03-2009 Press Releases

31/03/2009: Summer-born children face problems at school 
30/03/2009: Blackbirds to nest at the Naughton Gallery 
30/03/2009: 'Timely' addition to Queen's 5K on Wednesday 
27/03/2009: Local companies must 'create waves' to achieve economic growth 
27/03/2009: G20 summit at Queen's University 
27/03/2009: Religion and violence discussed at Queen's 
27/03/2009: Crabs' memory of pain confirmed by Queen's academic 
26/03/2009: Local education issues on lunchtime menu at Queen's 
26/03/2009: New Assembly scheme 'first of its kind' 
25/03/2009: Queen's astronomers watch Earth-bound asteroid 
25/03/2009: Queen's scientists find new way to battle superbugs 
25/03/2009: Study links co-ordination difficulties with social disadvantage 
24/03/2009: New cancer research centre will lead to improved treatments QTV News Story 
23/03/2009: World-class construction skills critical to local economy 
23/03/2009: Top UN official offers insight into Gaza 
20/03/2209: Queen's Rowing face Cambridge this weekend 
20/03/2009: Queen's scientists discover giant solar twists 
18/03/2009: Queen's students "key to world-class future" - Gregson QTV News Story
13/03/2009: £2million laboratory gift will help tackle Alzheimer's QTV News Story
13/03/2009: News In Brief 
12/03/2009: Report highlights discrimination against older people 
11/03/2009: Local innovation gains national recognition 
10/03/2009: British University success for 8Ball Pool Team 
10/03/2009: Asidua IT scholarships awarded 
10/03/2009: Queen's researchers offer free fruit and veg 
09/03/2009: 'Big Bang' expert returns to Queen's 
09/03/2009: Students to debate public health issues of tomorrow 
06/03/2009: News In Brief 
05/03/2009: Leading women in the picture at Queen's 
04/03/2009: Queen's students to benefit from £2.5million in national awards 
04/03/2009: Photo contest focuses on Queen's 
03/03/2009: Queen's student gives twitterers 'new voice' 
02/03/2009: Flavour of Psychology from Big Brother expert

Summer-born children face problems at school
Children who are born in summer months are more likely to face set-backs at school, according to a Queen's University Belfast study.

Researchers Martin McPhillips and Julie-Anne Jordan-Black carried out a study on the educational attainment of 1,124 primary school pupils.

They also examined the results for key stage three (KS3) English and GCSE English language for 3,493 Year 10 and 3,697 Year 12 secondary school pupils.

The main finding of the study was that children born in summer months such as June, July and August are at risk of early learning problems.

The results showed the attainment of core literacy skills for children at primary school in Northern Ireland is associated with the month in which they are born.

Martin McPhillips said: “In Northern Ireland, the school year cut-off date is the first of July which is different to the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

“This means that the summer-born children in Northern Ireland may be the oldest or the youngest in their year group. This gave us a unique opportunity to look at the separate effects of being summer-born versus being the oldest or youngest in your year group.”

The authors have expressed concern that the effects can also filter into secondary school. They noticed a small but significant effect in secondary school exam results.

They are particularly concerned that this is the time when students are making long-term choices about whether they should continue in education or leave school at 16 years old.

McPhillips said: “While there appears to be a season of birth effect at the outset of schooling, this slowly changes to an age-position effect so that by secondary school age the oldest, irrespective of month of birth, seem to have an advantage.”

The reason for the set-backs still remains unclear but the authors suspect it may involve complex interactions between biological and environmental risk factors.

Explaining what these might be, Dr McPhillips said: “It has been suggested that summer-born children may be at greater risk of developmental problems because their mum’s pregnancy ran across the winter months when there is a greater chance of exposure to flu viruses and colds. The data suggests that such effects may be washed out over time.”

The study also highlighted that season of birth and age-position effects are likely to vary across time because of changes in educational practice.

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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Blackbirds to nest at the Naughton Gallery

The Naughton Gallery at Queen's University will play host to 30 blackbirds during April.

Local and international artists have come together to celebrate the little bird made famous by poets including Seamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson in an exhibition entitled At Least Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

The show was first conceived as a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Seamus Heaney Centre in 2008 - which has the blackbird as its emblem - and it takes its title from the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens.

Now the exhibition has grown to incorporate more than twice the original artworks, which will remain on permanent display in the Seamus Heaney Centre.

Curator Rory Jeffers has invited 30 graphic designers, fine and new media artists to respond to the poem, the bird and its song. Oliver Jeffers, Stephen Forbes and Glen Leyburn are among those who have contributed artwork to the exhibition.

Shan McAnena, Director of the Naughton Gallery, said: “We are delighted to host this exhibition, which has been so popular it has more than doubled in size.

At Least Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird showcases the best of local and international design talent in an exhibition as rich and varied as the song of the bird itself.”

The exhibition will be on display from Wednesday 1 April to Saturday 25 April. Opening hours are 10pm to 4pm Monday to Saturday.

For further information on the Naughton Gallery please contact Anna Patrick on 028 9097 1353 or a.patrick@qub.ac.uk.

The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s
Lanyon Building
Queen’s University
Belfast
BT7 1NN T
02890 973580
E art@qub.ac.uk
www.naughtongallery.org

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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'Timely' addition to Queen's 5K on Wednesday
Counting down to Queen's Race Round the River
Counting down to Queen's Race Round the River
Queen's University's annual 'Race Round the River', in association with Powerade, will take place on Wednesday (1 April).

Hosted by the University's successful Athletics Club, this year’s race sees some notable improvements to its results service for competitors.

Now in its sixth year, chip timing has been introduced to supplement online bookings, along with an improved SMS text service.

John Saulters, Queen’s 5k Event Co-ordinator commented on the changes: “This event is widely regarded as one of the leading athletics events in Northern Ireland. We have continually tried to improve the quality of the race from the moment you register to receiving your all important time. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Powerade for a second year, as they are a brand that really understands the challenges and triumphs involved in sporting competition.”

Paddy Murney, Business Unit Manager for Powerade, said: “We’re delighted to continue our partnership with Queen’s Sport through our support of the Queen’s 5k. We are working with Queen’s Sport and the University Development Office on a number of projects as we are committed to developing the talent of the future as well as the sports stars of today. We recognise the 5K Committee have made great strides in turning this initiative into a major event and with the technology now used, this year’s race should be better than ever.”

For more information or to enter online go to www.queens5k.co.uk

For enquiries contact John Saulters, 07968 128 956, queens5k@qub.ac.uk

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Local companies must 'create waves’ to achieve economic growth
Professor Erkko Autio
Professor Erkko Autio
Northern Ireland companies must create 'waves of momentum' to survive and prosper in the current economic climate, according to technology innovation guru Professor Erkko Autio, who is to speak at Queen's University on Tuesday.

Professor Autio, who will deliver an InterTradeIreland Innovation lecture at the University, is one of the founders of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) initiative and Chair of Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College London.

Speaking in advance of his lecture, Professor Autio said: "As the global economic momentum has faded, firms can no longer 'ride the waves' created by others. They need to create their own momentum. In addition to identifying market needs and adapting their products or services to meet those needs, they must also find ways of prompting the market to ‘lock into’ their innovations ahead of others. If this is achieved, spectacular growth may follow, even in challenging times."

Professor Autio’s lecture, ‘How to Build Momentum for Innovation’, is part of the InterTradeIreland All-island Innovation Programme. The Programme, a partnership between InterTradeIreland, Queen’s University Belfast, University College Dublin and NUI Galway, aims to promote and encourage innovation across the island of Ireland.

InterTradeIreland Strategy & Policy Director Aidan Gough said: "Survival and innovation go hand in hand in the current economic downturn. As markets contract, businesses need to become more innovative in aligning their products and services to market needs. InterTradeIreland can provide assistance to help develop cross-border partnerships between companies and third level institutes which can deliver innovative solutions."

Professor Autio’s pioneering research focuses on the growth, alliance strategies, and rapid international growth of technology-based new firms. In particular, he is interested in understanding how such processes can be managed effectively, and what factors influence the choice of optimal entry strategies in high-technology sectors. He has advised and consulted widely in the areas of venturing, innovation, mobile ecommerce, and technology and innovation policy, for private and public organisations alike and numerous high-technology companies.

His lecture will take place at 6pm on Tuesday 31 March in the Great Hall at Queen’s University.Anyone interested in attending should register by contacting p.cochrane@qub.ac.uk or visiting www.innovationireland.org. Admission is free.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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G20 summit at Queen's University
G20 summit at Queen's University Ahead of the G20 summit, which will take place in London next week, Queen’s University is hosting a discussion on 'The G20 and the Financial Crisis' on Wednesday 1 April.

Organised by the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, the event will review the preparations for the G20 summit, which will take place the next day. The meeting will explore the history of the G20, its significance in the context of the current financial crisis, and the outcomes that are likely to emerge from the London summit.

Dr Andrew Baker from Queen’s contributed to a report called 'New Ideas for the London Summit: Recommendations for G20 Leaders'. The report, edited by Chatham House and Atlantic Council, will be presented to G20 leaders at next week’s summit.

At the Queen’s event, Dr Baker will examine the history and the development of the G20 and its political significance. Other participants will discuss the UK’s position in the G20, as well as India and South Africa’s involvement and the political power of emerging market countries.

'The G20 and the Financial Crisis: A Roundtable' will take place at 4pm on Wednesday 1 April in Room G01 at the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at 21 University Square, Belfast. Admission is free. Email a.baker@qub.ac.uk to confirm your attendance.

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Religion and violence discussed at Queen's
The use of religion to sanction violence will be explored at Queen's University on Tuesday 31 March.

The Institute of Theology at Queen’s will host a talk by Professor Walter Moberly from the University of Durham to explore the enduring questions around the use of the Bible to validate violence.

Professor Moberly will discuss the interpretation of the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac in Genesis 22, and its relevance to the use of religion to authorise violence today.

Professor Moberly is one of the leading Old Testament scholars in the world. He is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham where he has taught for more than twenty years, having served in parish ministry prior to his appointment. He is the author of many books and articles including most recently 'Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus' (2000) and 'Prophecy and Discernment' (2006), both of which engage the Bible in relation to its enduring significance for contemporary life.

Professor Moberly’s talk, 'Take your son - whom you love: Abraham and the authorisation of violence' will take place at 5.30pm on 31 March in Room 121 of the Lanyon Building at Queen’s. Admission is free.

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Crabs' memory of pain confirmed by Queen's academic
A hermit crab
A hermit crab
New research published by a Queen's University academic has shown that crabs not only suffer pain but that they retain a memory of it.

The study, which looked at the reactions of hermit crabs to small electric shocks, was carried out by Professor Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s and has been published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Professor Elwood, who previously carried out a study showing that prawns endure pain, said his research highlights the need to investigate how crustaceans used in food industries are treated.

Hermit crabs have no shell of their own so inhabit other structures, usually empty mollusc shells.

Wires were attached to shells to deliver the small shocks to the abdomen of the some of the crabs within the shells.

The only crabs to get out of their shells were those which had received shocks, indicating that the experience is unpleasant for them.

Hermit crabs are known to prefer some species of shells to others and it was found that that they were more likely to come out of the shells they least preferred. This shows that central neuronal processing occurs rather than the response merely being a reflex. They traded-off between keeping a good shell and acceptance of the shock.

The main aim of the experiment, however, was to deliver a shock just under the threshold that causes crabs to move out of the shell, to see what happened when a new shell was then offered.

Crabs that had been shocked but had remained in their shell appeared to remember the experience of the shock because they quickly moved towards the new shell, investigated it briefly and were more likely to change to the new shell compared to those that had not been shocked.

Professor Elwood said: “There has been a long debate about whether crustaceans including crabs, prawns and lobsters feel pain.

“We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner ‘feeling’ of unpleasantness that we associate with pain.

“This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus.

“Such trade-offs are seen in vertebrates in which the response to pain is controlled with respect to other requirements.

“Humans, for example, may hold on a hot plate that contains food whereas they may drop an empty plate, showing that we take into account differing motivational requirements when responding to pain.

“Trade-offs of this type have not been previously demonstrated in crustaceans. The results are consistent with the idea of pain being experienced by these animals.”

Previous work at Queen’s University found that prawns show prolonged rubbing when an antenna was treated with weak acetic acid but this rubbing was reduced by local anaesthetic.

The findings are both studies are consistent with observations of pain in mammals.

But Professor Elwood says that in contrast to mammals, little protection is given to the millions of crustaceans that are used in the fishing and food industries each day.

He added: “More research is needed in this area where a potentially very large problem is being ignored.

“Legislation to protect crustaceans has been proposed but it is likely to cover only scientific research.

“Millions of crustacean are caught or reared in aquaculture for the food industry.

“There is no protection for these animals (with the possible exception of certain states in Australia) as the presumption is that they cannot experience pain.

“With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans.”

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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Local education issues on lunchtime menu at Queen's
As part of its Spring Open Learning programme, Queen's University is hosting a series of lunchtime seminars highlighting the issues currently being faced by the education sector here.

The series Building a world Class Education System: The Future of Education in Northern Ireland, is part of Queen’s Open Learning programme. It will analyse the most important issues and examine if the present education system meets the demands of the 21st century.

The panel will feature Ruth Kennedy from CCEA who will talk about the revised curriculum and Bishop Donal McKeown, Rev. Ian Ellis, Rev. Trevor Gribben and Rev. Trevor Jamieson who will discuss diversity in education.

They will be joined by John Darcy and Professor Bob Osborne who will examine the future of further and higher education. Dr Brandon Hamber will analyse the role of education in addressing the legacies of conflict and Professor Tony Gallagher will talk about the future of education.

Professor Tony Gallagher, Head of School of Education at Queen’s University said: “People are all too aware of the controversy in educational debate but beyond the issues of the moment there is a need to look at some of the longer-term priorities we have to face and the educational contribution to these concerns.

“I am confident that this seminar series will provide an opportunity to engage in this strategic discussion.”

The five-week series is just one of the many courses available through the University’s Spring Open Learning Programme.

For those who fancy their chances of becoming the next Rory McIlroy, Open Learning is also offering ‘Golf for beginners or improvers’. The six week course is designed for all standards of golfers.

Those who have become bored with the credit crunch should check out Queen’s University’s Open Learning courses for tips on how to escape the doom and gloom.

Well-known finance analyst, Patrick Mahony will offer guidance on how to understand the current stock market, how to plan for a successful retirement and set up trusts and invest in them.

There are also short courses on tango, ceili dancing, digital photography, watercolour and oil painting as well as a course on painting wildlife in acrylics.

Open learning Programme Co-ordinator, Dr Tess Maginess, said: “The Open learning Programme is an important platform for us to highlight the issues that are relevant to society. It also provides opportunities for people to inform themselves and gain a critical understanding of these pressing and complex issues.

“But our spring programme is also an opportunity for people to celebrate the coming of the longer days and, hopefully, better weather, to get out and about. So we have plenty of courses which facilitate learning about our environment, our cultures and our heritage.”

For more information contact Open Learning at the School of Education on 028 90973323 or visit www.qub.ac.uk/edu

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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New Assembly scheme 'first of its kind'
An innovative post-graduate bursary programme, leading to a Masters in Legislative Studies and Practice, has been developed by Queen's University in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Up to ten bursaries per year will be funded by the Northern Ireland Assembly with the first intake in October of this year.

The new programme, the pilot of which will be launched on 26th March 2009, is the first Masters of its kind in Ireland or the United Kingdom, and will benefit those wanting to play their part in future political life, whether as MLAs or public servants.

The programme will provide participants with opportunity to gain experience in the Assembly, working in core business of the Assembly.

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson, said: “This innovative programme breaks new ground in the development of the curriculum at Queen’s. It will provide the opportunity for tomorrow’s leaders to develop their knowledge of practical politics in a legislative setting, equipping them with a set of analytical, intellectual, organisational and communication skills that will better equip them for the job market.

“The MA will marry the ‘chalk board’ study of politics with the ‘chalk face’ of real world politics.

“I would like to thank the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Speaker for entering into this partnership which is unique in both the UK and Ireland. It is a tangible expression of their new engagement and outreach strategy.”

The Speaker of the Assembly, Mr William Hay MLA said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for both the students and the Assembly. The Assembly is committed to giving young people an understanding of the way a legislature works.

“Our society can only benefit if young people have an insight into the way that democracy works. This programme will not only help the participants to gain such understanding, it will also provide them with the tools to participate more fully in the political sphere. It will also give them experiences that will inform their future careers.

“We are very pleased that we have been able to pilot this programme with Queen’s University Belfast.”

For further information, please click here. For an application form, please click here.

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Queen's astronomers watch Earth-bound asteroid
Simulated image looking from behind asteroid 2008
Simulated image looking from behind asteroid 2008
The first predicted impact of an asteroid with the Earth has been studied by astronomers from Queen's University Belfast and a team of fellow international researchers.

The details of the impact, which happened last October, are published tomorrow for the first time in the renowned scientific journal Nature (March 26 issue).

The astronomers from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) observed the asteroid as it was hurtling towards our planet and captured the only spectrum of it before it exploded in our atmosphere.

The observation is the very first time that an asteroid of any size has been studied before entering our atmosphere. This meant the scientists could predict whether it would explode and break up in the atmosphere or reach the ground, which determines whether an asteroid poses a threat.

"This was the first ever predicted impact of an asteroid with the Earth and the very first time an asteroid of any size has been studied before impact," said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from Queen's.

“The faint observed brightness implied a small size, which in turn meant there was little advance warning. It was important to try and figure out what type of asteroid it was before impact in order to give us a better idea of its size and where it came from. This event shows that astronomers can successfully predict the impact of asteroids even with a short warning time, and obtain the astronomical observations necessary to estimate what will happen when the asteroid reaches us.”

The asteroid in question, 2008 TC3, weighed 80 tonnes and had a diameter of 4 metres. It landed in the Nubian Desert in Sudan where it scattered after exploding at an altitude of 37km.

It was tracked thanks to a lucky coincidence which saw astronomers from two institutions in Northern Ireland at the William Herschel Telescope on La Palma at the same time; Sam Duddy and Dr Henry Hsieh from Queen’s and Dr Gavin Ramsay from The Armagh Observatory.

Sam said: “Dr Gavin Ramsay from the Armagh Observatory was scheduled to use the telescope that night. When we realised this was an unusual event, Dr Ramsay agreed to help us observe it. It was an exciting couple of hours planning the details of the observations. Performing the observations of an object that was certain to impact the atmosphere was a great but challenging experience.”

Dr Ramsay added: “These observations were technically quite difficult. The William Herschel Telescope, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, really rose to the challenge, demonstrating what a versatile telescope it is. There was a great sense of excitement in the control room.”

Some small fragments survived the high-altitude explosion that vaporised most of the delicate asteroid . Dr Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute in California, teamed up with Dr Muawia Shaddad and 45 students of the University of Khartoum to search the Nubian Desert. 15 meteorites were recovered over an area 29km long along the calculated approach path of the asteroid.

According to Dr Jenniskens: “The recovered meteorites were unlike anything in our meteorite collections up to that point. The asteroid has been confirmed as a rare type called F-class, corresponding to dark ureilite achondrite meteorites with a texture and composition unlike any other ureilite meteorites found on earth before.”

The spectrum gathered by the astronomers allowed them to establish the first direct link between an asteroid and the individual meteorites produced as it breaks up in our atmosphere.

Comparing the asteroid and meteorite data tells us that 2008 TC3 may have only spent a few million years existing in the inner Solar system before it hit our planet.

Professor Richard Crowther of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Chair of the UN Working Group that deals with Near Earth Object (NEO) threats said: "The search for and study of asteroids is extremely important as not all impacts are as harmless as this small one in October. Larger impacts of the size associated with the Tunguska event of 1908 occur every few hundred years and even larger impacts with asteroids and comets the size of mountains occur every few tens of millions of years. Any extra knowledge we can gain about asteroids will help us mitigate the potential effects of such impacts in the future.”

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

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Queen's scientists find new way to battle superbugs
MRSA Biofilm with imidazolium ionic liquid structure superimpsed, from Chemical Science (RSC)
MRSA Biofilm with imidazolium ionic liquid structure superimpsed, from Chemical Science (RSC)
Experts from Queen's University Belfast have developed new agents to fight MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections that are resistant to antibiotics. The fluids are a class of ionic liquids that not only kill colonies of these dangerous microbes, they also prevent their growth.

The development of these new antimicrobial agents was carried out by a team of eight researchers from the Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre. The team was led by Brendan Gilmore, Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at the School of Pharmacy, and Martyn Earle, Assistant Director of QUILL. The discovery is published in the scientific journal Green Chemistry.

Many types of bacteria, such as MRSA, exist in colonies that adhere to the surfaces of materials. The colonies often form coatings, known as biofilms, that protect them from antiseptics, disinfectants, and antibiotics.

Earle said: "We have shown that, when pitted against the ionic liquids we developed and tested, biofilms offer little or no protection to MRSA, or to seven other infectious microorganisms.”

Ionic liquids, just like the table salt sprinkled on food, are salts. They consist entirely of ions - electrically-charged atoms or groups of atoms. Unlike table salt, however, which has to be heated to over 800oC to become a liquid, the ionic liquid antibiofilm agents remain liquid at the ambient temperatures found in hospitals.

One of the attractions of ionic liquids is the opportunity to tailor their physical, chemical, and biological properties by building specific features into the chemical structures of the positively-charged ions (the cations), and/or the negatively-charged ions (the anions).

Earle said: "Our goal is to design ionic liquids with the lowest possible toxicity to humans while wiping out colonies of bacteria that cause hospital acquired infections."

Microbial biofilms are not only problematic in hospitals, but can also grow inside water pipes and cause pipe blockages in industrial processes.

Gilmore said: "Ionic liquid based antibiofilm agents could potentially be used for a multitude of medical and industrial applications. For example, they could be used to improve infection control and reduce patient morbidity in hospitals and therefore lighten the financial burden to healthcare providers. They could also be harnessed to improve industrial productivity by reducing biofouling and microbial-induced corrosion of processing systems."

The commercialisation of this work is being supported through an Invest Northern Ireland Proof of Concept award. The overall aim of the project is to design and evaluate novel antimicrobial ionic liquids for improved infection and contamination control.

For further information on QUILL please visit quill.qub.ac.uk

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

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Study links co-ordination difficulties with social disadvantage
The results of a Queen's University study challenge the popular belief that gifted footballers are more likely to come from socially disadvantaged areas.

The likes of George Best and Wayne Rooney may have honed their skills on the streets of council estates but they are the exception, rather than the rule, the study's authors say.

Psychologists found that children from poorer backgrounds performed much worse at physical tasks that tested their co-ordination and balance than those from backgrounds considered more advantaged.

The study, which has been published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, assessed children from opposite ends of the social spectrum attending four primary schools in Belfast and Lisburn.

Led by Dr Martin McPhillips, from the School of Psychology at Queen’s, it looked at 239 children aged four and five, and 276 aged seven and eight.

Previous research has suggested that social disadvantage has a negative effect on the development of language and related cognitive skills such as reading but up until now studies have not focused on the impact of social disadvantage on motor development.

The children took task-oriented tests of manual dexterity, including threading beads onto a string. Their ball skills and balancing ability were also measured. Overall, the more affluent children scored 11 per cent higher. Half of the boys aged five in the ‘poor’ schools had co-ordination problems.

Dr McPhillips said George Best's experience appears to have been different to that of children growing up in Belfast today.

“It’s a myth that more working-class children will become footballers. It’s not that they are more co-ordinated, it’s that they are hungrier to succeed.

"Obviously, some are not suffering from co-ordination difficulties and can go on and be footballers. But if you go to a more advantaged school, there is more potential to be a footballer.

“Maybe growing up in the 1950s and 1960s there wasn’t the same level of motor disadvantage because of open spaces. There are a lot more restrictions now. Children are perhaps not running about as much and there is more obesity.”

The research did not analyse the causes of the differences but several factors are likely. Mothers in poor areas are likely to have more problems in pregnancy, to endure more stress and have a poorer diet. A toddler growing up in a less well-off home will probably have a poorer diet, less access to play facilities, and less stimulation to develop motor skills.

Starting life with a motor deficit can lead to problems in later life with attention, reading and social issues.

Dr McPhillips said: “Motor skills have deteriorated across the board. “The data is quite scary for those children because a large proportion of them were showing up with clinical levels of co-ordination difficulties,” he added.

“That means they would formally be diagnosed as having something like developmental co-ordination disorder, what used to be called dyspraxia or clumsy-child syndrome.”

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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New cancer research centre will lead to improved treatments QTV News Story

 CRUK centre

Northern Ireland's first Cancer Research UK Centre, which aims to be a world leader in developing new treatments with fewer side effects for cancer patients, has been launched at Queen's University.

The Centre will focus on treating bowel, oesophagus and breast cancer by pioneering the latest techniques in radiotherapy, improving cancer diagnosis and developing new, more effective drugs.

Based at Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, it’s only the third of its kind to open in the UK.

It will draw together world class research and areas of medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide.

The Belfast centre will collaborate with the others to identify new targets for cancer drugs, to understand how genes can help predict which treatment will be most effective and to develop specific new treatments with fewer side effects.

It aims to develop treatments tailored to individual cancer patients based on understanding the biology of the disease and how that varies among patients.

Cancer Research UK already supports research in Northern Ireland and is seeking to spend £2.5m a year to help develop the Centre.

It brings together researchers and support from Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Research and Development Office, Cancer Research UK and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Professor Peter Gregson said: “We are delighted that a Cancer Research UK Centre has opened at Queen’s University, recognising the world-class research being carried out by our academics.

“We hope to play a major role in developing cutting edge treatments to improve the prospects for cancer patients both here and across the world.”

Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University and Chair of the board of the new centre, said: “This is a very exciting development for cancer care and cancer research in Northern Ireland. It will add greatly to the options available for cancer patients and is recognition of the quality of cancer care and cancer research already taking place at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Trust.”

Allister Murphy, 52, has first hand experience of taking part in cancer research after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2008. Following a routine visit to his GP, a biopsy, MRI and bone scan confirmed that the cancer had spread to his spine, ribs and pelvis. Hormone treatment was recommended.

Dr Joe O’Sullivan is the lead for clinical research in prostate cancer at the new centre. Allister has taken part in trials to research an improved, more tailored treatment for advanced prostate cancer.

Allister said: “Taking part in this clinical trial means that while my present medication is working, Dr O’Sullivan and his team are investigating whether a combination of drugs in addition to hormone treatment would be more effective and this gives hope for the future – not just for me, but others.”

The IT consultant is proud that he has had no days off work in the last 34 years and that he has been able to maintain a very positive attitude to his illness.

Although still receiving treatment, Allister is living life to the full and is currently in training for the Belfast Marathon.

Professor Dennis McCance, director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's University and a member the Centre's board, said: "This exciting new initiative will bolster our efforts to bring together a variety of researchers and clinicians to collaborate and work together to improve the lives of cancer patients across Northern Ireland. By building closer links between scientists and doctors we want to increase the pace of research, leading to improved treatments for patients.

"Northern Ireland is the third link in this exciting chain of cancer centres. We should rightly be proud of the part we’re playing in moving the latest scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. We’ll be focusing our efforts on better diagnosis and developing new personalised treatments for patients which will include better and more effective drugs and improving radiotherapy."

Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of Research and Development for Health and Social Care, Northern Ireland said: “Cancer research must be of the highest quality if it is to lead to better diagnosis, treatment and care of patients and to the prevention of cancer. Quality is achieved only when very costly resources are available to excellent clinicians and researchers.

“As a significant, long-term funder of cancer research in Belfast we are delighted with the establishment of the Cancer Research UK Centre. We look forward to great achievements as we work together for the benefit of Northern Ireland’s people.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Funding these centres of excellence is one of the charity's priorities and will enable us to work towards the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients. But we continue to welcome the generous donations we receive from the public to ensure we can continue to build on what we have started today."

Cancer Research UK plans to launch more centres around the UK during 2009.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.

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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World-class construction skills critical to local economy
Lukummon Oyeldele, Course Director; David Cleland, Head of School; Peter Goodacre, RICS President; and John Davidson, RICS NI Chairman.
Lukummon Oyeldele, Course Director; David Cleland, Head of School; Peter Goodacre, RICS President; and John Davidson, RICS NI Chairman.
A new course at Queen's University is to enhance Northern Ireland's world-class construction skills and help meet major local social and economic challenges.

The importance of the new MSc course in Construction and Project Management was highlighted by Peter Goodacre, President of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, who visited Queen’s to announce its accreditation.

Mr Goodacre said that highly skilled construction professionals are vital in enabling Northern Ireland to achieve its economic potential and in significantly cutting carbon emissions: “I’m very pleased that the RICS Standards Board has approved the accreditation of Queen’s MSc in Construction and Project Management. It has an important role to play in developing world-class skills critical to the future high quality development of Northern Ireland’s built environment.

“Highly skilled construction professionals are key to creating a sustainable built environment which reduces energy usage; thereby cutting carbon emissions and improving efficiency. Ensuring a sustainable built environment is one of the biggest challenges our society faces today.

“The construction industry will also be vital to Northern Ireland’s future economic success. The sector’s ability to deliver leading edge development that attracts and facilitates investment, and which is created efficiently, will be critical in realising Northern Ireland’s economic potential.

“Sustainability cuts across the work of all chartered surveyors and their skills in this regard have a uniquely important role to play in society,” Mr Goodacre adds.

David Cleland, Head of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen’s said: "Queen's is delighted that the RICS has recognised its new MSc in Construction and Project Management. We look forward to the partnership in running this truly interdisciplinary programme which attracts Architects, Chartered Surveyors and Civil Engineers who study alongside each other on either full-time or part-time modes of study.

“Gaining new qualifications is always beneficial and, maybe, even more so in difficult economic times. Acquiring the skills now will enable professionals to be ready to move upward when recovery comes.”

Further information on the new course is available under the Taught Courses section of the SPACE website, visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofPlanningArchitectureandCivilEngineering

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

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Top UN official offers insight into Gaza
John Ging and George Mitchell
John Ging and George Mitchell
The man who heads the United Nations mission to conflict-torn Gaza is to feature in Trocaire's 2009 lecture at Queen's University on Wednesday.

Irish man John Ging, a former captain in the Irish Army, rose to prominence in the international media during the recent conflict in Gaza.

Originally from Laois, John Ging is director of The United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) operations in Gaza. He took up the role two years ago and manages a programme valued at $350 million with a staff of more than 10,000, which delivers education, health care and social services to more than a million refugees.

John Ging said his experience of conflict in Northern Ireland has helped him understand the situation in Gaza: “I grew up with conflict but the image that sticks in my mind in recent periods is Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness as First Minister and Deputy at a press conference in Brussels in 2008.

“They resolved differences through the political process and came round to being a poster image of what was possible. They were genuinely smiling, side-by-side at Brussels after thirty years of conflict.

Despite the ongoing troubles in Gaza, Ging is optimistic.

“It was the people who demanded an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. I actually draw a lot of hope from my experience, limited as it is. Also here in Gaza, the foundation is already in place - a good and decent people, civilised and politically sophisticated.”

The lecture, on 'The responsibility to protect civilians in time of conflict', will also feature talks by Dr Jean Allain from Queen’s University’s School of Law, Seamus McKee from the BBC, freelance journalist Susan McKay and Eithne McNulty from Trocaire.

The annual lecture will take place at 1pm on Wednesday March 25 at the Elmwood Teaching & Learning Centre, Queen’s University, Elmwood Avenue. For further information contact Dr Peter Doran on 028 90973474.

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's Rowing face Cambridge this weekend
Queen's new rowing coach Mark Fangen Hall
Queen's new rowing coach Mark Fangen Hall
Queen's University rowing team are preparing to test their strength against world class champions Cambridge University.

Every year both Cambridge and Oxford choose opposition to practice against before they race each other in the annual Boat Race.

This year Cambridge's Goldie crew have challenged Queen's 1st VIII rowing team to a race the week before they go head to head with Oxford.

The practice match will take place on March 22 with both teams carrying out various starts and 'bursts' around some of the infamous bends on the River Thames.

Recently appointed Head Coach Mark Fangen Hall said the race is a window of opportunity for Queen’s University Rowing Club.

He said: "I am very happy that our athletes will row against athletes from the CUBC as they are proven world class internationals with world medals. This will really show us where we stand in terms of world class performances.

“The Lady Victoria Boat Club has played a major part in making this and my appointment possible. They, through their Captain, David Storrs, pushed for my position to be created and through their members fund part of the salary. Without their support and backing I would not be here and with their help I am creating strategies that will make Queen’s the best rowing university in Ireland.”

Fangen-Hall comes from a strong line of oarsmen with his father being a former coach to the Great Britain team in the 1980 Olympics.

He made his name in rowing when he represented Great Britain in the under 23 World Championships.

His appointment has brought Queen’s Rowing in line with other successful rowing universities such as Durham, Reading, Oxford and Cambridge – all of whom employ top level professional coaching staff.

He said: “I want to create a centre of excellence whereby athletes are recognised as the best in Ireland, competing for medals at both national and international events.”

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, press.office@qub.ac.uk or David Rankin, Queen's Rowing on 07792 172 299

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Queen's scientists discover giant solar twists
Scientists at Queen's University have made a finding that will help us to understand more about the turbulent solar weather and its effect on our planet.

Along with scientists at the University of Sheffield and California State University, the researchers have detected giant twisting waves in the lower atmosphere of the Sun.

The discovery sheds some light on why the Sun’s corona, the region around the Sun, has a much higher temperature than its surface – something that has always puzzled scientists.

The surface of the sun, known as the photosphere, can reach temperatures of 5,000 degrees. To many it would seem logical that the temperature would lower further away from the sun. But, the outer atmosphere, known as the corona, has been shown to reach temperatures of over a million degrees.

The recent discovery by the scientists, published today in the respected journal Science, has revealed the existence of a new breed of solar wave, called the Alfvén wave. This solar wave has been shown to transport energy into the Corona or outer layer.

The waves have been named after Hannes Alfvén who in 1942 received a Nobel Prize for his work in the area. He suggested the existence of the waves but no hard evidence was ever produced, until recently, when Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis and Dr David Jess of Queen’s, made the discovery using the Swedish Solar Telescope in the Canary Islands.

The new findings reveal how the waves carry heat and why this happens. The unique magnetic oscillations spread upward from the solar surface to the Sun’s corona with an average speed of 20km per second, carrying enough energy to heat the plasma to more than a few million degrees.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, leader of the Queen’s University Solar Group, said: “Understanding solar activity and its influence on the Earth’s climate is of paramount importance for human kind. The Sun is not as quiet as many people think.

“The solar corona, visible from Earth only during a total solar eclipse, is a very dynamic environment which can erupt suddenly, releasing more energy than ten billion atomic bombs. Our study makes a major advancement in the understanding of how the million-degree corona manages to achieve this feat.”

Dr David Jess, from Queen’s University Belfast and lead author of the paper written on the discovery said: “Often, waves can be visualized by the rippling of water when a stone is dropped into a pond, or by the motions of a guitar string when plucked.

"Alfvén waves though cannot be seen so easily. In fact, they are completely invisible to the naked eye. Only by examining the motions of structures and their corresponding velocities in the Sun’s turbulent atmosphere could we find, for the first time, the presence of these elusive Alfvén waves.”

Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenburgen from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Applied Mathematics, said: “The heat was on to find evidence for the existence of Alfvén waves. International space agencies have invested considerable resources trying to find purely magnetic oscillations of plasmas in space, particularly in the Sun. These waves, once detected, can be used to determine the physical conditions in the invisible regions of the Sun and other stars.”

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), who funded the work said: “These are extremely interesting results. Understanding the processes of our Sun is incredibly important as it provides the energy which allows life to exist on Earth and can affect our planet in many different ways. This new finding of magnetic waves in the Sun’s lower atmosphere brings us closer to understanding its complex workings and its future effects on the Earth’s atmosphere.”

For further information please contact Emma Blee, Queen’s Press and PR Unit, 028 90 97 2576 press.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's students "key to world-class future" - Gregson

 Queen's honours scholarship winners

Queen's students have a key role to play in ensuring a "world-class future" for the University, Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson has said.

Speaking ahead of a special ceremony to honour the first winners of the University's prestigious new scholarships programme, Professor Gregson said: "Queen’s has a responsibility not only to its current and future students but to society as a whole.

“One of the most meaningful ways in which we can meet this responsibility is by attracting top-quality students. Our scholarships programme helps us to do this. It rewards exceptional performance and it helps us to ensure that a first-class academic experience is available to all eligible students."

The scholarships package represents an investment of more than £200,000 by the University and includes awards of £1,000 for students gaining three As at A-level and enrolling on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at Queen’s. It also offers awards across all Queen’s subject areas and Gold Medal Scholarships of £7,500 for the best A-level student entering each of the University’s three Faculties.

Among the award-winning guests at Wednesday’s event will be medical student Kevin Cassidy from Fintona in Co. Tyrone, the top A-level entrant to Queen’s in 2008. A former pupil of Christian Brothers Grammar School in Omagh, Kevin won the Gold Medal Award for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, and the Sullivan, David Russell Lappin and Megaw Entrance Scholarships.

The scheme has been welcomed by Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey. He said: "If our economy is to survive and prosper, we need highly-qualified graduates in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and maths. It is crucial that we continue to produce graduates with the right blend of know-how, expertise and innovation to ensure our future economic prosperity. If we don’t have that, then our economic outlook could be even bleaker than it is today.

”I must commend Professor Gregson and Queen’s for their vision and commitment. This is a truly unique initiative and one which must be welcomed. It is evidence of the impact which higher education plays in our economy, both in terms of producing suitably qualified graduates, and as institutions in their own right."

Professor Gregson added: "The STEM awards reward top entrance students in subjects essential for Northern Ireland’s economic growth. But Northern Ireland and the wider community also need those who will lead society through the professions, through contributing to culture and enhancing our understanding of the world in which we live. That is why our scholarships scheme includes Gold Medal and Entrance awards for students in all disciplines.

“As Queen’s enters its second century as a university, we are looking towards a future in which our presence will be felt even more strongly on the world stage.

“We aim to nurture a dynamic community of outstanding academics and students with the ability and imagination to match the best in the world. Our students are the leaders of tomorrow and our scholarships scheme is not only an investment in their futures but in the future of the University and of Northern Ireland."

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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£2million laboratory gift will help tackle Alzheimer's
Dr John King
Dr John King who will open laboratories named after him today (Friday)

 Queen's opens £2 million pharmacy laboratory

A state-of-the-art pharmacy laboratory aimed at discovering new drugs for diseases including Alzheimer's will officially open today (Friday) at Queen's University thanks to a £2 million donation by former chief executive of Warner Chilcott Dr John King.

The John A. King Medicinal Chemistry Research Laboratories at the School of Pharmacy, on the University’s health sciences campus, have been funded by Dr King, who began his career in medicinal chemistry research as a lecturer at Queen’s in the 1970s after graduating with first class honours and PhD degrees in pharmacy from the University.

Head of the School of Pharmacy at Queen's Professor David Woolfson said the donation had also funded opportunities for young researchers to be trained to doctoral level.

He continued: “With this generous gift, the School is establishing an international team of leading researchers in the vital area of drug discovery.

“The new facility will make a key contribution to our research programmes in the fundamental aspects of drug target identification and drug discovery.

“It represents the latest phase in the growth of a dynamic School that is now one of the leading academic centres for pharmaceutical science research in the UK and Ireland.”

Dr King has enjoyed remarkable success in the pharmaceutical industry and in 2004 he led the sale of Warner Chilcott to private equity partners for £1.6 billion. He retired from his position as executive chairman in 2005 and is now non-executive director of the company.

Dr King said: “As a former student, former lecturer and honorary graduate of Queen’s, I have a long-standing relationship with the University, and I am delighted to give support to the development of medicinal chemistry within the School of Pharmacy.

“I am pleased to support cutting-edge research into important areas including drug discovery for age-related diseases. I hope these facilities will further enhance the reputation of Queen’s pharmacy as a world-class research institute.”

A multi-national team has been recruited to work in the new lab including Dr Andrea Guiotto, who joined the School of Pharmacy from Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry of the Italian National Research Council and Dr Michael Decker, who moved to the School from Harvard Medical School in the USA and Jena University, Germany.

Dr Decker said that the ultimate aim of their research was to find novel compounds to help in the treatment and diagnosis of dementias. 

He added: "Andrea Guiotto and I will be focusing on the discovery of new drug treatments for age-related diseases, including those that impair memory, for example, devastating conditions such as Alzheimer's.

“We are following a number of exciting lead compounds derived from both synthetic and natural sources. Our aim is to establish a Centre of Excellence for medicinal chemistry research into neurodegenerative diseases in the School of Pharmacy at Queen's.”

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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News In Brief
Cliona Hagan
Queen's University student Cliona Hagan has reached the final of the All-Ireland Talent Show on RTE

A Queen's University music student has sung a step closer to winning 50,000 euro after gaining a place in RTÉ’s All-Ireland Talent Show final.
 
Cliona Hagan, from Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, (19), wowed the judges with her rendition of Ave Maria during the semi-final of the competition on Sunday [March 8].
 
The opera singer secured joint-top marks from the judges and went on to earn the most public telephone votes. She stormed straight through to become one of the final contestants.

The public will decide who is crowned winner of the show by voting during the live final which is being screened on Sunday March 15 at 6.30pm on RTÉ One.

Culture, comedy and craic in students' St Patrick's Day Festival

Top Northern Ireland comedian Kevin McAleer is to headline at the 4th Universities St Patrick's Day Festival, which will run from 15 to 17 March.
 
The Festival, jointly hosted by Queen's University and the University of Ulster, features a wide-ranging programme of music, sports, film, visual art and spiritual events, as well as - for the first time - an Ulster-Scots concert.

Devised and directed by students at both universities, the three-day programme aims to celebrate the life of St Patrick and to bring together students and the community in south Belfast.

Programme details are available online at www.stpatricksfestivalbelfast.org

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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Report highlights discrimination against older people

A report from the Changing Ageing Partnership (CAP) reveals that Northern Ireland is out of line with other countries in terms of laws protecting older people.

Northern Ireland does not have a law to protect older people against discrimination when they are accessing goods, facilities and services.

The research, by Ms Lisa Glennon and Professor Brice Dickson from the School of Law at Queen's University Belfast, recommends that the law should be amended to operate in a similar way to laws regarding discrimination on the basis of gender or race. As it stands, the absence of legal protection for older people who are discriminated against on the basis of their age means they are not entitled to make a claim in a county court, access legal aid (if financially eligible), or demand compensation.

The report suggests that, in the field of health and social care, exceptions should be based only on clinical and welfare need, not age. For example, a decision on whether to provide a patient with medical treatment should not be based on the patient’s age, but on whether their health is good enough to withstand the treatment.

Similarly, with regard to insurance, exceptions should be based on facts or statistical evidence which are publicly available. For example, the cost of motor insurance should not go up just because the applicant is of a certain age. Rather, it should depend on whether there is hard evidence to show that people of that age are more accident prone.

Brice Dickson, Director of the Human Rights Centre at the School of Law at Queen’s, said: "We recommend that the law of Northern Ireland should be reformed in a way that makes it fairer and more respectful of older people’s right to be treated with dignity. Any exceptions allowing discrimination against older people will have to be very specifically worded and fully justified."

Lisa Glennon from the School of Law added: "We also recommend that exceptions should be made to permit discrimination in favour of older people whenever these are based on clearly identified goals which will benefit society as a whole. We want to maintain the lawfulness of the preferential treatment which both younger and older people receive in certain areas, such as concessionary entrance rates and free bus passes."

Bill Carson, Chair of Age Sector Platform, welcomed the launch of the research, commenting: "Our members have stated loud and clear that continuing age discrimination in 2009 is unacceptable.  They have outlined the barriers they face in trying to get affordable car or travel insurance or access to health and social care that meets their needs. 

“We urge the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider these research findings and to establish equality legislation which features protection for older people in Northern Ireland as an immediate action. Older people can no longer be treated like second class citizens."

Lisa Glennon and Professor Brice Dickson will present further findings and recommendations from the research at the Institute of Governance, Queen’s University on Thursday 12 March at 1.30pm.

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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Local innovation gains national recognition
At the KTP awards ceremony in London (left-right) Lorraine Marks, of Queen's, Jim Kirkpatrick, from Macrete Ireland Ltd, Su Taylor, from Queen's, Lord Paul, and Ken Frame, from AEA Momenta.
At the KTP awards ceremony in London (left-right) Lorraine Marks, of Queen's, Jim Kirkpatrick, from Macrete Ireland Ltd, Su Taylor, from Queen's, Lord Paul and Ken Frame, from AEA Momenta.

Queen's University Belfast is celebrating a year of outstanding achievement in innovation after winning two prestigious national awards.

Queen's partnership with Northern Ireland-based business Macrete Ireland Ltd has been awarded a UK-wide prize for engineering excellence at the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) awards in London last week.

The partnership was also named as Northern Ireland Regional winner at the event.

The successful collaboration between Queen's and Macrete has led to the development of an innovative ‘flat pack’ concrete arch system to ensure a structurally efficient bridge system.  The FlexiArch System has given Macrete a major advantage in the market and the partnership has already attracted market interest from throughout Europe, the United States, India and Bangladesh.

The two-year project, part funded by Invest NI, was carried out with Macrete by KTP Associate Abhey Gupta under the supervision of Su Taylor and Professor Emeritus Adrian Long of the University’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering.

Dr Taylor said: “I am delighted that our Knowledge Transfer Partnership has been awarded such a prestigious award.  It is especially rewarding to have our work recognised so publically and we will continue to collaborate with Macrete on other projects.”

The KTP awards recognised the most successful partnerships fostered through the Technology Strategy Board’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme which supports innovation-led, three-way partnerships between business, academic institutions and graduate associates.

The award winners were congratulated by Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board; Lord Paul, Chancellor of the Universities of Westminster and Wolverhampton; Graham Spittle, Chairman of the Technology Strategy Board and IBM’s Vice President of Software for UK, Ireland and South Africa.

Commenting at the awards ceremony Graham Spittle said: “This event has provided a welcome indication that the UK economy is equipped to meet the challenging demands of a tough economic climate and increasing global competition.

“The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a great success and will continue to grow as businesses increasingly recognise the value of tapping into the skills and knowledge that exist within the UK’s academic institutions. Businesses and universities need to continue to work together to ensure that innovation blossoms throughout the UK and secures our economic future.”

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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British University success for 8Ball Pool Team

(l-r): Chris Canning, Paul McKay, Emmet McGuire (c), Gareth Quinn, Aedan McCotter

Five years after their first victory, Queen's Pool Team has regained the British intervarsity title at the UPC/BUCS Championships held recently in Great Yarmouth.

More than 80 teams from 34 institutions participated in the annual event, a total of over 400 students from all parts of the UK.

Following round-robin groups, Queen's edged out St Andrew's, on a play-off, in the last 16. The team then easily disposed of old rivals Essex in the quarter-finals, to set up a head-to-head against Oxford in the penultimate round.

After a titanic struggle, Queen's qualified for the final against previous winners Durham.

Queen's eventually ran out winners with a convincing 6-3 victor to lift the trophy.

The winning team was: Emmet McGuire (c), Paul McKay (earning his second gold medal), Gareth Quinn, Chris Canning and Aedan McCotter.

The Snooker and Pool Club is hoping for a unique double when its snooker team goes for a hat-trick of British titles at Leeds in the coming weeks.

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Asidua IT scholarships awarded

Niall McAllister and Andrew Ruddell with Dr Phil Hanna, Nicola Shaw and Angela Canavan, Asidua and Dr Pat Corr.

Two Queen's University students have been awarded a scholarship with leading Belfast IT services company Asidua as it continues to invest in Northern Ireland’s future.

The £25,000 Asidua scholarship programme, which was launched in November 2008 in co-operation with Queens University and the University of Ulster, aims to attract fresh talent into the growing Northern Ireland IT sector. 

At a recent award ceremony, held at Asidua head offices in Belfast, three students from Queen’s and UU were awarded scholarships, including Niall McAllister & Andrew Ruddell from Queen’s and Sean Carlin from UU.

Welcoming the three new scholars to Asidua, Chief Operations Officer Angela Canavan said, “As a recognised Employer of Choice, Asidua are proud to invest in the future economic success of Northern Ireland through our dedicated scholarship programme aimed at students from local universities.  As such we are delighted to welcome Niall, Andrew and Sean to Asidua and look forward to working with them in the coming months”

The scholarship scheme, which is open to local IT and software engineering university students, provides scholars with a generous annual bursary and also a permanent position with Asidua on graduation. 

Speaking during the event, scholarship award winner Andrew Ruddell said: “I am very thankful for the Asidua scholarship and I am looking forward to working with Asidua in the summer and beyond.”  A view shared by fellow award winner Niall McAllister: “This opportunity from Asidua provides me with a great chance to further my knowledge in the computing sector.”

Both local universities, who were also in attendance, went on to extend their congratulations to Asidua and the scholarship winners.

Dr Patrick Corr from Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said: "Queen's is delighted that Asidua has selected both Niall and Andrew to receive these prestigious, and lucrative, scholarships. In these troubled economic times, these scholarships send out a strong message that as an innovative and forward looking IT company, Asidua is nurturing and investing in talent for the future."

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Queen's researchers offer free fruit and veg
Claire McEvoy, study dietician, Dr Michelle McKinley, study lead investigator and Dr Ian Wallace, study doctor from Queen's University Belfast
Claire McEvoy, study dietician, Dr Michelle McKinley, study lead investigator and Dr Ian Wallace, study doctor from Queen's University Belfast

Researchers at Queen's are offering volunteers the chance to have free fruit and vegetables delivered straight to their doorstep.

The university, working in collaboration with physicians from the Regional Centre for Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Royal Victoria Hospital, has been awarded a contract of £910,000 by The Food Standards Agency to carry out much needed research on diet and risk of heart disease and diabetes.

As part of the study, free fruit and vegetables will be delivered to volunteers to examine the link between eating fruit and vegetables and insulin action in the body.

Previous research has shown that when the body doesn’t respond well to insulin (insulin resistance) there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

There is some evidence that a high intake of fruit and vegetables can reduce insulin resistance, so the Fruit, vegetable and Insulin Resistance Study (FIRST) wants to recruit volunteers who are healthy and normally eat less than two portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Volunteers who meet the criteria to be included in the study will be asked to consume between two and seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day for 12 weeks.

The volunteers will then have a number of tests performed at the Royal Victoria Hospital assessing their bone health, blood pressure, insulin resistance, eye health and a number of vitamin levels in the blood.

Dr Michelle McKinley, lecturer in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science at Queen’s and lead investigator on the study, said: “Heart disease and strokes cause more deaths in Northern Ireland than any other illness. To our knowledge, this study at Queen’s is one of the few studies in the world that will examine the potential health benefits of fruit and vegetables in such a comprehensive way. The results of this research will be important for members of the public as well as health professionals and policy makers.

“We are delighted to have received the funding for this study. It adds to the portfolio of fruit and vegetable studies that are already underway within the Nutrition and Metabolism group at the University.”

The information gathered from the study will be used by health professionals to provide messages about healthy diet and lifestyle practices.

Dr Ian Wallace, Study Doctor said: "As part of our study, we offer participants dietary advice as well as the assessment of risk for diabetes and heart disease, blood pressure, body fat composition, bone health and eye health.  This is an opportunity for anyone who is interested in improving their health to have a whole body MOT."

Claire McEvoy, Study Dietician said: “We are really looking forward to getting this project underway. This research will help us to understand exactly how fruit and vegetables may reduce people's risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. “
 
For further information on the study contact Claire McEvoy or Ian Wallace, Nutrition and Metabolism group, Queen’s University Belfast on (028) 9063 2557, 07967 237 802, c.mcevoy@qub.ac.uk or i.wallace@qub.ac.uk

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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'Big Bang' expert returns to Queen's
Dr Stephen Myers
Dr Stephen Myers, Queen's graduate and Director for Accelerators and for Technology at CERN

A Belfast-born doctor will give the public an insight into the world’s most ambitious scientific experiment, the ‘new big bang’, at the University on Wednesday.

As part of a public lecture for National Science Week, Dr Stephen Myers, a Queen’s graduate, will discuss his work on the most powerful and costly physics experiment ever built, known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Described as the equivalent of a moon-landing for physicists, the experiment aimed to re-create the conditions just after the Big Bang in an attempt to answer fundamental questions of science and the universe itself.

The Collider was built by The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Dr Myers is their Director for Accelerators and Technology.

The project received a vast amount of global interest. In his lecture Dr Myers will discuss the media coverage of the black hole production in the LHC and how antimatter is created in a very small accelerator at (CERN).

He will also talk discuss how the possible use of such antimatter is described in Dan Brown’s best-selling book Angels and Demons, the film of which is being released later this year.

Professor Robert McCullough from Queen’s University Centre for Plasma Physics said: “We are delighted to be hosting a lecture on the LHC.

“The LHC will create conditions that we believe existed less than a million millionth of a second after the Big Bang and will be able to detect the presence of the so called ‘dark matter’ that makes up more than 80 per cent of the mass of the Universe.

“The LHC experiments will also help to explain why antimatter created at the time of the Big Bang can no longer be found under normal conditions.”

The public lecture The Large Hadron Collider, CERN, Antimatter, Black Holes, Angels and Demons will take place at The Larmor Lecture Theatre, Queens University, on Wednesday March 11 at 7.00pm. All are welcome and admission is free. For access or any other queries please contact Wendy Rutherford on 028 9097 3523 or email: w.rutherford@qub.ac.uk

 For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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Students to debate public health issues of tomorrow
Professor Frank Kee, Gillian Kane, Belfast High School, Conn McGrath, Aquinas Grammar School, and MLA Basil McCrea.
Professor Frank Kee, Gillian Kane, Belfast High School, Conn McGrath, Aquinas Grammar School, and MLA Basil McCrea.

Local politicians and young people will discuss the future health of people in Northern Ireland tomorrow (Tuesday) an event in W5.

Organised by Queen's University and W5 as part of a UK-wide ESRC Festival of Social Science, A-level and AS-level students from seven local schools will take part in a special debate with the motion Do we need a nanny state or a mother nation?

Community representatives, health professionals and politicians including the Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea and Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff will take part in the debate which will focus on the topical issues of alcohol, food choices and weight management.

It is being introduced by the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride and is designed to raise public awareness of the role of the government in promoting public health.

The event at W5 is being hosted in partnership with the UK Clinical Research Collaboration Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), which is based at Queen’s University, and is aimed at leading significant improvements in the wellbeing and health of the UK population

In order to provide the pupils with background information and develop their thoughts and questions for the debate, representatives from Centre of Excellence for Public Health, visited the students at their schools. The visits also provided an opportunity for students to discuss career opportunities in science, medicine and public health.

Professor Frank Kee, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), said: “One of the key objectives of our Centre of Excellence is to engage directly with the public and to promote an understanding of the broad determinants of public health.

“This topical debate with young people will help them see more clearly the forces shaping their own and their communities’ health and it is their generation’s opinions which will shape the solutions of the future.”

The event is part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science, taking place across the UK during National Science and Engineering Week from 6 - 15 March.

Dr Sally Montgomery, Chief Executive of W5, added: “It is very important that young people in Northern Ireland consider public health issues.  These are topics that impact on both an individual and society and debating the issues with young people can actually help us shape future policy.  We would very much like to thank the ESRC for being such enthusiastic partners for this unique event.”


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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News in Brief

Sunday 8 March: Cliona on song for semi-final

A Queen’s University music student is to compete in the live semi-final of RTÉ’s All-Ireland Talent Show.
Cliona Hagan, 19, from Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, will represent Northern Ireland along with four other contenders.
Her appearance will be televised on RTÉ One at 6.30pm. After the performances the public can vote for their favourite contestant to represent Northern Ireland at the live final.
During the live final the public will decide the winner of the All Ireland talent show and the €50,000 prize.

Monday 9 March to Friday 13 March: Queen’s University goes red to support Comic Relief

Anyone passing Queen’s University’s will be seeing red next week as it joins in Comic Relief fun.
Red filters will be used on the landmark Lanyon Building’s floodlights to turn it red each evening in the run-up to Comic Relief Day on Friday 13 March in support of the charity.
The Lanyon will be one of several buildings in Belfast being lit up as part of the charity’s appeal to ‘Paint the Town Red’. The initiative is supporting the charity which has this year asked people to ‘Do Something Funny for Money’.

Monday 9 March: Fashion saves lives at Queen’s

The annual SWOT Fashion Show will take place in the Whitla Hall at Queen’s at 7pm.  Hosted by Dr Mark Hamilton from Radio 1’s Sunday Surgery and presenter Emma-Louise Johnston, the Fashion Show features the latest clothes from top Belfast stores and local designers.  Organised by fourth year Medicine and Dentistry students, the event raises money for third world medical care.
 
Media Opportunities: Dr Mark Hamilton, Emma-Louise Johnston and members of SWOT will be available for interview and photographs before and after the show.


Wednesday 11 March: Talk by Belfast ‘big bang’ scientist
 
Belfast born Dr Stephen Myers who was involved in the "new big bang" experiment, the most complicated and ambitious experiment ever built, is to deliver a lecture at Queen's University.
 
As part of National Science Week, the university’s honorary graduate will discuss media coverage of black hole production in the Large Hadron Collider and how antimatter is created in a very small accelerator at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). He will also talk about Dan Brown’s book Angels and Demons.

The public lecture, “The Large Hadron Collider, CERN, Antimatter, Black Holes, Angels and Demons”, will take place on Wednesday March 11 at 7.00pm.

(A full news release will be issued on Monday)

Friday 13 March: £2m investment in Pharmacy

A state-of-the-art pharmacy laboratory aimed at discovering new drugs for diseases including Alzheimer’s will officially at Queen’s University thanks to a £2million donation by former chief executive of Warner Chilcott, Dr John King.

Media opportunities at 11.40am to noon at the School of Pharmacy.

(A news release will be issued ahead of the event)

For media enquiries please contact: Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 3091 Out of hours pager: 07699 785 209

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Leading women in the picture at Queen's

"Women Emerging from the Shadows"

In the week which honours female achievements worldwide, Queen's University will celebrate its leading women at a special event on Friday (6 March).

To mark International Women's Day on Sunday, the University is hosting a public talk on the portraits of leading Queen's women which have pride of place in the University’s Great Hall.

They include President of Ireland Mary McAleese, a graduate and former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Queen's, and noted Belfast community worker and Queen’s Senator Baroness May Blood. Distinguished political scientist Professor Elizabeth Meehan and two female medical pioneers, neuropathologist Professor Dame Ingrid Allen and renal specialist the late Professor Mollie McGeown have also been immortalised on canvas.

The event will also focus on ‘Women Emerging from the Shadows’, the 16 ft by 6 ft painting by Newry-born artist Michelle Rogers which is on display in the University’s Council Chamber. 

Guests will be able to view the paintings and listen to lectures by Queen's Curator of Art Shan McAnena and Professor Lioba Theis, Director of the Institute of Art History, University of Vienna.

The event has been organised by Queen's award-winning Gender Initiative which has attracted international attention as a role model for other universities and institutions. It has produced a stream of tangible results ranging from the establishment of a central maternity fund and enhanced childcare provision to the introduction of flexible working for clerical staff and a mentoring scheme for female staff.

Anyone interested in attending should contact Queen's Gender Initiative on 028 9097 3712.


For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's students to benefit from £2.5million in national awards

Queen's University has been awarded a total of 58 post-graduate studentships with a value of approximately £2.5million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The University will allocate the awards over the next five years under the new Block Grant Partnership Scheme introduced by AHRC.

The awards will be made across a wide range of subjects in the Arts and Humanities at Queen’s.

Welcoming the awards, Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie said: "The partnership agreement will enhance the international reach and reputation of the research community within Queen’s University. It will support our strategies of ensuring our graduates have the key skills and necessary knowledge for their career development and play an important role in the transfer of knowledge into our wider community."
 
The first allocation of awards within the New Partnership Scheme will be made in October 2009 and Queen’s will use the awards to support quality research training for Doctoral, Research Preparation Masters and Professional Preparation Masters degrees.

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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Photo contest focuses on Queen's

Queen's graduates, staff and students are being invited to capture images on camera which reflect a day in the life of the University - one of the most diverse institutions in Northern Ireland.

Judges in the 'A Day in the Life of Queen's University Belfast' competition are looking for attention-grabbing images that give fresh insights into the world of Queen's, from major academic conferences to landmark buildings to staff and students at work and play.

The winning entries will appear in a new University calendar which will be on sale from June 2009 in Queen's Welcome Centre in the Lanyon Building, and in Queen's Students' Union.

Speaking about the competition, Queen's Events and Conferencing Manager Angela Haley, said: "The idea arose from the suggestion that the University should produce its own calendar. Although numerous photos of Queen’s exist, and the image of the Lanyon Building is known throughout the world, we felt it would be worthwhile to gather new, fresh photos from the Queen's family itself, and a competition seemed to be the ideal way forward.

“The University has so much to offer in terms of inspiration for budding and experienced photographers and we are really looking forward to viewing the entries."

The overall winner of the competition will receive a £250 gift voucher to be spent on photographic equipment. Each of the eleven runners up will receive a voucher for Queen's Welcome Centre.

The closing date is Friday 1 May 2009.  All entries to the competition must be supplied in digital format, and comply with the full set of competition rules. The competition categories are: People in Action, Concepts, Art and Architecture and The Four Seasons.  Further details on the competition and application forms are available from Queen’s Welcome Centre or online at www.qub.ac.uk/welcomecentre

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, +44 (0)28 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's student gives twitterers 'new voice'

A Queen's University Belfast student has come up with a unique way of keeping track of what people across the world are up to throughout the day.

Mark McKeague, 20, from Culdaff in County Donegal, has invented a radio which tunes in to and broadcasts messages posted on social networking site, Twitter.

Various pop icons and celebrities including Lily Allen, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Ashton Kutcher can now be heard on ‘radio stations’ such as ‘Happy Twitter’ and ‘Sad Twitter’ based on the tone of their tweets.

Mark, who is studying for his final year of BSc Music Technology in the School of Music and Sonic Arts at Queen’s, has created an interactive version that allows fans to listen to Twitter messages posted on the website in real time so they can keep up to date with friends, celebrities and even complete strangers.

Mark uses an old fashioned radio to receive the tweets. He has organised them into stations such as ‘Happy Twitter’ and ‘Sad Twitter’ based on the tone of the messages.

He said: “I came up with the idea when thinking about the amount of information that is being broadcast on the internet, through numerous social networks and personal sites. There is so much information being broadcast and most of it goes unread and unnoticed.

“I wanted to find a new way to use this information. I looked to how we tuned into broadcasts in the past, and wondered if this could be applied to today's technology. The Twitter service has millions of people registered, who are broadcasting countless messages every day.

“I found the radio when I was at home for Christmas, and I knew it was perfect with its old fashioned style and feel. I took the radio apart and added an Arduino micro-controller to pick up movement on the tuning dial of the radio.

“I also added a connection to the radio's speaker. This allowed me to connect the radio to the computer. I could then download tweets and send them to the radio which means the users can tune into spoken tweets.”

Several 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns also used Twitter as a publicity mechanism, including President Barack Obama.

Mark said: “Twitter has been growing more and more popular recently with high profile users such as Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross and this has really suited what I was trying to achieve with the project.”

Although Twitter Radio is a dream gadget for many, Mark says it isn’t ready to hit the shelves just yet.

 “I don’t have any plans to commercialize yet as the radio is still very young in terms of its conception and design and at the moment is set up as an installation piece,” said Mark.

“I'm continuing work in this area of Interaction design in my portfolio module this semester, and would be interested in developing the radio further.”

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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Flavour of Psychology from Big Brother expert
Big Brother's Professor Geoffrey Beattie
Big Brother's Professor Geoffrey Beattie

Queen's University is offering the public a unique chance to experience a Flavour of Psychology this week.

Big Brother's Professor Geoffrey Beattie and renowned sports psychologist Professor Aidan Moran will be among the experts discussing how psychology touches on everyday life at a public event on Wednesday 4 March.

Professor Beattie will reveal how we can tell what people are really thinking by reading body language and hand movements, while sports psychologist Professor Aidan Moran from UCD will be explaining the role of concentration and psychology in creating winning sports stars.

They will be joined by Professor Peter Smith from Goldsmiths, University of London, who will give an insight into bullying and how it can be prevented and Dr. Carol Ireland from Mersey Care NHS Trust who will be discussing the role of the crisis negotiator. Professor Christine Liddel from University of Ulster will discuss why some people find it so hard to accept and tackle the problems associated with climate change, while Professor Peter Kinderman from University of Liverpool will talk about ‘Psychological Well-being: A New Ethos for Mental Health’.

The event is being organised by the Northern Ireland British Psychological Society and Queen’s. While targeted at university and A-level students, it is also open to the public and anyone with interest in the subject of Psychology.

Professor Peter Hepper, Head of School of Psychology, said: “The School of Psychology is delighted to be hosting the Flavour of Psychology event. The topics that our panel will be discussing are very interesting and because the speakers will touch on many aspects of everyday life, the event will be of great benefit to students and the public alike.”

Professor Maurice Stringer, Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the British Psychological Society, said the event is a great opportunity: “The Flavour of Psychology event is a unique chance for young people to hear the most up to date research in psychology. We are delighted that such well-known psychologists have agreed to speak on a range of fascinating topics.”

The event will take place on Wednesday 4 March between 9.30am-3.30pm at Stranmillis University College. There is no admission fee but anyone interested should book in advance by contacting Anne Kerr on a.kerr@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 4129.

For media enquiries please contact: Emma Blee, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 2576, press.office@qub.ac.uk

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