Latest News

Latest News

Bats use polarised light to navigate

Queen’s University scientists have discovered that greater mouse-eared bats use polarisation patterns in the sky to navigate, making it the first mammal that is known to do this. The bats use the way the sun’s light is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps them to fly in the right direction, according to a study published in Nature Communications. Despite this breakthrough, researchers have no idea how they manage to detect polarised light. Dr Richard Holland, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, co-author of the study, said: “We know that other animals use polarisation patterns in the sky, and we have at least some idea how they do it: bees have specially-adapted photoreceptors in their eyes, and birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles all have cone cell structures in their eyes which may help them to detect polarisation.  But we don’t know which structure these bats might be using.” Polarisation patterns depend on where the sun is in the sky. They are clearest in a strip across the sky 90 degrees from the position of the sun at sunset or sunrise. But animals can still see the patterns long after sunset. This means they can orient themselves even when they cannot see the sun, including when it is cloudy. Scientists have even shown that dung beetles use the polarisation pattern of moonlight for orientation. A hugely diverse range of creatures – including bees, anchovies, birds, reptiles and amphibians – use the patterns as a compass to work out which way is north, south, east and west. Stefan Greif, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, lead author of the study, said: “Every night through the spring, summer and autumn, bats leave their roosts in caves, trees and buildings to search for insect prey. They might range hundreds of kilometres in a night, but return to their roosts before sunrise to avoid predators. But, until now, how they achieved such feats of navigation was not clear.” Even so, previous studies suggested that bats might detect polarisation patterns when they emerge from their caves at dusk. He said: “Most people are familiar with bats using echolocation to get around. But that only works up to about 50 metres, so we knew they had to be using another of their senses for longer range navigation.” In a bid to shed light on the matter the team at Queen’s University and colleagues from Tel Aviv University showed 70 adult, female mouse-eared bats one of two different types of polarisation patterns at sunset. They then took them to one of two release sites in Bulgaria about 20 to 25 kilometres from their home roost. They released the bats at 01:00am – when no polarisation is visible – and followed the direction they set off in using small radio transmitters attached to their backs. They found the bats that had been shown a shifted pattern of polarised light headed off in a direction shifted at right angles from the controls released at the same time. Bats probably use a suite of senses, including the position of the sun or the stars, the earth’s magnetic field, smells, sight, and of course, echolocation to navigate. Many bat species are declining across Europe, despite being protected. Ironically, wind turbines are seriously harming their populations. Dr Holland, said: “We know that bats must be ‘seeing’ the turbines, but it seems that the air pressure patterns around working turbines give the bats what’s akin to the bends.  It is most common in migratory species, with around 300,000 bats affected every year in Europe alone. You just find bats dead at the bottom of these turbines. One option is to reduce turbine activity during times of peak migration. Bats provide a vital service that tends to be overlooked – they are natural pest controllers. It is estimated that they save us millions of pounds in pesticides by eating insects.  Anything we can do to understand how they get about, how they move and navigate will be a step forward in helping to protect them.” The study was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council grant to Dr Richard Holland and by the Max Planck Society.Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3087 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Bowel cancer breakthrough may benefit thousands of patients

Researchers at Queen’s University have made a significant breakthrough that may benefit patients with bowel cancer. Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck and her team have discovered how two genes cause bowel cancer cells to become resistant to treatments used against the disease. The research, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, was published this month in the prestigious international journal Cell Reports. The activity of the two genes, called MEK and MET, was uncovered when the researchers looked at all the different pathways and interactions taking place in bowel cancer cells. Dr van Schaeybroeck and her group found that these bowel cancers switch on a survival mechanism when they are treated with drugs that target faulty MEK genes. But when the researchers added drugs that also block the MET gene, the bowel cancer cells died. The team are now testing a new approach to target these two genes in the most aggressive forms of bowel cancer in a European Commission funded clinical trial that is being led by Dr van Schaeybroeck. Currently over 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and over 16,000 patients die of the disease. More than half of patients develop the aggressive form of the disease which does not respond to standard therapy, the five year overall survival in this patient group is less than five per cent. Study author Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University, said: “We have discovered how two key genes contribute to aggressive bowel cancer. Understanding how they are involved in development of the disease has also primed the development of a potential new treatment approach for this disease.” Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “Understanding the genes that cause bowel cancer is a key focus of our research. Our discoveries in this deadly disease have identified a new route to clinical application for cancer patients.” Professor David Waugh, Director of the CCRCB at Queen’s, said: “The publication of this research by Dr van Schaeybroeck and her team demonstrates our commitment to performing excellent science here in Belfast that can be directly translated to the clinic.” The clinical trial, which is called MErCuRIC and is due to start in September, will deliver personalised medicine to Northern Irish patients and patients from other European countries. Overall, the pan European collaborative effort will involving 13 research/clinical teams from nine European countries. Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Emmy nomination for Hillsborough documentary

A documentary based on long-term research by a Queen’s University Professor has been nominated for an Emmy. Short-listed for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Film-making, the two-hour ESPN/BBC documentary, Hillsborough, is derived from Professor Phil Scraton’s research previously published in two influential reports on the disaster and his book Hillsborough: The Truth. Professor Scraton led the research for the Hillsborough Independent Panel and was primary author of its report that led to new inquests into the deaths of the 96 men, women and children, the ongoing Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation, and a full criminal inquiry into all the authorities involved. The documentary reflects Professor Scraton’s in depth work into the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster, using archival material to expose the background to the disaster, the experiences of those caught up in the immediacy of the tragedy and the authorities’ subsequent responses including the much-criticised inquests and investigations. Shown throughout the world and receiving universal positive reviews, Hillsborough cannot be shown in the UK and Europe because of necessary ruling to avoid contempt of court imposed by the Coroner for the new inquests. Beginning last March, they are expected to run until July 2015. Speaking about the nomination, Professor Phil Scraton from Queen’s University’s School of Law, said: “I worked closely with the film’s director, Dan Gordon, from conception through to the final cut. It was an exceptional achievement to integrate my two decades’ research, the Panel’s findings and newly researched material, interviews and reconstructions. “Recently in a Liverpool cinema and in closed session the film was shown to families whose loss and survival remain central to all our work. While it is an honour to be so closely associated with an EMMY nomination, the real prize for the film was its moving, overwhelming endorsement by the families.” Congratulating Professor Scraton, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “This is a momentous achievement for Professor Scraton. It is great to see research from Queen’s being recognised on the international stage. On behalf of everyone at the University, I congratulate him and the documentary team on their nomination and wish them well for the awards ceremony next month.” The Emmy Awards Ceremony will be held on Monday August 25, 2014 at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Women in Physics scoop major Queen’s University awards

For the first time ever, the Queen’s Graduate and Queen’s Student of the Year are both women.  And coincidentally, the recipients of these annual awards both studied Physics!A top international businesswoman from the world of finance, listed in the Wall Street 50 for three consecutive years (2011-2013), is this year’s First Trust Bank Queen’s University Graduate of the Year.Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics from Queen's. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, has a music qualification from London School of Music and was All-Ireland Public Speaking Champion in 1994. Originally from just outside Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ms Sands joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp (based in Mountain View, CA) in October 2013. She previously served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services. She joined UBS in October 2009 as a Transformation Consultant before becoming Chief Operating Officer, then Head of Change Leadership. In 2007, when Ms Sands was at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), she was appointed as the youngest ever Senior Vice President in the history of the company. She has received many awards in recognition for her leadership, contribution to public service and efforts to empower women, including 2012 Women of Concern by Concern Worldwide and 2011 Most Influential Women by Irish Voice. She is a member of the International Women's Forum, a mentor for the W.O.M.E.N in America, and a previous board member of Women in Capital Markets. Clare Scullion is the winner of the First Trust Bank Queen’s University Student of the Year Award. From Ballygawley in Co Tyrone, Clare is currently undertaking a PhD in Physics, expecting to graduate for a second time from Queen’s in 2016. An exemplary student, Clare is being recognised for her leadership within Queen’s Ladies Gaelic Football Club, for setting up “TanzaniAID” – a unique volunteering project using science to help some of the poorest young people in the world – and for her involvement in a Women In Physics Event at Queen’s, which addressed the lack of females in physics.In support of TanzaniAID, Clare recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and took part in the Belfast Marathon, raising over £10,000 to fund and install solar panels in a school in Tanzania. And, as part of her 300 volunteer hours this year, she also supports undergraduate teaching by delivering weekly tutorials and workshops within her faculty to help younger Queen’s students.The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 14th year, were launched by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, with the support of First Trust Bank. The Awards aim to recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students, either to the University or to the wider community. The student winner receives a trophy and £500 while the graduate winner receives a trophy. In endorsing the Awards Des Moore, Head of First Trust Bank, said: “We've been supporting the Awards since their inception in 1999 and are very proud to be associated with such an important event in the Queen’s University calendar.  Our endorsement of these Awards recognises and celebrates the achievements of Queen's students and graduates who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. We have two exceptionally worthy winners in Anita and Clare this year.” Catherine Vint, President of the QGA, believes that the Awards can add value and bring great benefits to those who are successful.She said: “These prestigious Awards recognise passion and drive in individuals, qualities that help people succeed in life. As President of the Association I am particularly pleased that Anita and Clare – both of whom are strong female role models and scholars of physics – are receiving the recognition they deserve.”General media inquiries should be directed to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast  +44 (0)28 9097 5321, g.power@qub.ac.uk

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Top international business woman is Queen’s Graduate of the Year

A Queen’s graduate who is one of the top women in the world of international finance, has been named First Trust Bank Queen’s University Graduate of the Year. Drogheda-born Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds two degrees from Queen’s – an undergraduate degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics. She is one of thousands of Queen’s graduates making their mark in over 120 countries around the world, and has returned to Queen’s to receive the coveted award during the University’s summer graduations. Ms Sands became the youngest ever Senior Vice President of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2007. She has since served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services, which she joined in October 2009. In October 2013 she joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp, based in Mountain View, California. The First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award is the latest in a string of accolades for Ms Sands, who was named in Irish America magazine’s annual Wall Street 50 for three years running (2011-2013). Widely regarded as a role model for women in business, she was named 2012 Women of Concern by Concern Worldwide and 2011 Most Influential Women by Irish Voice. She is a member of the International Women's Forum, a mentor for the W.O.M.E.N in America, and a former board member of Women in Capital Markets. The Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award is presented each year during summer graduations, alongside the Student of the Year Award. Launched 14 years ago by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office. Supported by First Trust Bank, the Awards recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students. In endorsing the Awards Des Moore, Head of First Trust Bank, said: “We've been supporting the Awards since their inception in 1999 and are very proud to be associated with such an important event in the Queen’s University calendar. Our endorsement of these Awards recognises and celebrates the achievements of Queen's students and graduates who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. We have two exceptionally worthy winners in Anita and Clare this year.” Catherine Vint, President of the QGA, said: “These prestigious Awards recognise passion and drive in individuals, qualities that help people succeed in life. As President of the Association I am particularly pleased that Anita– who is a strong female role model – is receiving the recognition she deserves.”  

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Queen’s honours one of Northern Ireland's leading public figures

One of Northern Ireland’s leading public figures will be honoured at Queen’s University today. A former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir David Fell will be awarded an LLD for distinction in public service and business and commerce. A Queen’s graduate, Sir David spent much of his career as a civil servant, becoming Permanent Secretary at the Department of Economic Development and then head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service from 1991-1997. Since then, he has served as chairman for a range of well-known companies, including Harland and Wolff, Northern Bank and Titanic Quarter. Sir David was also appointed Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s in 2005 and Chair of the University’s Senate in 2008. The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Council of the Prince’s Trust from 1999-2005, Sir David remains active in supporting the voluntary and charity sector. He was knighted in 1995. Speaking about his honorary degree, he said: “It is a great honour for me to have been recognised with a doctorate from my alma mater. I have been associated with Queen’s University for well over 50 years, since first enrolling as an undergraduate in 1961. Over the last decade, during which I served as the University’s Pro-Chancellor, and on the Foundation Board, it has been a great privilege to have had the opportunity to observe at first-hand the continuing development of Queen’s from a great university to an exceptional one. Northern Ireland should be truly proud of this wonderful institution.” Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Journalist Fintan O'Toole to be honoured by Queen's University Belfast

One of Ireland’s most distinguished media figures will today (July 8) be honoured at Queen’s University Belfast. Journalist, commentator, arts critic and literary editor of The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole will be awarded a DLit for services to broadcasting. A regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, Mr O’Toole has written more than a dozen books himself, including Ship of Fools, his critique of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ era and subsequent financial crash. His History of Ireland in 100 Objects, based on the long-running series in The Irish Times, won Best Book in the 2013 Irish Book Awards. Mr O’Toole has initiated and led much public debate on the big issues affecting Irish society. Through his weekly columns in The Irish Times, he has shone a light on political corruption, immigration, the state of Ireland's public services and growing inequality during Ireland's economic boom, among other issues. Ahead of receiving his degree today, he said: “It is a great pleasure and a deep honour to receive an honorary doctorate from an institution of learning for which I have such respect. As well as being a home for outstanding scholarship, Queen’s has stayed true to the ideals of civility, inclusivity and open-mindedness without which the possibilities of a shared future would be so much dimmer for everyone on the island of Ireland. Journalists should not expect too much approbation but this unexpected mark of esteem, coming from such a wonderful source, is highly encouraging.” Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s student inspires others to ‘Reach Higher’

A social work student who has inspired others to pursue higher education, is due to graduate from Queen’s University today. Lindsay McCord, from Rathcoole is graduating with at 2:1 Bachelor of Social Work. Lindsay was involved in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Widening Participation ‘Reach Higher’ campaign and has undertaken a number of media interviews to promote the campaign. Speaking ahead of her graduation, Lindsay said: “A lot of people that I know from my area wouldn’t naturally consider going to University but through the Widening Participation programme at Queen’s, and by my example, they have been inspired to pursue higher education. “The Widening Participation Unit engages with school students to dispel the myth that University is not an option to them. The opportunities offered by Queen’s Widening Participation Unit give students invaluable support and skills essential to be competitive within the modern workplace.” The Widening Participation Unit focuses on encouraging and supporting people who have the ability, motivation and potential to succeed at university, but who come from groups that are currently under-represented. Lindsay is dedicated to raising the aspirations of young people who are most able but least likely to attend higher education by demonstrating that university is an achievable goal and would urge anyone to take the leap to see what university had to offer and reach higher.

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Queen’s graduates cementing links with business

A Queen’s graduate is laying concrete foundations for a career in engineering, thanks to his involvement in a successful partnership between the University and local company Larsen Building Products. Jonathon Backus from Ballyclare is graduating with a PhD from Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering. While completing his PhD, Jonathan has also been working with Belfast-based Larsen Building Products as part of the company’s successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Queen’s. KTPs enable companies to work with Queen’s staff to transfer research and expertise into their organisation. Queen’s is the UK’s leading university for KTPs, with 35 partnerships with local businesses. Over the past ten years, 400 Queen’s graduates have been employed as KTP Associates who, like Jonathon, provide the vital link between the University and its knowledge-base and their company. Jonathon has just completed his first year of a two-year contract with Larsen Building Products Ltd, where he applies University-based research to the development of products for building streetscapes. Jonathon said: “KTPs provide businesses with unique access to the expertise and technology available at Queen’s, enabling them to boost their bottom line through research and development. The KTP Associate is at the heart of that process. In return, my involvement in the KTP has given me invaluable experience in the construction engineering sector. I’ve been able to apply my PhD research in a real-life commercial setting, which has provided an excellent stepping-stone from the lecture hall to the workplace.” KTP partnership companies report an average increase in pre-tax profits of around £240,000 per year. They also often create additional jobs and see an improvement in the skills of existing staff. Another business benefitting from its partnership with Queen’s is Cirdan Imaging Ltd. It is one of the 66 Queen’s spin-out companies that have a combined turnover of £171m and have created over 1,500 jobs in Northern Ireland. KTP Associate Agnieszka Czerwiec, who is also celebrating her graduation this week, has worked as a KTP Associate at the company for the past year while completing a PhD at Queen's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. Agnieszka's PhD research focussed on the use of the scattering of light and nanomaterials to better understand the composition of cell membranes. This is closely aligned to the research she is completing with Cirdan Imaging to develop novel techniques for the early detection of cancer cells. Celebrating her graduation, Agnieszka said: "My PhD gave me great experience in managing a research project and the various techniques that are essential to my job at Cirdan Imaging Ltd. My studies combined with on-the-job experience at Cirdan have helped me become a resourceful and flexible researcher and a more effective manager." For more information on Queen’s KTPs visit www.qub.ac.uk/ktp

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Queen’s graduates leading the way

Making an impact on the business world are graduates from Queen’s University Management School. The School is renowned for supplying Northern Ireland businesses with well-trained, work-ready graduates and is home to the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, which works with more than 160 companies here and around the world. Among its newest graduates is James Loughridge from Broughshane, who is celebrating double-success having earned a First Class Honours degree in Economics and a graduate position with PwC. The global business advisory firm is among Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies, around 80 of which employ Queen’s graduates in senior leadership roles. James said: “I’m delighted to have secured a place on PwC’s Foundation NI graduate training programme and a permanent job within the firm’s Consulting Economics and Policy (E&P) team. The knowledge and skills I developed at Queen’s have provided an excellent foundation on which I can build my career and, after three years of study, I am looking forward to getting into the workplace and putting that learning to good use.” PwC is one of the 3,000 local, national and international employers with which Queen’s has close links. The University’s relationship with PwC was further cemented last month with the launch of the PwC Scholarship Programme. The Programme will see up to 30 graduates per year, over the next three years, from Queen’s University Management School secure defined work experience leading to a graduate role at PwC’s Belfast headquarters, upon successful completion of their degree. Paul Terrington, PwC’s Northern Ireland regional chairman said: “James is one of a number of high-quality graduates we’ve recruited this year from Queen’s University Management School and I’m confident that our new partnership with Queen’s will cement relations between the University and our rapidly-expanding domestic and export business.” In similar partnerships with IT companies Asidua, Citi, Kainos and Liberty IT, up to 20 first year students at Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will work for the sponsor company over the summer months and during their placement year. Subject to satisfactory performance, each student involved will receive a job offer on graduation. Ashley Kirkpatrick from Newtownbreda is celebrating her graduation with a BSc in Computing and Information Technology and is looking forward to joining global financial IT company Citi. Ashley said: “I am delighted to have secured a place on Citi’s Technology Academy graduate programme, which will lead to a permanent job at their Belfast office. My degree has provided me with excellent working knowledge of all aspects of IT infrastructure and software. The opportunity to complete a one-year placement with the New York Stock Exchange in Belfast allowed me to apply that learning in the working world of financial IT, an experience which I’m sure helped me secure my dream job with Citi.” Mark McCormack, Technology Group Manager from Citi said: “We are pleased to be welcoming another cohort of IT Graduates to Citi this year, and have them join the Citi Technology Academy. We recognise the high-calibre talent coming through from our local universities and are fully committed to providing them with the opportunity to begin their successful career in IT with a global organisation such as ours. Placements provide an ideal method for students to learn about life in the world of work, and develop their professional, organisational, and team-working skills, so that they can make a seamless transition into their new careers. This is an exciting time to be involved in IT, and the potential for a fantastic career working with technology has never been greater.” Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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