09-2009 Press Releases

28/09/09: Public health experts warn of financial cost of obesity
24/09/2009: Queen's in Ballymena: VC meets business and political leaders
23/09/2009: UK's £30M centre for cyber-security opens at Queen's
24/09/2009: Plastics 'goes bananas' at Queen's University Belfast
22/09/2009: Science meets art – Body donation centre stage at Queen's
22/09/2009: Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy highlighted
22/09/2009: LEGO League's 'smart move' to challenge young scientists
18/09/2009: Teenage drug use discussed at Queen's
21/09/2009: Free Queen's Festival tickets for charities and community groups
18/09/2009: Fun in any language!
17/09/2009: The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe - and the Carpet
16/09/2009: Lincoln comes alive at Queen's
15/09/2009: 'Blonde bombshell' beckons in new exhibition
16/09/2009: Conference will help strengthen the voice of older people
11/09/2009: Queen's at the Planetarium!
11/09/2009: Fantastic First Week
10/09/2009: New guest presenting role for Zoe Salmon
11/09/2009: Queen's looks at a decade of policing change
08/09/2009: National Schools Film Week launches at QFT
08/09/2009: £2m food safety centre helps companies compete globally
01/09/2009: £6m funding boost for super-fast computers
01/09/2009: International event brings world’s top cancer doctors to Queen's
Public health experts warn of financial cost of obesity
Professor Frank Kee,
Professor Frank Kee,

An obesity epidemic is set to place significant strain on public expenditure in the coming decades unless effective means of tackling it are found, according to the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health, based at Queen’s University.

The warning came ahead of a two-day all-Ireland conference at Queen’s this week (Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 October) set to be attended by internationally renowned experts who will share their knowledge on interventions to improve public health with students, researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

The Autumn School is being organised by the Centre of Excellence and its partner, the Institue of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), in collaboration with the HRB funded National Research Centre for Diet, Obesity and Diabetes, which is led by Professor Ivan Perry at University College Cork.

Professor Frank Kee, the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health in Northern Ireland – a £5m centre opened last year under the umbrella of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), has warned against quick fixes in drugs and medicines to improve public health.

He said: “Most of the major public health challenges facing us today require health professionals and politicians to act on a much broader front on the underlying determinants of ill health.

“Whether it be the rising tide of obesity and diabetes or the necessity for contingency planning during a pandemic, the challenges of today’s chronic diseases require systems-wide approaches and an appreciation of the complexity of the relationships between individuals, different sectors of society, the underlying social norms that drive behaviour and the role of the economy and politics in shaping the health of the population.

 “There has never been a better time than now to consolidate and enhance what we know in this field. These are the very sorts of problems that requires systems-wide solutions, effecting change in the way we live our lives – and not just in what we put in our mouths.”

 Dr Jane Wilde, IPH Chief Executive added: ‘Investment in public health pays dividends. Evidence shows the positive health and economic benefits that stem from effective public health intervention. 

 “We cannot tackle complex challenges such as obesity or alcohol abuse on an individual basis or by a pill. Sharing knowledge is vital.

“The wealth of international experience at the conference gives us a remarkable opportunity to link research to policy and practice and gain a clearer understanding of what works.

 “The importance of this is recognised in our award from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) in Northern Ireland, entitled Strengthening the all-Ireland Research Base.”

The Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety NI is also one of the partners in the Centre of Excellence. Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has stressed the importance of public in reforms of the health service and earlier this year the Assembly gave its approval to a new streamlined structure for health and social care. This includes establishing innovative organisations, such as the new Public Health Agency, to drive forward the public health agenda and tackle health inequalities.

The event is being funded by the Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI and an award from DEL’s Strengthening the All-Island Research Base programme.

 More information about the Centre of Excellence can be found at www.qub.ac.uk/coe
 
For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362, a.clements@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's in Ballymena: VC meets business and political leaders
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac will visit Ballymena on Friday 25 September to meet local business, education and civic leaders.

The visit – part of a series of University roadshows – aims to build on Queen’s existing links with the area and to enhance dialogue with its key stakeholders.
 
The itinerary includes a meeting with senior managers in Wrightbus, with which the University already has a significant partnership. The company is one of Queen’s partners in a £1.5 million project to develop the next generation of surveillance sensor networks systems for public transport.
 
Also high on the Vice-Chancellor’s agenda for the visit is a round-table discussion with head teachers from local schools. Around 900 students from the Ballymena area are currently enrolled at Queen’s, including more than 250 entrants last September.
 
Speaking in advance of the visit, the Vice-Chancellor said: “Queen’s University is home to many students from Ballymena and neighbouring towns in Co. Antrim, and we also have close links with many local businesses and elected representatives. We want to build on these links and to learn about how we can best continue to work together.
 
“Our business connections with this area include a partnership with the UK’s leading low floor bus manufacturer Wrightbus in the area of surveillance systems for public transport. 

We also have Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with several local firms including Blaney Motor Co and Northstone (NI) Ltd to name but a few. These partnerships help businesses improve their impact and competitiveness through gaining access to world-class know-how, technology and skills of the academics and students of the University. Queen’s has 40 KTP programmes with firms throughout Northern Ireland.”
 
The University also runs a series of design clinics in Ballymena. The monthly meetings provide advice on topics from technical design solutions to branding and graphics, and are organised by the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s on behalf of Invest NI.
 
Professor Gregson went on to refer to the quality of the student experience at Queen’s.
 
He said: “As a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s 20 leading research-intensive universities, we offer a first-class university experience right here in Northern Ireland.
 
“Our position as an international research-led university was reinforced by the most recent UK-wide research assessment exercise (RAE) which identified world-class research in all academic areas. This excellence is also reflected in our teaching. The University is home to three Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) and many of our courses are cited in The Times Top 20 universities by subject area.
 
“A first-class student experience demands first-class facilities. At Queen’s we make sure that we provide these. Major projects include our magnificent new library, a landmark building for Northern Ireland, which opened for business earlier this month, and the Elms Student Village. These two projects alone cost some £100 million.”
 
The Vice-Chancellor added that in Ballymena, as in other parts of Northern Ireland, Queen’s graduates contribute to society in healthcare and law, in engineering and education and in culture and business and commerce.
 
“We have many important connections, and I hope that this visit will help them to grow and flourish in the future,” he said.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5320, Mob 07814415451 , a.watson@qub.ac.uk

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QTV Icon NewUK's £30M centre for cyber-security opens at Queen's

The United Kingdom’s lead centre for cyber-security research is to be opened today at Queen’s University Belfast.

The £30 million Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s will create 80 new positions and become the UK’s principal centre for the development of technology to counter malicious ‘cyber-attacks’.

Leading edge research that will help keep crime off the internet, combat anti-social behaviour and street crime and safeguard the trustworthiness of information stored electronically, both at home and in the workplace, are just some of the key areas addressed by the new Centre.

CSIT will also provide a timely boost to the UK’s economy, aiding job creation and strategically positioning UK industry at the forefront of the global communication and information security sector, predicted to grow to around £50 billion in 2011.

The Centre is one of the first Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKCs) created in the UK. Funders include the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board. In addition, to date over 20 organisations have committed to support CSIT’s work over the next five years. They include industrial partners such as BAE Systems and Thales UK as well as government agencies and international research institutes.

The Centre will bring together research specialists in complementary fields such as data encryption, network security systems, wireless enabled security systems and intelligent video analysis.

Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “The opening of CSIT at Queen’s, is the most bold and exciting development the United Kingdom has seen to date in terms of information security.

“Cyber-security is a global issue that affects us all. 97 per cent of business in the UK now relies on the internet and other IT systems. By coupling the pioneering research undertaken at CSIT with economic development, Queen’s will secure the UK’s position in cyberspace.

“Today is also one of the most significant and defining moments in the history of Queen’s University Belfast. The funding to create this Centre is the largest ever package made available for academic research in Northern Ireland.

“The successful bid for this Centre by Professor John McCanny and his colleagues, against other world-class institutions in the UK, highlights how the research work at Queen’s in this crucial sector has become truly internationally recognised. CSIT will become a vital reference point for all businesses working in this field and beyond.”

The attendance at today’s launch of some of the most respected national and international figures in the field of cyber-security, including Larry Rohrbough, Chief Executive of TRUST, the United States’ major centre in the area of cyber-security at the University of California at Berkeley, highlights the importance of the new Centre to the global communications and IT industries.

Professor John McCanny, CSIT principal investigator, believes the new centre is set to become globally recognised thanks to the breadth and depth of its technological capabilities and because it represents a new international paradigm for innovation: “It is really only now that the international community is beginning to tackle cyber security in a co-ordinated way. Our work at CSIT is therefore of fundamental importance at this critical time in the development of the Internet and related technologies.

“CSIT has an excellent technology platform based on world-leading expertise at Queen’s and its already existing Institute for Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) in the Northern Ireland Science Park. Our approach to exploiting the commercial and economic benefits of these strengths represents a major advance on how UK universities have attempted this in the past.

“The approach adopted within CIST contrasts with the more conventional way academic research is undertaken. Our starting points tend to be larger “mission-driven” projects involving sizeable teams for which ambitious and challenging end goals have been identified.

“In addition, CSIT has a strong entrepreneurial ethos with a novel commercialisation process built into our management structure. This enables our researchers to work effectively alongside potential customers and specialists from industry and other academic institutions. We are confident that in this way, we will be able to fast track the development of marketable applications of our technologies to the benefit of UK industry and the wider economy as a whole,” added Professor McCanny.

One of CSIT’s fundamental challenges is to develop systems to be deployed at the core of next generation computer and telecoms networks to provide much higher levels of protection than is possible with the Internet security tools installed on today’s PCs.

Making this a reality will require significant advances in high-performance network and content processing technology - two research areas for which Queen’s University Belfast has earned an international reputation.

Building on this work, CSIT is developing powerful processors capable of screening huge volumes of data - equivalent to the Internet traffic produced by over 10,000 households - for malicious content and behavior in real time.

The processors are the most advanced of their kind and are ideally suited for use at the heart of sophisticated systems controlled by complex sets of rules. These can be written to prevent identity theft and fraud or to protect children from on-line grooming. When an on-line security risk or crime is identified, they will be capable of triggering an immediate response.

By bringing together a wide range of security related research fields and technologies under one roof, CSIT is also aiming to pioneer the convergence of network, data and physical security through the development of new technologies and systems. This work is expected to lead to significant improvements in the effectiveness of CCTV technology in combating anti-social behaviour and street crime.

Currently, while much criminal activity is captured by the UK’s four million CCTV cameras, very little is observed in real time because of the high cost of employing sufficient numbers of people to monitor activity on screens. This means that while the data they generate may be used to help prosecute offenders, it is of little value in preventing a crime before it occurs.

CSIT aims to tackle this problem by using innovative hardware and software designed to analyse CCTV camera data in real time.

CSIT’s research also covers specific areas which have been identified as being of strategic national security importance in major reports produced recently by the British and American governments.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Press and PR Unit. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Plastics 'goes bananas' at Queen's University Belfast
M. McCourt (Process Engineer), M. Kearns (Rotomoulding Manager) and P. Hanna(Process Engineer)
M. McCourt (Process Engineer), M. Kearns (Rotomoulding Manager) and P. Hanna(Process Engineer)
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast are pioneering a new technique for the use of banana plants in the production of plastic products.

The Polymer Processing Research Centre at Queen's is taking part in a €1 million study known as the Badana project. The project will develop new procedures to incorporate by-products from banana plantations in the Canary Islands into the production of rotationally moulded plastics. In addition to the environmental benefits, the project will increase the profitability of the plantation owners and help job security for those working in the area.

Mark Kearns, Rotational Moulding Manager at the Polymer Processing Research Centre in Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said: “Almost 20 per cent of the bananas consumed in Europe are produced in the Canary Islands, with around 10 million banana plants grown annually in Gran Canaria alone.

“Once the fruit has been harvested, the rest of the banana plant goes to waste. An estimated 25,000 tonnes of this natural fibre is dumped in ravines around the Canaries every year.

“The Badana project aims to find a use for these plants. The natural fibres contained within them may be used in the production of rotationally moulded plastics, which are used to make everyday items such as, oil tanks, wheelie bins, water tanks, traffic cones, plastic dolls and many types of boats. The banana plant fibres will be processed, treated and added to a mix of plastic material and sandwiched between two thin layers of pure plastic providing excellent structural properties. The project gives a whole new meaning to ‘banana sandwich’.

“This new technique will have substantial environmental benefits. It will hopefully result in a substantial reduction in the amount of Polyethylene used in the rotational moulding process, ushering in a new and more sustainable era in the production of rotationally moulded plastics. The research and development of this new approach will help create jobs and the banana plantations will ultimately benefit financially from the sale of the remains of millions of harvested banana plants, which would otherwise go to waste.”

“It is testament to our expertise in rotational moulding, and strong links with several Spanish Universities, that the Polymer Processing Research Centre has been asked to contribute in this groundbreaking project.”

The funding for the Badana project has been provided by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme. For more information about the Polymer Processing Research Centre at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/PolymerProcessingResearchCentre/

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5320, Mob 07814415451, a.watson@qub.ac.uk

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Science meets art – Body donation centre stage at Queen's

The issue of body donation will be centre stage at Queen’s this week as the University takes a new approach to medical education.

For the first time, trainee doctors have come together with drama students, a theatre director, a choreographer and a medical ethicist to explore the idea of body donation to medical science. The result is Dead Man Talking, a unique performance in the University’s Brian Friel Theatre (Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 September at 7pm).

The performance is part of a new initiative by Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and the University’s Centre for Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts.

Dr Melissa McCullough, Lecturer Medical Law and Ethics, Centre for Medical Education at Queen’s said: “This is a brand new approach to medical education. We are taking medical students out of a clinical setting and putting them on the stage. This is a new forum in which students can explore medical ethics and express scientific and ethical arguments through performance art.

Dead Man Talking will explore the whole issue of body donation. It will look at the ethical issues surrounding body donation, the reasons why people may or may not choose to give their bodies to medical science, the public image of body donation, and the experience of doctors in the dissection room.

“Tomorrow’s doctors need to be more than just medics. They must be good managers, excellent team players with an ability to adapt quickly to any situation. From team work and public speaking, to working within a completely different discipline and adjusting to a new working environment, this project has helped our medical students develop a range of skills they will need for a successful career in medicine. Our drama students have been excellent role models for the medical students in relation to professionalism, teamwork and creativity. The student mix has been integral to the project’s success."

Anna Newell from the Centre of Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts (CETL) at Queen’s will direct the performance. She said: “Many of the medical students involved in the project haven’t been on stage since they left primary school. This has thrown them out of their comfort zone and encouraged them to look at medicine and medical ethics from a new perspective. All those involved – ten students from Medicine and four from Drama Studies – have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“This project has brought science and art together in a new way at Queen’s. It is the latest in a series of initiatives by CETL to develop more inter-disciplinarity across the creative and performing arts in Queen’s and increase interaction with professional arts practitioners.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in either medicine or the arts to come along to the performance. Tickets are free and can be reserved through Juliana Licinic on 028 9097 5034 or at j.licinic@qub.ac.uk. Although there may be tickets available at the door on the nights of the performances, booking is advised to avoid disappointment.”

Dead Man Talking will run at the Brian Friel Theatre, 20 University Square, Belfast from Tuesday 22 until Thursday 24 September at 7pm.

For more information contact Anne-Marie Watson at the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or email a.watson@qub.ac.uk

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Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy highlighted

Many pregnant women are not getting enough Vitamin D even when they take supplements. The finding has been made as a result of research carried out by the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), which involves researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

Dr Valerie Holmes from Queen’s School of Nursing and Midwifery co-authored the study which was published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Nutrition. The study was the first of its kind measuring the vitamin D status of pregnant women in Northern Ireland.

The Food Standards Agency recommends that all pregnant women take a daily dose of 10 micrograms of the vitamin. Deficiencies have been linked to rickets and lower bone density in children.

 Although the main source of Vitamin D is synthesis following exposure to sunlight, it is also found in oily fish, eggs and in fortified foods including margarine and breakfast cereals and can also be taken as a food supplement.

The group studied 99 expectant mothers living in Northern Ireland and tested them at three separate times during their pregnancy.

Testing at 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy revealed that as many as 96 per cent of the women had insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood. Examination also revealed that at these test points, 35 per cent could be classified as vitamin D deficient at 12 weeks and 44 per cent at 20 weeks.

During the third trimester, at 35 weeks, 75 per cent had insufficient levels of the vitamin and 16 per cent of women were deficient.

Dr Holmes, from the Nursing and Midwifery Research Unit, said: “While studies in other countries have reported low levels of vitamin D in pregnancy, the high percentage of women in this study who had insufficient levels is remarkable.

“Northern Ireland’s northern latitude means that we are ‘in the dark’ in terms of sunshine, and makes the issue of adequate vitamin D dietary intake even more important.

“While vitamin D status was improved in women who reported taking multivitamin supplements, many still had insufficient levels, suggesting that the amount present in multivitamins formulated for pregnancy may be too low to maintain adequate levels.

“Stores of vitamin D in the newborn baby depend on the mother’s levels during pregnancy and where deficiency is severe there is an increased risk of rickets. Previous studies have reported a link between low levels of vitamin D in pregnancy and lower bone density in children.”

Dr Holmes said further research was needed to determine exactly how much vitamin D women need to take to maintain adequate levels during pregnancy. She added that if pregnant women have any concerns about their nutrition they should consult their midwife or GP.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the University of Ulster and Belfast City Hospital.

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LEGO League's 'smart move' to challenge young scientists

Northern Ireland’s young scientists are being challenged to show off their ‘Smart Moves’ in a bid to represent the region in a global robotics competition.

Pupils from 15 secondary schools in Northern Ireland will compete in the Northern Ireland heat of FIRST Lego League, the world’s biggest interactive robotics challenge for young people, in The Odyssey on 24 November.

The annual competition invites the budding scientists to design, build and programme a willing robot that must perform a series of challenging tasks. Pupils also have to complete a research project and presentation on the ‘Smart Move’ theme which will focus on everyday transportation.

The League aims to help develop tomorrow’s innovators by introducing children aged from 9 to 16 to the fun of solving real-world problems by applying maths, science, and technology and to help develop tomorrow’s innovators.

The Lego League this year is being brought to Northern Ireland by a partnership of the Institute of Engineering Technology (IET), Queen’s University Widening Participation Unit, SAP Research (SAP) and W5 at the Odyssey.

The partners are hoping the initiative will also help achieve the Government's target to increase the number of undergraduates involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects by 25 per cent by 2015.

Northern Ireland’s IET, Queen’s University, SAP and W5 have teamed up with a range of leaders in the field of industry and academia to spearhead the initiative to engage schools with real world issues using robotics. These include FG Wilson (Engineering) Ltd., ESB International, Thales Air Defence Ltd., NIE, Queen’s University - School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, South Eastern Regional College, and the University of Ulster’s School of Computing and Intelligent Systems

This year’s teams and sponsors are:

  • Aquinas Grammar School, Belfast (NIE)
  • Ballyclare High School (Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • Belfast High School (SAP Research)
  • Hazelwood Integrated College, Belfast (Queen’s Widening Participation Unit)
  • Lisneal College, Londonderry (University of Ulster, School of Computing and Intelligent Systems)
  • Lumen Christi College, Derry (University of Ulster, School of Computing and Intelligent Systems)
  • Magherafelt High School (Queen’s Widening Participation Unit)
  • St Columb's College, Derry (University of Ulster, School of Computing and Intelligent Systems)
  • St Dominic’s (South Eastern Regional College)
  • St Joseph's College, Enniskillen (Queen’s Widening Participation Unit)
  • St. MacNissi's College, Carnlough (F G Wilson (Engineering) Ltd)
  • St Mary's Grammar School, Magherafelt (Thales Air Defence Ltd)
  • St Patrick's College, Belfast (Queen’s Widening Participation Unit)
  • Shimna Integrated College, Newcastle (Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • Thornhill College, Derry (ESB International)

Media enquiries to Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5310 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Teenage drug use discussed at Queen's

The issue of drug use will be the focus of two important events at Queen's University next week.

On Monday 21 September school teachers, health educationalists and drug prevention professionals will hear findings from the Youth Development Survey which questioned 4,000 teenagers in 43 schools in Northern Ireland about drug use.

The study found that by the age of 12 years, eight per cent of those questioned had used cannabis. This rose to 43 per cent by the age of 16, and 45 per cent by the age of 18.

Later in the week (Thursday 24-Saturday 26 September) researchers from across Europe will meet at Queen’s to discuss the latest developments in drugs-related issues at the 20th Annual Conference of the European Society for Social Drug Research.

The Youth Development Survey is one of the largest school-based surveys of its kind in the UK and Ireland. It is conducted by the Institute of Child Care Research at Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work and is funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland.

Dr Patrick McCrystal, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Child Care Research, said: “Monday’s event will bring together educationalists and health professionals to discuss the onset and development of problem drug use among teenagers.

“A number of young people who took part in the Youth Development Survey appear to have developed a drug-using lifestyle by the age of 16 years.

“While the survey looks at the use of a number of drugs, the findings relating to cannabis are particularly interesting as cannabis is often considered the ‘gateway’ drug to more serious substance abuse. In nearly all cases, cannabis is the first illegal drug used by young people – and almost all of those who reported using cocaine or ecstacy also used cannabis. Levels of cannabis use by these young people is higher than among teenagers of the same age in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

“The cannabis users who took part in the study were more likely to be male, have weaker family bonds, and be less committed to school than those who did not use the drug. They were also more likely to have smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol to intoxication before the age of 16.

“Of the young people who had tried cannabis, around one in ten went on to use it on a weekly basis by the age of 16. The most common age for first trying cannabis is 15, and most of those who admitted using the drug obtained it from friends.

“These findings highlight the need to educate young people about the risks of experimenting with drugs. This event is an opportunity for the people who work with these teenagers in schools, health care and drugs prevention organisations, to consider the research findings and their implications for drugs education and prevention initiatives for young people in Northern Ireland.”

The Youth Development Survey involved young people who attended schools in Belfast, Ballymena and Downpatrick. For more information on the Survey visit www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/YDS/

The 20th Annual Conference of the European Society for Social Drug Research will explore drugs policy, trends and patterns in drug use, drug using lifestyles, the availability of drugs and the structure of drug dealing networks.

For more information please call the Communications Office on 028 9097 3087/3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Free Queen's Festival tickets for charities and community groups

Community groups and registered charities across Northern Ireland are being given free tickets for this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s.

In a move to ensure the festival will be enjoyed by new audiences across Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank has released 1,000 tickets exclusively to community groups and registered charities for a mixture of great shows in the Festival which runs from 16 to 31October.

Cormac McCarthy, Chief Executive, Ulster Bank Group said: “The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is the flagship Festival for Northern Ireland and boasts a truly international programme. Our investment in the Festival recognises its importance to the community and we are offering community groups and registered charities which have perhaps never experienced live arts before, the opportunity to enjoy an evening on us. Many groups don’t have the chance to access a world-class arts show and we are providing tickets for eight of the amazing shows in the Festival.”

The community tickets have been made available by Ulster Bank in partnership with Arts & Business Northern Ireland. Festival Director, Graeme Farrow said the shows provide a wonderful, exciting opportunity: “We sold almost 45,000 tickets last year but we want to reach out to audiences who maybe do not see our events as ‘for them’ or who cannot afford to attend. I carefully selected shows which I believe are ‘must-sees’, shows which audiences will never have seen the like of before and are unlikely to again, shows that capture the heart of this Festival. What better introduction to the Festival than Teatr Biuro Podrózy’s “Macbeth” performed on motorbikes and stilts at Clarendon Dock? This is Shakespeare for everyone.

“If I could wholeheartedly recommend one world-class event it would be DV8’s ‘To Be Straight with You’ at the Grand Opera House. Audiences will never think of theatre in the same way again. The music on offer comes from the Sahara Desert; Warsaw; the mining villages of Yorkshire; and from the very best Irish traditional music players. Growing up in Sunderland in North-East England I never had the opportunities to witness such magic. This festival opened my eyes to many things when I first attended 15 years ago and provided so much enjoyment. I hope that it will do likewise for local community groups.”

Applications for Community Tickets must be received by Ulster Bank by no later than the 30th September by logging onto www.ulsterbank.com/arts. For more information about the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s programme or to book tickets, click www.belfastfestival.com

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Fun in any language!

A French breakfast in Newtownabbey, international quizzes in Ballymena, a multicultural day in Castlederg, and a culture night in Belfast are among the highlights planned to mark European Day of Languages in Northern Ireland later this week.

EDL is a Council of Europe initiative held annually on 26 September in 47 countries to celebrate language and cultural diversity. The region’s celebrations are being co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT), which is based in the School of Education at Queen’s University.

NICILT Executive Officer Wendy Phipps said that the Centre is keen to hear from schools, colleges and community organisations with exciting ideas for fun ways of celebrating language learning, and may even be able to help with suggestions.

She said: “As the 26th this year falls on a Saturday, we are asking schools to choose either the Friday or Monday as the date on which to hold an EDL event. For other organisations the Saturday may be the day they wish to choose, so we could have a weekend of language celebration.

“EDL provides a great opportunity to highlight the importance of language learning in a really fun way and to increase awareness and appreciation of all languages.

“Last year many schools, colleges and other groups organised excellent activities to highlight the day. We would encourage everyone to get involved again this year. We have already heard from a number of organisations planning to do something special. For example, here at Queen’s we will be organising an online quiz for all staff.”

Further information is available from the NICILT website www.qub.ac.uk/edu/nicilt or from Wendy Phipps on 028 9097 5955 or 07980287670

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe - and the Carpet
The carpet outside the C.S. Lewis Reading Room
The carpet outside the C.S. Lewis Reading Room

Northern Ireland company Ulster Carpets has provided a touch of the magic of Narnia for the new £50 million Library at Queen's University.

The firm has presented the University with a magnificent rug featuring Aslan the lion and the Gryphon, which will be placed at the entrance to the Library’s CS Lewis Reading Room.

The 4mx4m rug was designed in-house at the Ulster Carpets factory in Portadown, by Gemma Alexander, who at the time was on graduate placement with the company.

Gemma said: “As a child the Narnia books were my favourites and I was really excited to be involved in such a prestigious project.  I am delighted that the carpet has now been manufactured and will be placed in the new library for all to see. 

“Queen’s essentially gave us a blank canvas and they accepted our designs on the first presentation with just a few colour tweaks, which made my job all the more enjoyable.”

The Library at Queen’s – a landmark building for Northern Ireland – is now open for business. Illuminated by a multi-storey open atrium, it accommodates 2,000 reader places and houses 1.2 million volumes. Ground floor facilities include IT training rooms, a Language Centre, Library and Computer support areas and a cafe. The upper storeys house the University’s Special Collections, subject-related enquiry points and a vast range of printed works.

Queen’s Director of Development Norma Sinte said: “The opening of The Library at Queen’s is the culmination of one of the most ambitious building projects, and the largest single fundraising initiative, in the University’s history. 

“It includes the enchanting CS Lewis Reading Room, a circular reading area decorated with a selection of quotes from his writings and frosted imagery of the landscapes which inspired his most celebrated works.  The stunning rug donated by Ulster Carpets provides a wonderful and fitting entrance to this Room, and we are very grateful to the company for its generosity.”

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 87 1997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Lincoln comes alive at Queen's
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Queen's University is celebrating the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln with a series of ‘Lincoln Conversations’ with leading historians.

The events will mark the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the man who is regarded by many as America’s greatest President.

The first of three ‘Lincoln Conversations’ - a discussion with leading Lincoln experts Richard Carwardine for the University of Oxford, Matthew Gallman from the University of Florida and Catherine Clinton from Queen’s - will be chaired by the BBC’s William Crawley on Thursday 24 September from 5:30-7:30 pm in Queen’s new £50million Library.

The University has also welcomed back eight budding historians who spent the summer steeped in American history on the Lincoln Interns programme.

James Copeland (Newtownabbey), Andrew Sloan (Newtownabbey), Kenneth Miller (Rathcoole, North Belfast) and Joshua Montague-Munson (Wootton, Hampshire) spent four weeks at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illionois.

Michael Stoker (Ballymena), Emma Wady (Carrickfergus), Conleth Mullan (Portaferry) and William Wyeth (South London) worked at the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania – close to the site of the Battle of Gettysburg and the burial grounds where Lincoln delivered his famed Gettysburg address.
Professor Catherine Clinton from Queen’s School of History and Anthropology said: “Abraham Lincoln is consistently ranked by historians as the greatest American President. He led the United States through civil war and was one of the great orators of his era. In this, Lincoln’s bicentennial year, it is valuable to reflect on his exemplary life and career - especially his legacy worldwide in terms of race relations and freedom struggles.”

As a member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Bicentennial Commission, Clinton has participated in more than a dozen events on both sides of the Atlantic during Lincoln’s bicentenary. She said: “Lincoln has not just been an inspiration for President Obama - Lincoln has an international following, and I know the people of Northern Ireland will be especially eager to share in this series of events to celebrate his life and legacy.

“Lincoln Conversations will tackle a wide range of topics, from Lincoln’s literary talents to his judicial decisions, to debates about his religious views and his controversial role as Emancipator.”

Lincoln Conversations is co-sponsored by the US Consulate in Belfast. The first event will also be attended by some of Professor Clinton’s students who have recently returned from Lincoln Internships in the US.

Speaking about the Lincoln Interns Professor Clinton said: “Queens’ students have a passion for history, and these internships allow them to combine that passion with the development of the skills needed to enter a competitive workplace. The Library and Museum in Springfield and the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College are premier historical institutions in the United States.

“Our students have gained invaluable experience during their time there. They’ve learned as much about the workplace and job opportunities, as they have about history. I had no idea how timely this would be by 2009 when I began working on this programme. We must continue to develop similar international internship opportunities for all our history students.”

For more information on studying History at Queen’s University visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/History

For more information contact Anne-Marie Watson at Queen’s Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or email a.watson@qub.ac.uk

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'Blonde bombshell' beckons in new exhibition
One of the images on view in the Naughton Gallery
One of the images on view in the Naughton Gallery

Some of the most iconic images of Second World War and post-war Britain will go on show in the latest exhibition in the Naughton Gallery at Queen's University.

Entitled ‘Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means’, the display, which opens to the public tomorrow (Wednesday), features some of the best-known work of the renowned graphic designer and poster artist Abram Games.
 
Games produced some of the UK’s most memorable graphics, such as the Festival of Britain emblem, and the 'Blonde Bombshell' ATS poster of 1941, which was withdrawn after a Parliamentary debate deemed it ‘too glamorous’. 
 
His work included propaganda posters which he designed as Official War Poster Artist during World War II, and post-war advertisements for BEA/BOAC, London Transport and Guinness. He also created the pioneering screen identity for the BBC and commemorative stamps for the 1948 Olympic Games.
 
Drawn from the Estate of Abram Games’ archive and The Wellcome Trust Collection, the exhibition traces the development of some of his most famous images, including the Festival of Britain emblem from his first doodles to the finished work.
 
The exhibition will continue until Sunday 11 October 2009. 
 
For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5310, Mob 07815 87 1997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Conference will help strengthen the voice of older people
The issues affecting older people will be discussed at a Queen's conference next week
The challenges facing older people in our society, including the issues affecting those who care for adult children, will be discussed at a major conference at Queen's University this week.

The first international Changing Ageing Partnership (CAP) conference, entitled Planning Together: Policy and Participation in Ageing Societies, will take place at Queen’s on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 September. The conference is hosted by Queen’s and supported by the Social Policy and Ageing Research Centre (SPARC) at Trinity College Dublin.

Professor Sally Wheeler, Director of the Institute of Governance at Queen’s School of Law, said: “Societies across the world are ageing and must adapt their policies to this demographic shift. We need to develop better health, employment, care and education policies to respond to the needs of an ageing population and, most importantly, we must involve older people in the development of these policies.

“This conference aims to do just that. The overarching aim of CAP is to give older people a voice - empowering them to influence the decisions that ultimately have an impact on their lives. Policy development is often driven by research, and this conference provides an excellent opportunity for decision makers and researchers to hear from older people about the issues that affect them.

“We will explore international best practice regarding questions that are at the heart of CAP’s work. Namely, how best to increase participation so that policy for older people is driven by older people and designed for an ageing population.

“Experts from across the UK and Ireland, and as far afield as the USA, will share the latest developments on topics such as the challenges facing older people who care for adult children, issues affecting older people in transnational communities, and attitudes to older people in Ireland. The conference will make a valuable contribution in strengthening the voice of older people in policy-making in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Virpi Timonen, Director of the SPARC at Trinity College Dublin, said: “Older people often experience sub-standard or unequal treatment because of how services are organised and how policies are formulated. It is vital that the position of older people and groups working on their behalf be strengthened if the potential of old age is to be fulfilled.

“Population ageing creates an opportunity to reshape many policies and services to better suit the needs of older people. The implications of population ageing face policy-makers, service planners and researchers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in much the same way and this conference presents an invaluable opportunity for all of the main players in the ageing sector North and South to learn together.”

Northern Ireland’s Older People’s Advocate Dame Joan Harbison, said: “I am delighted to be involved in this conference and commend the Changing Ageing Partnership for raising the profile of older people in this way. It is another welcome sign of the interest being taken in the issues affecting older people in a wide range of areas. 
“I am aware that older people wish to remain fully participant members of their communities for as long as possible and that they wish to receive the support and, when necessary, the care that we would all expect if we were in similar situation.

“This conference will deal with some very important topics and will allow an interchange between older people themselves, those who are providing information on which future relevant policies can be made and policy makers. 

“It is my hope that this conference will not only be useful to all those who attend, but it will inform agendas for change in respect of older people, for older people, and those empowered to deliver on their behalf over the coming months and years.”

For more information on CAP visit www.changingageing.org For more information on the conference visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/planningtogether/
 
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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Queen's at the Planetarium!

An exciting day for Queen's University graduates and their families is promised at Armagh Planetarium on Saturday 12 September.

In the first of a series of family-orientated events hosted by the Development and Alumni Relations Office at Queen’s, the action-packed day will feature a variety of activities to inspire child and adult alike, including a fascinating insight into the work of the University’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC).

Armagh Planetarium is a world-renowned astronomical educational establishment. Established in 1968, its purpose is to bring astronomy to a wider audience.

At Saturday’s event, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons will share some of the exciting Queen’s research describing how the sun works and why other stars explode.  In addition, graduates and their families will enjoy a star show in The Digital Theatre, the centrepiece at Armagh Planetarium.  Audiences will be treated to unparalleled views of the wonders of space in breath-taking 3D detail in the dome shaped theatre.  Rocket making and face painting are included to ensure there is something for every age.

Kerry Bryson, Head of Alumni Relations at Queen’s, said: “This is the first event of its kind where graduates and their children have been invited to an event to showcase Queen’s research.  I hope everyone will enjoy a great family day out and learn some fascinating facts about astronomy and the discoveries of the Queen’s research team.  We hope to run other events next year in partnership with Queen’s academics and local tourist attractions.”

Anyone wishing to purchase subsidised tickets or find out information on future events should contact Adele McMahon at Queen’s University on 028 9097 5289 or e-mail a.mcmahon@qub.ac.uk .

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Fantastic First Week
Cormac McCarthy, Ulster Bank Group and Graeme Farrow, Festival Director
Cormac McCarthy, Ulster Bank Group and Graeme Farrow, Festival Director

Only one week on from launching the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's, requests for tickets are already flooding in from across the world.

Visitors from Prague, Paris and Arizona having booked tickets for the opening concert of Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra, but the comedy line-up, jazz, dance and strong drama productions are also attracting the world to Belfast.

Festival Director Graeme Farrow said: “The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s generated a staggering £8 million into the Northern Ireland economy last year and is now in its 47th year.  It’s the biggest festival on the island of Ireland with over 42,000 festival goers converging on Belfast for the two weeks of international performers in music, theatre, dance, comedy and literary works.

“In addition to recruiting 10 extra box office staff, we have enlisted 160 volunteers who will receive valuable training and experience to help us deliver a world-class Festival.

“There are over 70 different shows in this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s and already some of them are sold out. 

In addition to our international visitors, the Festival Box Office has been taking bookings from every corner of Northern Ireland, across the water from England and from Dublin and Cork.  We have brought together a huge collection of international artists from around the world and fans are happy to visit Belfast to see them.”

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s has teamed up with Hastings Hotels and Park Inn who will be providing pre and after-show special menu deals along with fantastic over-night accommodation for performers and audiences alike.

Farrow adds, "It has always been a beacon to attract visitors and is still the biggest Festival in Northern Ireland.  In addition to the Belfast Waterfront and the Grand Opera House, the Festival is also returning to the newly refurbished Ulster Hall and Ulster Museum as well as those venues off the beaten track such as Barrow Square, Clonard Monastery, May Street Church and the Synagogue in North Belfast, leaving local audiences and visitors alike in no doubt that Belfast is a capital of culture."

Tickets can be booked on www.belfastfestival.com

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is funded by Queen’s University, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.

Media inquiries to Joan Grenville, 07808 138525, joan@grenvilleni.com

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New guest presenting role for Zoe Salmon
Zoe Salmon
Queen’s graduate Zoe Salmon makes her first appearance as guest presenter on QTV
Zoe Salmon and Professor Gerry McCormac
Zoe Salmon and Professor Gerry McCormac help launch QTV

 archive

Zoe Salmon will today make her screen debut for QTV - Queen's new online TV station - when she becomes its inaugural guest presenter and officially launches the unique service at the first of two University Open Days (10.30am, Thursday 10 September).

Leading the way in University online media services, QTV will showcase the latest news and events from around the campus and promote Queen’s stories through six diverse channels to a world-wide audience.
Launching QTV Zoe said: “The new TV station is a fantastic way to promote the University to a global audience and I am delighted to be its first guest presenter today.”

Zoe, who is a Queen’s Law graduate and former Blue Peter presenter, will join around 13,000 students from across Ireland and the UK who will flock to Queen’s on Thursday and Friday to find out more about the University and what courses and facilities it has to offer.

Commenting on her University experience she said: “I absolutely loved my time at Queen’s and first year is a fantastic mix of excellent teaching and an exciting social life. Queen’s gave me an all-round grounding and a great platform from which to base my career. I came away with a degree, a post-graduate diploma, and became a qualified lawyer, as well as gaining some great friends, invaluable life skills and much more. For those students thinking about coming to Queen’s I would strongly recommend that they do, they will have made a brilliant decision.”

Supporting the Open Days Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie said: “During the next two days we will welcome thousands of young people to Queen’s and provide them with the perfect opportunity to meet staff and students and find out what life at the University is really like.
“Over the coming months, these young people will make important decisions that will determine their future. Our Open Days will provide all the information they need to make those decisions.

“Academic staff, members of the Admissions Office and Queen’s Careers Service will be on hand to talk about the courses on offer and subsequent career prospects. I would encourage anyone who is considering higher education to come to Queen’s over the next two days or visit the Queen’s Open Days website at www.qub.ac.uk/opendays

Promoting QTV, the University’s new online television service, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac said: “QTV is one of the first and most extensive online television services within higher education in the UK and Ireland. It is a virtual window into our University, giving audiences here and around the world an insight into the unique Queen’s Experience.

“Featuring more than thirty reports, QTV showcases the latest news from Queen’s student life, research, education and international links. Highlights include interviews with Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, Liam Neeson and Joanna Lumley.

“Special reports on the launch of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the Queen’s Trinity University Boat Race, and the opening of world-class facilities such as the University’s new £2million pharmacy laboratory and the Brian Friel Theatre are among the many available online at www.qub.ac.uk/qtv

For more information please contact the Press and PR Unit at Queen's University on 028 9097 3087/3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's looks at a decade of policing change

Ten years after the Patten Report, Queen's University has explored the lessons learnt from the process of policing change here at a special event with key figures from policing and public life.

The event, hosted by the Community Relations Council, in partnership with the University’s Institute of Governance, explored how these lessons can help build a new public sector on the basis of a shared rather than divided society.

Those taking part in the event included Kathleen O’Toole, Chief Inspector of An Garda Siochana, former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton, Victims Commissioner Brendan McAllister, and local politicians.

Professor Sally Wheeler, Director of the Institute of Governance at Queen’s School of Law said: “This event was an important opportunity to examine the process of policing change and explore how the lessons that emerge from it can help to build a shared and cohesive society in Northern Ireland.

“We were fortunate to have speakers who understand the complexity of change in large organisations and the still divided nature of Northern Ireland. I hope this event will lead to further insights into how we move forward together.”

Keynote speaker Kathleen O’Toole, Chief Inspector of An Garda Siochana, said: “In recent decades, there has been a remarkable evolution in democratic policing.  There is no better example of that than Northern Ireland.  The Patten Commission set the stage for a 'new beginning' for policing, but ultimate success depends entirely on strong community partnerships and collaboration.”
 
Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council, said: “The process of policing change was a challenging and difficult one which required political, organisational and community leadership to implement. Other challenges still exist to make Northern Ireland a truly integrated society.

“Peace is not just the absence of conflict. It requires people, organisations and institutions to work together in an integrated way. So many of our social structures are still segregated. This event helped us explore the significant aspects of policing change and allow us to think more broadly about how to build a cohesive and shared Northern Ireland.”

Other panel members included Margaret Ritchie MLA, Minister for Social Development; Basil McCrea MLA; Dr Maurice Hayes; Peter Smyth QC; Peter McNaney, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council; Billy Gamble, former head of OFMDFM’s Reconciliation and Good Relations Division; Dr Sidney Elliott from Queen’s School of Politics; Dr Joanne Murphy and Professor Colin Harvey from Queen’s School of Law.

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

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National Schools Film Week launches at QFT
Persepolis
The award-winning Iranian animation Persepolis, which will be screening as part of National Schools Film Week at QFT in October

The world’s largest free film festival for young people will launch its Northern Ireland programme of events at QFT on Tuesday 8 September.

Taking place from Tuesday 20 to Thursday 23 October, National Schools Film Week offers a range of free screenings supported by Film Education and Northern Ireland Screen.

All events are entirely free to Northern Ireland schools and will take place at QFT during school hours. The programme has been designed following an extensive research project in which over 2,000 teachers were asked to submit their preferences for films and venues.

Marion Campbell, QFT Education Officer said: “With culture and the environment high on the education agenda, more and more teachers are turning to film as the unique medium that can deliver complex information to a young audience in a meaningful and accessible way.  QFT is delighted to be working with National Schools Film Week and our partners to celebrate the festival’s unique place in the social and cultural fabric of the UK and its importance to local schools.”

The focus of this year’s festival will be Creativity and Diversity, themes relevant to both primary and secondary school children.  Across the UK, for 60 per cent of children who attend the event, National Schools Film Week will be their first ever cinema experience!

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naomi Long, attended the launch and said she was delighted to support the festival: "The themes of creativity and diversity are hugely important in broadening the horizons of our young people's outlook on life.  Congratulations to all involved in delivering such an exciting programme of events," she added.

National Schools Film Week events begin at QFT on Tuesday 20 October with a special primary school screening of Arctic Tale, a nature documentary which illustrates the harsh realities of existence in the Arctic:  the life cycle of a mother walrus and her calf, and the life of a polar bear and her cubs.

Persepolis, an award-winning animation based on Iranian director Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, will screen for post-primary schools on Wednesday 21 October.  Introduced by Dr Dominique Jeannerod, from the French Studies department at Queen’s University, the film is a fascinating autobiographical account of Satrapi’s life as a young girl living during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The festival concludes on Thursday 22 October with a screening of Shifty, which will be introduced and followed by a workshop with an examiner from the British Board of Film Censorship (BBFC). The film tells the story of Shifty, a young crack cocaine dealer in London, who sees his life quickly spiral out of control when his best friend returns home.

For all National Schools Film Week events at QFT, please book directly with Film Education at www.nsfw.org or telephone 0207 292 7300.

For further information on all QFT Learning events, please contact Marion Campbell, QFT Education Officer at m.campbell@qub.ac.uk or  visit www.queensfilmtheatre.com

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£2m food safety centre helps companies compete globally
Professor Chris Elliott
Professor Chris Elliott

A new £2 million food safety centre, employing 20 people and offering direct help to the local £2.4 billion agri-food industry, is to be launched at Queen’s University later this month.

And local businesses are being invited to attend an event to mark the opening of the new world-class Centre for Assured, Safe and Traceable Food (ASSET) to learn how they can benefit from its work.

The production and processing of food plays a critical role in Northern Ireland’s economy. The industry generates £2.4 billion in sales, creates 2.2 per cent of NI Gross Value added and employs 12 per cent of the private sector.

Helping to secure the future of the local agri-food industry, ASSET will officially open on 29 September in Belfast with a conference highlighting the challenges and opportunities for agri-food industries in today’s global marketplace.

The new Centre will conduct cutting-edge research to ensure that the safest and highest quality food in the world is produced across Ireland. It is led by Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use, in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences.

Professor Elliott said: “Many sectors of our agri-food industry not only produce primary agriculture products such as meat and milk but also import commodities such as cereals, poultry and honey, which are processed into high value items which may be re-exported.

“As the contents of processed food come from multiple countries which may not have as stringent safety standards as we do, there is a risk of them being contaminated and causing a risk to both the consumer and the local food industry.

“Last year’s dioxin crisis in the pork industry shows how the failure of just one small piece of equipment and failure to detect this problem quickly can cause multi-million pound losses as well as a loss of trust in the food supply chain.
  
“In China, over 50,000 children were hospitalised and a number of deaths were reported due to the melamine scandal which cost the Chinese economy a reported £5 billion loss and major embarrassment.

“Food is now a true global commodity and we are in competition with the rest of the world. We know other places can produce food cheaper, for example Brazil which can offer beef at prices up to 40% lower than we can, but our opportunities lie in producing the safest, highest quality and most traceable food in the world.

 “At ASSET we are using emerging technologies to deliver high-level traceability to detect and predict problems. We want to let local companies know how they can tap into ASSET’s expertise and compete in the global marketplace and would welcome them at this month’s event.”

Many local companies including Fane Valley, Dunbia and TraceAssured have already signed up to hear speakers from Queen’s, Invest NI, the Department for Employment and Learning’s Connected Initiative and the UK’s Food and Environment Agency at the opening event.

Topics under discussion at the conference will include global issues of food traceability and authenticity including food fraud, supply chain management, and how the new ASSET Centre is using emerging technologies to deliver high level traceability for imported and exported foods.

Part-funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, the new Centre has links with Ashtown Food Research Centre in Dublin, Dublin City University and University College Dublin.

The opening conference takes place in the Canada Room at Queen’s on 29 September. Admission is free and the event will run from 9am until 4.30pm.

To register or for more information contact Joyce Waterson at joyce.watterson@qub.ac.uk or telephone 028 9097 6516.

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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£6m funding boost for super-fast computers

Professor Anatoly Zayats from the School of Maths and Physics at Queen's University Belfast

Computers which use light to process large amounts of data faster than ever before are just one of many groundbreaking potential applications of a new £6 million research programme at Queen's and Imperial College London, launched today, 1 September 2009.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the two universities to establish a world-leading research programme on the fundamental science of so-called ‘nanoplasmonic devices’.

Nanoplasmonic devices’ key components are tiny nanoscale metal structures - more then 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair – that guide and direct light.

The structures have been tailor-made to interact with light in an unusual and highly controlled way. This means they could one day be used to build new kinds of super-high-speed ‘optical computers’ – so named because they would process information using light signals, instead of the electric currents used by today’s computers. 

At present, the speed with which computers process information is limited by the time it takes for the information to be transferred between electronic components. Currently this information is transferred using nanoscale metallic wires that transmit the signals as an electric current.

To speed up the process, the scientists at Queen’s and Imperial hope to develop a way of sending the signals along the same wires in the form of light.

In order to achieve this, they are developing a raft of new metallic devices including tiny nanoscale sources of light, nanoscale ‘waveguides’, to guide light along a desired route, and nanoscale detectors to pick up the light signals.

Similar approaches may also help in the development of devices for faster internet services.

Professor Anatoly Zayats, from the Queen’s University’s Centre for Nanostructured Media, who leads the project said: “This is basic research into how light interacts with matter on the nanoscale. But we will work together with and listen to our industrial partners to direct research in the direction that hopefully will lead to new improved products and services that everyone can buy from the shelf.”

Professor Stefan Maier, who leads the research team at Imperial, added: “This is an exciting step towards developing computers that use light waves, not electrical current, to handle data and process information. In the future these optical computers will provide us with more processing power and higher speed. This will also open the door to a world of possibilities in scientific fields at the interface with the biosciences, and perhaps even in the world of personal computing.”

The project is also supported by INTEL, Seagate, Ericsson, Oxonica, IMEC and the National Physics Laboratory.

For more information please contact:

Lisa McElroy, Queen’s University Belfast press office, Tel: (028) 9097 5384 M: 0781 44 22 572
Email:
lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

Laura Gallagher, Imperial College London press office, Tel: +44 (0)20 75948432
Out-of-hours duty press office: +44 (0)7803 886248  Email:
l.gallagher@imperial.ac.uk

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International event brings world’s top cancer doctors to Queen's
Professor Dennis McCance
Professor Dennis McCance

Over 200 of the world’s top cancer specialists will be in Belfast this week to share their knowledge at an International Cancer Symposium organised by Queen’s University.

The event, being hosted by the Centre for Cell Biology and Cancer Research (CCRCB) on Wednesday and Thursday, will be attended by leading academics from across America, Australia and Europe, including those from Harvard Medical School in Boston and from Oxford and Cambridge universities.

One in three people in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their life and the conference aims to build on international links to improve cancer treatments for sufferers.

CCRCB is currently carrying out around 50 national and international clinical trials into various cancers with the aim of offering patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them as well as fewer and less severe side effects.

The Centre has three successful spin-out companies - ALMAC Diagnostics, Fusion Antibodies and I-Path - employing nearly 200 people.

Two young researchers will present their studies at the event entitled ‘Cancer: Found in Translation’.

Dr Kelly Redmond from Newry and Dr Jenny Quinn from Londonderry will be among the international line-up of speakers sharing their knowledge about the latest developments in cancer research.

Dr Redmond will speak about her research into a molecule called FLIP which blocks chemotherapy from working in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the leading cause of cancer death in the US and Europe. By decreasing FLIP levels in NSCLC cells they become more sensitive to chemotherapy.

She said: “This is an important finding as it suggests that if we can decrease FLIP levels with new types of drugs, the cancer but not the normal lung tissues will be more effectively killed by chemotherapy.”

Dr Quinn’s research has focused on trying to find the best chemotherapy treatment for both breast and ovarian cancer sufferers.

She has investigated the effects of the drugs on patients with and without the BRCA1 gene, which controls cell growth in normal breast and ovarian cells, preventing tumours forming.

Ovarian cancer patients are generally treated with both platinum and taxane based chemotherapy. However Dr Quinn has found that patients without BRCA1 benefited significantly from platinum only chemotherapy while those with normal BRCA1 levels gained an almost two year improvement in survival if they also received taxane chemotherapy.

Dr Quinn said: “We are now planning further studies that may ultimately lead to the development of a test involving BRCA1 for determining the best chemotherapy treatments for patients with ovarian cancer. Such a test may also prove useful in breast, lung and prostate cancer.”

The symposium has been organised by Professor Dennis McCance, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, who leads a team of around 250 staff.

He said: “This event reflects CCRCB’s achievements in cancer research and highlights our aspirations to see our knowledge about basic research translated into better and more effective treatments for patients.

 “Through clinical trials we are working to offer patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them.

“We are using novel ways to select treatments and personalise or tailor them to the patient’s particular mutations.
 
“The calibre of speakers coming to our conference and the international links that we have formed demonstrate that our work is considered of a world-class standard.”

Professor Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, said: Cancer is a disease feared around the world. Its impact is global. It therefore demands a global response, a response where leading researchers work together across academic disciplines and geographical frontiers. 

“We are pleased to bring together leading academics and researchers from across the world to discuss innovative scientific and medical research that will help those who suffer from cancer.”

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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