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Latest News

Food safety expert appointed to lead Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security

Welcoming Professor Scollan to Queen’s, Professor Chris Elliott, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, said: “Professor Scollan has a strong track record in agricultural and food research and knowledge exchange. I look forward to working with him as we seek to build on the Institute’s international reputation for excellence in food security research and teaching. “Food security is a global challenge that permeates human health, sustainable economic development, environment and trade. Under Nigel’s leadership, the Institute’s cutting-edge research will continue to play a valuable role in developing solutions to the complex problem of delivering safe, nutritious, sustainable and authentic food supplies to the world’s rapidly growing population.” Professor Scollan said: “I am delighted to be joining Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security and I look forward to working with staff, students and stakeholders to help address the significant challenges and opportunities in agriculture, food and health.” Professor Scollan graduated in animal science from the University of Edinburgh and conducted his PhD, also at Edinburgh. Professor Scollan then undertook a two-year postdoctoral at University of Guelph. In 1993, he took up a research scientist position at Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER). In 2008, IGER, emerged into Abersytwyth University as part of the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) to form one of the largest groups of academics and support staff in the UK focusing on plant, animal, environment and land based sciences. Professor Scollan held a number of senior management positions in IGER and IBERS.  Most recently, Nigel was Waitrose Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Director of Enterprise at IBERS. Professor Scollan’s research is focused on grassland-based ruminant systems.  Nigel was President of the British Society of Animal Science 2011-12 and been involved in many government, industry and academic forums addressing issues in agriculture and food. Professor Scollan is chair of the management board of the scientific journal Animal and has published over 200 scientific papers, contributed book chapters and abstracts on animal science. End

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Scientists Sequence First Ancient Irish Human Genomes

The team sequenced the genome of an early farmer woman, who lived near Belfast some 5,200 years ago, and those of three men from a later period, around 4,000 years ago in the Bronze Age, after the introduction of metalworking. Their landmark results are published today in international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Ireland has intriguing genetics.  It lies at the edge of many European genetic gradients with world maxima for the variants that code for lactose tolerance, the western European Y chromosome type, and several important genetic diseases including one of excessive iron retention, called haemochromatosis.  A team of archaeologists from Queen’s University and geneticists from Trinity College Dublin have sequenced the first genomes from ancient Irish humans, and the information buried within is already answering pivotal questions about the origins of Ireland’s people and their culture. However, the origins of this heritage are unknown. The only way to discover our genetic past is to sequence genomes directly from ancient people, by embarking on a type of genetic time travel. Migration has been a hot topic in archaeology. Opinion has been divided on whether the great transitions in the British Isles, from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one based on agriculture and later from stone to metal use, were due to local adoption of new ways or whether these influences were derived from influxes of new people.  These ancient Irish genomes each show unequivocal evidence for massive migration. The early farmer has a majority ancestry originating ultimately in the Middle East, where agriculture was invented. The Bronze Age genomes are different again with about a third of their ancestry coming from ancient sources in the Pontic Steppe.  Dan Bradley, Professor of Population Genetics in Trinity College Dublin and who led the study, said: “There was a great wave of genome change that swept into Europe from above the Black Sea into Bronze Age Europe and we now know it washed all the way to the shores of its most westerly island and this degree of genetic change invites the possibility of other associated changes, perhaps even the introduction of language ancestral to western Celtic tongues.”  Dr Eileen Murphy, Senior Lecturer in Osteoarchaeology at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “It is clear that this project has demonstrated what a powerful tool ancient DNA analysis can provide in answering questions which have long perplexed academics regarding the origins of the Irish.” Whereas the early farmer had black hair, brown eyes and more resembled southern Europeans, the genetic variants circulating in the three Bronze Age men from Rathlin Island had the most common Irish Y chromosome type, blue eye alleles and the most important variant for the genetic disease, haemochromatosis.  The latter C282Y mutation is so frequent in people of Irish descent that it is sometimes referred to as a Celtic disease. This discovery therefore marks the first identification of an important disease variant in prehistory. “Genetic affinity is strongest between the Bronze Age genomes and modern Irish, Scottish and Welsh, suggesting establishment of central attributes of the insular Celtic genome some 4,000 years ago,” added PhD Researcher in Genetics at Trinity, Lara Cassidy.

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Queen’s University in new European partnership to fight against invasive species

Leading scientists at Queen’s, the Institute of Technology, Sligo (project-lead) and Dublin-based INVAS Biosecurity, have announced a new partnership after securing €320,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for new research towards controlling, preventing and eventually eradicating such alien species. The funding comes as EU member states await the publication of a list of up to 50 priority species that governments will be compelled to take steps to manage and eradicate. The new funding will allow the world-leading researchers at Queen’s, and their partners, to further develop the scientific evidence which is helping inform the crucial new list. Invasive Alien Species represent a major threat to native plants, animals and habitats, and currently costs some €261 million on the island of Ireland per year and £1.7 billion in Great Britain. The EPA funding follows a major report by Queen’s, IT Sligo and Inland Fisheries Ireland which was published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 2015. The report highlighted the Top 20 Issues that are critical to the global management of invasive species and reinforced Ireland’s position at the forefront of international efforts to control them. Speaking about their next step in the battle against the invaders, Professor Jaimie Dick, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Invasive species are non-native animals and plants that are introduced into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with serious negative consequences for their new environment. “New EU regulations came into force in January 2015 to address these species and their threat to biodiversity, the economy and human health. Since then, the EU has been considering risk assessments and scientific evidence – which includes Queen’s research – to draw up a list of ‘species of concern’, which will be published in the near future. “Member states will be obliged to eradicate, or at the very least contain, each of the species on that list. But in order to do so, they will need to know the best ways to detect, control and eliminate each species. Queen’s world-leading research already plays a key role in informing guidance and best-practice in this area. This latest funding from the EPA will enable us to continue this work, in partnership with IT Sligo and INVAS Biosecurity, to develop evidence-based approaches to predict and prevent incursions by invasive species, and to eradicate those that are already causing havoc around Europe.” Dr Frances Lucy from IT Sligo said: “We are very grateful to the EPA for providing this funding from their 2015 Sustainability Research Call and IT Sligo recognises this support in our role as the project leader.” Dr Joe Caffrey from INVAS Biosecurity said: “This funding provides a great opportunity for applied invasive species scientists from our three institutions to conduct collaborative and ground-breaking research, the results from which will be applied to solve serious real-life problems for our environment and economy.” End

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First for Northern Ireland: Queen’s Professor appointed to Court of Arbitration for Sports

A Queen’s Professor has been appointed as an arbitrator to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Known as the international court of justice for sport, Professor Jack Anderson, from Queen’s School of Law, is the first person based in Northern Ireland to be appointed to the organisation in its 20 year history. The organisation is often referred to as the world’s supreme court of justice for sport and CAS arbitrators hear disputes referred from all the main global sporting bodies, including FIFA, the IAAF and the International Olympic Committee. Professor Anderson is recognised globally as an expert in the study of match-fixing in sport having worked with Interpol, FIFA, FIFPro, World Rugby. He is a member of a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Expert group on combatting match fixing in sport, and his work on sports law is cited frequently in sports arbitration awards globally and in sports-related judicial proceedings. He is also the editor-in-chief of the International Sports Law Journal, the leading periodical in the area. Speaking about this appointment, Professor Anderson, said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed as arbitrator to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. I look forward to bringing my experience as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb) and Queen’s to this role, and likewise, in ensuring that my experience of CAS, as a globally leading institution, informs my teaching and work with my students.” The current CAS arbitration panel consists of former Supreme Court judges, senior barristers, former Olympians, leading experts in the fields of sports medicine and administration and those with an international reputation in the field of sports dispute resolution and law. Professor Anderson took up his role in January, 2016.

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Queen’s University in bid to increase European cancer survival to 70 per cent by 2035

Led by Professor Mark Lawler, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast and Vice President European Cancer Concord (ECC), the initiative is in collaboration with the European Cancer Patient Coalition and other European partners.  Speaking ahead of the launch, Professor Lawler said: "Vision 70:35 emphasises the scale of our ambition to improve cancer survival rates by an additional 20% over the next 20 years.  We believe that this target is achievable, provided we share best practice and promote innovation and research across European nations and regions.  It is further evidence of Queen’s University’s commitment to advancing knowledge and changing lives. We are actively addressing issues such as early diagnosis, equal access and the role of precision cancer medicine to achieve our 70:35 target” Margaret Grayson, Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum said: "Vision 70:35 is a patient focused initiative.  It provides hope for our cancer patients and their loved ones, and emphasises how research can play a big part in improving cancer outcomes."   Professor Peter Selby, University of Leeds and President ECC, said: “Our Vision 70:35 can deliver, but only if we work together. ECC is partnering with many pan European Organisations including the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO), the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM)   in order to achieve this ambitious target.” Professor Patrick Johnston, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This 70:35 Vision represents a significant opportunity to drive a European-wide initiative that champions the role of innovation and research in providing the best level of cancer care.  I am delighted that Queen’s is continuing to provide leadership in an ambitious strategy that has the potential to deliver real benefits for all European citizens.” Vision 70:35 is the key implementation phase of the European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights, a Queen’s University-led initiative which was launched in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2014.   In order to emphasise how working together can help improve cancer outcomes, a series of handshakes will be performed between partner organisations on World Cancer Day, starting in London, passing through Brussels and a number of other European capital cities and culminating in a symbolic joining of hands by MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Professor Lawler will symbolically shake hands in Brussels with Professor Dominique de Valeriola, Director of the Institute Jules Bordet, Brussels, Belgium and President, Organisation of European Cancer Institutes. Ends Media inquiries to Claire Kelly, Communications Officer for Research, Queen’s University Belfast, c.m.kelly@qub.ac.uk and 02890975391.

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Queen’s UniServer project awarded almost €5 million of European funding

The UniServer project “A Universal Micro-Server Ecosystem by Exceeding Energy and Performance Scaling Boundaries ” led by Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded €4.8million from the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program and began in February 2016. The principal aim of UniServer is to facilitate the evolution of the Internet from an infrastructure where data is gathered in centralized data-centres widely known as The Cloud, to an infrastructure where data is handled in a distributed and localized manner close to the data sources enabling essentially Edge Computing. UniServer brings together experts from the world’s leading processor, server-on-chip and software development industry – ARM, Applied-Micro and IBM – as well as emerging application developers - Worldsensing, Sparsity and Meritorius. In addition to Queen’s University, the consortium is also made up of the University of Athens, the University of Thessaly and the University of Cyprus. Project coordinator, Dr. Georgios Karakonstantis from the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s University, said: “Having seen the latest estimations that 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, we realized that new scalable micro-servers will soon be needed and thus formed a strong consortium to develop them.   “UniServer aspires to deliver, by 2019, a unique fully working prototype able to exploit the intrinsic system heterogeneity with lightweight software mechanisms for improving the energy efficiency and performance of micro-servers.  Working with our colleagues, the UniServer platform will support classical cloud applications such as financial trade management and analysis, while enabling the development of new applications at the Edge of the cloud such as smart traffic control and in-home directed advertisement.” UniServer represents the second major, but financially the largest, project to be co-ordinated in Northern Ireland using funding from Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever developed.     The project will employ at least 20 established professors and principal engineers as well as new research fellows and PhD students helping to reinforce Europe’s strong position in traditional and new multi-billion euro markets. For further information on the project visit: http://www.uniserver2020.eu/  

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Queen's scientists on the hunt for source of gravitational waves

Yesterday saw the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves by LIGO, in what is being described as the most important breakthrough in physics for decades.  Now scientists from Queen’s University Belfast are leading the hunt for the source of these ripples in space. In a spectacular announcement yesterday, The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, (LIGO), a US based experiment, announced that they detected exactly the same pattern of space distortion in two different experiments separated by a continent and the time difference between the detections matches the speed of light across the USA. The remarkable discovery has been years in the making, as the work on these two extraordinary detectors started in the early 1990s. In September 2015 they finally achieved the unprecedented new precision that produced this discovery. The LIGO team have detected a signal from two massive black holes (each about 30 times the mass of the sun) spiralling around each other and finally crashing together. The ripples in space and time from such an event were predicted by Einstein is his theory of General Relativity over 100 years ago. Finally, the elusive signals appear to have been found. These signals are expected to come from pairs of black holes and neutron stars merging together and they may be relatively common in the Universe. The next step is to try and actually see these violent events with telescopes working in the optical and with telescopes that detect x-rays and radio waves. Scientists at Queen’s University are playing a leading role in this search and today released their findings from their first attempt at pinpointing the source of these gravitational waves. Queen’s have been partners in the Pan-STARRS project since 2008 and together with NASA, the University of Hawaii and Harvard University they are using this powerful telescope system to survey the sky to find what caused the gravitational wave. They were given confidential access to the information about the discovery back in September 2015 by LIGO and immediately pointed the Pan-STARRS telescope at the large sky area the source was thought to be in. Professor Stephen Smartt, Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s, and who leads the project explained: “Finding gravitational waves and then looking for the source is like the difference between hearing and seeing. If you hear an explosion, you know roughly what direction it came, but you then immediately turn your eyes to see what caused it. This is exactly what we are doing with Pan-STARRS. “The LIGO experiment “hears” the ripple and can only indicate roughly were on the sky the waves came from. That area is about the size of 2000 full moons. We point Pan-STARRS at that area and see if we can pinpoint any unusual looking explosion or outburst in optical light.” In explaining the results of their first search, Professor Smartt explained: “We didn’t find anything in our data that was likely related to the gravitational wave source. That’s not totally unexpected. We found over 50 new sources that are normal supernovae – exploding stars that we find all the time. We didn’t see any hint of unusual behaviour. There are two likely reasons. One is that the predicted sky area was so big a large part of it was in the southern hemisphere and we couldn’t see it from Hawaii. The other is that the source may have been too faint for us to detect it. But we have shown that we can search these sky areas quickly and in the future we can take longer exposure times to look for fainter sources” Dr Ken Chambers from University of Hawaii added “This is the first detection of gravitational waves and our collaborative project with, Queen’s, Harvard and NASA is one of the best in the world at trying to identify the sources. We are going to be looking very hard for these merging black holes and neutron stars over the next few years.” Queen’s University will continue to work with NASA, Harvard University and the University of Hawaii over the next three years to find the source of the gravitational waves. For a video of Professor Stephen Smartt speaking about his work visit:  https://youtu.be/xmWXW-hEWvE    

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Leaders from business, science and the arts among Queen’s University’s honorary graduates

They are among 12 people from the worlds of business, academia and the arts being honoured by Queen’s in 2016, six of whom are graduates of the University. Distinguished names from the fields of business and commerce include the Strabane-born former Managing Director of Thomson Airways, Christine Browne, and Mike Brown MVO, Commissioner of London Transport. Key figures from two of Queen’s most successful spin-out companies will also be honoured. Dr Brendan Mooney, Managing Director of Belfast-based software company, Kainos, and Dr Donal Denvir, one of the founders of Andor Technology PLC, will each receive an honorary doctorate for their contributions to business and commerce. Also being recognised for services to the University, and to business and commerce, is former Queen’s Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Northern Ireland Screen, Rotha Johnston. Two internationally renowned artists are also among this year’s recipients.  Marcus Robinson, a Belfast-born artist, photographer and documentarian, who specialises in urban transformation and architecture, and Colin Davidson, who is known for his distinctive portraiture style, and whose recent portrait of Angela Merkel appeared on the cover of Time magazine, will both receive a DSSc for distinction in art. Malaysian educationalist and businessman Dato’ Lim Si Boon will receive an honorary doctorate for his philanthropic work in supporting the provision of education to increasing numbers of children in Malaysia. A former President of the Queen’s University Alumni Association in Malaysia, he has played a key role in building an active community of Queen’s graduates in the country. Deborah Wince-Smith, President of the United States Council of Competitiveness, who served as Assistant Director for International Affairs and Competitiveness in the White House during President Reagan’s administration, is also among the recipients. Queen's awards honorary degrees to individuals who have achieved high distinction or given significant service in one or more fields of public or professional life, and who serve as ambassadors for the University and Northern Ireland around the world. The full list of honorary degrees to be awarded is as follows: Mike Brown MVO, LLD for distinction in public service (Queen’s graduate) Christine Browne, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce (Queen’s graduate) Colin Davidson, DSSc for distinction in art Dr Donal Denvir, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce (Queen’s graduate) Rotha Johnston, LLD for services to the University and for business and commerce (Queen’s graduate) Janet McCollum, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce Dr Brendan Mooney, DSc Econ for services to business and commerce Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, DmedSc for services to science and medicine Jackie Redpath, DUniv for services to the local community (Queen’s graduate) Marcus Robinson, DSSc for distinction in art Dato’ Lim Si Boon, DSSc for services to education (Queen’s graduate) Deborah Wince-Smith, LLD for distinction in public service. Media inquiries to Communications Office, Queen’s University Belfast. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 5292. Email: Comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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McAleer & Rushe 476 student bed development scheme gets go ahead

One of Northern Ireland’s leading developers, McAleer & Rushe, is to develop 476 student bedrooms in Belfast city centre.  The Tyrone and London based developer has entered into an agreement with Queen’s University to deliver purpose-built student accommodation, by the summer of 2018. The projects was approved this week by the Belfast City Council Planning Service, will bring hundreds of jobs to the city and is a major boost for the local economy. The 476 bed scheme on McClintock Street will form part of a mixed-use student and hotel scheme. Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “As an anchor institution in the city, this substantial investment again demonstrates the commitment of Queen’s to the development of Belfast as a learning city.  The continued growth of the University, and Belfast, is critical to the success of the knowledge economy.”   “As part of our ambitious plans for growth, this much needed student accommodation, within walking distance of Queen’s, city centre amenities and transport links, will ensure that the University continues to attract the brightest local, national and international students to study in Belfast.” McAleer & Rushe has rapidly attained a reputation of excellence in the development and construction of student housing in the UK and Ireland. It is well on target to deliver 7,500 student bedrooms, within just five years of entering the student sector. It is currently working on a number of major schemes across the UK for leading student housing providers such as Unite and Knightsbridge. End Media inquiries to Communications Office, Queen’s University Belfast. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 5292. Email: Comms.office@qub.ac.uk  

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Queen's University receives Royal award for strengthening cyber security

Queen’s Chancellor Mr Tom Moran and Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston along with the Head of Cyber Security, Professor John McCanny are at Buckingham Palace today (25 February 2016) to receive a national honour from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, for the University's work in protecting the online activity of billions of internet users around the world. The Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s – a major hub for research and innovation in electronic engineering and cyber security – will receive a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.  Based at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the Centre for Secure Information Technologies, with 90 staff, is one of Europe’s largest university cyber security research centres. It has developed breakthrough innovations, including novel technology to be integrated into Apps to improve security for online financial transactions; anti-counterfeit technology to prevent internet fraud; and new processors to deliver filtered internet to homes and businesses, stripping out viruses, malware and malicious content. CSIT is funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and Invest Northern Ireland. Receiving the award at Buckingham Palace, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is one of the most prestigious honours in higher education and recognition of CSIT which has put Northern Ireland firmly on the map as a lead player for cyber security.  “Cyber security is a major global challenge, with cyber crime increasing at an alarming rate. The need for strong and resilient cyber security technologies has never been greater. CSIT is home to some of the world’s foremost cyber security experts. It is at the forefront of efforts to protect the UK from cyber attacks and to maintain the public’s trust that their online privacy and data is kept safe. "CSIT has also been a critical factor in securing almost 1,200 cyber security related jobs in Northern Ireland, injecting around £40 million per year into our economy. It is helping to meet the demand for well-qualified graduates to fill these jobs through its postgraduate courses.  Its Masters in Cyber Security which is underpinned by the Centre’s world-class research, and the CSIT Doctoral Training Centre, attracts PhD students from around the world. "The Centre is a great example of the global impact of Queen’s world leading research.” Professor John McCanny, Head of Cyber Security at CSIT, said: “CSIT’s unique strength lies in its approach to the innovation and commercialisation of ground-breaking research. It overlays an excellent academic research environment with an infrastructure that is more common in high-technology companies, creating a unique team of researchers, innovators and engineers that accelerates the translation of research into new business opportunities and the creation of new companies.  “CSIT prides itself on two pillars of excellence – in its world-leading research, and its unique model for commercialising that research. Links with global companies including IBM, Intel, Infosys, Allstate, BAE Systems, Thales, Euronext and Equiniti, provide valuable routes to market for CSIT’s technological innovations. Strong relationships with local companies also allow SMEs unrivalled access to engineering and research expertise, enabling them to grow their business internationally. "Our strength in this area was recognised by the UK Government in January 2016 when it announced that CSIT, in partnership with Cyber London, will lead the Early Stage Accelerator Programme to support cyber security start-ups in developing innovative technical solutions to keep the UK safe from cyber attacks. This programme will offer start-ups advice on how to develop their products and services and bring them to market." Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “I congratulate Queen’s University Belfast on being honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for its work in strengthening global cyber security and protecting the online activity of billions of internet users around the world.  “CSIT has been a critical factor in establishing Northern Ireland as the UK’s leading cyber security cluster by promoting close to 1,200 new cyber security related jobs through spinout activity, indigenous business scale-up and Foreign Direct Investment. CSIT also plays a vital role in building the capacity and capability of local companies through the provision of high quality masters and PhD graduates.” CSIT will host the World Cyber Security Summit in March – an annual event which brings together the international research community, industry leaders and government policy makers in Belfast to discuss cyber security challenges.  For more information visit www.csit.qub.ac.uk End Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy (Thursday-Friday) or Anne-Marie Clarke (Monday-Wednesday) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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