08 -2008 Press Releases

An adventure in performing arts at Queen's

Students from Queen’s unique MA Interdisciplinary Arts course will showcase their work during a performance at the University on Friday 29 August.

Anna Newell, Director of the Centre for Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts at Queen’s, said: "Four very different pieces of work by four students emerging from the very first year of our MA Interdisciplinary Arts course will be on show. The performances include an interactive installation that explores art and faith, an exhibition showing the journey of a project during which the artist created performances for solo audience members, a contemporary dance piece, and a video and photography installation.

“The performance will begin in the Foyer of Queen’s Film Theatre at 2.30pm on Friday, from where audience members will be led to a series of venues in and around Queen’s. “The MA in Interdisciplinary Arts brings together students from across a range of arts disciplines, who undertake modules in core subjects such as drama, film studies and music.

“The unique part of the course is that all the students are brought together for a series of ‘Adventures’. Students are asked to meet at a specific location - maybe on campus, or maybe in an old disused building or an open space - where they are presented with their Adventure. This might involve putting together a performance piece, an installation, a recording or a piece of creative writing.

“Led by arts industry experts, the students are encouraged to use their imagination, think outside their normal sphere of thought, collaborate under pressure and generally cope with being thrown out of their comfort zone. Although Arts based, it helps them develop the skills necessary for any career path.

“Audience members at Friday’s performance will also be able to watch a documentary about the innovative Adventures modules that are an integral part of this MA experience. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in doing the MA Interdisciplinary Arts to find out more about the course and experience some of its outcomes."

Entry to the performances is free of charge but tickets should be reserved with Juliana Licinic on 028 9097 5034 or by emailing j.licinic@qub.ac.uk.

For more information on the MA Interdisciplinary Arts visit www.qub.ac.uk/cecpa

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 5320, a.watson@qub.ac.uk , 07814 415 451.

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Caesarean babies more likely to develop diabetes

Babies delivered by Caesarean section have a 20 per cent higher risk than normal deliveries of developing the most common type of diabetes in childhood, according to a study led by Queen's.

The team, led by Dr Chris Cardwell and Dr Chris Patterson, examined 20 published studies from 16 countries including around 10,000 children with Type 1 diabetes and over a million control children.

They found a 20 per cent increase in the risk of children born by Caesarean section developing the disease. The increase could not be explained by factors such as birth weight, the age of the mother, order of birth, gestational diabetes and whether the baby was breast-fed or not, all factors associated with childhood diabetes in previous studies.

Dr Cardwell, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: "This study revealed a consistent 20 per cent increase in the risk of Type 1 diabetes. It is important to stress that the reason for this is still not understood. It is possible that children born by Caesarean section differ from other children with respect to some unknown characteristic which consequently increases their risk of diabetes, but it is also possible that Caesarean section itself is responsible.

“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, and one theory suggests that being born by Caesarean section may affect the development of the immune system because babies are first exposed to bacteria originating from the hospital environment rather than to maternal bacteria.”

Dr Chris Patterson said: “The study findings are interesting, but unless a biological mechanism is established it would be unwise to read too much into this association between Caesarean section delivery and diabetes.

“Fortunately figures from the Northern Ireland Type 1 diabetes register indicate that only around five per 1,0000 children will develop diabetes by their 15th birthday so a 20 per cent increase is on quite a low baseline risk.”

Diabetes is a serious condition that, if not managed, can lead to fatal complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and amputations. There are 2.3 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes and 250,000 with Type 1 diabetes. In Northern Ireland over 62,000 people have diabetes, 6,000 of them with Type 1 diabetes.

Around one in four babies in Northern Ireland are delivered by Caesarean section, which is significantly higher that the World Health Organisation’s recommended rate of 15 per cent.

Iain Foster, Director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, said: "Not all women have the choice of whether to have a Caesarean section or not, but those who do may wish to take this risk into consideration before choosing to give birth this way.

"We already know that genetics and childhood infections play a vital role in the development of Type 1 diabetes in children, but the findings of this study indicate that the way a baby is delivered could affect how likely it is to develop this condition later in life. Diabetes UK Northern Ireland would welcome more research in this area."

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Escape the bad weather with Open Learning at Queen's

If you are fed up with the rain and the floods, check out Queen’s University’s Open Learning courses for tips on how to escape to the sunshine and leave Northern Ireland’s wet summers behind.

There is a range of short part-time courses on offer for travel enthusiasts, or anyone who just wants to get away from it all. Beat the credit crunch with Travel on the Internet, which provides useful tips on how to find cheap flights and bargain hotels online, and learn how to make the most of your next holiday with Stress-free Holidays: Planning your Vacation. Or if you fancy yourself as the next Michael Palin, why not try the Literary Travel Writing course.
 
These are just some of over 300 courses on offer through Queen’s Open Learning Programme during autumn and winter 2008/2009. Courses range from popular options in languages, art, music and literature, to more unusual courses such as Understanding the Stockmarket, Irish Ceili Dancing and Who is Jesus?

As America prepares to elect its 44th President, another new course explores what it takes to win the race for the Whitehouse.

As the battle between John McCain and Barack Obama reaches its height, So you want to be President? allows you to find out more about the electoral process and exactly what happens on the campaign trail. The ten-week course begins at the end of September and will still be running when Americans go to the polls on 4 November. 

Dr Tess Maginess from Queen’s School of Education said: "Queen’s Open Learning programme has something to suit everyone, regardless of their interests or abilities. Our courses usually take place one day or evening every week and are ideal for anyone who wants to pursue a new hobby, learn more about a topic in which they have a particular interest, or advance their personal development.

“There are dozens of courses in languages, philosophy, religion, history, law, leisure and counselling, to name a few.

"Music enthusiasts can learn about concertos, symphonies and operas or learn to play guitar, whilst Defining Moments in Fifty Years of Rock, Pop and Soul examines the development of popular music culture and gives people the opportunity to discuss and play their favourite tunes.

"Those who want to be able to chat with friends online can learn more about social networking and blogging and how to use this to share interests and keep in touch with friends in far-flung places.

“Anyone with an interest in Irish history might be interested in 1916: A Terrible Beauty is Born? which looks at the key events of that year, from the Easter Rising in Dublin to the Battle of the Somme, whilst followers of current affairs should consider The Battle for Palestine, which explores the Palestine/Israel conflict.

“Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way, teaches the real-life psychological techniques behind Jedi mind tricks, and examines the wider issues behind the Star Wars universe, like balance, destiny, dualism, fatherhood and fascism. This course is a must for all Star Wars enthusiasts, although light sabres are not provided!

“Queen’s Open Learning courses are open to everyone of all interests and abilities. You don’t need any ‘ologies’ or prior qualifications to enrol and we are always pleased to welcome new learners. Whilst many of our courses take place at Queen’s, others run in towns across Northern Ireland.

“Aside from its Open Learning Programme, Queen’s also offers a range of part-time courses, from certificates to post-graduate degrees, aimed at those people who want to gain a university qualification but don’t have the time or resources to invest in full-time education. The School of Education offers more than 40 courses at all levels across a wide range of areas, from Management and Human Resources, to Community Development and Counselling."
 
To find out more about Queen’s Open Learning Programme or part-time courses, visit www.qub.ac.uk/edu or call 028 9097 3323 or 3539.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 5320, a.watson@qub.ac.uk , 07814 415 451.

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Zen master returns to Belfast to share key to life
Zen master Ruyshin Paul Hellar, who is originally from Belfast
Zen master Ruyshin Paul Hellar, who is originally from Belfast

One of the world’s foremost Buddhist teachers is returning to his home town of Belfast this weekend to give a unique insight into the practice of Zen.

Ryushin Paul Haller, who is originally from West Belfast, is Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Centre. He will deliver two public talks at Queen’s University on Saturday 23 August. He is also the guest teacher at the Black Mountain Zen Centre in Belfast.

Dr Paul Doran from the School of Law at Queen’s, who helped organise the event, said: “Paul Haller is one of the world’s leading Zen masters and is the only senior Buddhist teacher to have been born and raised in Northern Ireland.

“Zen is a school of Buddhism. Zen meditation helps us to look inside ourselves for enlightenment and understand the meaning of life. Although associated with Buddhism, Zen techniques are compatible with other faiths and are often used by Christians, for example, who are seeking a mystical understanding of their faith.

“Whilst the essence of Zen is to try to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought, language or words, Zen was popularized in the West by writers and poets who translated the great works of East Asian literature.

“During his talks at Queen’s, Ryushin Hellar will explore the function of literature in relation to Zen and how poetry may convey meaning beyond words. He will also provide a unique insight into the role of Zen meditation in everyday life, in reducing stress, for example."

Ryushin Paul Haller’s talks will take place at the Institute of Governance at Queen’s, 63 University Road, Belfast on Saturday 23 August. Meditation and Everyday Life: Stress Reduction and the Art of Mindful Living (10am-1pm) and The Zen of Poetry: Zen Meditation and the Poetics of Waking Up (2-5pm).

Although there is no entrance fee, the organisers have suggested a donation of £20 for one talk, of £30 for both by those people receiving a wage, and £10 for one talk or £15 for both for those who are not receiving a wage.

For more information please contact Dr Peter Doran on 028 9097 3474 or email pfdoran@hotmail.com

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 5320, a.watson@qub.ac.uk , 07814 415 451.

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The future of music unveiled at Queen's

Artists, researchers, and engineers involved in designing the mp3 players of the future, new musical instruments and the most sophisticated surround sound systems will discuss their work at Queen’s University Belfast next week.

Over 350 of the world’s leading figures in music technology will be at the university for International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) which is seen as the industry’s most important gathering.

During one of the events open to the public musicians in Belfast will link up with their counterparts on the east and west coasts of America to play a live show together across the internet.

The Roots Ensemble, who will play at the Whitla Hall, will feature in a three way network performance with the Tintinabulate in New York and SoundWire in California on Thursday 28 August at 7pm.

The show is just one part of the conference which is taking place at Queen’s from August 24 to 29, featuring over 260 works. The Roots Ensemble has been formed especially for the event and comprises world-class new music specialists and Irish traditional musicians led by saxophonist, Franziska Schroeder.

It's the first time the ICMC has been held on the island of Ireland in its 32 year history. It is being hosted by the Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music and the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s.

Conference chair, Professor Michael Alcorn, Head of the School of Music and Sonic Arts, said: "Each year the International Computer Music Conference brings together many of the world's leading figures in the music technology field to share research ideas and new ways of making music.

“We are delighted to host this event at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University which is now recognised as one of the leading centres in the world for such work.

"Although SARC's initial research work has been focused on audio technologies, we are now looking at new areas such as emotion and the sensation of touch, and how they relate to music. We also look at how emotion and touch could feed into research into new devices for gaming and multimedia.

“This conference provides us with an ideal opportunity to showcase our own work and the attractiveness of Belfast as a destination for students from overseas".

The meeting is one of the events being held to mark Queen’s Centenary year and has attracted delegates from as far afield as Australia, Japan, Korea, North and South America as well as all over Europe.

The term computer music covers a huge range of music that is created or performed using new technology - from improvisation on laptops, building new instruments and writing interactive pieces for computers to turntabling and audio for gaming.

The theme of the conference is Roots/Routes, exploring where the roots of new music lie and what new routes musicians and creative artists can explore using new technology. The opening concert of Sonorities on Sunday (24 August) in the Whitla Hall, which also features the new Roots Ensemble, is open to the public and starts at 7pm.

Tickets are also available for an event in the Mandela Hall in Queen’s Students’ Union on Wednesday (27 August), featuring master Persian percussionist Mahammed Ghavi Helm on the traditional zarb drum, which is carved from a walnut log, with live electronics. Swarmius from California, who describe their music as ‘sonic fusion of hip-hop, house-loungue techno meets modern-classical’ will also feature. The event is at 10.30pm.

Tickets for most events can be bought at the door but can also be reserved via Marian Hanna at m.hanna@qub.ac.uk or 9097 4829.

For more information about the conference go to www.icmc2008.net/

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit, 028 9097 5391, Mob 07980 013 362, a.clements@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's chemist designs new 'catch-and-tell' molecules
Professor AP De Silva
Professor AP De Silva

A Queen’s scientist, whose research is now used worldwide in blood analysing equipment, has made another important discovery.

Recently announced as the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Sensors Award for 2008, Professor A. Prasanna de Silva, has created ‘intelligent’ molecules.

The discovery is based on previous pioneering research by Professor De Silva and his colleagues at Queen’s, which created ‘catch and tell’ sensor molecules that send out light signals when they catch chemicals in blood.

That technology helped create blood diagnostic cassettes which have achieved sales of over $50 million worldwide. Used in hospitals, ambulances and veterinary offices the cassettes are used to quickly monitor blood for levels of common salt components such as sodium, potassium and calcium.

Now, an extension of the same design has developed molecules which can act as simple ‘logic gates’: more complex versions of which are what drive current computers.

Some of the new molecules made at Queen’s can add small numbers, while others developed by US colleagues can play games likes tic-tac-toe and win against human opponents. New research at Queen’s also shows they can also be used as ‘ID tags’ for very small objects the size of biological cells.

Explaining about how the new discovery could be used, Professor De Silva, who is a Chair of Organic Chemistry at Queen’s, said: “So far, our fluorescent sensor technology has been used in blood diagnostic cassettes worldwide. If, for example, you have an accident and need blood, an ambulance crew can analyse your blood at the scene and tell the A&E Unit to arrange for a certain type of blood with the necessary salt levels ready at the hospital for your arrival.”

“Now, we have extended our sensor designs and discovered other possible uses. One such use could be as an ID tag for cells in an epidemic, such as a bird-flu outbreak. From a population, our sensor molecules could help track infection and highlight vulnerable people.

“Also, as logic gates are what drive current computers, molecular versions of these gates open very interesting possibilities. The ID tags example is the first of these applications of molecular logic gates which tackle problems that current computing devices cannot. Another one is a ‘lab-on-a-molecule’ system which combines several lab tests with a rudimentary diagnosis without human intervention.

“It is exciting to think that these tiny molecules can perform small-scale computational operations in spaces where semiconductors cannot go in spite of all their power.”

The 2008 RSC Sensors Award is sponsored by GE Healthcare (a unit of General Electric Company). Professor De Silva’s award consists of a silver medal and a prize of £500. It is given biannually for chemical input into the design of novel sensors or novel applications of existing sensors.

Further information on the area of Organic Chemistry at Queen’s can be found at http://www.ch.qub.ac.uk/index.html

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's University reveals plans for Ireland's first x-ray laser
Professors Ciaran Lewis (left) and Bill Graham (right) in the Plasma Physics Lab
Professors Ciaran Lewis (left) and Bill Graham (right) in the Plasma Physics Lab

More than 25 years ago it took a nuclear explosion under the Nevada desert to power the world’s first X-ray laser. Now, Queen’s is set to unveil recent progress towards producing the first ever functioning X-ray laser in Ireland.

The research report will be presented during an international conference on X-ray lasers at Queen’s this week. It has attracted leading scientists from the world’s major high-power laser laboratories who will be able to view the new sophisticated laser system at the University.

The new X-ray laser will be powered by another optical laser in Queen’s, which is one of the most powerful optical lasers available in any University laboratory worldwide.

Four hundred times more powerful than the entire UK National Grid when in operation, it is known as TARANIS, (Terawatt Apparatus for Relativistic and Nonlinear Interdisciplinary Science). Named after the European Celtic god of thunder and lightning, it relies on a very powerful infra-red laser system which has been recently installed within the Centre for Plasma Physics at Queen’s.

Both laser systems will enable Queen’s researchers to attract and build a level of expertise in the general area of plasma physics, previously beyond the reach of an in-house university scale research programme in the UK.

Explaining the importance of the two laser systems, Professor Ciaran Lewis from Queen’s Centre for Plasma Physics said: “The need for an increased effort in plasma physics research and for more trained plasma physicists is driven by the expanding use of plasmas in a wide range of applications in industry, including the effort to determine if laser-produced nuclear fusion can provide for the world’s post-oil power needs”.

“Plasmas are the ‘fourth state of matter’, along with gases, liquids and solids. In fact 99 per cent of the observable Universe, including the stars we see in the sky, is in the plasma state. X-ray lasers can be used to probe and diagnose very dense plasma conditions of the type, for example, anticipated in the core of fuel pellets compressed by powerful optical lasers. It is tremendously exciting that Queen’s laser systems are now capable of carrying out world-leading experiments involving laser-plasma interactions in extreme conditions.

“Highlighting these two new systems to our international research colleagues will ensure Queen’s Centre for Plasma Physics and its researchers remain to the fore of global breakthroughs in the area of high energy density physics. We are anticipating many new international collaborations.”

Over 30 invited speakers from countries including China, USA, Japan, Korea, Russia, France and Germany will cover recent experimental and theoretical developments in the field at the conference. Further information on the 11th International Conference on X-Ray Lasers can be found online at www.qub.ac.uk/XRL2008
 
For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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Worms under the microscope at Queen's
A microscopic image of a parasitic worm
A microscopic image of a parasitic worm

Leaders in the field of microscopy from across Ireland will meet at Queen’s this week to discuss exciting new developments in technology which could have a huge impact on public health.

The Microscopical Society of Ireland’s 32nd Annual Symposium takes place from 20 to 22 August in the School of Biological Sciences in the Medical Biology Centre.

It aims to inform, educate and support those who use any form of microscopy in their work, whether in the field of academia or industry.

Among the speakers will be Professor Aaron Maule, a professor of Molecular Parasitology in the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s.

Professor Maule has recently been awarded the Bueding-von Brand Award from the American Society of Parasitologists in Texas. He was praised for “his outstanding contribution and scientific discoveries in the field of novel drug target research in helminth parasites”.

His presentation on Friday will examine bioimaging as a tool to probe worm biology. 

Also speaking at the conference will be Professor Paul Verkade, from the University of Bristol, a well known expert in cryomicroscopy - a technique which combines the dynamic images of the light microscope with the high resolution of the electron microscope. When it is used with a high pressure freezing technique, it allows scientists to see intracellular processes.

Professor Versake will focus on New tools for Correlative Light Electron Microscopy.

The relationship between art and science will be investigated by Deidre Robson from St Mary’s University College in Belfast in her seminar, What’s Art Got to Do with Science? The Leonardo Effect.

The Society’s President Dr Gerry Brennan, who is based in the School of Biological Sciences, said:  “There are some exciting developments in the field of microscopy which could have a huge impact in public health, including the development of three dimensional, ultrastructural imaging which will help interpret, more accurately, processes taking place inside the cell.

“The symposium provides an excellent forum for young researchers to present their data at a conference and we’re delighted it’s being held at Queen’s.”

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Queen's lecturer honoured by Duke of Edinburgh
Dr Wasif Naeem receives the Michael Richey Medal from HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh
Dr Wasif Naeem receives the Michael Richey Medal from HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

A Queen’s University Belfast engineering lecturer has been awarded a medal by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for his work on the use of driverless vehicles in combating climate change.

Dr Wasif Naeem’s work focused on aerial and marine based vehicles which can monitor the environment, and detect chemical discharges and explosive weapons without jeopardising human life.

Dr Naeem was judged to have co-authored the best article of the year in the Journal of Navigation, a world-renowned academic publication. He received the Michael Richey Medal, named after the founding director of the Institute.

Dr Naeem’s paper discusses multi-robot approaches where the task of tracing chemical discharges over a large area can be carried out using a form of artificial intelligence called swarm intelligence. Bionics in the vehicles also carry out investigations by mimicking the techniques of animals, including moths, blue crabs and lobsters, hunting for food.

The Royal Institute of Navigation’s Director, Group Captain David Broughton, said the RIN Council was delighted to award this year’s top prize to Dr Naeem and his Plymouth-based co-authors Professor Robert Sutton and Dr John Chudley.

He added: “The Michael Richey Medal is a symbol of academic excellence, intellectual rigour, the practical application of navigation research, and the best endeavour in the field of navigation science.

“Since the Journal of Navigation is the Institute’s world-renowned peer-reviewed academic publication, it carries the Institute’s academic honour around the globe.”

Dr Naeem, 32, who is based in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s, explained why his research was important in terms of finding out more about climate change.

 “Unmanned vehicles can navigate hazardous places to monitor the environment. Our eventual aim from this paper is to develop our own software to be installed on an unmanned marine vehicle. We hope it will be possible to guide the vehicle by chemicals found in the water.”

Further information on the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s can be found at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/eeecs/

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362, a.clements@qub.ac.uk

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Travellers still face barriers to full participation in society
Dr Rory O'Connell (left) and Prof Colin Harvey (right) pictured with Joanna Dominiczak (left) and Eman Ezzaouia
Dr Rory O'Connell (left) and Prof Colin Harvey (right) pictured with Joanna Dominiczak (left) and Eman Ezzaouia

Travellers and the Roma minority still face barriers to full participation in society, according to an academic from Queen’s University Belfast.

Dr Rory O’Connell, from Queen’s Human Rights Centre, was speaking as he welcomed students from across Europe and further afield for an international summer school on the theme of Minorities and Participation.

The School is organised by the Utrecht Network, which brings together 33 universities from 28 countries, for human rights-based learning and discussion.

Queen’s is the first University to host the Utrecht School in the United Kingdom.

Dr O’Connell said: “Some of the brightest young minds across Europe have arrived at Queen’s to discuss some of the burning issues in Human Rights. In Northern Ireland we are currently experiencing regular crises over the functioning of power-sharing institutions at Stormont and women are still seriously under-represented in our political and judicial institutions.

“European society also needs to address questions about the integration of immigrant communities and we know Travellers still face barriers to full participation in our society.

“Travellers face discrimination in employment and society, and continuing disadvantage in education and accommodation.

“Research by the ESRI on health conditions in the 1980s showed that life expectancy among Travellers was more than a decade less than among the sedentary population, while infant mortality was twice as high. Despite improvements since then, Travellers, like Roma across Europe, still face discrimination, disadvantage, and naked prejudice. 

“These topics and more involving the themes of minorities and participation will be discussed over the coming days and the discussions will form the basis for much valuable future research in the area.”

The results of one such research project will be revealed at Queen’s tonight, when a new book, The tension between Group Rights and Human Rights, is launched. Edited by Koen De Feyter and George Pavlakos, formerly of Queen’s School of Law, the book also features contributions from Dr Rory O’Connell and fellow Queen’s academic Dr Jean Allain.

Professor Colin Harvey, Head of the School of Law and Director of the Human Rights Centre, said: "I am delighted to welcome this international summer school to Queen's. It is particularly encouraging to see students from throughout the world coming to study here.

“The School of Law has strong links with the Utrecht Network and we are very pleased to host this event in Belfast this year. The themes are timely and welcome and we hope that international connections made will be built upon."

Full details of the Summer School, which finishes on Saturday, can be found online at www.undiac.eu

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's students scoop UK awards for engineering designs
Dylan Carleton, Robert Best, Chris Turner, David Shanks, John Orr and Caroline Newe
Dylan Carleton, Robert Best, Chris Turner, David Shanks, John Orr and Caroline Newe

An award-winning design by a group of Queen’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering students could help both wheelchair users and bus companies.

The group of six called TranStow has won the top prize of £2,000 in the Royal Academy of Engineering Student Design Poster Competition for their Retract-a-Seat, a device intended to make travelling on high-floor buses easier for wheelchair users.

Currently wheelchair users need to give bus companies 24 hours notice before travelling on high floor buses. During this time, four bus seats are removed to create the legally required space for the wheelchair.

The system deters many from taking public transport as they don’t always know they need to travel a day in advance. It also means that the bus company cannot use the four seats which are removed for the rest of the day.

But TranStow have come up with an idea that means a double seat retracts to make room for the wheelchair. The bases of two seats flip up, allowing a hatch to be opened while the Retract-a-Seat folds backwards into a compartment below the floor. The hatch is then lowered and locked into position to create a surface on which to park the wheelchair.

The Retract-a-Seat works in partnership with a wheelchair lift, allowing the user to enter through a separate side door. The whole process takes just one minute and can be operated by one member of staff.

Thirty-one universities across the UK took part in the competition submitting 48 posters, which were judged by a panel of Academy Fellows and Visiting Professors.

The group consists of Robert Best (Templepatrick, Co Antrim), Dylan Carleton (Drum, Co.Monaghan), Caroline Newe (Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry), John Orr (Rathfriland, Co Down), David Shanks (Tandragee, Co Armagh), and Chris Turner from (Bangor, Co Down).  All recently graduated from Queen’s but several are returning to complete postgraduate qualifications.

They hope that their design will be become a reality on buses here.

Caroline said: “We really believe that the Retract-a-Seat has tremendous potential as an aid to greater mobility and will make a difference to wheelchair users, bus operators and passengers alike.

“It would not have been possible without input from Translink and Wrightbus and, in particular, the help and assistance provided by staff in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s. The advice and support from staff, both academic and technical proved invaluable throughout the lifetime of the project.”

Another group of Queen’s students was awarded £750 after winning the Integrated System Project category of the competition. The group’s Sea Rescue Device is based on a jetski which is radio controlled from the shore towards the person in distress. On approach the device is remotely activated allowing the buoyancy chambers to fill with gas. This helps slow the vessel and the person can climb on board.

It was designed by Gareth Armstrong, Jonathan Coates, Gavin Davies, Seng Seng Heng, James Ludlow and Mark McIIfatrick.

Professor Perry Armstrong, Director of Education in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said: “The awards reflect the quality of the School’s students, our desire to work closely with local companies and our belief that engineering graduates should be able to conceive, design and build innovative products that meet a social need or a market opportunity.”

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362, a.clements@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's advises A-level students

The Admissions & Access Service at Queen’s University has issued advice to students who will receive their A-level results this week.

The University receives A-level, AS-level and Key Skills results directly from UCAS and candidates do not need to communicate their results to the University.  Students will be contacted if any results appear to be missing. Those who did not take an examination listed on their application, should let the University know, prior to results day, if possible.

Decisions made by Queen’s, the University of Ulster, and Stranmillis University College are posted on a website hosted by Queen’s on the morning of Thursday 14 August and updated twice each day. The website address is www.qub.ac.uk/ucas-decisions.

Details are also published on the UCAS website www.ucas.com although the Queen’s website provides additional information if the decision on an application is pending. It is therefore the quickest and simplest way to find out about the status of an application and clearing vacancies.

Students will be asked for their UCAS application number and, in the case of the UCAS website, their username and password.

Applicants who have met the exact grades or points of their offer for admission should have their place confirmed through UCAS following the publication of results. These applicants do not need to telephone the University or College. The only official notification is sent by UCAS. If accepted, students should respond to the appropriate university as soon as possible following the instructions given in an AS12 letter they will receive.

Those students who have ‘averaged out’ or narrowly missed the grades may still be accepted, although they may have to be patient for a few days. It will depend on the availability of places after the university concerned has accepted all applicants who precisely meet or better the conditions of their offer.  Universities recognise this can be a stressful time and Queen’s makes decisions as quickly as possible.

Queen’s has provided all students holding offers with a Change of Course enquiry slip which should be returned to the University as soon as possible if you want to be considered for an alternative course.  Assuming Queen’s can help, a changed course offer would be made. This is simpler than going through Clearing.

Any student unable to gain admission to either of their choices and who are not offered an acceptable alternative course, will be eligible to participate in the Clearing process.

Details of Clearing vacancies appear in the national press, on www.ucas.com and on university websites.

Make contact with the universities which declare vacancies as soon as possible since Clearing vacancies can disappear fast. As well as Degree courses, HNDs and Foundation Degrees are also available. Students who are still keen to pursue their original course may decide to repeat and reapply for 2009 entry. It is worth checking with the institutions concerned about receiving an offer as a repeat candidate as the entry requirements may be different.

Offering a valuable word of advice, Jennifer Dwyer, Head of Admissions at Queen’s said: “It is important to make decisions sensibly at this time of year and not to accept alternative courses or Clearing places without careful consideration. Try not to panic. Do think seriously about any courses before accepting them. There are people who can help you. Discuss your situation carefully with your parents, your school/college or the Careers Service of the Department for Employment and Learning.”

For those who need to contact the Admissions & Access Service at Queen’s, the telephone number is 028 9097 2757.
Lines are open on Thursday 14 August between 10.00am - 1.00pm and 2.00am - 5.00pm, and on Friday 15 August between 9.30am - 1.00pm and 2.00pm - 5.00pm.

A personal advice session will be held on Monday 18 August in the Whitla Hall
2.00pm - 5.00pm. A separate session for Medical/Dental applicants will also take place in the Larmour Lecture Theatre (Physics Building) at 2.30pm on the same day.

Telephone calls on Tuesday 19, Thursday and Friday 21/22 August will be answered between 2.00pm and 5.00pm on 028 9097 2757.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit on 028 90 97 5310 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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New book aims to help resolve labour disputes
Dr Damien Thomas, Billy Kelleher and Professor Paul Teague
Dr Damien Thomas, Billy Kelleher and Professor Paul Teague

Changes in the labour market across Ireland pose major new challenges for national agencies given responsibility for resolving labour disputes and setting employment standards, according to a new book co-authored by a Queen’s academic.

Professor Paul Teague from Queen’s University Management School and Dr Damien Thomas of Ireland’s National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) carried out a study of the capacities and capabilities of statutory dispute resolution bodies entitled Employment Dispute Resolution and Standard setting in Ireland.

Professor Teague says it will be of particular use in Northern Ireland where the Department of Employment and Learning is carrying out a review into the current workplace dispute resolution arrangements. He will make a presentation to the consultation steering group.

He said: “The book will be able to assist the review in its deliberation because as well as including detail on the dispute resolution system in the Republic of Ireland, it also contains information on innovations to workplace dispute resolution procedures in Canada, Sweden, and the USA.

“It represents the first systematic review of the work of the employment rights and dispute resolution bodies in the Republic of Ireland. It also assesses what reforms need to be introduced to allow these bodies to continue to work effectively in the face of major economic and labour market changes.”

The publication aims to help bodies across Ireland which are involved in employment dispute resolution, including the Labour Relations Commission, the Labour Court, the Equality Tribunal, the Employments Appeals Tribunal, the Labour Inspectorate/ the National Employment Rights Authority and the Health and Safety Authority

Published by Oaktree Press, it is also expected to be useful to students of employment relations and human resources and employment relations practitioners as well as employee representatives, employers and employees.

It was launched by Irish Minister for Labour Affairs, Billy Kelleher, in Dublin recently on behalf of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and the NCPP.

Its key findings were:

  • That a too rapid departure from core activities would detrimentally affect the identity and professional standing of bodies such as the Labour Relations Council, the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal
  • The evolutionary steps being taken in Ireland are as imaginative and as innovative as those happening elsewhere.
  • That there is no one right way to organise publicly-funded and publicly-run dispute resolution agencies
  • It is not advisable to copy something which has been devised to deal with dispute resolution in a different culture or tradition.
  • As employment relations become more legalistic, there is a pressing need for developing complementary measures to assist the parties to develop their capacity to resolve their disputes and to become more self-reliant in complying with those statutory standards.

Chair of the Labour Relations Commission, Maurice Cashell, said: “The Commission is constantly assessing and challenging itself in the field of dispute resolution in order to improve both its range of services and their capacity to inform and instill greater and better employment-based voluntary and mandatory dispute resolution service in Irish private and public service.”

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362, a.clements@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's lecturer top of the class in NI
Professor Brian Whalley, Northern Ireland's only recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship 2008
Professor Brian Whalley, Northern Ireland's only recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship 2008

A Queen’s University academic has come out top of the class in Northern Ireland.

Professor Brian Whalley from Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology is Northern Ireland’s only recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy in 2008.

The £10,000 award, which recognises his outstanding impact on the student learning experience, may be used for his personal or professional development in teaching and learning.

Fifty lecturers were chosen from across education institutions in England and Northern Ireland for the awards, which are funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland (DELNI).

The awards, known as the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS), are part of an overall programme to raise the status of learning and teaching in Higher Education.

Originally from Stockport and now living in Belfast, Professor Whalley has worked at Queen’s since 1975. His time at the University includes eight years as Head of the School of Geography/Geosciences.

It was during his time as Head of School that Professor Whalley developed a specific interest in the enhancement of learning opportunities and experimental teaching. The last 10 years have also seen him adapt various e-learning devices for the very visual subjects of physical geography and geomorphology.

Speaking about his award Professor Whalley said: “I'm naturally very pleased about the award. It is a recognition of designing and implementing student-centred activities from fieldwork to lab-work as much as 'lecturing' in the traditional sense. Classes are several times as large as when I first started at Queen's so providing good learning opportunities for students requires some imagination as well as effort and the use of information technology. I am hoping to use some of the prize to travel to international meetings concerned with teaching and technology.”

Professor Shirley Pearce, Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University and Chair of the Advisory Panel for the Individual Awards, said: “These Fellows represent a diversity of disciplines and specialisms from a wide range of institutions.  Their achievements in promoting excellence in teaching and learning are hugely impressive and of great benefit to students and staff across higher education.”

Professor Whalley will be presented with his award at a ceremony in London on 24 September.

Further information on the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s can be found at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/gap/

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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Visit marks decade of Chinese students in NI
Professor Gerry McCormac and Professor Bigong Zhang
Professor Gerry McCormac and Professor Bigong Zhang

The President of China’s Shenzhen University is in Belfast today to mark ten years since the beginning of one of the first formal programmes to promote Northern Ireland as a destination for Chinese students.

Professor Bigong Zhang will visit Queen’s University to cement a partnership which has seen over 400 Shenzhen students undertake degrees at Queen’s in management or engineering.

Known as the International Joint Foundation Programme, the scheme leads to an International Certificate in Foundation Studies. Queen’s also offers an active staff development programme for visiting academics from Shenzhen who teach on the Joint Foundation Programme.

Professor Gerry McCormac, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Outreach and Economic Development said: “Today Queen’s marks ten years of partnership with Shenzhen University. Professor Zhang was fundamental in establishing the programme with Queen’s, so his visit on the 10th anniversary is warmly welcomed.

“Increasingly education is crossing international boundaries. This is vital in helping to prepare our young people for careers in today’s global economy and in promoting Northern Ireland as a destination for the world’s brightest minds.
 
“Our partnership will continue to be about more than enhancing Shenzhen students’ studies with high quality education in the UK. It is also about sharing knowledge and building sustainable international partnerships which will help to build understanding and create new opportunities for mutual benefit.”

Professor Zhang added: “The ten years of collaboration between our two universities has been successful, fruitful and influential. It has acted as an educational model in China. We hope the next ten years will be a new beginning for a wider range of collaboration.”

Yu Huai Zhang, a student from the Joint foundation Programme who completed a management degree at Queen’s was chosen as the British Council’s International Student of the Year in 2007.

The partnership with Shenzhen is one of a number of international partnerships in operation at Queen’s, in line with the UK government’s Prime Ministers Initiative 2 which is aimed at making the UK a leader in international education.

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's launched today QTV News Story
Barbara Cook
Barbara Cook

 Festival launched at Queen's

Details of this year's Ulster Bank Festival at Queen's have been revealed.

Held over 16 days, with more than 60 events and 500 participants, the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is limbering up for its marathon arts and entertainment Olympics which takes place from 17 October to 1 November.

Festival-goers will be offered the best of international art and Northern Ireland's rich and vibrant cultural scene, from theatre, dance and opera to rock, comedy and the visual arts.

Film legend Ennio Morricone will open this year's Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's on 17 October. Other highlights include Cherie Blair and Broadway diva Barbara Cook, Footsbarn Theatre with a riotous A Midsummer Night's Dream, 70s superstar Gilbert O’Sullivan, brilliant reworkings of Antigone by Owen McCafferty for Prime Cut and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by The Corn Exchange, premiere visits by choreographers Michael Clark and Wayne McGregor, top class classical music, jazz, comedy, literature, folk and everything in-between!

Speaking at the festival’s programme launch, Graeme Farrow, Festival Director, said "We’re raising our game this year and beyond thanks to welcome increased investment. We aim to provide the best total arts experience in Ireland. When you read through the programme ask yourself where else you might find such an incredible array of local, national and international talent. Edinburgh maybe, but where else? This festival is an annual arts and entertainment Olympics. There is so much to enjoy and I would urge audiences to try on something new for size alongside the household names."

Cormac McCarthy, Chief Executive, Ulster Bank Group said; "Ulster Bank is proud of its investment in the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's which enables us to bring arts events of the highest calibre to the city of Belfast and beyond. This year's festival offers audiences access to an exciting programme of both Irish and international talent."

Rosemary Kelly, Chairman of the Arts Council, said "The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, as the main public funder of the Festival and its longest running partner, is pleased to support the new programme for 2008. The Festival is a highlight of Belfast’s cultural calendar, attracting visitors from across Northern Ireland to the city, and an excellent example of the major contribution that the arts make to our social, creative and economic life."

For further information please contact: Catharina Hendrick, Belfast Festival at Queen's Press Officer, 028 9097 1356, c.hendrick@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's researchers provide solution to world's worst mass poisoning case
Arsenic treatment system
Arsenic treatment system
Bhaskar Sen Gupta
Bhaskar Sen Gupta

A solution to the world’s worst case of ongoing mass poisoning, linked to rising cancer rates in Southern Asia, has been developed by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

Currently over 70 million people in Eastern India and Bangladesh, experience involuntary arsenic exposure from consuming water and rice; the main staple food in the region. This includes farmers who have to use contaminated groundwater from minor irrigation schemes.

It is estimated that for every random sample of 100 people in the Bengal Delta, at least one person will be near death as a result of arsenic poisoning, while five in 100 will be experiencing other symptoms.

Now, researchers at the Belfast-based University have created new low-cost technology to provide arsenic-free water to millions of people in South Asia currently exposed to high levels of the poison in groundwater.

Leading an international team, Queen’s researchers have developed a trial plant in Kasimpore, near Calcutta, which offers chemical-free groundwater treatment technology to rural communities for all their drinking and farming needs.

The technology is based on recharging a part of the groundwater, after aeration, into a subterranean aquifer (permeable rock) able to hold water. Increased levels of oxygen in the groundwater slow down the arsenic release from the soil. At higher dissolved oxygen levels, soil micro organisms, as well as iron and manganese, reduce the dissolved arsenic level significantly.

Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta of Queen’s, co-ordinator of the project said: “Arsenic poisoning is behind many instances of ill-health in Southern Asia, including a rising number of cancer cases. Developing a low cost method of decontaminating ground water that is laced with high levels of arsenic is a key challenge for sustainable agriculture there.

“While there are some techniques available for treating relatively small quantities of water, there has, until now, been no viable technology available for decontaminating groundwater on a large scale that can ensure safe irrigation and potable water supply.

“This project developed by Queen’s is the only method which is eco-friendly, easy to use and deliverable to the rural community user at an affordable cost.”

The project is part of the EU-funded Asia Pro Eco Programme which is dedicated to the improvement of environmental performance in Asian economic sectors. Known as TiPOT (Technology for in-situ treatment of groundwater for potable and irrigation purposes), a key part of the project is the establishment of sustainable technology partnerships.

Explaining further, Dr Sen Gupta said: “From its inception we have had the vital support of Indian-based stakeholders, such as village councils and local financial institutions. This has been vital as they are the authorities who monitor the water supply and distribution in rural areas and provide micro-credit to the local farmers.

“With their help, we now have a solution which is transferable to many areas in need across Asia.”

The new plant will be maintained and operated by local village technicians. To help apply the technology to other areas in the South Asian region, the World Bank has given a grant of $200,000 to the TIPOT consortium to set up six more subterranean water treatment plants in the Gangetic plains of West Bengal. In June 2008, Queen’s along with the Indian partners BESU and IEMS won the prestigious DELPHE award of the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/delphe.htm) to set up another treatment plant and run awareness programmes for arsenic poisoning in India.

Further information on the project can be found at http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/TiPOT/

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572, lisa.mitchell@qub.ac.uk

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