News

Queen’s student wins international dentistry prize

A student from Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded the most prestigious student research prize in dentistry.

Laura Graham, a fourth year dental student at Queen’s, won first prize in the Junior Researcher section of the Hatton Awards, held at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.  

Laura, from Portglenone, gave a presentation on ‘The role of p63 and BRCA1 in Oropharyngeal Cancer”. The judges awarded her the top prize for her subject knowledge and the quality of her research.

Laura’s presentation was based on research she carried out within the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, under the supervision of Dr Jacqueline James, Dr Simon McDade and Dr Stephen McQuaid.

Please direct media enquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5384 or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s leads international research programme in Precision Cancer Medicine

Queen’s University Belfast is leading a major new international initiative into modern cancer care medicine which was announced today in Washington D.C.

Researchers from Queen’s University’s world-class Centrefor Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) in partnership with researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Washington are working together to deliver a £2.5M 4 year PhD programme in Precision Cancer Medicine.

Precision Cancer Medicine  utilises our increased biological understanding of  cancer to drive a more selective approach, ensuring patients receive therapeutically effective treatment based on their genetic make-up, while avoiding treatment-related side effects. CCRCB has established an innovative Academia-Industry-Healthcare Precision Cancer Medicine  pipeline that is delivering new diagnostics and new therapies for cancer patients.   

The innovative Doctoral Training Programme in Precision Cancer Medicine will initially provide 12 Queen’s students with an unrivalled opportunity to perform cutting edge research at a world renowned cancer institution, positioning them as future leaders in an area that is revolutionising how we deliver 21st century medicine to cancer patients.

Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Patrick Johnston said: "It is extremely exciting to be announcing this initiative here in Washington. It provides significant opportunities for students to be exposed to state-of-the-art technologies and receive quality mentorship from researchers both at the NCI and at Queen’s and it is further evidence of how Queen’s researchers are continuing to advance knowledge and change lives at a global level."

Dr Stephen Chanock, Chief, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI said: "We welcome this opportunity for Northern Ireland students to come to the National Institutes of Health. They will join with fellow graduate students from many parts of the world in an academic milieu that will encourage research excellence."  

In this Doctoral Training Programme, PhD students will not only acquire specialist research skills, but will also be exposed to entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership training, as part of a collaboration between the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences,  the Queen’s University Management School and the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s.

"This cross faculty, interdisciplinary PhD Programme is an excellent example of the type of modern postgraduate degree that we are now offering to students attending Queen’s." saidProfessor Margaret Topping, Dean of Queen’s Graduate School.

Professor David Waugh, Director, CCRCB said: "Doctoral training is a key component of our Precision Cancer Medicine Programme. Partnering with researchers at the NCI not only enhances the student experience, but also provides significant opportunities for future research collaborations with CCRCB scientists."

Professor Mark Lawler, Associate Director of Postgraduate Studies at CCRCB and chief architect of the programme said: "This vibrant Doctoral Training Programme actively encourages excellence with impact, delivering a cadre of innovative, business-aware and socially responsible scientists who will compete successfully in the evolving global research and bio-industry communities. It provides Northern Ireland students with a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to further their careers at a world famous cancer institution and deliver research with global impact."

For further information please contact Queen’s Communications Office on +442890975320 or comms.office@qub.ac.uk 

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Goodbye to sunburn thanks to Queen’s sunburn indicator

Sunbathers could soon tell when to take shelter in the shade thanks to an early warning sunburn indicator, developed by Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers at Queen’s have developed a strip of plastic, containing ‘smart’ ink, which turns colourless from an initial blue colour just before exposure to too much ultraviolet light from the sun,  prompting you to move into the shade before you burn.

The plastic strip, worn as a bracelet, changes colour at a speed that depends on the wearer’s skin type and can be worn at the same time as sun lotion, allowing users to enjoy the sun while avoiding unnecessary risks.

It is just one of a number of novel products based on ‘photocatalysis’, including antibacterial plastic films and water purifying bags, which has received a national award .

The technology was developed by Dr David Hazafy from Queen’s University’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, who has been awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise fellowship, which gives academics £85,000 each to develop their research into viable commercial products.

Dr Hazafy’s spin-out company, SunCatalyst Laboratories, uses photocatalysts which work by harvesting energy from ambient sunlight to drive useful chemical reactions, such as destroying bacteria or pollutants and changing the colour of dyes.

Dr Hazafy, from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University, said: “The sunburn indicator works by using a photocatalyst and a redox dye in which the former absorbs the ultraviolet light and uses its energy to drive the change in the colour of the dye . The sunlight, or the total UV component,  is collected throughout the day so the user is aware of the total dose of the harmful irradiation received by the band and warned when it nears the level which causes sunburn.

“Based on a metal oxide photocatalyst, this simple and inexpensive sunburn indicator should warn people when they are receiving too much of the UV component of sunlight, and prompt them to seek shade,” said Dr Hazafy.

In another of our photocatalyst-based technologies , the light-driven antibacterial plastic films could be used in a range of materials including hospital curtains, flooring, tiles and glass, to create a more sterile, safer environment.

Speaking about the Fellowship Dr Hazafy, said: “The Royal Academy of Engineering is a great opportunity to receive funding for 12 months, as well as mentoring and training to develop business skills. It is hoped that the products will be put forward for trials within the next year.”

SunCatalyst Laboratories is also utilising Dr Hazafy’s expertise in the application of photocatalysts to provide an independent testing service to the growing photocatalyst industry, helping a wide range of interested industries (in health-care, household cleaning products, food packaging and even clothes manufacturers)  to get their own photocatalysts innovations to market.

Media inquiries to Elaine Fitzsimons on e.fitzsimons@qub.ac.uk or (028) 9097 5310.

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NI senior business executives gain Queen’s qualifications

Twenty-five senior executives from Northern Ireland’s growing Manufacturing Sector successfully have completed the ‘Leaders in Industry’ programme at Queen’s University Belfast. 

This highly innovative programme was funded by the Department of Employment and Learning and was designed and delivered by the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s, in partnership with the European Business School in Frankfurt.

The intensive programme was custom-designed to build leadership capacity in the manufacturing sector and to equip those involved with the skills to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University, said: “These individuals have worked extremely hard since December 2014. They have completed an intensive series of modules that involved a blend of classroom activity, self-directed study, executive coaching, field work and in-house project delivery. Already they are reporting the positive impact the programme is having within their organisations”.

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, who presented the executives with their certificates, said: “Skills are widely accepted as a key driver in how Northern Ireland can achieve our economic goals in the modern knowledge based economy. My Department has therefore been working hard to improve the skills of leaders and managers in micro businesses, small to medium businesses and social economy enterprises. Developing the skills and talents of the workforce is central to enabling Northern Ireland’s businesses to develop and grow, to improve our collective prosperity and indeed meet the needs of the local economy.

“The Leaders in Industry Programme represents a dynamic means of developing the leadership skills of middle to senior executives in various sectors. I would commend the sectors, the participants involved and the WJ Clinton Leadership Institute for the success of the programme.”

Please direct media enquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5384 or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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Distraction and its impact on why some of us confuse our right from our left

Queen’s University research has provided us with novel insights as to why some of us confuse right from left. When asked to take a right turn, have you ever struggled to know which direction to take?

For many telling left from right is second nature, but a significant proportion of the population are challenged telling their right from their left. In terms of healthcare, some of the most tragic errors in medicine have been when surgery was performed on the wrong-side: operating on the wrong side of the brain or removing the wrong kidney. Such wrong-sided errors are not confined to the operating theatre or healthcare, in fact they may only represent the tip of right-left error iceberg.

New research from Queen’s University Belfast has demonstrated the degree of impact that distraction has on our ability to correctly discriminate right from left.  The Queen’s study, Sorry I meant the patient’s left side: impact of distraction on right/left discrimination, published in the journal Medical Education, highlights how even the background noise of a busy medical ward can lead to certain individuals having greater difficulty in discriminating right from left.

Conducted by researchers from the Centre for Medical Education and the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, the study examined the impact of disruptions on the ability of medical students to correctly discriminate right from left. 

Dr Gerry Gormley, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, lead supervisor of the study, said: “Distinguishing right from left is actually a complex neuropsychological process.  Healthcare environments are busy, dynamic and complex places to work in. Doctors are often subject to numerous distractions; receiving telephone calls, heart monitors bleeping, taking questions – the clinical environment can be very distracting."

“Even the background noise of a ward environment is enough to throw some medical students off when making right-left judgements. Asking them a series of questions while they were trying to distinguish right from left had an even greater impact.  Interestingly, some students who thought they were good at distinguishing right from left, when objectively measured, often were not."

Dr Gormley explained that whilst systems, checks and balances are in place in healthcare to anticipate and minimise such errors, when they do occur – often human error is at the root of the cause. He said: "It is widely considered that error is an inherent characteristic of human behaviour – sometimes we simply just get things wrong.

“Now that we have this objective evidence, we have the opportunity to address these issues in health profession training and practice. At Queen’s we have a strong training programme of patient safety and human factor training in our curriculum. We often draw upon the aviation industry which has a long-established record of setting systems in place to reduce such types of errors occurring. For example, during the phases of a flight, pilots must refrain from all non-essential conversations to avoid unnecessary distractions. Such ‘cockpit’ rules can lend themselves well to healthcare in certain situations.”

The abstract of the publication is available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/medu.12658/abstract

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on (028) 9097 5384; or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University in £38m bid to secure Smart Cities and the Internet of Things

A major investment of up to £38 million is set to establish Queen’s University Belfast as a world-leading research and innovation hub for cyber security for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things.

The funding, which has been awarded as part of a major expansion of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s, was announced at the first day of the annual World Cyber Summit.

The £38 million expansion aims to enhance security in highly virtualised environments and connected devices, and to prevent personal information theft and fraud from laptops, smart phones and cloud storage.

Building on the many successes achieved by CSIT since it was established in 2009, the plans for expansion comes as security experts and government policy makers from around the world gather for the 5th World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit. The two-day event, held at CSIT in Belfast, is bringing together leading industry experts to discuss how to combat future threats to global cyber security. The select group of experts will share current trends in cyber security, look at security threats likely to emerge in the years ahead and agree on an international strategy for developing research that will safeguard the ‘Internet of tomorrow'.

Responding to the pioneering aims of the summit, CSIT has been awarded £5million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, along with £9 million core funding from Queen’s, to continue its growth as a UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre - combining research with industry to achieve economic success.

The centre will build on its industry and academic partnerships worldwide, increasing the projected level of investment in its research to £38 million in the next five years.

CSIT will use this investment to drive forward its own research programmes, support the creation of more businesses and jobs, and provide skills and training for the UK cyber security industry, including the creation of a nine-month pre-accelerator program for cyber security entrepreneurs. The Centre plans to recruit 25 additional staff across engineering, research and commercial disciplines.

Speaking during the summit, Professor John McCanny, from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We are delighted to announce this investment at the World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit, an event which is helping to make the Internet of Tomorrow a safe and secure platform for the next phase of the human journey. This funding recognises how over the last five years we have successfully blended world class research and innovation to deliver economic impact nationally, internationally and regionally.

“In line with the goals of this global summit, the investment will allow us to further accelerate new value creation in this sector, drive business venture creation through our new pre-accelerator programme and build capacity for the industry by providing it with high calibre Masters and PhDs graduates.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said; “Strong economies are science economies, they invest in the science and engineering research that is needed to drive innovation and growth. The potential benefits of the virtual world and the opportunities that interconnected devices offer, for instance in our abilities to monitoring health, energy and maintain security are vast. However, we need to be able to operate in a resilient and secure environment that can cope with challenge of criminal and external threats. This funding will help arm the UK with the skilled people and techniques it needs to prosper as a nation.”

Kevin Baughan, Innovate UK’s Director of Technology and Innovation said; “CSIT has delivered significant UK economic growth through our original joint investment with EPSRC, contributing to over 950 new jobs in the Belfast cyber security cluster.  By extending funding for a further five years, we underline our support for their commitment to raise the commercialisation bar even higher. This will help companies of all sizes grow through leveraging the excellent UK science base in cyber security"

The 5th World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit, running from 19-20 March, will include speakers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the UK Cabinet Office, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Allstate, Symantec, Citi, Paladin Capital Group, Chemring Technology Solutions, RSCI Cyberpsychology Research Centre, Cylab, BAE Systems, RSA and Rapid7. Find out more about the event at: http://www.csit.qub.ac.uk/Belfast2015  

Please direct media enquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5384 or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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Sharp rise in UK adults living with cystic fibrosis, predicts Queen’s-led task force

The number of people living with cystic fibrosis into adulthood in the UK is expected to increase dramatically – by as much as 80 per cent – by 2025, according to a Europe-wide survey, the UK end of which was led by Queen’s University Belfast.

People living with cystic fibrosis have previously had low life expectancy, but improvements in treatments in the last three decades have led to an increase in survival with almost all children now living to around 40 years. In countries where reliable data exists, the average rise in the number of adults with CF is expected to be around 75 per cent over the next decade.

In the first study of its kind, published in the European Respiratory Journal today (19 March 2015), researchers from Belfast and Paris have provided forecasts for the number of adults living with the disease in 34 different European countries by the year 2025. Within the six European countries with the most reliable data, the Netherlands and the UK were expected to see the largest rises (96.1 per cent and 79.3 per cent respectively).

Lead UK author on the study, Professor Stuart Elborn, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The estimations we have made show very positive news for cystic fibrosis patients as the average survival age is increasing. We are now concerned that there are insufficient specialist centres to provide optimal care to adults with the disease. It is crucial that we take note of these early predictions – which are conservative in nature and the likelihood is that the real figures will be higher – and adapt the NHS to this change.”

Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Although this is good news in one sense, these figures pose a major challenge to healthcare providers in that adult cystic fibrosis services will need to be developed quickly and effectively to meet demand. Queen’s was recently ranked amongst the Top 10 institutions in the UK for research intensity based on the results of 2014 Research Excellence Framework. This study is yet another example of how Queen’s researchers are continuing to advance knowledge and change lives.”

The researchers divided the countries into four groups based on the availability of data, and where no data existed, on the economic state of the country. Using these measurements, predictions were made to estimate the levels of adults with cystic fibrosis by the year 2025. The results showed that in the 16 countries where reliable data exists, the number of adults with cystic fibrosis is expected to increase by approximately 75 per cent. Researchers expect similar increases in North America and Australia although these areas were not included in this study. Download a graph showing the predicted percentage increases in the 16 countries.

Many cystic fibrosis centres are focused on paediatric care therefore if trends continue as predicted, adults living with the disease may not be able to access the specialist care they need.

The research is part of a joint task force between the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Cystic Fibrosis Society (ECFS). The members of the task force are now calling on healthcare professionals and policymakers to be aware of these expected increases and to develop adult services to meet this demand.

For further information contact the Communications Office at Queen’s University Belfast on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

To view the paper visit the European Respiratory Journal website.

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Queen’s researcher lands major prize in UK Parliament competition

An astrophysics researcher from Queen’s University Belfast has won a major prize at the UK House of Commons.

Elena Andra Muntean, a Research Fellow in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s, was awarded Silver in the SET for Britain poster competition for the excellence of her physics research.

Elena presented her work, which looks at dust and ice, and the birthplace of new molecules in interstellar and interplanetary space as a result of low-energy ion irradiation, to dozens of politicians and a panel of expert judges. Up against 29 other shortlisted researchers’ work, she came out second, winning a prize of £2,000.

Elena said: “I am so pleased that the research we do at Queens University of Belfast was highly appreciated at this competition in the House of Commons and really look forward to taking my success back to my research group.”

SET for Britain aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base and rewards some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from the Astrophysics Centre at Queen’s University Belfast,  said: “This is a tremendous achievement. It is recognition of Elena's dedication and enthusiasm in setting up her investigations on the link between the original interstellar ices that went into forming the Solar system, and what we see on distant bodies beyond the planet Neptune.”

Please direct media enquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on 028 9097 5384 or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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Professor Dame Ann Dowling, Paul McGinley and Helena Morrissey CBE among Queen’s 2015 honorary graduates

President of the Royal Academy of Engineering Professor Dame Ann Dowling, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, and leading business woman Helena Morrissey are to receive honorary degrees from Queen’s University Belfast later this year. Gold medal winning Paralympian Kelly Gallagher and her guide Charlotte Evans, will be honoured for distinction in sport.  They are among 14 people from the worlds of business, sport, academia, politics and the arts being honoured by the University in 2015.

Distinguished names from the fields of business and commerce are also being recognised for their services. They include; Chairwoman of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead CBE, and Vice Chairman of Operations for KPMG Shaun T Kelly, a key supporter of Queen’s City Scholarship programme.

Thomas Lynch,  Director of Icon, one of the world's largest clinical research organisations, a former President of Queen’s Students’ Union and Chair of the Queen’s Foundation Board, is being recognised for services to business and commerce, as well as his service to the University.

Being recognised for exceptional services to education are Professor Louise Richardson, the first female Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, and Zhao Qun, President of the China Medical University, which has a long standing partnership with Queen’s that has led to the development of the China Queen’s College in Shenyang.

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:

  • Professor Dame Ann Dowling,  DScEng for services to engineering
  • Charlotte Evans MBE,  DUniv for distinction in sport
  • Kelly Gallagher MBE, DUniv for distinction in sport
  • Rona Fairhead CBE, DScEcon for services to business and commerce
  • Professor Stephen Furber CBE, DScEng for services to engineering
  • Shaun T Kelly, DScEcon for services to business and commerce
  • Thomas Lynch, DScEcon for services to business and commerce and to the University
  • Professor Sir Alex Markham, DMedSc, for services to science and medicine
  • Paul McGinley, DUniv for distinction in sport
  • Dr Françoise Meunier, DMedSc for services to science and medicine
  • Helena Morrissey CBE, DScEcon for services to business and commerce
  • Michael P O’Boyle, LLD for distinction in public service
  • Professor Louise Richardson, DSSc for services to education
  • President Zhao Qun, LLD for services to education

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University Belfast, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3087 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Influential Roundtable launches new recommendations to improve Wellbeing in Northern Ireland

Pictured at the launch of the Carnegie UK Trust-QUB School of Law Roundtable recommendations on a wellbeing framework for governance in Northern Ireland are: From left: Roundtable Co-Chairs, Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, CUKT, Aideen McGinley OBE; Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA;  and Dr Peter Doran, School of Law, Queen’s University, report author and executive secretary.

The Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland has launched a set of ten recommendations to help improve wellbeing in Northern Ireland. The Roundtable was initiated and supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast.

The high-level Roundtable has worked over the course of a year to produce the recommendations, speaking to a wide range of people about the need for change to address some of the most enduring challenges in Northern Ireland. 

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust and Co-Chair of the Roundtable, said: “The Trust has seen first-hand how countries around the world such as Canada, the US, France and Scotland measure social progress and fed this experience into the work of the Roundtable. After learning from this international experience, the Roundtable believes that the time is right to develop a ‘wellbeing framework’ to guide and support the work of all public services in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Peter Doran, School of Law at Queen’s University, said: “The Roundtable’s recommendations are ambitious and timely, given the appetite for change we have encountered in many part of the public sector, local government and civil society. Wellbeing and all that it implies about role of a modern government and its relationship with citizens, is an idea whose time has come. I am very proud of the role that the School of Law has played in bringing this process home.”

Among the ten recommendations for developing a wellbeing framework are introducing a new, innovative way of delivering public services by encouraging different departments and agencies to work together towards shared outcomes; focusing spending on achieving economic and social outcomes in difficult financial times; and improving reporting and communicating the progress made in Northern Ireland to politicians and the public.

ENDS

For more information on the Roundtable click here, follow the Roundtable on Twitter @NIwellbeing and download the new report here.

For media enquiries, please contact Kirsty Anderson, Martin Allen, or Graeme Dyce at Grayling on 0131 226 2363 or cukt@grayling.com.

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Queen's astronomers discover fastest ever unbound star in our galaxy

A fast-moving unbound star discovered by astronomers at Queen’s University Belfast has broken the galactic speed record.

The unbound star, named US708, is travelling at 1,200 kilometres per second – the fastest speed ever recorded for such an object in our galaxy - meaning it is not held back by gravity and will eventually leave the Milky Way.  

US708 is believed to have once been part of a double-star solar system, which also included a massive white dwarf star. The white dwarf is thought to have turned into a ‘thermonuclear supernovae’ and exploded, kicking US708 and sending it hurtling across space.

The discovery of US708 sheds light on the mysterious double-star systems that give rise to thermonuclear explosions. Thermonuclear, or ‘type Ia’, supernovae have long been used to calculate the distances to faraway galaxies - a measurement which helps to determine how the universe is changing and expanding. 

Dr Rubina Kotak and Dr Ken Smith, from the Astrophysics Centre at Queen’s University, were part of a team of scientists from countries across the world who made the ground-breaking discovery using data gathered by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Mount Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Using a range of data gathered over the last 59 years the team were able to determine the full 3-D motion of the star and measure how quickly it is moving across the plane of the sky.

Dr Rubina Kotak, from the Astrophysics Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “It is very exciting to have contributed to this important discovery which is a great example of Queen’s commitment to achieving excellence and advancing knowledge for the benefit of society. It brings us a step closer to solving the type Ia puzzle.”

European Southern Observatory fellow, Stephan Geier, who led the study, said: “Several types of stars have been suspected of causing the explosion of a white dwarf as supernova of type Ia. Until now, none of them could be confirmed. Now we have found a delinquent on the run bearing traces from the crime scene.”

Queen’s University Belfast is a full member of the PS1 science consortium, which carried out this research involving astronomers from ten other institutes dotted across the world. The research was led by Dr Stephan Geier, European Southern Observatory fellow, and comprised contributions from scientists from a number of countries including Germany, USA, the Netherlands, China and the UK.

Read the full research article: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6226/1126 

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

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Release of the cancer incidence and survival statistics for Northern Ireland 2009-2013

Legislation designating the N. Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) at Queen’s University as an official producer of statistics came into place 01 April 2012. Under this legislation, the NICR at Queen’s University today released the number of new cancer cases diagnosed (incidence) in 2013 in Northern Ireland. Website available at: www.qub.ac.uk/nicr .

To put the new figures in context, the yearly average of incidence cases (or rates) diagnosed 2009-2013 is presented as a stable estimate of incidence in Northern Ireland (NI), and in various geographic groups.

The release also updates cancer incidence trends and survival statistics 1993-2013.

Key facts and figures for cancer incidence and survival in N. Ireland up to 2013 are presented below.

Cancer incidence 2013

  • In 2013, 8,859 cancers were diagnosed in people in NI (this excludes 3,736 cases of the common but not generally serious non-melanoma skin cancer [NMSC]). There were 4,435 cases among males and 4,424 cases among females (6,569 for males and 6,026 for females including NMSC).

Cancer incidence 2009-2013

  • In the period 2009-2013 there were 4,425 male and 4,351 female patients diagnosed with cancer each year during 2009-2013 (excluding 3,359 cases per year of NMSC).
  • Excluding NMSC the life time risk of developing a cancer was 1 in 3.4 for men and 1 in 3.8 for women. Including NMSC the life time risk was 1 in 2.6 for males and 1 in 3.1 for females.
  • The most common cancers among males between 2009 and 2013 were prostate (23% of all male cancers), colorectal (15%), lung (15%) while the most common cancers among women were breast (29% of all female cancer), colorectal (12%), lung (11%).
  • Cancer risk is strongly related to age with over 60% of cases occurring in people over the age of 65 and incidence rates greatest for those aged 80-89 among men and women.

Cancer incidence trends

  • Over the last ten years the number of cancer cases (excluding NMSC) has increased from 3,574 among men and 3,643 among women in 2004 to 4,435 among men and 4,424 among women in 2013. These increases are largely due to our aging population.
  • Even after adjusting for age, cancer incidence rates still increased among males during 1999-2011 by an average of 1.2% per year (with evidence of a decrease from 2011-2013). Since 1993 female incidence rates increased steadily by an average of 0.8% per year.

Incidence rates by socio-economic deprivation

  • Cancer incidence is 14% higher in the most deprived communities compared to the Northern Ireland average and 8% lower in the least deprived communities. This varies significantly by cancer site with incidence of head & neck, oesophagus, stomach, lung, male-colorectal, bladder and cervix higher in more deprived areas and incidence of melanoma and prostate cancer higher in the least deprived communities.

Survival statistics updated

  • Over half of all cancer patients survived five years after diagnosis. One in four patients died within 6 month of diagnosis, while over two thirds of patients were alive one year after diagnosis.
  • Five-year net survival rates for patients diagnosed from 2004 to 2008 were as follows: female breast (81.2%), colorectal (54.9%), prostate (87.0%), lung (10.4%). These survival rates have all shown improvement compared to patients diagnosed in the period 1993 to 1998, though only slightly for lung cancer. Improvements are expected to continue in the period 2009-2013.   

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 02890973087

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Queen’s and industry develop world-leading system of feed chain quality assurance

Queen’s University Belfast, working in partnership with industry of Northern Ireland, has developed the world’s leading programme for preventing chemical contamination of the feed – food supply chain.   

The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s, in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, has established the Food Fortress programme, a robust, broad spectrum and cost effective programme for monitoring for potential feed contamination.   

Forty-seven feed producing companies across Northern Ireland have signed up to the programme, ensuring that nearly 100% of the animal feed used is being sampled and analysed. As a result, Food Fortress is now widely recognised as the most comprehensive initiative for monitoring animal feeding in the world. 

Commenting on the success of the programme, Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This programme brought together innovative technology and practical, widespread testing to develop what is now the world’s leading programme for animal feed testing.’

“Our work on this initiative 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.”

Robin Irvine, who manages the program on behalf of the feed trade, said:  “The Food Fortress brand is now established as the badge of safer feed and our challenge to the businesses further along the food chain is to recognise and promote the fact that livestock produced through our quality schemes here in Northern Ireland has added value in terms of its provenance. This is a scheme which differentiates our product and gives us an advantage over our competitors.”

The success of the program has been recognised by DARD, who are responsible for enforcing the EU feed regulations in Northern Ireland, and by both the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme for Beef & Lamb and the broiler chicken sector who have adopted the scheme as a requirement of their feed supply .

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

Notes to editors:

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, is available for interview.

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Queen’s University breakthrough to take the pain out of catheters

A new pharmaceutical product that could significantly improve quality of life for catheter users all over the world is to be developed by Queen’s University Belfast after it won a national award.

‘Uroglide’ is a new coating for catheters that aims to make insertion easier, less painful and with reduced risk of inflammation or infection. There are currently 26,000 intermittent catheter users in the UK – patients who insert and remove disposable catheters themselves, between four and eight times per day.

Aimed at the global healthcare market, including the USA’s estimated 300,000 intermittent catheter users, Uroglide-coated catheters are currently undergoing independent testing and could be available both on the NHS and privately by next year.

The Uroglide technology was developed by Professor Colin McCoy, from Queen’s University’s School of Pharmacy, and Dr Nicola Irwin, the key scientist for the project. Dr Irwin was one of just seven national winners of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise fellowships, which gives academics £85,000 each to develop their research into viable commercial products.

Professor Colin McCoy, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast said: “For patients with poor control over their bladders, intermittent self-catheterisation – which involves the regular insertion of catheters into the bladder via the urethra – has become the norm. This is largely due to the lower infection risk and greater personal independence associated with them. In fact, over 600 million of this type of catheter are now sold globally each year. Regular insertion of poorly lubricated catheters, however, is painful and can lead to difficult-to-treat urethral complications, such as damage, bleeding and inflammation. The coatings that are currently used dry out quickly and they’ve changed very little in over a decade.

“With our team at Queen’s and support from Invest Northern Ireland, we developed a new coating that’s cheaper than the industry standard, yet stays wet for longer, is more slippery, and adheres strongly to the catheter. By easing insertion and removal, it should improve the patient’s experience and make a life-changing difference to their dignity and health.

Dr Nicola Irwin, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Winning this fellowship is very exciting as it gives us 12 months of funding, mentoring and training to develop our research into a spin-out company. Our technology has already been externally validated by a team of world-renowned entrepreneurs and provides a key example of how Queen’s research is being exported from the laboratory to the global marketplace and making an impact on society.”

Professor David Woolfson, Head of the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast, said: "I am delighted to congratulate Dr Irwin on obtaining this prestigious Fellowship award. Together with Professor McCoy, the team leader, their work is a prime example of the School's commitment to bring the benefits of world class pharmaceutical research to patients. It further illustrates why Queen’s University has been placed in the top 10 in the UK for research intensity in the recent Research Excellence Framework.”

Media inquiries to Elaine Fitzsimons, Queen’s Communications Office, on e.fitzsimons@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5292.

Notes to editors:

Dr Nicola Irwin, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s, and Professor Colin McCoy, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s, are both available for interview.

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Queen's and Randox Laboratories offer exciting student scholarships

Queen's University Belfast, in partnership with global biotechnology firm Randox Laboratories, is offering STEM and Business Management students a chance to reach the top, with a new industrial training programme. 

The ‘Randox Apex’ scheme will create up to 40 scholarship opportunities each year, for full time undergraduate students at Queen’s. The industrial training will see selected students awarded paid, full-time summer work experience throughout their degree, a paid placement for their Professional Experience Year and after graduation, they will be offered jobs with Randox, subject to gaining a 2:1 or above.

First year students in the Schools of Management; Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EEECS); Mathematics and Physics; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, will be eligible to apply to Randox Apex.

Randox Apex students will be placed in divisions spanning the breadth of the company and in various locations; from Randox’s headquarters in Crumlin, to its high-spec forensics laboratory in Manchester, to its flagship diagnostics clinic in London and the new Randox Science Park in Antrim. 

Speaking at the launch of Randox Apex, Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “At Queen’s we are committed to providing an exceptional student experience and high quality education that leads to excellent career opportunities for our graduates.

“This exciting training scheme, run in partnership with Randox Laboratories, will offer our STEM and Business Management students the opportunity to gain invaluable experience and skills, test themselves in the workplace, and prove they have the attributes needed to gain employment at one of Northern Ireland’s most pioneering companies.” 

Randox Human Resources Manager, Linda Magee, said: “Students accepted onto Randox Apex will be working with and learning from the best, across a range of departments within their discipline.  They might be assisting our ground-breaking research into tests for cancer, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s, they could be working on engineering cutting edge diagnostic technology, they’ll have the opportunity to experience a busy forensics laboratory or they could be joining our business development teams as they expand the Randox footprint across the globe. 

"We are delighted to be partnering Queen’s in this new programme and look forward to nurturing new generations of pioneering scientists, engineers and business leaders.”

For more information visit http://careers.randox.com/ 

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

Notes to editors: 

Randox is a global market leader within the in vitro diagnostics industry, developing innovative diagnostic solutions for hospitals, clinical, research and molecular labs, food testing, forensic toxicology, veterinary labs and life sciences. With offices and distribution in over 145 countries, Randox offers customers improved efficiency, quality, cost-effectiveness and flexibility. Randox is committed to revolutionising healthcare on a global scale. With more than 1300 employees globally, Randox is dedicated to meeting your testing needs. Visit www.randox.com

 

 

 

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Cut to higher education threatens £1.5 billion contribution to Northern Ireland economy

New reports launched in Westminster on 4 March 2015 highlight the vital economic role of universities in Northern Ireland, but their ability to do this is threatened by budget cuts imposed by the Northern Ireland Executive. The immediate impact of the cuts is that fewer young people will enter Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University this coming September.

The launch, which is jointly hosted by Universities UK, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and The Open University, included a round-table discussion on ‘The Economic Impact of Northern Ireland’s Universities and Securing a Sustainable Funding Solution’. Also in attendance were Northern Ireland MPs, members of the House of Lords, Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry and key business leaders.

The economic impact studies of Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, published by Universities UK, found that in 2012-13 they contributed £1.5 billion to the Northern Ireland economy, with over 18,000 jobs created or supported by these two institutions alone. The research highlights a number of ways in which universities act as ‘anchors’ in their region by attracting business and investment which help boost the economy, as well as enriching cultural life and society across Northern Ireland.

The reports highlight the following contributions the universities make to Northern Ireland:

  • Opportunities for almost 50,000 students to pursue higher education
  • Almost 6,000 jobs directly created
  • A further 11,000 jobs indirectly supported in Northern Ireland, and more in the rest of the UK
  • Students from outside NI contributing over £100 million in expenditure while studying.

Independent research also indicates that the economic impact associated with the Open University’s activities in Northern Ireland in 2012 -13 stood at £66 million, of which £43.6 million was directly related to the impact of the university’s teaching and learning activities on the lives of students.

The research, and the discussion event with Westminster MPs on the economic impact of universities in Northern Ireland, comes after the Northern Ireland Executive decision to cut higher education spending earlier this year.

Chief Executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, said ‘It is clear that universities are making an increasingly significant contribution to the UK economy, both in terms of contribution to GDP and creating jobs. Universities are also magnets for attracting significant investment from overseas. Investment in higher education is crucial to the continued success of all nations of the UK – both economically and socially – and these reports are a timely reminder to politicians and policymakers in both Westminster and Stormont of the enormous impact universities have on local communities, jobs and the wider economy.’

John D’Arcy, National Director of the Open University said: “Higher education is crucial to Northern Ireland’s future as a fair, socially just and dynamic society with a sustainable economy which provides real opportunities for its citizens. Higher level skills are at the core of this need to empower people to obtain and retain livelihoods. Given changes in workplaces and the need for higher skills, it’s not just the 18 year old school leaver who needs to benefit from higher education. The Open University provides world leading skills and technology to bring top quality teaching and learning to people in the workplace and in their homes.  Northern Ireland’s three universities bring best practice and harness their own unique specialisms to provide a cohesive system. It is imperative that this resource and potential is properly supported by the Northern Ireland Executive if the many gains of devolution and peace building are to provide the benefits our citizens deserve.”

Professor Sir Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, Ulster University said: “From the talented, skilled graduates who are employed in a variety of high value roles in key industry sectors, to the world-leading research and focus on innovation that gives local companies the edge in global markets, higher education is the very foundation of every strong economy. In the challenging context of budget cuts, we must ensure that Northern Ireland's universities are recognised for the contribution they make and that we are in a position to preserve and maintain our positive impact on skills, the economy and society. The funding debate is an important one but above all, as we work to maintain the high quality of teaching for which Northern Ireland's universities are renowned, we must also ensure we protect the right of every individual to have access to a university level education.”

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast said: “It is a widely held view among Northern Ireland’s politicians and business community that higher education is a critical component in levering economic success. Northern Ireland has the second fastest growing regional Knowledge Economy in the UK and higher education is central to this achievement.

“Today’s Universities UK report provides clear evidence to support this view. Higher education is worth £1.5 billion to the economy; generates over 18,000 jobs; connects Northern Ireland to the wider world; and makes an invaluable contribution to civic society. It is therefore very disappointing that the Northern Ireland Executive has taken the decision to cut significantly the higher education budget.

“This budget cut undermines our ability to provide a world-class educational experience that is focused on the needs of society; will reduce student places in Northern Ireland and increase the brain drain; stem the supply of high-quality graduates and discourage foreign direct investment.

“Higher education is an investment for the future, not an expenditure line.  Northern Ireland is the only UK region that continues to cut investment in higher education: this needs to stop. A 10 per cent cut in our budget will widen the funding gap between ourselves and English universities, creating an £80 million deficit.  This will be a major set-back to the Northern Ireland economy.”

Media inquiries to Universities UK press office on 020 7419 5407 or email pressoffice@universitiesuk.ac.uk

 

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Influential Roundtable launches new recommendations to improve Wellbeing in Northern Ireland

Pictured at the launch of the Carnegie UK Trust-QUB School of Law Roundtable recommendations on a wellbeing framework for governance in Northern Ireland are: From left: Roundtable Co-Chairs, Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, CUKT, Aideen McGinley OBE; Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA;  and Dr Peter Doran, School of Law, Queen’s University, report author and executive secretary.

The Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland has launched a set of ten recommendations to help improve wellbeing in Northern Ireland. The Roundtable was initiated and supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast.

The high-level Roundtable has worked over the course of a year to produce the recommendations, speaking to a wide range of people about the need for change to address some of the most enduring challenges in Northern Ireland. 

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust and Co-Chair of the Roundtable, said: “The Trust has seen first-hand how countries around the world such as Canada, the US, France and Scotland measure social progress and fed this experience into the work of the Roundtable. After learning from this international experience, the Roundtable believes that the time is right to develop a ‘wellbeing framework’ to guide and support the work of all public services in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Peter Doran, School of Law at Queen’s University, said: “The Roundtable’s recommendations are ambitious and timely, given the appetite for change we have encountered in many part of the public sector, local government and civil society. Wellbeing and all that it implies about role of a modern government and its relationship with citizens, is an idea whose time has come. I am very proud of the role that the School of Law has played in bringing this process home.”

Among the ten recommendations for developing a wellbeing framework are introducing a new, innovative way of delivering public services by encouraging different departments and agencies to work together towards shared outcomes; focusing spending on achieving economic and social outcomes in difficult financial times; and improving reporting and communicating the progress made in Northern Ireland to politicians and the public.

ENDS

For more information on the Roundtable click here, follow the Roundtable on Twitter @NIwellbeing and download the new report here.

For media enquiries, please contact Kirsty Anderson, Martin Allen, or Graeme Dyce at Grayling on 0131 226 2363 or cukt@grayling.com.

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Queen’s astronomer explains how to find new worlds

Dr Chris Watson from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast will have a starring role on BBC Two's Horizon programme on Tuesday, 3 March, when he describes how astronomers find planets around other stars.

Dr Watson explains how observations of planets orbiting other stars has transformed our views about how our own solar system was born and evolved. These new planets are breaking all the rules, and point to a tale of chaos. Set against the backdrop of the observatories on La Palma in the Canary islands, Dr Watson prepares to observe another new extrasolar planet system, and describes how weird these new worlds really can be.

Our Sun has eight planets and five dwarf planets orbiting it. For many years astronomers dreamt of finding planets around other stars. Yet the immense distance to even the nearest stars makes this task incredibly difficult.

It was only 20 years ago that the first planet was found orbiting the nearby star 51 Peg. Located 50 light-years from Earth, this is a world the size of Jupiter, orbiting so close to its parent star that its atmosphere is 1000 degrees hot.

Since that first world was discovered, over 1,800 other exoplanets have now been found, with over 3,000 waiting to be confirmed. As will be explained in the BBC Horizon programme, this is revealing new insights into the birth and history of our own Earth.

Dr Chris Watson and colleagues at Queen’s University have been at the forefront of exoplanet discovery for many years. First was the SuperWASP instrument in the Canary Islands, which with its sister instrument in South Africa has found over a hundred exoplanets in the past decade.

“SuperWASP has been a tremendous success” said Dr Watson. “Yet it was only sensitive to the largest exoplanets like 51 Peg, and we want to go down in size to find potentially habitable places.”

The answer to this quest is the Next Generation Transit Survey, which started operating last month in Chile. Run by an international consortium including Queen’s astronomers, they will be hunting for smaller Neptune-sized planet and even Super-Earths – rocky exoplanets only slightly larger than our own Earth.

“We’re still at the very start of cataloguing all the Solar systems in our small part of the Milky Way” explained Dr. Watson. “We’ve already found a bewildering variety of planets in all sorts of solar systems. Who knows what we’ll find in the next ten years?”

Dr Chris Watson is featured in Horizon on BBC 2 at 9pm on Tuesday 3 March, 2015.

The trailer for the show can be viewed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02kskfn

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

 

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