06-2010 Press Releases

30/06/2010: Olympic medallist and Nobel Laureate among honorary graduates at Queen's
29/06/2010: Irish hares fall foul of modern farming trap
29/06/2010: Political journals ranked among top 50 in the world
28/06/2010: Social housing provision in Northern Ireland does not comply with human rights standards
28/06/2010: Pre-eclampsia risk for women with Type 1 Diabetes unaffected by vitamin C and E supplements
25/06/2010: Northern Ireland now a seat of summer learning for leading US law students
22/06/2010: Gardai’s ‘blue wall of silence’ called to account
21/06/2010: Queen’s celebrates Malaysian students’ contribution to UK
17/06/2010: Queen’s researchers’ vision to protect premature babies from blindness
17/06/2010: Queen's scientists focus on revealing hidden mysteries of the Universe
17/06/2010: International collaboration highlighted during US Senators’ visit
16/06/2010: New book to reveal hidden history of Belfast
15/06/2010: Come dine with with artist J B Vallely at Queen’s
15/06/2010: Global view of special education and social inclusion on offer at Queen’s
14/06/2010: Queen’s offers ‘concrete’ pathway to China for construction sector
14/06/2010: Use of paramilitary emblems ‘flagging’ in Northern Ireland
10/06/2010: Eminent graduate delivers Malaysia Lecture
10/06/2010: Coaching success at Queen’s Blues Awards
10/06/2010: Queen’s invites health professionals to connect at free Ehealth and informatics event
09/06/2010: Not just armchair fans: soccer revealed as men’s favourite form of exercise
08/06/2010: £7.5M 'global engine' of future technology opens at Queen's
07/06/2010: Benefactor’s portrait unveiled as McClay Library named
04/06/2010: Euro universities learn from Queen’s spirit of enterprise
02/06/2010: Rowing rivalry ahead at Saturday’s 2010 Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge Boat Race QTV Icon New
02/06/2010: Queen’s reports show cancer patient care is improving in Northern Ireland
01/06/2010: Queen’s celebrates achievements of disabled students

Olympic medallist and Nobel Laureate among honorary graduates at Queen's
Graduand and 2010 Belfast Rose Frances Rafferty
Graduand and 2010 Belfast Rose Frances Rafferty

Queen's will officially open its new £50 million McClay Library next week, as a host of renowned names arrive in Belfast to be conferred with honorary degrees by the University.

Those receiving honorary degrees include Olympic medallist Dame Kelly Homes, Nobel prize-winner Professor Amartya Sen and the Ulster Orchestra's Principal Conductor, Kenneth Montgomery.

Dame Kelly Holmes, who made British athletics history by winning two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, will receive a Doctorate of the University for distinction in sport and for public service, during Monday afternoon’s graduation ceremony.

Dame Kelly is making her second visit to Queen’s, after officially opening the University’s new PE Centre in 2007, during her first ever visit to Northern Ireland. Now an ambassador for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Dame Kelly has been appointed National School Champion.

Tuesday will see one of the greatest thinkers of modern India receive an honorary degree for distinction in economics. Professor Amartya Kumar Sen, who is recognised across the world as an ‘intellectual giant’, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his contributions to work on welfare economics in 1998. He will talk about his latest book The Idea of Justice at a special event, organised in conjunction with the British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy, on Monday evening in the University’s Great Hall.

Fellow Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney will perform the official opening of the University’s McClay Library on Tuesday evening. The Library has been named in honour of Sir Allen McClay, a major benefactor of Queen's and of the Library itself.

Other notable figures being recognised during the week include businessman William Wright, Director of leading local firm Wrightbus; former Police Ombudsman, Baroness O’Loan, and the Ulster Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Kenneth Montgomery.

Kevin Cahill, Chief Medical Advisor to the New York Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit and President of the Centre for Humanitarian Health and Co-operation at Fordham University in New York; Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark, who has been cited as one of the 20 most influential nurses of the last 60 years; network design and computing pioneer Professor Andy Hopper; eminent physicist Professor Jie Zhang; Dr Colin Wong Hee Huing, Vice-President Research and Development with the Malaysian oil giant Petronas; shipping magnate Fred Olsen (Senior) who helped negotiate the release of land to develop Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and American composer and inventor, Professor John Chowning, will also join some 4,000 students who will accept their degrees across the week.

The coveted Graduate and Student of the Year Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday evening, attended by graduates from the School of Education at Queen’s and Stranmillis and St Mary’s University Colleges.

Media inquiries to Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit, Tel 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Irish hares fall foul of modern farming trap
Research from Queen’s University has revealed the 20th century decline in the Irish hare population is almost certainly associated with changes in farming practices.

The Stormont Assembly voted to ban hare coursing in Northern Ireland last Tuesday (22nd June), but a recent study, funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and published in the international journal Biological Conservation, suggests hares may join the ranks of other farmland species, such as the Corncrake, unless more is done to protect its habitat.

The research team, led by Dr Neil Reid, Quercus Centre Manager in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, has shown that hares require an intricate patchwork quilt of good quality grassland for feeding, and tall uneven vegetation, such as rushes, for hiding and sleeping.

Dr Reid explained: “Hares may mistake the tall grass of silage fields as a good spot for lying-up and giving birth. Silage is harvested during the peak period when leverets are born in late spring and early summer and the machinery used may trap and kill young hares, driving local population declines year after year. Hares have fallen foul of an ecological trap.”

The researchers tagged a population of hares in South Armagh with radio-transmitters, allowing them to track their every move. They followed the animals day and night for an entire year to see how they changed their habitat preferences. The researchers found that during late spring and early summer they increased their use of long grass destined to be cut for silage.

Dr Reid said: “On a day-to-day basis, hares are remarkably boring creatures to follow. They don’t move far and during the daytime they do very little. This is rather worrying, however, if they settle in unsuitable habitat that may present life threatening risks at a certain time of year. We may have forty shades of green in Ireland but we have created what amounts to a desert of grass. Variety is the spice of life. Wildlife can’t survive in a pristinely manicured landscape of only one habitat.”

Dr Reid added: “Fields are frequently mowed from the edge to the centre for convenience but it surely can’t be that difficult to do it the other way around? Adopting ‘hare-friendly’ mowing regimes, similar to those adopted to minimise the impact of harvesting on ground nesting birds, may help mitigate the effects. Unfortunately, leverets tend not to run so it may not work, but it’s worth testing.”

The new Northern Ireland Countryside Management Schemes (NICMS), implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), now includes a specific measure to target the Irish hare called the ‘delayed cutting and grazing’ option. Farmers who sign up will receive hectarage payments for postponing the cutting of silage until after the 1st July and for maintaining rushy field margins.

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Political journals ranked among top 50 in the world

Two journals edited by Queen’s University academics have been ranked among the top 50 politics journals in the world.

In the new Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) journal rankings, Environmental Politics, co-edited by Dr John Barry at the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, was ranked 29th and the International Political Science Review (ISPR), co-edited by Professor Yvonne Galligan came in at 48 of 112 over a five-year period.

Environmental Politics publishes leading research on green, environment, and sustainability politics. The International Political Science Review, which celebrated 30 years of publication in 2009, attracts outstanding scholarship from all fields of political science.

Professor Richard English, Head of the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, said: “For a School to celebrate having two of the top 50 journals in the world under its auspices is a rare event. It illustrates the commitment of the School and the University to the standards of international scholarship. I congratulate Dr Barry and Professor Galligan for their tremendous dedication to the scholarly community through their fine editorship of these outstanding journals.”

Both journals improved on their Impact Factor (IF) for 2009 – the all-important score for world-class research publications.

Welcoming the ISI ranking, Dr John Barry said: “Environmental Politics has established itself as the leading international journal on the policy, political and normative dimensions of environmental issues such as climate change, the green movement and governance for sustainable development. I have been associated with the journal since its founding in the early 1990s and since 2007 as co-editor. The journal is ranked 29th in Political Science and 33rd of 66 in Environmental Studies as given by the 2010 Thomson Reuters, 2009 Journal Citation Reports is a fantastic achievement for those scholars worldwide, the editorial team and our publisher Taylor and Francis, who together have produced a world-class journal.”

Professor Yvonne Galligan added: “The IPSR has gone from strength to strength in recent years thanks to our supportive publications team in Sage, our dedicated peer reviewers and of course, our outstanding authors. It is a pleasure to work with these talented scholars from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It is my privilege to bring their world-class research to the attention of the global political science community. ”

To find out more about Environmental Politics, visit www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/09644016.asp and for the International Political Science Review, visit http://ips.sagepub.com

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Social housing provision in Northern Ireland does not comply with human rights standards

Social housing provision in Northern Ireland is not adequately funded to comply with international human rights standards. That’s according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, who publish their report, Budgeting for Social Housing: A Human Rights Analysis, today.

Human rights experts at Queen’s School of Law have analysed the Northern Ireland government’s spending on social housing, and have found that that it does not comply with international legal obligations to use the maximum available resources to ensure progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing.

Since devolution, there has been a significant increase in the waiting list for social housing which currently stands at approximately 40,000 households. There has also been a rise in ‘housing stress’ and households ‘presenting as homeless’. The report finds that in this context, insufficient funding for new social housing represents a violation of international human rights law. The report makes a number of media recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, including:
  • Funding for new social housing must increase if government is to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws.
  • The government must ensure that the price paid for land - a crucial resource for the right to adequate housing - does not unduly benefit advantaged groups such as landowners, at the expense of taxpayers and those in need of social housing. In particular, practices such as land banking (leaving land dormant in the expectation that it will be zoned for development, multiplying its market value) must be tackled.
  • While the proposals for increased protection for tenants in the private rented sector are very welcome, the private rented sector should not be seen as a long term solution to the housing crisis. In particular it is of concern that housing benefit payments are being diverted into the private sector through payments to private landlords.

Dr Rory O’Connell, speaking on behalf of the Queen’s Budget Analysis Project Team said: “Adequate housing is a basic human right, essential to human dignity, security and wellbeing. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly are legally bound to use their resources to maximum effect in ensuring the right to adequate housing.

“While a considerable amount of revenue was raised under the House Sales Scheme, the budget for new social housing has not been not adequately resourced to ensure sufficient levels of new build to address the increases in waiting lists and homelessness. With more homes being sold than built, the social housing stock has decreased from 176,000 homes in 1987 to around 116,000 today.”

The report highlights that, against the backdrop of insufficient funding, certain social housing responsibilities were shifted to housing associations in 1998 because of their ability to borrow additional private funding – a power which has been denied to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive under HM Treasury rules.

Dr O’Connell continued: “While we welcome the additional funding accessed through housing association borrowing, their loans are repaid using money that is either provided or forgone by the State. Therefore the effect of this system of funding is to keep government debt ‘off the books’. In addition, there are some negative consequences which cannot be ignored. Housing associations, as private organisations, may not be able to borrow money on as favourable terms as a public body such as the Housing Executive, if that body were empowered to borrow.

“Rent rates for housing association dwellings are generally higher than for those owned by the Housing Executive, making the housing less affordable. And there are potential gaps in the accountability and transparency of housing associations, making it difficult to ensure human rights obligations are being met.”

Due to the lack of social housing stock, the report claims an ever increasing number of those who receive housing benefits have been forced to seek accommodation in the private rented sector.

Dr O’Connell said: “Approximately 57,000 tenants in the private rented sector are currently in receipt of housing benefits. This is not ideal. Rents paid into the social sector are reinvested in social housing while those paid into the private sector go to landlords. As many tenants in the private rented sector receive housing benefit, this means that tax payers’ money is effectively subsidising the private rented sector. Also, the private rented sector does not protect tenants’ rights to the same degree as the social sector does.

“While some may argue that social housing should not be a priority in the current economic context, if anything, human rights and the protection of the most vulnerable assume even greater importance at such a time. Those who missed out on the benefits of prosperity should not be further denied their rights in a difficult economic climate.”

Budgeting for Social Housing: A Human Rights Analysis is available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofLaw/Research/HumanRightsCentre/ResearchProjects/BudgetAnalysis/  from Tuesday 29 June.

The report is the first in a series of papers that will be published by the Budget Analysis Project at Queen’s School of Law as part of its Budget Analysis Project. Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, the two year project will examine public expenditure in Northern Ireland using economic and social rights based budget analysis. The Project Team includes Professor Colin Harvey, Dr Aoife Nolan, Dr Rory O’Connell, Ms Mira Dutschke and Mr Eoin Rooney. Ms Jennie Finlay provides clerical support.

For more information visit http://www.law.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofLaw/Research/HumanRightsCentre/ResearchProjects/BudgetAnalysis/  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Pre-eclampsia risk for women with Type 1 Diabetes unaffected by vitamin C and E supplements
A new report published by medical journal The Lancet this weekend, reveals women with type 1 diabetes, who are at high risk of pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery, will not have their risk lowered by taking vitamin supplements C and E.

The report, involving researchers from the Centre for Public Health and the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust also found, however, that vitamin supplementation could be beneficial in those women with low levels of dietary antioxidants in their blood and that this possibility needs further investigation.

The causes of pre-eclampsia are not known, but it has been suggested that oxidative stress, (where free radicals harm cells), might play a key role in the development of the condition.

In 1999, a small trial suggested that vitamin C and E might reduce pre-eclampsia in all pregnant women, not just those with type 1 diabetes. Since then however, subsequent larger trials found no benefit of vitamin C and E supplementation during regular pregnancies.

Several previous research studies had also previously suggested that because type 1 diabetes is associated with both increased oxidative stress (and a reduction in antioxidants), antioxidant vitamin supplements could improve outcomes for these women.

To investigate further, the Diabetes and Pre-Eclampsia Intervention Trial (DAPIT) study group examined the benefits of 1000mg vitamin C and 400 IU (international units) vitamin E in 762 pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, recruited from 25 UK antenatal clinics in the UK. Women were randomly assigned to vitamins (379) or placebo (383) daily from between 8 and 22 weeks until delivery.

Overall, findings showed that the rate of pre-eclampsia was similar in both groups (15 per cent vs 19 per cent). In women with low antioxidant status at the start of the study however, taking vitamins was associated with a significantly lower risk of pre-eclampsia.

There was no evidence of harm from vitamin supplementation to either mothers or babies. Antioxidant vitamins did not increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy (11 per cent vs 11 per cent) and actually tended to reduce the risk of having a low birthweight baby (6 per cent vs 10 per cent). Additionally, fewer babies were born preterm to women taking vitamin C.

Professor Ian Young from the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences said: “Dietary intervention rich in various antioxidants might have benefits that cannot be replicated by individual supplements. Alternatively, prescription of antioxidant vitamins at 8–22 weeks’ gestation might be too late to affect the pathological process for most patients with diabetes.”

“In principle, the notion that oxidative stress is implicated in the cause and development of pre-eclampsia remains plausible, but the benefit of vitamin supplementation might be limited to women with vitamin depletion; however, this idea needs confirmation.”

Baha M Sibai from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, said: “The causes of pre-eclampsia might be multi-factorial. Some cases might be caused by immunological factors, others by dietary factors, and others because of pre-existing medical conditions, or by a combination of these factors. Therefore any single intervention is unlikely to be effective in prevention.”

The research is being presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Florida this weekend. The article will be published online first in The Lancet.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Press and PR Unit, 0781 44 22 572 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Northern Ireland now a seat of summer learning for leading US law students
Northern Ireland is fast becoming a destination of choice for summer study by leading US law students. Almost 60 students and professors from one of America’s leading law schools have opted to study at Queen's University Belfast this summer for an intensive programme in conflict resolution and international law.

The students and staff from Fordham Law School in New York have just arrived at the University, where in addition to taking courses taught by both Fordham and Queen’s staff, they will visit Stormont and meet with MLAs from all the major political parties.

The students will also visit the courts and the Bar Library, hold discussions with legal practitioners, meet with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and tour the North Coast – one of the world’s most scenic coastal routes.

Many of the students have chosen to extend their stay in Belfast and the invaluable opportunities available to them, by interning with the courts, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the Commission for Victims and Survivors, and the Committee on the Administration of Justice, before returning to their studies in the autumn.

After their study in Belfast, the group will travel to Dublin to conclude the summer programme. Fordham's programme is officially sponsored by Queen’s, along with University College Dublin.

Professor Michael W. Martin from Fordham Law School said: "This programme was inspired by the 1998 Belfast Agreement's cross-Atlantic and cross-border co-operation, which we are proud and fortunate to continue to nurture.

"Fordham Law students leave Belfast with rich memories of this beautiful city and a significantly deeper understanding of Northern Ireland’s progress and the challenges to come."

Professor Colin Harvey, Head of the Law School at Queen’s commented: “We are delighted to welcome our friends from Fordham Law School for what is one of the highlights of our academic year.

“This programme is a leading international example of co-operation and partnership between law schools, and further evidence of the strong connections between the US and universities on the island of Ireland. We look forward to building further on the established connections and wish the program continued success.”

For more information on the School of Law at Queen’s visit www.law.qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Gardai’s ‘blue wall of silence’ called to account
Many of the recommendations made by Morris Tribunal have never been implemented according to a Queen’s University Belfast law expert. Dr Vicky Conway also believes this should be a matter of particular concern in light of ever-expanding police powers to address the perceived threat of ‘gangland’ crime.

Dr Conway, a lecturer at Queen’s School of Law, has provided the first detailed analysis of the impact of the Morris Tribunal – the most significant tribunal in the history of policing in Ireland - in her new book The Blue Wall of Silence: The Morris Tribunal and Police Accountability in Ireland. It is being launched at Queen’s Welcome Centre today (Tuesday 22 June) at 6.00pm.

In the book, Dr Conway outlines a number of recommendations made by the Tribunal that have not been implemented. These include:

  • Recommendations around police interrogations.
  • A recommendation regarding the role of the Member in Charge at Garda stations in upholding the rights of detainees.
  • The recommendation that a relationship of trust should be developed between Garda Headquarters and the Department of Justice.

Dr Conway said: “In October 2008, after six years, the Morris Tribunal completed its work. Its findings catalogued an unprecedented level of corruption, negligence, misconduct, and ‘a blue wall of silence’ within an Garda Síochána.

“Framing two men for a murder that never occurred, orchestrating fake IRA bomb ‘finds’ either side of the border, planting guns and drugs, false arrests, abuse of detainees, and securing false confessions. These were uncovered by Justice Morris as being institutionalised in the Donegal division of An Garda Síochána.

“The findings and recommendations of the Tribunal sent shockwaves through Ireland and were particularly striking in a country where public confidence in the police has historically been exceptionally high.

The Blue Wall of Silence questions what contribution the Morris Tribunal has made to the accountability of the Garda Síochána. It asks whether it has held the Gardaí involved to account, and what impact it has had on accountability systems and public and political attitudes towards an Garda Síochána.

“Justice Morris warned that, without substantial reform, the activities documented could reoccur elsewhere in Ireland. This book explores the crucial relationship between official inquiries, policy reform and police governance. It argues that what was potentially a moment for substantial police reform has been lost and that much of what Justice Morris had recommended has not been implemented. In the context of ever-expanding police powers to address the perceived threat of ‘gangland’ crime, this should raise concerns.”

The Blue Wall of Silence is published by Irish Academic Press, priced £50 (hardback) or £25 (paperback) and is available from The Bookshop at Queen’s.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke, PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s celebrates Malaysian students’ contribution to UK
Malaysian students from across the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malaysia will descend on Queen’s University this week (23-25 June), for the UK’s first ever Malaysian student conference. The event will celebrate the contribution made by Malaysian students to life in the United Kingdom.

Malaysian postgraduate students from 26 universities across the UK, Ireland and Malaysia will travel to Queen’s to discuss their engineering and scientific research. They will be joined by special guest, Professor Datuk Dr Ghauth Jasmon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya (UM).

The UK-Malaysia-Ireland Engineering Science Conference (UMIES) has been organised by The Malaysian Postgraduates Northern Ireland (MyPNI) student society, with support from the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, the Malaysian Student Department UK and Eire, Queen’s University and UM.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay, said: “Malaysian students have been making a significant contribution to life in Northern Ireland for over 60 years. Malaysia is also home to the largest number of Queen’s alumni outside the UK. It is fitting therefore that Queen’s is host to the UK and Ireland’s first ever Malaysian student conference.

“Some of Malaysia’s brightest young engineers and scientists are currently studying at Queen’s and making use of the excellent teaching and research facilities on offer here. They are conducting world-class research in the areas of mechanical, chemical, electrical and civil engineering, all of which play a vital role in the continued development of our countries.

“I am confident this conference will play a key role in strengthening our relationship, and in so doing, continue the major contribution to Malaysian society, in business, in government and in the professions, that Queen’s graduates have been making for many years. I congratulate the Malaysian Postgraduates Northern Ireland student society at Queen’s on their hard work and initiative in bringing this event together.”

Queen’s University has a variety of partnerships with leading Malaysian institutions including Universiti Teknologi Petronas in the field of green chemistry and with Terrengganu Advanced Institute (TATiUK) and the University of Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) across the engineering disciplines. Along with the University of Malaya, Queen’s has also helped establish the Centre for Population Health in Malaysia, the first centre of its kind in the country.

For more information on UMIES visit http://mypni.society.qub.ac.uk/umies/  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke, PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s researchers’ vision to protect premature babies from blindness

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have secured funding to investigate ways of preventing vision loss in premature babies.

Fight for Sight has awarded the researchers £92,000 for the study which aims to find a therapy that will protect the eyes of premature babies from the damaging effects of the high oxygen levels needed by premature babies.

Recent advances in neonatal care mean survival rates of premature babies, and especially babies born before 28 weeks, have increased considerably. These babies are very vulnerable and dependent upon high oxygen for survival, yet paradoxically can suffer damage to their eyes as a result.

The name of this condition is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness in young children.

The three year research programme is being supervised by Dr Denise McDonald and Dr Tom Gardiner at Queen’s. The leader of the project, Dr McDonald, explained that the levels of oxygen given to the premature babies can at times be detrimental to their developing eyesight.

“Oxygen given at high levels is damaging to the delicate blood vessels in the eye and can lead to permanent vision loss. The aim of this research is to investigate ways to protect these vessels from the effects of high oxygen in order to preserve sight in premature babies.”

The condition occurs in two stages, as Dr McDonald explained: “In phase one, exposure of premature infants to high oxygen damages the immature retinal blood vessels, resulting in the light sensitive cells in the retina becoming starved when the oxygen treatment is discontinued. During the second phase of the disease, in an attempt to rescue the tissue, there is an overgrowth of new blood vessels that break out of the retina and invade the clear gel at the back of the eye. In that situation the blood vessels may bleed and cause scarring that leads to permanent loss of vision.”

“Current treatments focus on the second phase with limited success and significant side effects. The aim of our research is to find a therapy that will protect the vessels in phase one so that the second sight threatening phase of the condition is prevented.”

Globally the incidence of the disease shows evidence of a resurgence due to improvements in neonatal care in low to middle income countries and the overall increased survival of very young babies.

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

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Queen's scientists focus on revealing hidden mysteries of the Universe
Computer simulation illustrating the distribution of dark matter in the Universe Credit: Boylan-Kolchin et al.The Virgo Consortium
Computer simulation illustrating the distribution of dark matter in the Universe Credit: Boylan-Kolchin et al.The Virgo Consortium
Secrets of the Universe are to be revealed as a new telescope equipped with the world’s most powerful digital camera begins its observations of the night sky.

The Pan-STARRS sky survey telescope – known as PS1 – will enable scientists to better understand the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, the material that is thought to account for much of the mass of the universe but has never been proven to exist.

Astronomers from Queen's University Belfast and the Universities of Durham and Edinburgh, together with researchers from around the world, are using the telescope to scan the skies from dusk to dawn each night.

PS1’s 1400 megapixel camera is the world’s largest – with about 150 times as many pixels as the average camera. It is able to gather detailed images of almost three-quarters of the night sky from its base in Hawaii. The project will enable scientists to assess wide areas of sky at a level of detail that was previously impossible.

Scientists believe the device, which was built by the University of Hawaii, will provide vital clues into the nature of dark energy and dark matter. They hope to use images of galaxies to validate Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts that light can bend around an object in space – such as dark matter – because it is pulled towards the object by gravity.

The telescope, which took more than a decade to develop, will also pinpoint new supernovae – stellar explosions – as well as near-earth asteroids. It is also able to track fast-moving objects and exploding stars across nearly the whole sky.

Powerful computers will process the data from the telescope, which is expected to generate enough information over the three-year project to fill the equivalent of several thousand PCs.

Professor Stephen Smartt of Queen’s University Belfast and Chair of the Pan-STARRS Science Council, said: “The huge camera lets us map about one-sixth of the sky every month, in five different colours. We compare every image with one taken previously and try to track everything that either moves or flashes. Already we have discovered hundreds of supernovae, some of them the most luminous explosions known.”

Professor Carlos Frenk of Durham University, the UK’s member on the Pan-STARRS board, said: “PS1 will generate the largest ever multi-colour survey of the cosmos. Alongside supercomputer simulations of the universe, these data will help us understand the life cycles of galaxies and, if we are very lucky, the nature of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that control the evolution of our cosmos.”

Professor Alan Heavens of the University of Edinburgh said: “Pan-STARRS has immense potential for mapping the distribution of matter in the Universe, even the unseen dark matter. Our goal is to do this over the majority of the sky for the first time – but there are still big challenges ahead for us.”

Development of Pan-STARRS – Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System – has been funded by the US Air Force. Also involved in the project are the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, the National Central University of Taiwan and the Ogden Trust.

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

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International collaboration highlighted during US Senators’ visit
Pictured (from left ) are Professor Johnston, Senator Menard, Minister Sir Reg Empey, Senate President Murray and Professor McElnay
Pictured (from left ) are Professor Johnston, Senator Menard, Minister Sir Reg Empey, Senate President Murray and Professor McElnay
Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray and Senator Joan Menard recently visited two of Queen’s flagship research centres to discuss the further development of business links between Northern Ireland and the US State.

Senate President Murray and Senator Menard met Minister for Employment and Learning Sir Reg Empey during their visit to Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology.

The event was hosted by Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates Professor James McElnay and Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

The programme included a discussion on the future development of educational and research partnerships between Northern Ireland and Massachusetts, a presentation of Queen’s vision for Health and Life Sciences, and a tour of the Centre’s laboratories.

The previous day the Senate President and Senator visited ECIT, Queen’s Institute of Electronics, Communications, and Information Technology where they met ECIT Director Professor John McCanny and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Professor Tom Millar.

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, 028 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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New book to reveal hidden history of Belfast
The most comprehensive account of the history of Belfast is being compiled by a team of researchers at Queen’s University.

The story of the city will be told in Belfast 400, a new book exploring the full range of developments that make up Belfast’s distinctive urban history, much of it previously untold. The book will be published to coincide with the four hundredth anniversary of the granting of Belfast’s charter in 1613.

Queen’s has been awarded a grant of almost £60,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to complete the project, which will be led by Professor Sean Connolly from the University’s School of History and Anthropology. Belfast 400 will be published by Liverpool University Press. The project is also being supported by Belfast City Council and will feature historians, archaeologists, geographers and social scientists from across the University.

Professor Connolly said: “Belfast is Ireland’s only example of a major industrial city. Yet the story of its remarkable rise as a major industrial and trading centre, and the far-reaching social and cultural changes that came with it, remains largely untold.

“Instead, attention has focussed narrowly on the development of the city’s sectarian and political conflicts, resulting in a limited, even impoverished, account of Belfast’s history. Belfast 400 will explore the full range of factors that contributed to the city’s development, reconstructing a rich urban history that transcends contemporary political and sectarian divisions.

“Our researchwill provide an accessible overview of the many stages of Belfast’s urban development – from the reasons behind its emergence as a settlement, to its development into a prosperous trading centre, the rise of the industrial town, and urban decay and renewal. We will look at how this development was reflected in the experiences of its inhabitants, through changes in housing, the formation of different types of community, and new patterns of leisure and consumption.

“While we don’t want to ignore the sectarian and political conflict that constitutes the uglier side of the city’s past, it must not be allowed to overshadow other aspects of an urban history that is unique in Irish terms and also represents an important and neglected part of the history of the British industrial city.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Pat Convery, said: "Belfast City Council is delighted to be in a creative partnership with Queen’s University and the Liverpool University Press in this project which will help tell Belfast’s story to the world and connect our people to their history.

"Professor Connolly is one of the leading historians of our time, so our story could not be in safer or more capable hands. It is my hope that we can look back at our long history, in a spirit which acknowledges shared experience. People all over the world are interested in Belfast’s history, but too often see it as being solely one of strife, or sometimes of successes in the distant past. We are much better, and more interesting than that and this publication will make that clear."

Belfast 400 will be published by Liverpool University Press in the Autumn of 2012. For more information visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofHistoryandAnthropology/Research/HistoryResearchProjects/AnUrbanHistoryofBelfast/  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Come dine with with artist J B Vallely at Queen’s
A sample of J B Vallely's work
A sample of J B Vallely's work
Dinner with one of Ireland’s most prestigious artists is on offer at Queen’s this week, as the University’s Welcome Centre invites guests to come dine with J B Vallely.

BBC presenter William Crawley will conduct an entertaining after dinner interview with special guest J B Vallely on Friday 18 June. The Out to Dinner event takes place in the splendour of the University’s Great Hall and offers a silver service two course dinner, plus tea/coffee and mints.

Vallely is famous for featuring themes of traditional music, ‘rural’ sport and mythology, history and customs in Ireland. Born in Armagh in 1941, he sold his first painting at only 17 years, and since then has produced over 4,000 individual pieces.

A must for art fans, and an alternative to World Cup madness, William Crawley will ask Vallely about his contributions to 25 major art collections, 38 solo exhibitions and many group shows. He will also invite the painter, who has received over 250 major art awards, to discuss his career and the recognition shown to him by the art world.

Lynn Corken, organiser of the Welcome Centre’s Out To Dinner series, said: “The feedback from our Out to Lunch events was such that we had to expand our offering. We are delighted to now offer a series of evening events, where people can enjoy the magnificent surroundings of the Great Hall, great food and great company. Our other events have been very successful; we have featured poets, authors and politicians, but Vallely will be our first artist. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but on Friday night, there is a rare opportunity for a painter to speak them, and I would encourage people to listen.”

Tickets for Out to Dinner with William Crawley, priced £35, can be purchased from Queen’s Welcome Centre by telephoning 028 9097 5252 or emailing queens.welcomecentre@qub.ac.uk

Further information is available on the Welcome Centre’s website at www.qub.ac.uk/vcentre

For media inquires, please contact: Judith Rance, Press and PR Unit, 028 9097 5292, j.rance@qub.ac.uk

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Global view of special education and social inclusion on offer at Queen’s
Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher
Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher
Queen’s University Belfast is inviting all those with an interest in special education and social inclusion to attend the 7th Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress (ISEC) at the University later this summer.

The global event will focus on ensuring those who face learning difficulties, or whose behaviours challenge traditional teaching methods, are included in education and their participation maximised.

Over 800 teachers and educationalists are expected to attend the event which runs from 2 to 5 August.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher said: “Supported by the National Association for Special Education Needs (NASEN), ISEC is one of the world’s premier conferences on inclusive education. I would urge all those teachers and educationalists who can attend, to do so.

“Held once every five years, this is a rare opportunity to hear from an international audience of practitioners, policymakers and academics who will share their research, knowledge and expertise, in promoting inclusive and supportive education for all learners, regardless of age, background or individual needs.

“The conference is organised around five core themes, inclusive practice; evidence-informed policy and effective evaluation; children’s rights, voice and participation and collaboration, sharing and capacity building.

“For example, as part of the diversity theme, participants will learn about the latest research on those who face learning difficulties or whose behaviours challenge traditional teaching methods, in terms of socio-economic circumstances, ethnic origin, cultural heritage, gender or disability.

“We will also look at the concept of inclusion and its realisation in practice. The resurgence of interest in research methods which claim to provide practical, ‘what works’ type outcomes will be examined, along with the role of evidence in policy development. We will also look at methods to ensure children’s voices are heard on the issues that affect their lives, and reflect the current significance attached to ‘joined-up’ policy and practice and the growing importance of collaborative learning.

“Special education is one of the most popular areas of study for teachers in the UK and this conference provides a perfect forum to find out about the latest developments in research, policy and practice from around the globe.” For more information on ISEC or to register for the conference visit www.isec2010.org Ends

For more information contact Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University’s Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s offers ‘concrete’ pathway to China for construction sector
A free event at Queen’s University later this week (June 18 & 19) is offering the concrete, cement and civil engineering sectors on the island of Ireland the opportunity to avail of new trade opportunities in China’s £5 trillion construction industry.

The event has been organised by Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPACE). Those who sign up for the event will have the opportunity to meet with over 30 construction-related professionals and academic researchers from leading Chinese government organisations and universities.

The event is being organised under the umbrella of the Science Bridge initiative, a £2.3 million programme to underpin technology transfer and wealth creation in both Northern Ireland and China in the areas of sustainable energy and the built environment. The Science Bridge project at Queen’s was the only construction-related project awarded funding under the international programme.

Dr Yun Bai from SPACE explained: “While local construction and related fields have stalled, the Chinese sector is growing at an exponential rate. This growth rate has brought with it a range of challenges and now Chinese construction professionals are looking to the expertise of firms on the island of Ireland to help them meet demand.

“We have been successfully working with local firms and Chinese academics and industry for some time now on the commercialisation of viable research discoveries in the concrete, cement and civil engineering fields. I would urge all firms on the island of Ireland, with an interest in this area, to make the most of this opportunity and make some valuable new linkages with leading Chinese construction professionals. Admission is free of charge and if any firms are interested in exhibiting at the event, they can do so for a nominal fee.”

To register for the event and for further details please visit www.qub.ac.uk/sciencebridge/events or contact cber-events@qub.ac.uk or telephone 028 9097 4032.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Press Officer, 028 9097 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Use of paramilitary emblems ‘flagging’ in Northern Ireland
Dr Dominic Bryan, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s
Dr Dominic Bryan, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s
New research from Queen’s University shows the number of paramilitary flags now flown on arterial routes in Northern Ireland during July has more than halved. The figure is down from 161 flags in 2006 to 73 in 2009. The largest proportion of those that were flying in July 2009 belonged to the UVF.

The research is contained in a new report Public Displays of Flags and Emblems in Northern Ireland published by the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s. The study is funded by the Office of the First Deputy First Minister, to evaluate the creation of shared space and the effectiveness of the multi-agency Flags Protocol, which was introduced in 2005.

On average, over 4,000 flags are put up on lampposts and houses, in town centres and on arterial routes every July.

Surveys conducted in July and September over the last four years reveal one third of the flags put up along main roads in Northern Ireland over the summer months are still flying at the end of September. The surveys found that those flying from lampposts were often not removed and were left to become torn and tatty over winter months.

The surveys found the vast majority of the flags flying represent the unionist or loyalist tradition. During July 2006-09, the average number of unionist flags was 3,868 compared with 245 nationalist flags. During September, the average number of unionist flags was 1,411 compared with 505 nationalist. At Easter, two thirds of the flags on arterial routes were unionist.

A previous study conducted by Queen’s, The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 2008, revealed over a third of people said they were less likely to shop in neighbourhoods with loyalist and republican flags and murals. The same study revealed that 83 per cent of people in Northern Ireland do not support the flying of flags from lampposts in their area and that over half of respondents believed the Union flag and Tricolour were usually put on lampposts by paramilitary groups.

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey also showed some reduction in how many people feel intimidated by such displays. In 2003, 21 per cent of people said they had felt intimidated by loyalist or republican murals and flags. In 2008, 13 per cent of people were intimidated by republican displays and 15 per cent by loyalist displays.

Dr Dominic Bryan, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s said: “Over the last thirty years, the tradition in some areas of Northern Ireland of flying flags on houses appears to have declined, while there has been an increase in the hanging of flags from lampposts.

“Instead of celebrating identity, tattered and torn flags are left to demarcate territory. In Northern Ireland, where national identity is so keenly felt, this would seem to indicate that in actual fact the national flags are treated with little respect.

“There is a difficult balance to be struck between legitimate expressions of identity and prolonged displays that lead to greater territorial divisions and potential community relations problems, which can ultimately have detrimental economic effects. Festivals and parades offer potential benefits to many communities, but it would seem to make sense to take flags down after a couple of weeks.

“We hope this research will contribute to an informed debate on how expressions of identity can be managed to foster greater respect between people in Northern Ireland.”

Public Displays of Flags and Emblems in Northern Ireland available online at: http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/IrishStudiesGateway/Research/CurrentResearch/ on Monday 14 June. Hard copies are available on request from the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University on 028 9097 3386 or irish.studies@qub.ac.uk.
For more information about Irish Studies at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/IrishStudiesGateway  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk  

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Eminent graduate delivers Malaysia Lecture
One of Queen’s most distinguished graduates, Datuk Rafiah Salim, will return to the campus this week to give the annual Malaysia Lecture at the University.

Director of the NAM Institute for the Empowerment of Women, Malaysia, an organisation working with women in politics, education and health, Datuk Rafiah Salim has held senior national and international positions in academia, banking and human resources.

She is a former Assistant Secretary General for Human Resource Management for the United Nations, the highest post ever held by a Malaysian in the UN, and served as the first female Vice-Chancellor in Malaysia at the University of Malaya. She has also been President of the Malayan Commercial Banks’ Association, and Vice-Chairman of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

Datuk Rafiah Salim will focus on the unique feature of Malaysian laws that govern the position of women in her address, ‘The Conflict between Religion and Gender – the Malaysian Legislative Experience”.

Professor James McElnay, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates at Queen’s. said: “Malaysia is one of south-east Asia’s most vibrant economies, with a population of over 27 million people. Over 1,500 Queen’s graduates have made, and continue to make, a major contribution to Malaysian society - in business, in government and in the professions.

“The Malaysia Lecture Series at Queen’s brings internationally renowned scholars from to Belfast to develop further the business, academic and research links between Northern Ireland and Malaysia:

“Malaysian students have been coming to Queen’s for over 60 years and there are more Queen’s alumni in Malaysia than in any other country in the world, apart from the UK and Ireland. Queen’s also has close research links with several leading universities in Malaysia; for example, with the University of Malaya in areas such as public health and with the Universiti Teknologi Petronas in the field of green chemistry. It’s that sense of tradition and these research links that we seek to celebrate in the Malaysia Lecture Series,”

Datuk Rafiah holds three degrees from Queen’s. In 1971, she graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree (LLB), followed three years later by a Masters of Law degree (LLM). In 2006, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University in recognition of her services to the University’s alumni relations programme.

Open to the public, the annual Malaysia Lecture will take place at 2.30pm on Friday 11 June, in the Peter Froggatt Centre at Queen’s. Admission is free.

Datuk Rafiah is in Belfast with a group from the Queen’s University Alumni Association Malaysia (QUAAM). After the lecture, the QUAAM party will visit The McClay Library at Queen’s to open a Malaysia study space that the Association has supported.

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Coaching success at Queen’s Blues Awards

Coaches, the often unsung heroes of the sporting world, will be the focus of celebrations at Queen’s tonight (Thursday 10 June) when the cream of the University’s sporting talent gathers for the annual Blues Awards.

Around 120 students from across the University will be awarded Full or Half Blues in recognition of their sporting achievements. Joining them to present the awards will be former Northern Ireland soccer international Jim Magilton. Queen’s Blues Awards Dinner is sponsored by Powerade.

Speaking before the event Jim Magilton said: “I am delighted to meet the students of Queen’s, who have had a tremendous year in so many sports, and I congratulate all of this evening’s winners on their achievements.

“As a player and manager, I know that success doesn’t come easily. Of course, it requires talent, hard work and dedication. But that will only get you so far without the support of an inspirational coach and access to top-class training and playing facilities.

“Queen’s is obviously aware of this. Its investment in coaching and facilities has no doubt benefitted this evening’s award winners, and future generations of sports people will continue to reap the rewards of the University’s commitment to its sporting talent.”

Queen’s Sport has had a particularly successful year, with the men’s rugby and ladies hockey teams winning league promotions, and Queen’s Senior Men’s Eights rowing their way to become the fastest university men’s boat crew in the UK and Ireland.

Queen’s snooker team were crowned British University Champions, while the trampoline team sprung to victory as Irish Intervarsity Champions and the Taekwondo team took two gold and three silver medals at the British National Championships.

There were also successes for netball, camogie, orienteering, badminton, swimming and shooting in tournaments across the UK and Ireland.

Queen’s rowing coach, Mark Fangen-Hall, who guided Queen’s Senior Men and Novice Ladies crews to victory in the Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge University Boat Race last Saturday, said: “The single most important investment a sports body can make is in its coaches. Without consistent and up-to date guidance, no team or athlete can ever hope to succeed on a regular basis.

“The coach is the centre point of all decisions, allowing individuals and teams to concentrate on their game plan rather than devising it. They must disassociate themselves from the social aspect of the club so they can make difficult decisions at the right time. A good coach will allow the team to develop and fulfil their potential in a way that sees individual techniques improve and the team bond strengthen.”

The Blues Awards will take place this evening (Thursday 10 June) at the Whitla Hall at Queen’s. For more information on Queen’s Sport visit www.queenssport.com

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320, mob 07814 415 451 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s invites health professionals to connect at free Ehealth and informatics event
Those interested in medical education or ehealth research are invited to come along to a free afternoon seminar in the Europa Hotel, Belfast between 2pm and 5pm on Monday 14 June.

Organised by Queen’s University’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, the event is entitled How Should Medical Schools respond to the Connected Health agenda? The Impact of eHealth and Informatics on Health Care Research and Education.

The event will include a range of well-known experts in the area including Professor Frank Sullivan (Dundee), Professor Tony Gallagher (RCSI), and Professor Richard Satava (Washington).

Dr Kieran McGlade, Deputy Director of Medical Education at Queen's said: "I would encourage anyone with an interest in Informatics, eHealth Research or in the future of Health Care education and how it will be affected by the information society to attend. This is a growing area which will have a large say in the future education of medical professionals."

Further information on the event and online registration is available at www.qub.ac.uk/cm/gp/ConnectedHealthAndMedicalEducation.htm.  Alternatively, those wishing to attend should email Deborah.Whan@qub.ac.uk or K.mcglade@qub.ac.uk

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Not just armchair fans: soccer revealed as men’s favourite form of exercise

As World Cup fever builds, new research shows that playing soccer is the most popular form of exercise undertaken by men in Northern Ireland. Of those men interviewed, one in five (21 per cent) said they exercise every day, with 22 per cent frequently taking to the soccer pitch.

The findings from 2009 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, conducted by ARK at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, show 19 per cent of men do no exercise at all, and 58 per cent think the government should spend more money on sports.

The research, which involved 470 men across Northern Ireland, is being launched today (Wednesday 9 June) in advance of Men’s Health Week, which runs from 14-20 June.

Dr Paula Devine, Research Director of ARK at the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, said: “We are constantly being told that physical activity can benefit every aspect of our physical and mental health and wellbeing. As we approach Men’s Health Week, it is welcome to see that one in five men in Northern Ireland take part in physical activity every day. A similar proportion never exercise though and perhaps this is something that needs to be addressed.”

Key findings from Men and Physical Activity are:

  • 21 per cent of men take part in some physical activity every day, such as playing sport, walking or going to the gym.
  • Almost one fifth (19 per cent) do not take part in any physical activity.
  • Younger men are much more likely than older men to take part in physical activity. Only 7 per cent of those aged 18-24, compared with 37 per cent aged 65 and over, never take part in physical activity.
  • Playing soccer is the most popular physical activity among men in Northern Ireland (22 per cent of those questioned play frequently), followed by golf or mini-golf (11 per cent), fitness activities such as going to the gym (7 per cent), and walking, hiking, trekking or climbing (6 per cent).
  • However, while soccer is the most frequent activity among men aged 18-24 years, golf is most popular among those aged over 65.
  • Almost three quarters of men who take part in physical activities get a fair amount or a great amount of enjoyment from it. Only 2 per cent said they got no enjoyment.
  • Physical or mental health was reported as a very important reason for 54 per cent of men taking part in physical activities, followed by ‘meeting other people’ (31 per cent), ‘competing against others’ (17 per cent), and ‘to look good’ (11 per cent).
  • One quarter (25 per cent) of those questioned attend sporting events as a spectator at least several times a month. Overall, a higher proportion of men participate in sport than attend sporting events.
  • More than half (58 per cent) of respondents thought the Northern Ireland government should spend more money on sports.
  • 88 per cent of men agreed that taking part in sports develops children’s character.

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey records public attitudes to a wide range of social issues. All findings from the 2009 survey are available online at www.ark.ac.uk/nilt As well as sport and leisure, other topics covered in the 2009 survey include community relations, ethnic minority people, migrant workers, disability and politics.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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£7.5M 'global engine' of future technology opens at Queen's
L to R: Professor Robert Boman, Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Dr Ken Allen, Seagate Technology.
L to R: Professor Robert Boman, Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Dr Ken Allen, Seagate Technology.

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A new £7.5 million international research hub, which will bring major advances in computer hard drives, new and improved sensors and a host of advanced coatings, has opened today at Queen’s University Belfast.

In partnership with Seagate Technology, the global leader in data storage solutions, new levels of information and data storage will be just one of the groundbreaking potential applications that will be created in new research hub ANSIN. By attracting a wide variety of international companies to ANSIN, it is expected that advances in new medical sensors, security devices and many other areas will also be made possible.

Seagate has provided £7.5 million worth of equipment to ANSIN which is based in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s. Unparalleled in third-level physics education in the United Kingdom, the ANSIN facility is one of the top ten industry-linked university research centres in the world.

In ANSIN, researchers will work on new advanced materials from the micron scale, about fifty times smaller than the width of a human hair, all the way down to layers of materials just a few atoms thick.

Explaining how work at ANSIN will impact positively on people’s daily lives, Professor Robert Bowman, Director of Queen’s Centre for Nanostructured Media said: “Twenty-five years ago my music collection filled many shelves, now I’ve maybe one hundred times more music and it fits in my pocket. The science, technology and manufacturing required to make that happen has been revolutionary.

“Before the end of the decade you will have the ability to carry a vast digital library of text, images, music and HD movies with you in the same way. To make that possible will again require revolutionary developments of advanced materials and their exploitation in as yet unimagined ways. This is all only possible by understanding and exploiting fundamental physics and materials science questions. This is what we are aiming to do at ANSIN.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Seagate as a founding partner in ANSIN, for not only are they supporting our first major project, but most significantly they want to see other partners who join ANSIN use the equipment they have provided. We hope that new partners will bring their ideas into ANSIN and that by co-operatively working with other partners in the hub, new inventions will arise and products can be improved.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson added: “I am delighted and proud that a global leader such as Seagate has chosen Queen’s as the location for ANSIN, an industry-university collaborative research centre which will create real technological advances for many business sectors. Other companies will be encouraged to join ANSIN and interact to support their own particular needs.

“ANSIN builds on Queen’s internationally recognised research strength in advanced materials, with special reference to nano-structured media, to promote an ecosystem for the creation, transfer and exploitation of knowledge. This new facility will encourage further investment by indigenous companies and multi-national corporates in Northern Ireland.”

ANSIN was first raised as a concept following discussions between Queen’s, Invest NI and Seagate, following Invest NI’s £12.7 million offer of support for a £58 million research and development investment by Seagate in its Springtown campus. Seagate have also committed to a £1.7 million collaborative research project at Queen’s which is funding ten research posts at the University.

Dr. Kenneth Allen, Seagate's Vice-President of development, said the joint project with Queen's would not only contribute directly to Seagate's R&D learning but would also provide an ongoing flow of highly skilled engineers into local industry. He added: "ANSIN provides a unique opportunity to make a difference for Northern Ireland and for Seagate in the long term. By establishing this initiative, we hope to provide the spark which leads to a stronger base of magnetic and nanotechnology capability in these islands.”

Seagate is also providing £250,000 to fund business development activities that will encourage other companies to participate in ANSIN.

Dr Allen said: "The economic growth that's generated by these research fields will happen somewhere. From our way of thinking it might as well be in Northern Ireland. We look forward to broadening our strategic partnership with Queen's and Invest NI. We are also keen to encourage other corporate and academic entities to find out more about ANSIN - how it can help their business or university, and ways in which they can get involved in helping make it a global success."

Further information on ANSIN is available online at www.ansin.eu  

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Press Officer, 028 9097 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Benefactor’s portrait unveiled as McClay Library named
Pictured at the unveiling are (from left): former Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir George Bain, Lady Heather McClay, artist Ian Cumberland and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson
Pictured at the unveiling are (from left): former Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir George Bain, Lady Heather McClay, artist Ian Cumberland and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson
A new portrait of one of Queen’s most generous benefactors is to hang in the University’s £50 million new library which bears his name.

Northern Ireland-born artist Ian Cumberland’s portrait of the late Sir Allen McClay was unveiled at a special ceremony at which the landmark new building was officially named the McClay Library. The official opening of the building will take place in July.

Sir Allen, the founding Chair of the Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation, personally donated more than £20 million to Queen’s. The McClay Research Centre for Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy, which bears his name, was funded by The McClay Trust, a charitable body which he established. He also made substantial donations to support research and education in Chemistry and Pharmacy at Queen’s, and to a range of other projects, including the new library and the restoration of the University’s Great Hall.

Illuminated by a multi-storey open atrium, the McClay Library 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.

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Euro universities learn from Queen’s spirit of enterprise

Queen’s University – the UK’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year – is sharing its award-winning spirit of enterprise with colleagues from throughout Europe.

Representatives from a number of European universities recently visited Queen’s to learn about the University’s education strategy, entrepreneurial learning policy, curriculum development, teaching innovation, staff development initiatives and linkages with the world of enterprise.

The delegates represented universities involved in the second phase of the Entrepreneurship in Higher Education pilot project of the European Training Foundation (ETF), an agency of the European Union.

They came from a number of countries, primarily the EU pre-accession regions (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey), the Southern Mediterranean region (Lebanon, Jordan and Israel) as well as the Ukraine and Italy.

Pictured during the study visit are (from right): Professor Hassan Azzazy, the American University in Cairo; Professor Radmil Polenakovik, St. Cyril and Methodius University, Macedonia; Anthony Gribben, European Training Foundation; Richard Millen, Research and Regional Services, Queen's; Professor Verica Babic, University of Kragujevac, Serbia.

For media enquiries please contact Anne Langford, 028 9097 5310, m 07815 871997 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Rowing rivalry ahead at Saturday’s 2010 Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge Boat Race
Peter Croke, Captain of Trinity’s Dublin University Boat Club ( in white), Charles Cunningham, Deputy Queen’s Boat Club Captain (in blue) and Lord Diljit Rana, sponsor of this year’s event.
Peter Croke, Captain of Trinity’s Dublin University Boat Club ( in white), Charles Cunningham, Deputy Queen’s Boat Club Captain (in blue) and Lord Diljit Rana, sponsor of this year’s event.
Queen's captains James Graham and Zoe Patterson pictured with Councillor Pat Convery, Lord Mayor of Belfast and Dermott Brooks, Finance Director of race sponsors Andras House.
Queen's captains James Graham and Zoe Patterson pictured with Councillor Pat Convery, Lord Mayor of Belfast and Dermott Brooks, Finance Director of race sponsors Andras House.

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An epic battle is predicted this Saturday (5 June) on the River Lagan, as the rowers of Queen’s University take on Trinity College Dublin in the 2010 Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge Boat Race.

Following a phenomenal year for Queen’s Rowing, with its Senior Men’s crew now ranked as the fastest University 8 in the UK, Saturday will see Trinity face their biggest challenge since the event began.

Modelled on the Oxford and Cambridge race, this year’s event is expected to be the biggest to date. As a result, a new licensed enclosure for spectators will be situated half way along the 2,112 metre course at Queen’s PE Centre. Open from 12.30pm and with free admission the marquee will offer live commentary on the races, a barbeque, bar, live music and activities for all the family, as well as hourly giveaways for spectators.

The first of four races begins at 1.45pm with the Fresher Women’s Race. This is followed by the Fresher Men’s Race at 2.30pm, the Senior Women’s Race at 3.15pm and the Senior Men’s Race at 4pm.

Speaking ahead of the race Queen’s Rowing Coach, Mark Fangen-Hall said: “I am proud to say that the investment made by Queen’s Sport and Lady Victoria Boat Club, along with the hard work and dedication shown by all our crews, has certainly paid dividends this year. Queen’s is fast becoming a destination of choice for those rowers who want to combine elite rowing with a world-class education.

“We are going into Saturday’s races with the knowledge that we came away from the British University Championships as the top performing men’s squad in the UK. Our Women’s Novice 8s also won at the Championships and our Men’s crew won the Senior 8’s at the Irish University Championships. We have invites in our pockets to compete in the World and European University Championships.

“We also know that Saturday’s races are going to see Trinity pose a threat across all four events. But there is nothing Queen’s rowers like better than a challenge, and with the help of the fantastic support we receive all along the river on race day, I know our crews will rise to it.”

Peter Croke, Captain of Trinity’s Senior Men’s 8 added: “Trinity has never approached the University boat race lightly and this year is no different. We are travelling to the event under no illusions about the challenges that face us, but we are excited about the prospect of causing an upset.”

Lord Rana, Chairman and Chief Executive of race sponsors Andras House said: "Events like the Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge University Boat Race are vital in highlighting the potential of the River Lagan for tourism and wider economic benefit to the City of Belfast.

“I am confident that on Saturday we will witness some of the finest rowing talent from these islands compete in a tremendous sporting battle. I would urge the people of Belfast and further afield to come down to the banks of the Lagan and enjoy this wonderful free spectacle.”

Viewing points are available along the River Lagan but live commentary will be available in the spectator enclosure at Queen’s PEC on the Ormeau embankment, along with family activities and giveaways by clothing company Jack Wills.

The full course runs from McConnell Weir to Queen’s Boat House, situated between Governor's Bridge and Cutter's Wharf on Lockview Road.

The Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge University Boat Race is sponsored by Andras House and is supported by Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast City Council and the Department of Social Development.

Further information on the boat race is available online at www.qub.ac.uk/sites/BoatRace/  

Spectators are encouraged to use Metro bus corridors 7 and 8 to take them within a short walk from the race on the River Lagan. For Translink Metro, NI Railways and Ulsterbus timetables click www.translink.co.uk or call 90 66 66 30.

For media enquiries please contact Lisa McElroy, Press and PR Unit., 028 9097 5384, m 0781 44 22 572 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s reports show cancer patient care is improving in Northern Ireland
New research by Queen’s University funded by the Public Health Agency has revealed the quality of treatment for cancer patients in Northern Ireland has improved, despite the number of cases increasing.

The research is contained in three reports launched today (Wednesday 2 June) by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) at Queen’s. The reports examine cancer care and outcomes for patients diagnosed with either prostate, breast or colorectal cancer between 1996 and 2006, across Northern Ireland. These together account for over 3000 cancers each year.

The reports highlight the need for continued work to prevent these diseases but points to improvements such as more centralised treatment, closer working between clinicians, early diagnosis and better treatment options as having had a significant impact on positive patient outcomes.

The quality and breadth of data gathered by the NICR team for the reports is such that it is to be used in a global benchmarking programme looking at reasons for differences in cancer survival rates in 14 international areas including several states of Australia, Canadian provinces, Norway, Sweden, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and co-author of the Registry reports, said: “The Northern Ireland Registry’s work at Queen’s focuses on monitoring cancers occurring in the population including their care and outcome.

“Such analysis is vitally important as it can highlight increasing service demands, inequalities and areas for further improvement. We work with clinicians and service providers to influence those who make the decisions about how patients with cancer are treated. It is rare for a country to have such depth and quality of data, and as a result our work has been recognised internationally. It will now be used as part of a global benchmarking tool which could help identify aspects of services which improve cancer survival and so save lives.

“Crucially, our work is carried out alongside the clinicians on the ground through the Northern Ireland Cancer Network. We bring to their attention any areas of concern, and, of course, those areas which are working well. The collation and examination of data such as this is vital and we are pleased to say this reflects improved services being provided to patients in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Gavin also feels the latest reports should help reassure people who have fears about cancer: “Survival rates for breast cancer patients diagnosed in 2006 were excellent and have improved from 2001 and 1996. Observed survival was 94.3 per cent after one year and 90.6 per cent after two years. In 1996 these figures were 91.0 per cent and 84.5 per cent respectively. More patients are gaining access to diagnostic tests, and for breast cancer over twice as many women were having chemotherapy in 2006 compared with 1996, with increases also in radiotherapy and the availability of reconstructive surgery after treatment.”

The reports also illustrates an unprecedented change in health care delivery, with professionals involved in cancer care across Northern Ireland working together to bring real changes to the lives of those with the disease.

Dr Gavin added: “We have excellent facilities at the Cancer Centre and Cancer Units and there is now a more joined-up approach to patient care with, for example, the centralisation of breast cancer services in each Trust area. Another important step forward is that we now have better communications between health care professionals and their patients. And alongside this there is an increased use of multidisciplinary team meetings attended by a range of healthcare staff dealing with patients.

“There has been a doubling in the number of patients being treated for prostate cancer in Northern Ireland over the 10 years examined in the report. This is explained by the increased use of diagnostic tests such as PSA. The services however have continued to provide a good service despite increased demand. Treatments for prostate cancer are however not without serious side effects. The NICR has recently received a major three year grant from the ‘Prostate Cancer Charity’ to study the side effects of this treatment and effects on quality of life. The study will begin in late 2010.”

Dr Gavin has also welcomed improved survival for patients with rectal cancer. She said: “This improvement reflects changes in service organisation, improvements in investigation with increased use of MRI and CT scans, changes in surgical practice and increased use of radiotherapy.”

Further information on the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s is available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/  

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Press and PR Unit, 028 9097 5384, m07814 422 572 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s celebrates achievements of disabled students
Queen’s University is celebrating the achievements of its students with disabilities at a special event later this week.

The students’ success stories will be highlighted at a celebration on Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of the University’s award-winning Disability Services Unit. In the past 10 years, the number of students with disabilities registered at Queen’s has risen to 1,200, compared with 50 a decade ago.

Highlights of the past 10 years include the award to the University in 2004 of one of the first ever Employers’ Forum on Disability (NI) Employer Recognition Awards.

In 2007, Queen’s was short-listed for a prestigious Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Support for Students with Disabilities.

Speaking ahead of the celebration, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “By working in collaboration with staff across the University, Disability Services plays a pivotal role in ensuring that disabled students have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience while studying at Queen’s.

“Much has changed since Disability Services was established in 2000. It is apparent that more students with disabilities are choosing to disclose their disability while at university. This is crucial if Queen’s is to provide them with all the support they need to complete their course successfully.

“Queen’s is committed to a fully inclusive environment for all students, and will continue to develop policy in areas such as supporting the transition to third level education, and identifying students in need of additional support. We hope that the academic and personal achievements of our disabled students will inspire many more to fulfil their academic potential at Queen’s.”

Linda Maguire, Head of Disability Services, said: “The last decade has been one of rapid development. We have seen changes to policies and procedures to ensure that they are inclusive of disabled students, significant modifications to the University estate and the development of staff awareness courses on disability issues. Most importantly, the University has developed a range of support mechanisms which are tailored to meet the need of a diverse range of students studying across all disciplines and at all levels.

“Many of the students who have accessed the service have faced – and overcome – significant challenges. These students and those that we currently support reinforce our ongoing commitment to ensuring that the University continues to provide high-quality support to disabled students.”

The achievements of many Queen’s students with disabilities are featured in a special commemorative booklet and DVD produced to coincide with the anniversary.

These include mature student Lorraine Boyd, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 35, and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Social Policy and Sociology in 2006.

Another success story comes from Hugh Cox, who has a significant visual impairment, and who graduated with a Masters in Computer Based Learning the same year.

He said: “Being a graduate provides me with a great sense of satisfaction and the confidence to look for work in the knowledge that I am fully qualified to work in my chosen field. As a self-employed person, completing the course enabled me to become self-disciplined, confident and gave me the courage that I so badly needed to strike out on my own.

“My advice to other disabled students who may be thinking of studying at Queen’s is to go for it – you will not regret it!”

For media enquiries please contact: Anne Langford, Corporate Affairs, 028 9097 5310, Mob: 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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Irish hares fall foul of modern farming trap
Research from Queen’s University has revealed the 20th century decline in the Irish hare population is almost certainly associated with changes in farming practices.

The Stormont Assembly voted to ban hare coursing in Northern Ireland last Tuesday (22nd June), but a recent study, funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and published in the international journal Biological Conservation, suggests hares may join the ranks of other farmland species, such as the Corncrake, unless more is done to protect its habitat.

The research team, led by Dr Neil Reid, Quercus Centre Manager in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, has shown that hares require an intricate patchwork quilt of good quality grassland for feeding, and tall uneven vegetation, such as rushes, for hiding and sleeping.

Dr Reid explained: “Hares may mistake the tall grass of silage fields as a good spot for lying-up and giving birth. Silage is harvested during the peak period when leverets are born in late spring and early summer and the machinery used may trap and kill young hares, driving local population declines year after year. Hares have fallen foul of an ecological trap.”

The researchers tagged a population of hares in South Armagh with radio-transmitters, allowing them to track their every move. They followed the animals day and night for an entire year to see how they changed their habitat preferences. The researchers found that during late spring and early summer they increased their use of long grass destined to be cut for silage.

Dr Reid said: “On a day-to-day basis, hares are remarkably boring creatures to follow. They don’t move far and during the daytime they do very little. This is rather worrying, however, if they settle in unsuitable habitat that may present life threatening risks at a certain time of year. We may have forty shades of green in Ireland but we have created what amounts to a desert of grass. Variety is the spice of life. Wildlife can’t survive in a pristinely manicured landscape of only one habitat.”

Dr Reid added: “Fields are frequently mowed from the edge to the centre for convenience but it surely can’t be that difficult to do it the other way around? Adopting ‘hare-friendly’ mowing regimes, similar to those adopted to minimise the impact of harvesting on ground nesting birds, may help mitigate the effects. Unfortunately, leverets tend not to run so it may not work, but it’s worth testing.”

The new Northern Ireland Countryside Management Schemes (NICMS), implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), now includes a specific measure to target the Irish hare called the ‘delayed cutting and grazing’ option. Farmers who sign up will receive hectarage payments for postponing the cutting of silage until after the 1st July and for maintaining rushy field margins.

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Olympic medallist and Nobel Laureate among honorary graduates at Queen's
Graduand and 2010 Belfast Rose Frances Rafferty
Graduand and 2010 Belfast Rose Frances Rafferty

Queen's will officially open its new £50 million McClay Library next week, as a host of renowned names arrive in Belfast to be conferred with honorary degrees by the University.

Those receiving honorary degrees include Olympic medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, Nobel prize-winner Professor Amartya Sen and the Ulster Orchestra's Principal Conductor, Kenneth Montgomery.

Dame Kelly Holmes, who made British athletics history by winning two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, will receive a Doctorate of the University for distinction in sport and for public service, during Monday afternoon’s graduation ceremony.

Dame Kelly is making her second visit to Queen’s, after officially opening the University’s new PE Centre in 2007, during her first ever visit to Northern Ireland. Now an ambassador for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Dame Kelly has been appointed National School Champion.

Tuesday will see one of the greatest thinkers of modern India receive an honorary degree for distinction in economics. Professor Amartya Kumar Sen, who is recognised across the world as an ‘intellectual giant’, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his contributions to work on welfare economics in 1998. He will talk about his latest book The Idea of Justice at a special event, organised in conjunction with the British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy, on Monday evening in the University’s Great Hall.

Fellow Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney will perform the official opening of the University’s McClay Library on Tuesday evening. The Library has been named in honour of Sir Allen McClay, a major benefactor of Queen's and of the Library itself.

Other notable figures being recognised during the week include businessman William Wright, Director of leading local firm Wrightbus; former Police Ombudsman, Baroness O’Loan, and the Ulster Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Kenneth Montgomery.

Kevin Cahill, Chief Medical Advisor to the New York Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit and President of the Centre for Humanitarian Health and Co-operation at Fordham University in New York; Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark, who has been cited as one of the 20 most influential nurses of the last 60 years; network design and computing pioneer Professor Andy Hopper; eminent physicist Professor Jie Zhang; Dr Colin Wong Hee Huing, Vice-President Research and Development with the Malaysian oil giant Petronas; shipping magnate Fred Olsen (Senior) who helped negotiate the release of land to develop Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and American composer and inventor, Professor John Chowning, will also join some 4,000 students who will accept their degrees across the week.

The coveted Graduate and Student of the Year Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday evening, attended by graduates from the School of Education at Queen’s and Stranmillis and St Mary’s University Colleges.

Media inquiries to Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit, Tel 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email a.langford@qub.ac.uk

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