Innovate UK.

Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI's Executive Director of Business Solutions, said: “Over the 40 years, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have offered businesses access to highly innovative support which has helped these firms to become stronger and more competitive. Collaboration is a key part of the success of our knowledge base. The contribution KTPs are making to our future economic prosperity is clear. Invest NI will continue to encourage local companies to embrace innovation and take advantage of the benefits of KTP.”

Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University, is a longtime supporter of KTP.  He will be hosting the celebratory evening and, having participated in the KTP initiative, is well placed to share his insights into its successes over the years.  Professor Jones said: “Anyone involved in a KTP project in Northern Ireland, past or present, can be proud of its contribution.  Our small region is extremely successful in KTPS nationally, hosting about 7% all UK KTPs over the 40 years. And there is much more to come!’

For more information regarding KTPs at Queen’s University Belfast please contact KTP Manager Lorraine Marks l.marks@qub.ac.uk or Tel 028 9097 3970

For more media information please contact Queen's University Communications Officer Una Bradley u.bradley@qub.ac.uk or Tel 028 90097 5384

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Queen’s researchers suggest almost half of children in care in NI have behavioural difficulties

According to a new report by researchers at Queen’s, and based on a sample of 233 Looked After Children and Young People (LACYP) in Northern Ireland, almost half of children in care in Northern Ireland have behavioural difficulties.

The report, carried out by researchers from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, has been funded by the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.  The three-year study looked at the mental and physical health of LACYP in Northern Ireland and how the care system meets their needs.

Entitled ‘Mind your Health – the physical and mental health of looked after children and young people in Northern Ireland’, the report highlights the health challenges faced by these children and young people, how these are currently being addressed and what improvements might be made.

It is estimated that there are around 2,800 LACYP in Northern Ireland.

This is the first report of its kind to systematically assess the types of health problems that LACYP in Northern Ireland experience, and the range of initiatives being undertaken to improve health outcomes.

The research team reviewed policy and practice documents and also carried out interviews with health professionals, including senior social workers, as well as carers and young people themselves.

Key findings include:

  • 40 per cent of LACYP had been diagnosed with behavioural problems; 35 per cent with emotional problems and 21 per cent with depression or anxiety;
  • One third were suffering from a longstanding illness or disability;
  • Young people living in residential care had a much more negative health profile than those living in foster or kinship care;
  • Despite the levels of behavioural and emotional problems, most carers considered the children and young people to be ‘healthy’; indicating that notions of health tend to be physically orientated;
  • Some LACYP had difficulties in accessing the services they needed, due to a range of issues including long waiting lists; lack of availability in local areas; difficulties in accessing the appropriate service and a lack of available information;
  • Gaps in service provision were identified, with some having to do with lack of resources and capacity issues;
  • Some positive factors were identified as currently helping to meet the children’s health needs including: priority status for LACYP in their referral to particular services; professional co-operation; placement stability and well supported foster placements; and support services from statutory and voluntary organisations.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the development of bespoke statutory guidance for Northern Ireland. Similar guidance is currently available in England.  This would clarify the roles and responsibilities of Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts and voluntary organisations in relation to health promotion and assist a range of professionals involved to efficiently and effectively meet the health needs of this vulnerable group.

Other recommendations include:

  • Greater support for foster families to avoid breakdown in placements, especially when children have complex needs; and
  • Greater emphasis to be placed on prevention, targeting vulnerable parents on the edge of care, and early intervention, including early screening of children entering care to pick up emotional vulnerabilities, or providing support to carers during the teenage years when relationships begin to come under strain.

Lead researcher and psychologist, Dr Dominic McSherry, said: “This research is first and foremost about understanding the health needs of LACYP in Northern Ireland, and highlighting ways that these can be addressed to ensure their future health and wellbeing.

“These children and young people receive limited attention in health services research, even though their poor health potentially impacts on a whole range of outcomes, including educational and economic achievement, quality of life, and future parenting. Furthermore, health problems can place significant strain on placements and lead to placement breakdowns, which itself can be emotionally costly for the young people and the families involved.

“The research we carry out at Queen’s is not just academic – it’s for the benefit of the individual and the wider community. As a University we want to make sure that our findings are used in order to make a difference to the quality of life for Looked After Children and Young People in Northern Ireland by informing legislation, policy and practice. To their credit, the NI government and Health and Social Care Board have begun to invest significantly in prevention and early intervention programmes, and in the provision of therapeutic services for LACYP, but this commitment needs to be continued and built upon”.

Co-researcher and sociologist, Dr Montserrat Fargas Malet said: “Improving the health outcomes for this vulnerable group has the potential to considerably reduce social services and government expenditure, as children in care are 10 times more likely to be excluded from school; four times more likely to be unemployed; 50 times more likely to be sent to prison and 60 times more likely to become homeless.”

Professor Panos Vostanis, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Leicester, and who was a member of the study advisory group, said: “This excellent research is the most comprehensive piece of evidence to date on the links between policy, services and practice in meeting the complex needs of looked after children.  Taking into consideration the recommendations, this report will help improve the physical and mental health care of this vulnerable young population in the health and welfare system of many countries.”

The report, 'Mind your health – The Physical and Mental Health of Looked After ‘Children and Young People in Northern Ireland is available here: http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/index/equality-and-strategy/equalityresearch/research-publications/esn-pubs/equality-publications-2015.html


For media inquiries please contact Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thu-Fri) at Queen's University Communications Office T: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s Researchers Launch Telehealth Survey

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have been commissioned to carry out an evaluation of the Telemonitoring NI telehealth service which helps patients become more involved in their own care.

The research involves asking patients who have received the service in the past or are at present using the telehealth home-monitoring equipment, to complete short questionnaires on how they ‘got on with’ the service.  A number of patients will also be invited to join focus groups to discuss their experience of the service with a researcher.

Telehealth involves the patient monitoring themselves at home and the results being made available to healthcare professionals via an automated telephone linkage. For example, if a patient has unstable blood pressure or problems with blood sugar levels, as can be the case in diabetes, he/she will take vital signs measurements using monitoring devices installed in their home. These readings are then sent automatically to a monitoring centre where they are reviewed by a team of nurses. If required the nurse will contact the patient’s healthcare professional to make them aware of any issues and to allow them to take appropriate action (see www.telemonitoringni.info<http://www.telemonitoringni.info> for more details).

The service was set up in December 2011 by Centre for Connected Health & Social Care (CCHSC) based in the Public Health Agency, working in partnership with the five Health and Social Care Trusts and TF3, and over the intervening period has been used by over 4,000 patients in Northern Ireland.  The new research is looking at the value of the service to patients and healthcare professionals and at any improvements that could be implemented within the service.

Professor James McElnay, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's who is leading the research, said: “The telehealth approach has the potential to not only involve patients in the monitoring of their own health but can also help ensure that extra care, if needed, can be provided to patients based on measurements taken by them in their own home. The aim of our research is to measure the impact of this new service and to gather information on any improvements that can be made to the system in the future.”

Mr Billy McMurray, from Bangor, County Down met with the research team and explained how the technology gave him the confidence to self-manage his diabetes. Billy was on the Telehealth service for six months after he was first prescribed insulin in 2013. During this time he monitored his blood sugar levels at home using the telehealth equipment. Billy indicated that the telehealth service gave him reassurance as a ‘new patient’ on insulin.

The researchers are hoping for a good response from current and past users of the service so that the research findings are as comprehensive as possible and can really inform new developments. Mr Eddie Ritson, Programme Director for CCHSC, said: “We are very excited about the research being undertaken by Professor McElnay and his team. We really want to hear from users how the telehealth service is working and the patient voice is very important in this regard.  I am confident that current and past users as well as their carers will want to fully engage with the study and provide this important feedback.”

The study is ongoing. If you are a current or past user of the telehealth service, look out for that envelope coming through the door inviting you to have your say.  Your advice and feedback will help shape future services for other patients across Northern Ireland.

For more information contact Queen's Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 02890973087

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