female student examines slides on a microscope whilst a male student takes notes

Science in the Community

Outreach Programmes

As part of the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine's commitment to furthering knowledge of science throughout the local community our staff engage in outreach activities across Northern Ireland. WWIEM also hosts regular open evenings, to give members of the public the opportunity to hear about the exciting research projects that are being undertaken in Belfast.


If you are interested in outreach activities involving WWIEM investigators, please contact the CEM Clerical Team email: cem@qub.ac.uk

For information on work shadowing within the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, please visit the dedicated webpage relating to A-Level Placement Opportunities


Visit from Alcala de Henares School in Madrid, Oct 2018

Students from the Alcala de Henares School in Madrid visited WWIEM on 11 October 2018 to hear about the cutting-edge research being crried out in the Institute.  Students and their teacher, Mark Donnelly, were greeted by Professor Jose Bengoechea, Director of WWIEM, and heard from academics and postdocs such as Dr Reinhold Medina, Dr Maria Salvador, Dr Jose Romero and Dr Rosana Penalva about their research and their careers to date.  The group then got a tour of WWIEM from Dr Derek Brazil and were encouraged to remain in contact in the future.


UNISTEM Belfast, March 2016

On Friday 11 March 2016, UniStem Day returned to Belfast and the W5 interactive exhibition centre. Fifty one cities across Europe, including seventy three Universities and Research Centres dedicated this special day to the dissemination of research on stem cells to an estimated combined audience of 27,000 high school students.

The event, a project of the University of Milan which started in 2009, is now in its eighth year and is the largest science event on stem cells in Europe.

UNISTEM 2016 in Belfast was organised by Dr Reinhold Medina (QUB) and Educator Sean Greer (W5). Speakers included Dr Denise Fitzgerald (QUB), Educator Danielle Nicholson (REDDSTAR), Dr Cecilia O’Kane (QUB) and Dr Melissa McCullough (Brighton Medical School). Many QUB scientists also participated in afternoon workshops. Over 100 students from 6 different schools attended this European Stem Cell Awareness day in Northern Ireland.

This year's theme was the freedom to study, freedom of knowledge and the freedom to use tests and controls to distinguish the facts from opinions.  Follow the exciting project on their website, onFacebook and on Twitter #unistem2016.


NI Science Festival, February 2016

As part of the Northern Ireland Science Festival on Saturday 27 February 2016, WWIEM hosted an open-to-the public event entitled “Know Your Enemy: Disease Focussed Research at Queen’s”. 

Visitors were invited to engage with scientists and clinicians in a variety of informative and hands-on stands demonstrating our relevant disease-focussed areas, such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular and eye diseases.   Over 300 attendees of all ages had the chance to go on a short tour of the new state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and learn eg, about how stem cells develop, how lungs work, where bacteria are found and what causes different eye diseases?   

WWIEM event organiser, Dr Derek Brazil, commented “It was a fantastic day for all of the staff and students who enthusiastically participated, and we were particularly pleased to see so many young people – potentially the doctors and scientists of the future -  eagerly interacting at the exhibits.”   

The event was kindly funded by the Faculty of Medicine, Life and Health Sciences, with support from WWIEM administration and technical teams.

Aerial view of inner atrium, Wellcome-Wolfson building, showing overview of interactive stands and exhibits. 

Our scientists participate in University Open days and visit schools in the local community, speaking to pupils about potential careers in science and medicine, such as Dr Mary McGahon's talk to pupils at Cullbackey College in January 2014.  


Talk to Students January 2014

 Dr Mary McGahon STEM Talk

Dr Mary McGahon with pupils from Cullybackey College


Summer laboratory Projects

In recent years our researchers have worked closely with the local educational charity Sentinus, which works with schools and colleges throughout Northern Ireland to deliver programmes which promote engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Through this partnership, WWIEM has provided a number of summer laboratory projects sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation.  As part of this scheme, pupils whose projects are deemed to be the best regionally are given the opportunity to present their work nationally at the British Science Festival.  Rebekah Craig spent six weeks at WWIEM on a placement funded by the Nuffield Foundation during Summer 2014. 

‌"I loved every minute at the WWIEM. It gave me the motivation to work hard and achieve the grades I need to get into Queens University. It was an incredible opportunity, that I was blessed to partake in".  Rebekah Craig, Nuffield Placement, Summer 2014. 

In September 2012 Professor Heping Xu and Dr Derek Brazil presented at the Diabetes UK Northern Ireland Volunteer Conference in Cookstown.

 Outreach - HX & DB 

Left to Right: Dr Derek Brazil, Lecturer, QUB, Mr Jon Bodenham, Director of Engagement, Diabetes UK, Dr Heping Xu, Reader, QUB & Mr Iain Foster, National Director, Diabetes UK

More information about the conference can be found here.



Summer Student Programme



Dr Denise FitzgeraldDr Denise Fitzgerald talks to the BBC 

Mar 2017

Read about Dr Denise Fitzgerald's story on what drives her quest for a cure for MS. Denise's story is available here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39256584) and you can read more about her recent advances in improving understanding of how the CNS repairs in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience. ‌


WWIEM & CCRCB Coffee Morning & Fundraiser

Feb 2017, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

Staff and students from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology raised £600.55 for Holy Trinity Parish Counselling Services at the recent coffee morning held in memory of Mr Colm Lennon. 

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WWIEM hosts NI Science Festival Event

Feb 2017, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

On Sat Feb 18, WWIEM again hosted the ‘Know Your Enemy: Disease-Focused Research at Queens’ as part of the 2017 Northern Ireland Science Festival. The event, which was coordinated by Dr Sinéad Weldon, saw hundreds of people visit WWIEM to find out more about us and our research. Throughout the day, members of the public of all ages had the opportunity to meet over 60 WWIEM researchers and take part in a wide array of hands-on experiments, activities and building tours, which highlighted the breadth of research taking place in WWIEM. Visitors could find out about how the brain repairs itself, diabetes and preeclampsia, how different diseases affect the eye, the heart and the lung, how viruses and superbugs make us sick, as well as stem cell research taking place in WWIEM. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with Gory Corner and the DNA Kitchen proving a hit with children of all ages. Congratulations to Ellie, Mia and Naser on their prize-winning Glowing Bugs drawings, all the entries can be viewed at https://en-gb.facebook.com/qub1CEM/. We would like to thank the Faculty of Medicine, Life and Health Sciences for their support and all the fantastic volunteers at each stand whose hard work made this event such a success.


QUB Undergraduate Visit to WWIEM

Jan 2017, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

WWIEM took part in this year’s SMDBS Undergraduate Research Experience Day on Thurs Jan 19th. The event provided 1st year QUB Biomedical Science students with the opportunity to hear about various research themes in WWIEM such as Cystic Fibrosis, diseases of the heart and eye, preeclampsia and stem cells as well as a range of imaging and biochemical techniques used by WWIEM researchers. The event was designed to provide students with the opportunity to meet scientists within the context of a range of informal talks, demonstrations and practical activities, to facilitate discussion of our research, techniques we employ and potential career paths in science. Overall, the day was a great success and many thanks to everyone involved.


Student comments on WWIEM visit:

“…the tours were not only informative about the ongoing research but also gave us great tips on the various pathways we can take in the future of our degree.”

“I found the scientists there most helpful, welcoming and enthusiastic.”

“I was so impressed at the facilities of the centre for experimental medicine…”

“I found the afternoon in the centre really informative and inspiring… It was amazing to see the world-leading advances happening in Belfast!”

“Overall, the efforts made from staff / students made the day very enjoyable and educational.”

“…it encouraged me further to want to drive towards a career in research.”

“…a welcoming environment and the state of the art building added to the atmosphere.”

YR10 Choosing Science Event

Jan 2017, Foyle College

As part of their recent ‘Choosing Science’ event, Dr Mary McGahon visited Foyle College and provided a number of ‘hands on’ demonstrations allowing level 10 students to investigate their own lung function as well as observe lung inflation and anatomy on a porcine specimen.  Lively discussions were held around careers in science, the nature of the research being carried out in WWIEM and the impact of research on world health. Hopefully we will see some of these budding scientist in WWIEM in the future!



Jan 2017, Queen’s University Belfast

QUB’s annual DNA of Innovation publication profiles researchers at Queen's University who are making a real-world impact with their work. The latest issue, Volume VI (PIONEERING RESEARCH, GLOBAL IMPACT), features Professor Alan Stitt, Professor José Bengoechea, Dr Andriana Margariti and Dr Cecilia O’Kane from WWIEM. All issues of the series can be found @ http://www.qub.ac.uk/Research/Our-impact/Casestudies/.


Raising funds for Mind Your Head Charity

Dec 2016, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

At the recent Christmas Party, WWIEM staff and students raised £251.50 for this year’s chosen charity mind your head, thank you all for your generosity!


Zinc-Net/Zinc-UK Conference

Nov 2016, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

On November 21-22nd, WWIEM was the proud host of a European conference on zinc biology which was a combined meeting between Zinc-Net and Zinc-UK. In 2014, Dr Imre Lengyel, a recently appointed senior lecturer at QUB, received COST Action TD1304 The Network for the Biology of Zinc (Zinc-Net) from the European Union with colleagues from Universities at Central Lancashire, Aachen and Queen Mary University of London, to harmonize research activities from soil chemistry, food fortification and nutrition through medical research on zinc. The conference in Belfast was attended by over 90 participants from 26 different countries in Europe, showcasing recent developments in the field of zinc. Professor Wolfgang Maret from King’s College London, one of the leading figures in zinc biology, said: “The feedback from all participants of this meeting about the hospitality from WWIEM was fantastic…We hope to be back at WWIEM in the future.”


WWIEM Postdoctoral Development Committee Career Development and Networking day

Oct 2016, Malone Lodge Hotel, Belfast

A Postdoctoral Career Development and Networking day took place on October 17th at the Malone Lodge Hotel in Belfast (pictured). Postdocs participated in workshops on Individual Development Plans, Informational Interviews and Networking led by Dr Lisa Kozlowski (Associate Dean for Student and Postdoctoral Affairs, Thomas Jefferson University) and Dr. Zoë Fonseca-Kelly (Assistant Dean for Science, Harvard University).


Raising Awareness of Rare Disease in NI - Belfast Behçet's Syndrome Conference

Oct 2016, Belfast

Professor Heping Xuwas an invited speaker at the Behçet's Syndrome conference held in Belfast on October 8th 2016. At the meeting, lead investigator Heping discussed the outcome of the Northern Ireland Behçet's Disease Mapping project which was initiated by the Northern Ireland Branch of Behçet's Syndrome Society and funded by the Behçet's Syndrome Society. The mapping project uncovered a shocking fact, approximately 230 people live with Behçet's Syndrome in Northern Ireland and the prevalence is 12 times higher than the national average. The Behçet’s Syndrome Society UK attaches great importance to the result and recommends further investigations. Approximately 70 people from the north and south of Ireland attended the conference, including patients and their carers/family members, health professionals and politicians.


Celebrating European Researchers Night at the Ulster Museum

Sept 2016, Ulster Museum

A number of WWIEM research groups took part in ‘Science Uncovered’ which took place in the Ulster Museum on Friday 30th September as part of European Researchers Night. WWIEM researchers presented short talks and/or demos in areas such as diabetes, the eye, stem cells, superbugs and multiple sclerosis. The event had over 400 visitors. European Researcher’s Night is a Europe-wide initiative, in which thousands of researchers all across Europe meet the public and share their work in a social setting. A short video of the event can be viewed here, courtesy of the event organisers National Museums Northern Ireland.


WWIEM participates in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences Taster Event at W5

Sept 2016, W5, Belfast

WWIEM researchers took part in a STEM Event at W5 on Thursday 16th September. The 3-day event was hosted by the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast to showcase education and research within the Faculty. Dr Sinéad Weldon and Dr Derek Brazil discussed career paths with A-Level students from 5 local schools and provided information on degree courses available within the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. The students also took part in a lab experiment where they extracted DNA from strawberries under the watchful eyes of WWIEM researchers Dr Mary McGahon, Dr Alice Dubois, Lauren Kerrigan, Adura Faniyi, Ryan Delaney and Thomas Morrison. 


INBIONET/Infect-ERA Conference

Sept 2016, Queen’s University Belfast

The joint final conference of the EU programme INBIONET (coordinated by WWIEM’s Professor José Bengoechea) funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, and Infect-ERA ERA-NET took place at Queen's on September 14-15th. Delegates from 14 European countries (pictured above) gathered to discuss the latest findings from the INBIONET Programme and the first and second call of Infect-ERA. The event proved a huge success as experienced and early stage researchers contributed to discussions on some of the most deadly infectious diseases. New therapeutics against multidrug resistant bacteria were discussed and exciting pre-clinical results presented. Keynote speakers included Professor Erzsébet Nagy, Editor of the “anaerobe” journal, and Professor Paul Moynagh of QUB and the National University of Ireland Maynooth. In addition to the many scientific discussions which took place during this 2 day event, conference delegates also had the opportunity to sample some of the local hospitality and in particular embraced the traditional Irish Céilí which entertained all during the gala dinner which took place in The Great Hall at QUB.


4th Annual REMERGE Symposium

June 2016, Riddel Hall

The 4th Annual REMERGE Symposium took place on Monday 20th June in Riddel Hall, Stranmillis. The symposium, organised by Regenerative Medicine Research groups (REMERGE) at QUB, brought together leaders in regenerative medicine and cell therapeutics. Keynote speakers included WWIEM researchers Prof Abhay Pandit (National University of Ireland Galway), Prof Nicola Smart (University of Oxford), Dr Anna Williams (University of Edinburgh), and Dr George Burke (University of Ulster).  The Best Poster Prize was awarded to Dr Sarah Chambers, with Runner Up Prizes awarded to Marianna Tsifaki and David Campbell. Poster prizes were generously sponsored by Brennan & Co., Mason and Biocair. The REMERGE group are grateful for HSC NI R&D and WWIEM support for this event.


Raising funds for Anthony Nolan Charity

June 2016, Belfast

Students and Researchers in WWIEM participated in a Belfast Marrow football match to raise funds for the Anthony Nolan blood cancer charity. Belfast Marrow raise funds, recruit donors and are often bone marrow donors themselves. The team thanked Queen’s Sport for supporting their cause in raising £210 on the day.


WWIEM participates in 16th Annual Viking Boat Race for Charity

May 2016, Belfast

WWIEM took part in the Cutters Wharf 16th Annual Viking Boat Race, Longships Challenge, on Sunday 1st May and raised £549.40 for the NSPCC.  The Team came 8th out of 12 mixed teams. Rowers were Simon Carlile, Anna Connell, Lydia Eeles, Thomas Morrison and Philip Toner, assisted by non-WWIEM crew, David Costley, Jennie Clarke, Laura Fox, Michaela Murphy and Ryan Robertson.