Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have helped discover the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data. A team from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s have helped find HD 219134b, a planet in a 3-day orbit that transits, or crosses, in front of its star. Located in the Cassiopeia star constellation, which is visible year-round near the North Star, HD 219134b is just 21 light-years away from Earth. This makes it by far the closest transiting planet and ideal for follow-up studies. HD 219134b is also the nearest rocky planet confirmed outside our solar system. Its host star, HD 219134, is visible to the unaided eye from dark skies, meaning anyone with a good star map can see this record-breaking system. Dr Chris Watson, from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s, said: “It is a privilege for Queen’s to be involved in this ground-breaking work. To think that you can look up at the constellation of Cassiopeia and see it with your naked eye, and know that there is a system of alien planets spinning around it is an inspiring thought by itself. The fact that one of these crosses the face of the star once an orbit, and we now know is a rocky world, is all the more incredible. “The amount that we will learn about this planetary system when we train the world’s largest telescopes on it in the coming years will be phenomenal, and I’m sure there will be yet more surprises. This is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society.” The newfound world was discovered using the HARPS-North instrument on the 3.6-meter Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands. The lead institution in the HARPS-North project is the University of Geneva, in collaboration with Queen’s University, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Edinburgh. Other partners are the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF). HARPS-North detects planets using the radial velocity method, which allows astronomers to measure a planet’s mass. HD 219134b weighs 4.5 times the mass of Earth, making it a super-Earth. With such a close orbit, researchers realised that there was good possibility the planet would transit its star. Astronomers used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to capture the smallest planet crossing in front of the star. The star was seen to dim slightly as the planet crossed its face. Measuring the depth of the transit gave the planet’s size, enabling the team to calculate the planet’s density, which showed that it is a rocky world. Annelies Mortier, from the University of St Andrews, said: “For a planet like this one, orbiting at a distance ten times the radius of its parent star, the chances of transits occurring are better than 1-in-10, so it was well worth looking.” Ken Rice, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “It is really exciting that we can are now starting to be able to determine the internal composition of such low-mass planets.” In addition to finding HD 219134b, further observations with HARPS-North also revealed three more planets in the same star system, farther than HD 219134b. Two are relatively small and not too far from the star. Small, tightly packed multi-planet systems are completely different from our own solar system, but, like super-Earths, are being found in increasing numbers. The paper describing this research has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on 02890973087 or email@example.com
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a cutting-edge method of reducing the carbon dioxide content of natural gas, a process of major economic and environmental importance in the oil and gas industry. A team of researchers in the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre has developed an innovative technology that uses a mixture of water and ionic liquids (salts which are liquid under ambient conditions) to remove carbon dioxide from raw natural gas extracted from natural reservoirs under the sea. The new process is aimed at reducing the global environmental and economic costs of purifying natural gas, which is by far the cleanest burning fuel available in large amounts. In comparison to current conventional ‘amine’ purifying systems, which use volatile and corrosive materials, the new ionic liquid system is safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. The process offers a range of commercial and industrial opportunities. It is compact enough to be utilised on off-shore platforms or installed on land-based gas-processing plants, and once captured the carbon dioxide may be stored, reprocessed, or used for enhanced oil recovery. Dr David Wassell, who led the team from the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre, said: “Using ionic liquids to remove the carbon dioxide from natural gas could have significant impact on the gas processing industry, particularly with the promise of using the carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. It could make a significant contribution to reducing the environmental impact caused by this energy source.” Project coordinator, Dr Natalia Plechkova, from the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre, said: “This joint project, developed with the global energy company PETRONAS, shows the progress which can be made in genuinely collaborative industry-university projects. The key to success was an integrated team approach.” “This is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society.” The research is available to read at: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/gc/c5gc00720h#!divAbstract Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 9097 5384.
Digital solutions company Kainos today launched its 3rd summer CodeCamp, supported by Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast City Council and South Belfast Partnership. The free course, which is being attended by 80 young people from across Belfast and further afield, is aimed at year 11-14 students studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). CodeCamp runs from 27th July, and culminates with a prize giving ceremony on 7th August. Kainos CodeCamp is designed to introduce young people to the world of computer programming and improve their technical skills. Over the two weeks, software developers and mentors from Kainos, Queen’s University Belfast and Liberty IT provide training and deliver workshops in a number of technologies including Android, iOS and Raspberry Pi. Participants not only learn basic coding techniques, but also get a chance to develop their own apps. This will allow them to experience what working in an IT/technical environment would be like, and to understand the different roles available within the industry. For the first time this year, the CodeCamp attendees will be given group training sessions in using Raspberry Pi, the small computer system designed to encourage children to learn programming. These will also be offered up as prizes, alongside Nexus tablets and an Apple Watch. Dr Phil Hanna, Director of Education at the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The camp is a brilliant way to inspire the next generation of technical professionals. The students can gain a better understanding of app development and different types of coding, along with working in a professional environment.” Discussing the unique opportunity offered by CodeCamp, Gemma Crothers, Technology Outreach Manager at Kainos, said: “CodeCamp’s main goal is to inspire young people to become creators of technology, rather than just consumers of it. They know how to use the latest technology, but they don’t understand the role they could also have in building it. Our main aim is to give the participants a passion for building applications, and enable them to use the latest technical tools available to them.” Demand for places was exceptionally high this year, with all 80 tickets being snapped up in just two hours. In total, there were 300 applications, highlighting the obvious demand and appetite for initiatives of this nature, and the thirst for technical knowledge that today’s teenagers have. Briege Arthurs, CEO of South Belfast Partnership Board, said: “It’s encouraging to see so many children give up two weeks of their summer break to develop their technical knowledge and understanding. These young people are the future of the workforce in Northern Ireland, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the workforce of the future is trained in best practice and kept up-to-date with the latest technological advancements”. Cllr Deirdre Hargey, Chair of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee at Belfast City Council, said, “The council is committed to supporting the development of the creative industries in Belfast, and a key focus has been on growing the digital media and technology sectors. With companies like Kainos involving the next generation in programmes like CodeCamp, we are ensuring the continuing development of our city, our people and our knowledge economy. I wish all the participants in CodeCamp every success over the next fortnight and in their future careers.” Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on email@example.com or 028 9097 5384.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough in discovering how to lower worrying levels of arsenic in rice that is eaten all over the world. After many laboratory experiments, they have discovered that a simple, shop-bought coffee percolator is the best method for removing the carcinogen, inorganic arsenic, from all types of rice, including white and wholegrain. The results are published in the PLOS ONE journal today. Rice is the only major crop grown under flooded conditions. It is this flooding that releases inorganic arsenic, normally locked up in soil minerals, which is then absorbed by the plant. Too much arsenic is associated with a range of health problems including, at worst, bladder and lung cancer. Rice has, typically, ten times more inorganic arsenic than other foods and according to the European Food Standards Authority, people who eat a lot of rice, as is the case in many parts of the developing world, are exposed to worrying concentrations. Children and infants are of particular concern as they eat, relatively, three times more rice than adults – baby rice being a popular food for weaning – and their organs are still developing. In this new study, researchers at Queen’s tested two methods of percolating technology, one where the cooking water was recycled through condensing boiling-water steam and passing the freshly distilled hot water through the grain in a lab setting, and one where tap water was used to cook the rice held in an off-the-shelf coffee percolator in a domestic setting. Both approaches proved highly effective, with up to 85% of arsenic removed from a variety of different rice types and brands, including wholegrain and white. Andy Meharg, Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's Institute for Global Food Security said: “This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet. “In our research we rethought the method of rice cooking to optimise the removal of inorganic arsenic and we discovered that by using percolating technology, where cooking water is continually passed through rice in a constant flow, we could maximise removal of arsenic. “Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause a range of health problems including developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage. However, most worrying are lung and bladder cancers. This new breakthrough is the latest example of the commitment of researchers at Queen’s to changing lives and advancing knowledge that will have a lasting impact around the globe.” Queen’s is at the patent stage for the development of a bespoke rice cooker based on a percolation system which means consumers could soon have this technology in their own kitchen. To read the full article on PLOS ONE, click here: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131608 For further information contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Queen’s University collaboration which developed a blood analyser used in hospitals and war zones, has showcased its ground-breaking work at the UK Parliament. The OPTI blood analyser, which was developed by Queen’s Professor AP de Silva, in collaboration with Optimedical Inc and AVL BioScience Corporation, Roswell GA, produces blood test results in less than 30 seconds, enabling rapid medical responses to be carried out. It is now being used worldwide in GP surgeries, veterinary surgeries and hospital critical care units. The work of the blood analyser was presented to UK MP’s as part of a national campaign run by the Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Physics. Entitled ‘Inspirational science for a modern economy’, the campaign demonstrates UK success stories from the Research Excellence Framework (REF), both in chemistry and physics, where innovations and companies have been formed from university science departments. Professor AP de Silva, from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s, said: “A modern economy like the UK’s cannot be sustained in the long-term without a science foundation. This realisation is even more valid in times of volatile financial markets. While financial gain comes and goes, science achievements remain. Those achievements, which are born in quiet laboratories, need commercial and political will so that wider society can benefit.” The Royal Society of Chemistry’s President, Professor Dominic Tildesley, said: “We have the evidence to show that Britain is a world leader in science and that Government investment in science boosts the UK economy. There are innovative projects and companies springing up all the time and we want to see a commitment to a long-term strategy for increasing investment to ensure that we all continue to benefit from our scientific success.” Find out more about the development and impact of the blood analyser here Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on email@example.com or 028 9097 5384.
Queen’s University Belfast will today (Wednesday 8 July) honour two very special sportswomen for their outstanding talent and determination. Kelly Gallagher MBE is the first athlete from Northern Ireland to compete in the Winter Paralympics. A graduate in mathematics from the University of Bath, she won Britain’s first Winter Paralympic Gold for skiing during Sochi 2014. Born with the genetic condition oculocutaneous albinism, Gallagher is registered blind and on snow, uses a sighted guide, Charlotte Evans. They will each be awarded a DUniv for distinction in sport. Kelly lives in Bangor, Co Down and before she came to international sporting fame worked as a statistician with the Northern Ireland Civil Service. Just before she was selected for the British disabled Ski Team, Gallagher began a part time Master’s course in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, which is currently on hold. Referring to her honorary degree, she said: "I am delighted to be honoured in this way by Queen’s, which has a well-deserved reputation not only for academic excellence but for impacting on society and changing lives. That sense of empowering students to fulfill their dreams and ambitions is something for which I am passionate . It is very fitting that both Charlotte and I are awarded for our unique and individual roles in achieving our goals. I am really pleased that we are honoured together". As the sighted guide for Kelly, Englishwoman Charlotte Evans helped win the Gold for skiing in the women’s Super-G in the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games. This joint achievement marked Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic Gold medal. A former English skiing champion in her own right, Evans became interested in coaching and working as a guide while going through rehab for an injury. She has spent the past four years as the sighted guide for Gallagher. Of her honorary degree, she said: “It is a great honour to be recognised in this way and I’m very much looking forward to my visit to Belfast and to celebrating with Kelly and all the other students on the day.” Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on 02890973087 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The winner of the annual First Trust Bank Queen’s Student of the Year Award has been announced. Dental student Laura Graham from Portglenone, Co Antrim, was chosen for international academic achievement and for her role in student music. The Award is presented by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) with generous backing from First Trust Bank and is one of the highlights of Graduation Week. Now in its 17th year, the award recognises exceptional students for excellence, achievement or service either to the University or to the wider community. Mark McKeown, Manager of First Trust Bank University Road, said: “We have been supporting these important Awards since their inception and are very proud to be associated with such a stand-out event in the University calendar. “Our endorsement recognises and celebrates the achievements of all those Queen's students who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. This year’s Student of the Year – Laura Graham – is an inspirational role model for all students but especially those considering undertaking postgraduate research.” While taking a year out from her Dentistry studies to complete an intercalated Master’s Degree of Research at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), Laura focused on the role of p63 and BRCA1 in Oropharyngeal Cancer – genes which are linked to early-onset of breast and ovarian cancer. She was then selected to represent the Irish division at the International Association of Dental Research annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts in May where she won the Junior Researcher Hatton Award, the most prestigious student research prize in world dentistry. In addition to a lead role in the St Vincent de Paul society at Queen’s, Laura was also actively involved in the student orchestra (where she played violin) and was a soprano in the Chamber Choir. Last year she received a Degree Plus award for time spent with the Choir. Feargus McCauley, President of the QGA, believes that the First Trust Awards are an acknowledgement of all that is best about Queen’s. He said: “With the recent opening of the Graduate School at Queen’s, the University is poised to be a powerhouse of postgraduate research. “This year’s Student of the Year Award recognises the achievement and impact of a gifted researcher, an exemplary master’s student, and a person of great tenacity and commitment. Laura Graham richly deserves recognition this year.” The student winner receives a trophy and £500. Media inquiries to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office; tel: +44 028 9097 5321
There will be double celebrations for one family during today’s graduation ceremony (Wednesday 8 July) at Queen’s University Belfast. Identical twins Rachel and Laura Smyth, from Randalstown, will each be graduating with a degree in Bachelor of Music this afternoon, having completed the same modules throughout their degree. But having spent their entire lives together, graduation will mark a change in direction. Laura will start a teacher training course in Coleraine at the end of the summer, while her sister plans to take a year out with a view to teacher training next year. Speaking ahead of the ceremony for the School of Creative Arts, Laura said they had thoroughly enjoyed their degree which has allowed them to pursue their own areas of interest and to deepen their understanding of the subject. “Although we have done the same degree, Queen’s has afforded us with different opportunities and career paths. We’ve always relied on each other, all the way through school and Queen’s, so going off in different directions will be a bit scary, but it will be good to be more independent.” Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on 02890973087 or email@example.com
A talented Queen’s student graduating today has big ambitions to make a positive difference in society. Lyndsay Campbell, who is graduating with a BA Joint Honours in Drama and French, plans to use her knowledge and skills to help educate young people from disadvantaged areas of the UK. Lyndsay, from Belfast, is joining Teach First, a government funded organisation that gives graduates the chance to study for their PGCE part-time, while working as a full-time paid teacher in schools in disadvantaged areas. For Lyndsay, who will be teaching French in the north west of England, taking part in the scheme is a chance to help other young people achieve their potential. She said: “My time at Queen's has been amazing, from the friends I've met through my course, to the extra-curricular activities I’ve done, and the support and quality of education I've received. One of my drama lecturers gave me an amazing reference for Teach First and it made me feel great knowing how much he believed in me and my future career. “I'd love to make a difference in society, and to change people’s live through teaching for the benefit of everyone in society. Queen’s has given me the skills and confidence I need to inspire students to make the most of every opportunity that they can”. Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on 02890973087 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A life-long dream will become a reality for one inspirational Queen’s University student graduating today. Jenny Marshall, from Belfast, who will be graduating with First Class Honours in Nursing, has overcome three brain tumours to achieve her dream - and she has already secured a job in the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. Aged 14, Jenny was diagnosed with a brain tumour causing epilepsy and underwent two brain operations at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. The care and compassion she received from the hospital’s nurses is something that she will always remember, and since then she has always wanted to be able to help others in need. Despite ongoing seizures throughout her teens, Jenny gained a place at Queen’s, but was devastated when she found out she would have to undergo a third operation. She said: “I was pretty much shattered at the time, having to put my dream on hold. But with the care of health professionals who looked after me, and the support of staff at Queen’s, I had a full recovery and was able to complete my course.” Today, five years to the day after her last surgery, Jenny will be celebrating her graduation with her family, including her dad, Mr David Marshall, Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s. She said: “After graduation I’m going back to work in London, in the hospital where I had my final operation. I feel so privileged to be working alongside an amazing team of world renowned professionals where I can really make a difference. Studying at Queen's was a very challenging, but rewarding experience and I am very thankful to those lecturers in the School of Nursing & Midwifery who supported me.” Jenny joins the 94 per cent of Queen’s students who are in employment or further study six months after graduating. Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on 02890973087 or email@example.com