News

Bats use polarised light to navigate

Queen’s University scientists have discovered that greater mouse-eared bats use polarisation patterns in the sky to navigate, making it the first mammal that is known to do this.

The bats use the way the sun’s light is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps them to fly in the right direction, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

Despite this breakthrough, researchers have no idea how they manage to detect polarised light.

Dr Richard Holland, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, co-author of the study, said: “We know that other animals use polarisation patterns in the sky, and we have at least some idea how they do it: bees have specially-adapted photoreceptors in their eyes, and birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles all have cone cell structures in their eyes which may help them to detect polarisation.  But we don’t know which structure these bats might be using.”

Polarisation patterns depend on where the sun is in the sky. They are clearest in a strip across the sky 90 degrees from the position of the sun at sunset or sunrise.

But animals can still see the patterns long after sunset. This means they can orient themselves even when they cannot see the sun, including when it is cloudy. Scientists have even shown that dung beetles use the polarisation pattern of moonlight for orientation.

A hugely diverse range of creatures – including bees, anchovies, birds, reptiles and amphibians – use the patterns as a compass to work out which way is north, south, east and west.

Stefan Greif, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, lead author of the study, said: “Every night through the spring, summer and autumn, bats leave their roosts in caves, trees and buildings to search for insect prey. They might range hundreds of kilometres in a night, but return to their roosts before sunrise to avoid predators. But, until now, how they achieved such feats of navigation was not clear.”

Even so, previous studies suggested that bats might detect polarisation patterns when they emerge from their caves at dusk.

He said: “Most people are familiar with bats using echolocation to get around. But that only works up to about 50 metres, so we knew they had to be using another of their senses for longer range navigation.”

In a bid to shed light on the matter the team at Queen’s University and colleagues from Tel Aviv University showed 70 adult, female mouse-eared bats one of two different types of polarisation patterns at sunset.

They then took them to one of two release sites in Bulgaria about 20 to 25 kilometres from their home roost. They released the bats at 01:00am – when no polarisation is visible – and followed the direction they set off in using small radio transmitters attached to their backs.

They found the bats that had been shown a shifted pattern of polarised light headed off in a direction shifted at right angles from the controls released at the same time.

Bats probably use a suite of senses, including the position of the sun or the stars, the earth’s magnetic field, smells, sight, and of course, echolocation to navigate.

Many bat species are declining across Europe, despite being protected. Ironically, wind turbines are seriously harming their populations.

Dr Holland, said: “We know that bats must be ‘seeing’ the turbines, but it seems that the air pressure patterns around working turbines give the bats what’s akin to the bends.  It is most common in migratory species, with around 300,000 bats affected every year in Europe alone. You just find bats dead at the bottom of these turbines. One option is to reduce turbine activity during times of peak migration.

Bats provide a vital service that tends to be overlooked – they are natural pest controllers. It is estimated that they save us millions of pounds in pesticides by eating insects.  Anything we can do to understand how they get about, how they move and navigate will be a step forward in helping to protect them.”

The study was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council grant to Dr Richard Holland and by the Max Planck Society.

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

Top of Page

Bowel cancer breakthrough may benefit thousands of patients

Researchers at Queen’s University have made a significant breakthrough that may benefit patients with bowel cancer.

Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck and her team have discovered how two genes cause bowel cancer cells to become resistant to treatments used against the disease. The research, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, was published this month in the prestigious international journal Cell Reports.

The activity of the two genes, called MEK and MET, was uncovered when the researchers looked at all the different pathways and interactions taking place in bowel cancer cells.

Dr van Schaeybroeck and her group found that these bowel cancers switch on a survival mechanism when they are treated with drugs that target faulty MEK genes. But when the researchers added drugs that also block the MET gene, the bowel cancer cells died.

The team are now testing a new approach to target these two genes in the most aggressive forms of bowel cancer in a European Commission funded clinical trial that is being led by Dr van Schaeybroeck.

Currently over 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and over 16,000 patients die of the disease. More than half of patients develop the aggressive form of the disease which does not respond to standard therapy, the five year overall survival in this patient group is less than five per cent.

Study author Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University, said: “We have discovered how two key genes contribute to aggressive bowel cancer. Understanding how they are involved in development of the disease has also primed the development of a potential new treatment approach for this disease.”

Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “Understanding the genes that cause bowel cancer is a key focus of our research. Our discoveries in this deadly disease have identified a new route to clinical application for cancer patients.”

Professor David Waugh, Director of the CCRCB at Queen’s, said: “The publication of this research by Dr van Schaeybroeck and her team demonstrates our commitment to performing excellent science here in Belfast that can be directly translated to the clinic.”

The clinical trial, which is called MErCuRIC and is due to start in September, will deliver personalised medicine to Northern Irish patients and patients from other European countries. Overall, the pan European collaborative effort will involving 13 research/clinical teams from nine European countries.

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Emmy nomination for Hillsborough documentary

A documentary based on long-term research by a Queen’s University Professor has been nominated for an Emmy.

Short-listed for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Film-making, the two-hour ESPN/BBC documentary, Hillsborough, is derived from Professor Phil Scraton’s research previously published in two influential reports on the disaster and his book Hillsborough: The Truth.

Professor Scraton led the research for the Hillsborough Independent Panel and was primary author of its report that led to new inquests into the deaths of the 96 men, women and children, the ongoing Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation, and a full criminal inquiry into all the authorities involved.

The documentary reflects Professor Scraton’s in depth work into the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster, using archival material to expose the background to the disaster, the experiences of those caught up in the immediacy of the tragedy and the authorities’ subsequent responses including the much-criticised inquests and investigations.

Shown throughout the world and receiving universal positive reviews, Hillsborough cannot be shown in the UK and Europe because of necessary ruling to avoid contempt of court imposed by the Coroner for the new inquests. Beginning last March, they are expected to run until July 2015.

Speaking about the nomination, Professor Phil Scraton from Queen’s University’s School of Law, said: “I worked closely with the film’s director, Dan Gordon, from conception through to the final cut. It was an exceptional achievement to integrate my two decades’ research, the Panel’s findings and newly researched material, interviews and reconstructions.

“Recently in a Liverpool cinema and in closed session the film was shown to families whose loss and survival remain central to all our work. While it is an honour to be so closely associated with an EMMY nomination, the real prize for the film was its moving, overwhelming endorsement by the families.”

Congratulating Professor Scraton, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “This is a momentous achievement for Professor Scraton. It is great to see research from Queen’s being recognised on the international stage. On behalf of everyone at the University, I congratulate him and the documentary team on their nomination and wish them well for the awards ceremony next month.”

The Emmy Awards Ceremony will be held on Monday August 25, 2014 at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, California.

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Women in Physics scoop major Queen’s University awards

For the first time ever, the Queen’s Graduate and Queen’s Student of the Year are both women.  And coincidentally, the recipients of these annual awards both studied Physics!

A top international businesswoman from the world of finance, listed in the Wall Street 50 for three consecutive years (2011-2013), is this year’s First Trust Bank Queen’s University Graduate of the Year.

Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics from Queen's. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, has a music qualification from London School of Music and was All-Ireland Public Speaking Champion in 1994.

Originally from just outside Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ms Sands joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp (based in Mountain View, CA) in October 2013. She previously served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services. She joined UBS in October 2009 as a Transformation Consultant before becoming Chief Operating Officer, then Head of Change Leadership.

In 2007, when Ms Sands was at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), she was appointed as the youngest ever Senior Vice President in the history of the company.

She has received many awards in recognition for her leadership, contribution to public service and efforts to empower women, including 2012 Women of Concern by Concern Worldwide and 2011 Most Influential Women by Irish Voice. She is a member of the International Women's Forum, a mentor for the W.O.M.E.N in America, and a previous board member of Women in Capital Markets.

Clare Scullion is the winner of the First Trust Bank Queen’s University Student of the Year Award. From Ballygawley in Co Tyrone, Clare is currently undertaking a PhD in Physics, expecting to graduate for a second time from Queen’s in 2016.

An exemplary student, Clare is being recognised for her leadership within Queen’s Ladies Gaelic Football Club, for setting up “TanzaniAID” – a unique volunteering project using science to help some of the poorest young people in the world – and for her involvement in a Women In Physics Event at Queen’s, which addressed the lack of females in physics.

In support of TanzaniAID, Clare recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and took part in the Belfast Marathon, raising over £10,000 to fund and install solar panels in a school in Tanzania. And, as part of her 300 volunteer hours this year, she also supports undergraduate teaching by delivering weekly tutorials and workshops within her faculty to help younger Queen’s students.

The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 14th year, were launched by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, with the support of First Trust Bank.

The Awards aim to recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students, either to the University or to the wider community. The student winner receives a trophy and £500 while the graduate winner receives a trophy.

In endorsing the Awards Des Moore, Head of First Trust Bank, said: “We've been supporting the Awards since their inception in 1999 and are very proud to be associated with such an important event in the Queen’s University calendar.  Our endorsement of these Awards recognises and celebrates the achievements of Queen's students and graduates who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. We have two exceptionally worthy winners in Anita and Clare this year.”

Catherine Vint, President of the QGA, believes that the Awards can add value and bring great benefits to those who are successful.

She said: “These prestigious Awards recognise passion and drive in individuals, qualities that help people succeed in life. As President of the Association I am particularly pleased that Anita and Clare – both of whom are strong female role models and scholars of physics – are receiving the recognition they deserve.”

General media inquiries should be directed to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast  +44 (0)28 9097 5321, g.power@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

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

One of Northern Ireland’s leading public figures will be honoured at Queen’s University today. A former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir David Fell will be awarded an LLD for distinction in public service and business and commerce.

A Queen’s graduate, Sir David spent much of his career as a civil servant, becoming Permanent Secretary at the Department of Economic Development and then head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service from 1991-1997. Since then, he has served as chairman for a range of well-known companies, including Harland and Wolff, Northern Bank and Titanic Quarter.

Sir David was also appointed Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s in 2005 and Chair of the University’s Senate in 2008.

The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Council of the Prince’s Trust from 1999-2005, Sir David remains active in supporting the voluntary and charity sector. He was knighted in 1995.

Speaking about his honorary degree, he said: “It is a great honour for me to have been recognised with a doctorate from my alma mater. I have been associated with Queen’s University for well over 50 years, since first enrolling as an undergraduate in 1961. Over the last decade, during which I served as the University’s Pro-Chancellor, and on the Foundation Board, it has been a great privilege to have had the opportunity to observe at first-hand the continuing development of Queen’s from a great university to an exceptional one. Northern Ireland should be truly proud of this wonderful institution.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s student inspires others to ‘Reach Higher’

A social work student who has inspired others to pursue higher education, is due to graduate from Queen’s University today.

Lindsay McCord, from Rathcoole is graduating with at 2:1 Bachelor of Social Work. Lindsay was involved in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Widening Participation ‘Reach Higher’ campaign and has undertaken a number of media interviews to promote the campaign.

Speaking ahead of her graduation, Lindsay said: “A lot of people that I know from my area wouldn’t naturally consider going to University but through the Widening Participation programme at Queen’s, and by my example, they have been inspired to pursue higher education.

“The Widening Participation Unit engages with school students to dispel the myth that University is not an option to them. The opportunities offered by Queen’s Widening Participation Unit give students invaluable support and skills essential to be competitive within the modern workplace.”

The Widening Participation Unit focuses on encouraging and supporting people who have the ability, motivation and potential to succeed at university, but who come from groups that are currently under-represented.

Lindsay is dedicated to raising the aspirations of young people who are most able but least likely to attend higher education by demonstrating that university is an achievable goal and would urge anyone to take the leap to see what university had to offer and reach higher.

Top of Page

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

One of Ireland’s most distinguished media figures will today (July 8) be honoured at Queen’s University Belfast.

Journalist, commentator, arts critic and literary editor of The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole will be awarded a DLit for services to broadcasting. A regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, Mr O’Toole has written more than a dozen books himself, including Ship of Fools, his critique of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ era and subsequent financial crash. His History of Ireland in 100 Objects, based on the long-running series in The Irish Times, won Best Book in the 2013 Irish Book Awards.

Mr O’Toole has initiated and led much public debate on the big issues affecting Irish society. Through his weekly columns in The Irish Times, he has shone a light on political corruption, immigration, the state of Ireland's public services and growing inequality during Ireland's economic boom, among other issues.

Ahead of receiving his degree today, he said: “It is a great pleasure and a deep honour to receive an honorary doctorate from an institution of learning for which I have such respect. As well as being a home for outstanding scholarship, Queen’s has stayed true to the ideals of civility, inclusivity and open-mindedness without which the possibilities of a shared future would be so much dimmer for everyone on the island of Ireland. Journalists should not expect too much approbation but this unexpected mark of esteem, coming from such a wonderful source, is highly encouraging.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

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

A Queen’s graduate who is one of the top women in the world of international finance, has been named First Trust Bank Queen’s University Graduate of the Year.

Drogheda-born Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds two degrees from Queen’s – an undergraduate degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics.

She is one of thousands of Queen’s graduates making their mark in over 120 countries around the world, and has returned to Queen’s to receive the coveted award during the University’s summer graduations.

Ms Sands became the youngest ever Senior Vice President of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2007. She has since served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services, which she joined in October 2009. In October 2013 she joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp, based in Mountain View, California.

The First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award is the latest in a string of accolades for Ms Sands, who was named in Irish America magazine’s annual Wall Street 50 for three years running (2011-2013).

Widely regarded as a role model for women in business, she was named 2012 Women of Concern by Concern Worldwide and 2011 Most Influential Women by Irish Voice. She is a member of the International Women's Forum, a mentor for the W.O.M.E.N in America, and a former board member of Women in Capital Markets.

The Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award is presented each year during summer graduations, alongside the Student of the Year Award. Launched 14 years ago by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office. Supported by First Trust Bank, the Awards recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students.

In endorsing the Awards Des Moore, Head of First Trust Bank, said: “We've been supporting the Awards since their inception in 1999 and are very proud to be associated with such an important event in the Queen’s University calendar. Our endorsement of these Awards recognises and celebrates the achievements of Queen's students and graduates who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. We have two exceptionally worthy winners in Anita and Clare this year.”

Catherine Vint, President of the QGA, said: “These prestigious Awards recognise passion and drive in individuals, qualities that help people succeed in life. As President of the Association I am particularly pleased that Anita– who is a strong female role model – is receiving the recognition she deserves.”

 

Top of Page

Queen’s graduates cementing links with business

A Queen’s graduate is laying concrete foundations for a career in engineering, thanks to his involvement in a successful partnership between the University and local company Larsen Building Products.

Jonathon Backus from Ballyclare is graduating with a PhD from Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering. While completing his PhD, Jonathan has also been working with Belfast-based Larsen Building Products as part of the company’s successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Queen’s.

KTPs enable companies to work with Queen’s staff to transfer research and expertise into their organisation. Queen’s is the UK’s leading university for KTPs, with 35 partnerships with local businesses. Over the past ten years, 400 Queen’s graduates have been employed as KTP Associates who, like Jonathon, provide the vital link between the University and its knowledge-base and their company. Jonathon has just completed his first year of a two-year contract with Larsen Building Products Ltd, where he applies University-based research to the development of products for building streetscapes.

Jonathon said: “KTPs provide businesses with unique access to the expertise and technology available at Queen’s, enabling them to boost their bottom line through research and development. The KTP Associate is at the heart of that process. In return, my involvement in the KTP has given me invaluable experience in the construction engineering sector. I’ve been able to apply my PhD research in a real-life commercial setting, which has provided an excellent stepping-stone from the lecture hall to the workplace.”

KTP partnership companies report an average increase in pre-tax profits of around £240,000 per year. They also often create additional jobs and see an improvement in the skills of existing staff.

Another business benefitting from its partnership with Queen’s is Cirdan Imaging Ltd. It is one of the 66 Queen’s spin-out companies that have a combined turnover of £171m and have created over 1,500 jobs in Northern Ireland.

KTP Associate Agnieszka Czerwiec, who is also celebrating her graduation this week, has worked as a KTP Associate at the company for the past year while completing a PhD at Queen's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

Agnieszka's PhD research focussed on the use of the scattering of light and nanomaterials to better understand the composition of cell membranes. This is closely aligned to the research she is completing with Cirdan Imaging to develop novel techniques for the early detection of cancer cells.

Celebrating her graduation, Agnieszka said: "My PhD gave me great experience in managing a research project and the various techniques that are essential to my job at Cirdan Imaging Ltd. My studies combined with on-the-job experience at Cirdan have helped me become a resourceful and flexible researcher and a more effective manager."

For more information on Queen’s KTPs visit www.qub.ac.uk/ktp

Top of Page

Queen’s graduates leading the way

Making an impact on the business world are graduates from Queen’s University Management School. The School is renowned for supplying Northern Ireland businesses with well-trained, work-ready graduates and is home to the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, which works with more than 160 companies here and around the world.

Among its newest graduates is James Loughridge from Broughshane, who is celebrating double-success having earned a First Class Honours degree in Economics and a graduate position with PwC. The global business advisory firm is among Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies, around 80 of which employ Queen’s graduates in senior leadership roles.

James said: “I’m delighted to have secured a place on PwC’s Foundation NI graduate training programme and a permanent job within the firm’s Consulting Economics and Policy (E&P) team. The knowledge and skills I developed at Queen’s have provided an excellent foundation on which I can build my career and, after three years of study, I am looking forward to getting into the workplace and putting that learning to good use.”

PwC is one of the 3,000 local, national and international employers with which Queen’s has close links. The University’s relationship with PwC was further cemented last month with the launch of the PwC Scholarship Programme. The Programme will see up to 30 graduates per year, over the next three years, from Queen’s University Management School secure defined work experience leading to a graduate role at PwC’s Belfast headquarters, upon successful completion of their degree.

Paul Terrington, PwC’s Northern Ireland regional chairman said: “James is one of a number of high-quality graduates we’ve recruited this year from Queen’s University Management School and I’m confident that our new partnership with Queen’s will cement relations between the University and our rapidly-expanding domestic and export business.”

In similar partnerships with IT companies Asidua, Citi, Kainos and Liberty IT, up to 20 first year students at Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will work for the sponsor company over the summer months and during their placement year. Subject to satisfactory performance, each student involved will receive a job offer on graduation.

Ashley Kirkpatrick from Newtownbreda is celebrating her graduation with a BSc in Computing and Information Technology and is looking forward to joining global financial IT company Citi.

Ashley said: “I am delighted to have secured a place on Citi’s Technology Academy graduate programme, which will lead to a permanent job at their Belfast office. My degree has provided me with excellent working knowledge of all aspects of IT infrastructure and software. The opportunity to complete a one-year placement with the New York Stock Exchange in Belfast allowed me to apply that learning in the working world of financial IT, an experience which I’m sure helped me secure my dream job with Citi.”

Mark McCormack, Technology Group Manager from Citi said: “We are pleased to be welcoming another cohort of IT Graduates to Citi this year, and have them join the Citi Technology Academy. We recognise the high-calibre talent coming through from our local universities and are fully committed to providing them with the opportunity to begin their successful career in IT with a global organisation such as ours. Placements provide an ideal method for students to learn about life in the world of work, and develop their professional, organisational, and team-working skills, so that they can make a seamless transition into their new careers. This is an exciting time to be involved in IT, and the potential for a fantastic career working with technology has never been greater.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Reel’ honour as Queen’s recognises actor Ciaran Hinds and producer Mark Huffam
Ciaran Hinds
Ciaran Hinds
Mark Huffam
Mark Huffam

Two of Northern Ireland’s most successful exports in the world of film and TV drama – including the mega HBO hit Game of Thrones – will be honoured at Queen’s University Belfast today. The actor Ciaran Hinds and producer Mark Huffam will both be honoured for services to film and drama.

A former law student at Queen’s, Belfast native Ciaran Hinds abandoned his original degree to study at RADA before embarking on a glittering, acting career. Among his many credits are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Game of Thrones; Road To Perdition; December Bride; and Munich. He played Julius Caesar in the popular TV series Rome and is currently creating menace as Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones. He recently starred opposite Scarlett Johansson in a Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ classic play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In giving the citation for Ciaran Hinds, Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Queen’s, said: “Ciaran Hinds has accumulated an extraordinary record of achievement and a legacy of work that will live long in the memory. He has graced the stage, screen and cinema, and has established himself as a leading light in a generation of actors which is already astounding in the depth and breadth of its talent.”

Responding to news of his honorary degree, Ciaran Hinds said: “I feel honoured, and quite humbled, to be considered worthy of an honorary degree from such a prestigious academic institution as Queen’s University.”

Mark Huffam, who grew up in Ballyclare, Co Antrim, has been a producer for 25 years, working on such major productions as Saving Private Ryan, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Mamma Mia! and the first series of Game of Thrones. A keen supporter of young people and the arts in Northern Ireland, he set up Generator Entertainment in Belfast in 2008 to develop and produce independent films which have so far included Cherrybomb and Killing Bono. He was awarded a CBE in 2011.

He said: “This is such an honour for me, especially when it comes from such a prestigious university as Queen's. The film industry is currently thriving in Northern Ireland and it's great to see such a buzz around the various productions taking place here. I hope it continues and grows even stronger.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Ridley Scott movie puts Queen’s student in the spotlight
Amy Moore
Amy Moore

A Ridley Scott movie has helped Queen’s graduate Amy Moore land a new role with FilmHubNI.

From Derry, Amy is graduating with a BA in Flim Studies. She has just finished working as a locations scout on Sepia, a Ridley Scott produced-film partly filmed in Belfast, and is now employed at Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) by FilmHubNI, a national initiative aimed at growing audiences for film across the UK.

It was through Amy’s involvement with the QFT and its Takeover Film Festival for young people, that she was approached to work on Sepia. But the move wasn’t the first the Queen’s student came in to contact with leading directors and producers. Earlier this year she was selected to represent the UK at the Europa Cinema 27 Times Cinema event at the Venice Film Festival, where she worked with other reviewers, watching the Venice Days selection and sharing her opinions and ideas.

And her journey into the film world is set to continue next March, when Amy jets off to Strasbourg and Brussels for a one-year internship at the European Parliament, where she will be working on the prestigious LUX film prize. Run by the European Parliament, the LUX casts and annual spotlight on films relevant to European public debate.

Reflecting on her time at Queen’s, Amy said: “I have loved every minute of my time at Queen’s. it never felt just like a purely academic pursuit. From the enthusiasm and knowledge demonstrated by my lecturers, to the opportunities they afforded me, like attending the Venice Film Festival, and now the LUX Film Prize, the experience of being a student at Queen’s has been a great introduction for me to the world of film as a I prepare to embark upon my career.”

Amy is not alone in having such great opportunities with which to kickstart her career – Queen’s students have access to over 200 international work placement and study programmes across the globe as well as employability links to over 3,000 local, national and international companies.

Another graduate who has enjoyed opportunities outside his studies while at Queen’s is Ronan O’Flynn, from Kircubbin, Co Down. Graduating with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Ronan has also been a volunteer with the Sandy Row Homework Project in south Belfast, helping deliver a literacy and numeracy programme to primary and secondary school children through Queen’s Students’ Union.

After graduation, Ronan plans to move to Swansea in Wales to compete further training in Dentistry. He said: “Being part of the homework club was so rewarding and educational and I know it will be of great benefit to me in the career I am pursuing. I would like to thank all those involved at the Sandy Row Community Centre for being so welcoming. I know over 200 students have volunteered to become part of the Homework Clubs initiative at Queen’s this year and it’s great to see so many giving back to the community.”

For further information, contact the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

On your marks, get set ‘row’

It’s a double celebration for a Queen’s physics student this week as he celebrates both his graduation and selection as part of Team NI for the Commonwealth Games.

Donald Evans, will graduate with a PhD in Physics just days before he travels to Edinburgh to compete with the Team NI rowing team. David came to Northern Ireland from Cambridge University after his supervisor recommended Queen’s as a place of sporting and academic excellence. Speaking ahead of his graduation Donald said: “This is a very proud time for me. I was encouraged to come to Queen’s because of its reputation for sporting and academic excellence, and the fact that I am graduating with my PhD here today before heading off to the Commonwealth Games is testimony to that. During my time at Queen’s I’ve been given the opportunity to travel to conferences and compete in rowing in the United States and across Europe. The support services and facilities at Queen’s are among the best in the world and I’d like to thank both my academic supervisors and rowing colleagues for their support.”

After graduation and the Commonwealth Games, Donald’s next goal is to be selected for Team GB at the Olympic Games.

Also graduating is law student Sinead Loughran, who proves that Queen’s delivers a lifetime of opportunities.

Originally from New York City, Sinead moved to Co Tyrone with her family 11 years ago and quickly became involved in The Spirit of Enniskillen Trust. At Queen’s, she built on this with a range of part-time work, both voluntary and paid, including working at Queen’s Graduations and QSIS Registration Week.

The jewel in the crown was her year out on the Study USA programme, which saw Sinead study business at Elms College in Massachusetts in 2012-2013, followed by the InnovateHer enterprise programme at Queen’s Students’ Union. Strengthening these trans-Atlantic links, Sinead has been accepted on the Clinton Centre International Summer School – which brings together future leaders and entrepreneurs and this year is being hosted by Queen’s.

Commenting on how Queen’s has been instrumental in shaping her future, Sinead said: “While at Queen’s, I attended various careers fairs and what I noticed was that a lot of law firms asked for business experience. So when I saw the opportunities open to me as part of the Study USA scheme offered through Queen’s, I decided to study business. This has now helped me gain my place on the Clinton Summer Scheme.”

Reflecting the fact that Queen’s is a gateway to global opportunities, Sinead has the opportunity to apply for the New York State Bar.

Also proving that Queen’s helps students realise their full potential, is Maurice Magill, who is celebrating graduation with his two grown-up children and five grandchildren. The 55-year-old will be awarded a joint honours in Sociology and Criminology. Having left school early with few qualifications, Maurice completed an adult-access learning course in 2011 and never looked back.

He said: “The whole university experience has been a most memorable one and the lecturers, tutors, administration staff and students made my transition easy and for that I will be eternally grateful.” Maurice hopes to continue his learning with a postgraduate degree in human rights and criminal justice.

For further information, contact the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Katie Melua and Professor Sir Peter Gregson honoured by Queen’s University


Two of Northern Ireland’s most successful public figures – albeit in very different spheres – will be honoured today at Queen’s University Belfast (Sat 5 July).

Singer Katie Melua, who is well-known internationally for her hit singles and her charity work, will receive a DLit (Mus) for services to music. She came to Belfast at the age of eight with her family from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Her doctor father took up a post at the Royal Victoria Hospital for six years before the family moved to England. Katie attended the BRIT School of Performing Arts in London before her big breakthrough at 19 with the hit single The Closest Thing To Crazy. She is a committed supporter of a number of charities including British Red Cross, to which she donated the entire proceeds of her 2007 single What A Wonderful World.

Upon hearing of her honour today for services to music, Ms Melua said: “It was a complete surprise and really unexpected to be awarded this honorary degree and I am so delighted. I consider Belfast a city very close to my heart and to be recognised in this way in the field of music is phenomenal.”

Joining her as an honorary graduate today will be Professor Sir Peter Gregson who was President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University from 2004-2013. It was under his tenure that Queen’s joined the Russell Group and received two Queen’s Anniversary prizes for higher education. A Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Professor Gregson served as Deputy Lieutenant of Belfast. He was awarded a knighthood in 2011.

Commenting on his doctorate, which he is receiving for services to the University and to higher education, Sir Peter said: “To be honoured by the institution where I have enjoyed so much of my career is a great privilege indeed. I am delighted to be returning to Queen’s today and very much looking forward to seeing old friends and colleagues on this special occasion.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen's Student and Graduate of the Year announced
Anita Sands
Anita Sands

A top international businesswoman from the world of finance, listed in the Wall Street 50 for three consecutive years (2011-2013), is this year’s First Trust Bank Queen’s University Belfast Graduate of the Year.

Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics from Queen's. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, has a music qualification from London School of Music and was All-Ireland Public Speaking Champion in 1994.

Originally from just outside Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ms Sands joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp (based in Mountain View, CA) in October 2013. She previously served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services. She joined UBS in October 2009 as a Transformation Consultant before becoming Chief Operating Officer, then Head of Change Leadership.

In 2007, when Ms Sands was at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), she was appointed as the youngest ever Senior Vice President in the history of the company.

She has received many awards in recognition for her leadership, contribution to public service and efforts to empower women, including 2012 Women of Concern by Concern Worldwide and 2011 Most Influential Women by Irish Voice. She is a member of the International Women's Forum, a mentor for the W.O.M.E.N in America, and a previous board member of Women in Capital Markets.

Student of the Year

Clare Scullion is the winner of the First Trust Bank Queen’s University Student of the Year Award. From Ballygawley in Co Tyrone, Clare is currently undertaking a PhD in Physics, expecting to graduate for a second time from Queen’s in 2016.

An exemplary student, Clare is being recognised for her leadership within Queen’s Ladies Gaelic Football Club, for setting up “TanzaniAID” – a unique volunteering project using science to help some of the poorest young people in the world – and for her involvement in a Women In Physics Event at Queen’s, which addressed the lack of females in physics.

In support of TanzaniAID, Clare recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and took part in the Belfast Marathon, raising over £10,000 to fund and install solar panels in a school in Tanzania. And, as part of her 300 volunteer hours this year, she also supports undergraduate teaching by delivering weekly tutorials and workshops within her faculty to help younger Queen’s students.

The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 14th year, were launched by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, with the support of First Trust Bank.

The Awards aim to recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students, either to the University or to the wider community. The student winner receives a trophy and £500 while the graduate winner receives a trophy.

In endorsing the Awards Des Moore, Head of First Trust Bank, said: “We've been supporting the Awards since their inception in 1999 and are very proud to be associated with such an important event in the Queen’s University calendar. Our endorsement of these Awards recognises and celebrates the achievements of Queen's students and graduates who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. We have two exceptionally worthy winners in Anita and Clare this year.”

Catherine Vint, President of the QGA, believes that the Awards can add value and bring great benefits to those who are successful.

She said: “These prestigious Awards recognise passion and drive in individuals, qualities that help people succeed in life. As President of the Association I am particularly pleased that Anita and Clare – both of whom are strong female role models and scholars of physics – are receiving the recognition they deserve.”

Both graduates will receive their awards at 7.00pm tonight during a graduation ceremony in the Whitla Hall.

General media inquiries should be directed to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast  +44 (0)28 9097 5321, g.power@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Leading public figure to be honoured at Queen’s University today

Queen’s University Belfast will today honour Professor Alice Brown for services to education and social justice.

Professor Brown has published widely on economic and labour market policy, equal opportunities, women and politics, Scottish politics and constitutional change. She began her academic career teaching economics and later became Vice-Principal of the University of Edinburgh. She has played a very active role in Scottish public life including being the first Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Commenting on today’s honour, she said: “I am delighted to be receiving an honorary degree from Queen’s University Belfast. To receive this recognition from such a prestigious university is a considerable honour. I very much look forward to sharing this special occasion with students who will be graduating on the same day.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Beijing, Texas and Kuala Lumpur: All roads lead to Belfast!

A Texan student who fell in love with Belfast and Queen’s will graduate with a PhD in English this week, six years after originally coming to Queen’s to study a Masters in Irish Writing.

Matthew Reznicek, who was born in San Antonio, but raised in Dallas, Texas, came to Belfast in 2008 having heard of Queen’s international reputation for excellence.

Speaking ahead of his graduation, Matthew said: “Queen’s University really puts Northern Ireland on the world stage, and I was very keen to be a part of it. When I heard about Queen’s I couldn’t wait to apply for my Masters and having had such a fantastic time here I just had to return to do my PhD. Queen’s and School of English have provided me with so many opportunities during my time here including the chance to teach within the School. I intend to continue teaching while working on turning my thesis into a monograph and feel confident that my PhD from such an internationally renowned university will stand me in good stead in my future career.”

Also graduating is Chinese nursing student Ms Hui Guo who has had a world of opportunity opened to her after winning a scholarship to come to Queen’s. Ms Hui Guo, who completed her undergraduate nurse training at Soochow University in China, was awarded a scholarship to undertake the MSc in Advanced Professional Practice in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s.

As a result of her scholarship at Queen’s Ms Hui Guo has already secured a job in a Beijing hospital and will begin work later this year.

Speaking ahead of her graduation Ms Hui Guo, said: “I knew that Queen’s was in the top one per cent of global universities, so I was really keen to apply for a scholarship here. My experience at Queen’s has been unbelievable and the support and facilities that were available to me have been exceptional. I was told that one of the main reasons I was chosen for my new job was because I had studied at Queen’s and they knew the quality of the education on offer, so I am really very grateful for my time here.”

Queen’s University has a number of partnerships with universities in China and will shortly establish its China Queen’s College, in partnership with the China Medical University in Shenyang. This partnership will lead to students studying for a Queen’s Pharmaceutical Sciences degree in China.

This summer’s ceremonies will also see the largest ever cohort of INTO students graduating from Queen’s University. INTO provides academic preparation and English Language courses to help students get ready for future study. One of those is Malaysian student Yin Kitt Ervin Chin, who will receive a degree in Actuarial Science and Risk Management. Yin Kitt Ervin Chin has been heavily involved in the activities and support services offered to international students that come to Queen’s.

Speaking ahead of his graduation Ervin said: “As a global university, Queen’s is attracting more international students and academic leaders to live and work in Belfast than ever before. I had heard about Queen’s reputation for excellence in Actuarial Science and was keen to come here to study and gain skills that would have me ready for the workplace when I graduate. I’m now looking forward to building on those skills and when I go on to do a Masters in September.”

Queen’s currently has international students from 74 countries and staff from 75 different countries at the University.

Top of Page

Game on for two Queen’s computer science graduates

It’s game on for two dynamic computer science students who are graduating today (Friday 4 July) after completing a number of international internships during their time at Queen’s.

Andrew Stewart from Belfast and Jacob Mills from Nottingham both secured a place on InStep - a global internship programme by Indian company InfoSys, a world leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions. Queen’s is one of only 100 universities worldwide, to be invited to participate in InStep, and both Andrew and Jacob worked on a number of dynamic projects ranging from application development to business consulting.

Reflecting on his internship ahead of graduation, Andrew Stewart, said: “I worked as a technology intern for Infosys in Bangalore, India. The experience was amazing as I was exposed not only to a rich, diverse culture but also to a flourishing economy. I found working for Infosys to be extremely rewarding and I was able to contribute to a number of important projects and collaborated with many talented industry experts. The opportunity afforded to me by Queen’s has given me a world of opportunities and has contributed to me securing an exciting new job as a Software Engineer.”

Jacob Mills, who plans on developing a new computer game every week after he graduates, said: “Queen’s has opened doors worldwide for me, including the Infosys internship. I also had one year’s placement at Sony in London, where I was on a team of engineers managing the test and release of the PlayStation 4. That type of opportunity is one in a million and I couldn’t have done it without the skills Queen’s gave me through the course and career advice as well as the student support they offer.”

Queen’s students have access to numerous international placements and internships as a result of the University’s wide range of partnerships and collaborations with major international companies, including global data storage Seagate leader and Malaysian energy giant Petronas. In addition, in India, a partnership with electronics giant Videocon offers students the opportunity to undertake a two year Masters programme through Queen’s, while the University will also shortly establish a Queen's Academy India with several partner institutions in the north-east of the country to help create a new generation of educators for the country.

Queen’s students also participate in full-year and summer international internship programmes, including: IAESTE (Europe); Washington Ireland, Project Children and City Scholars (USA); Generation UK (China); and Teaching in Thailand.

One of those set to embark on a Generation UK internship, funded by the British Council, is Madeleine Thomas from Devon in England. She is set to travel to China with the programme after she graduates with a degree in English and Politics. Speaking ahead of her graduation Madeleine said: “Queen's careers service have been really great throughout my time at the University. I can't thank them enough for all the support they've provided with this application and through my completion of Degree Plus and the QESA award, through which I really developed my employability skills. I actually found out about the generation UK opportunity as a result of their work experience fair and I really rate the number of global opportunities that Queen's offers.”

Lucy Trotter, from York, is also celebrating this week. The School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology graduate has been named ‘Student of the Year’ after completing her Study USA year. Study USA offers students an opportunity to study business-related modules at an American college or university for a year as part of their degree. Each year Queen’s sends around 80 students to the United States within this programme. Speaking about her experiences, she said: “Although Queen’s is based in Belfast, as students we are encouraged to broaden our horizons and experiences through a whole range of international placement and study opportunities. Having done that through my Study USA experience I feel I now have that something extra to offer employers.”

Top of Page

Renowned businessman and leading social anthropologist honoured at Queen’s


One of Ireland’s leading businessmen and a renowned social anthropologist will be honoured at Queen’s University today (Thursday 3 July).

Financier Dermot Desmond will be honoured for services to business and commerce. Having started his career in Citibank, he progressed to become a key figure in Irish financial life, as evidenced by his central role in the establishment of Dublin’s Irish Financial Services Centre. His business interests are extensive and high-profile and include his majority shareholding in Celtic Football Club.

Commenting on his honour, Mr Desmond said: “I am deeply honoured to be recognised in this way by Queen’s University. Belfast is the traditional centre of business on this island and I have been privileged to contribute to the recognition of that heritage through my involvement with Titanic Quarter. Queen’s University has a key role to play in promoting a vision which facilitates and encourages the growth of indigenous enterprise and in fostering the links with industry through its faculty and graduates. I am proud to be associated with that vision.”

Mr Desmond will be joined at graduations by Professor Henrietta Moore, who is to be honoured for services to social sciences. The William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, Professor Moore was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Among her many professional and public appointments is her membership of the Barbican Centre Trust, the charitable arm of the Barbican Centre.

Speaking ahead of receiving her degree, Professor Moore said: “I am thrilled to be awarded an honorary DSSc from Queen’s University. The study of social science today is a vital part of the academic life of a university and has the potential to spark real, positive change, both locally and on a global level.”

Media inquiries to the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. +0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Universal Studios beckons for Queen’s graduate
Chloe Dalzell
Chloe Dalzell
Rhiann Jeffrey
Rhiann Jeffrey

Belfast student, Chloe Dalzell, has hit the right note as she is joining one of the United States’ best known sound and design companies, following her graduation from Queen’s.

Graduating with a degree in Music Technology and Sonic Arts from the School of Creative Arts, Chloe will join Diablo Sound, who work with Disney, Universal, and Nickelodeon, as well as several leading theatres in the United States.

Chloe will be working on sound design, show control, and large projects for theatre, theme parks, cruise ships, and corporate clients, including Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, Grinchmas, House of Horrors, the Van Helsing attraction, and The Mummy Returns maze. Chloe completed a placement with the company as part of her degree course at Queen’s and as a result secured her new position. She joins 94 per cent of Queen’s students who are in employment or further study six months after graduating. Queen’s dedicated Careers, Employability and Skills Service Service has ongoing contact with some 3,000 local, national and international employers, and is open to all students and to graduates for up to two years after graduation.

Speaking ahead of her graduation Chloe said: “Queen’s and the staff on my course have been excellent in providing resources and support to ensure we are workplace ready when we graduate. I was thrilled that I was encouraged and facilitated by the School of Creative Arts to go abroad to complete my placement module with Diablo Sound in Universal Studios. I am extremely excited about starting my new job as soon as I graduate and am hugely grateful to Queen’s for providing me with a pathway to a profession I love.”

Also celebrating securing a job in the creative industries is Rhiann Jeffrey from South Belfast. She is due to start work as the Extras Co-ordinator for the third series of Six Degrees on BBC 1 after graduating with a degree in Drama from Queen’s. Rhiann said: “Jobs in the TV and Film industry here are really sought after and I know my degree and the experiences I gained while at Queen’s played a key part in helping me to gain my new position. I am looking forward to putting the knowledge I have gained to use and to expanding on that in my new role.”

James Scott, from Crossgar, joins Rhiann and many other Queen’s graduates who are now playing a leading role in every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. He has been employed as a Technical Nutritionist with the animal nutrition company Devenish Nutrition in Belfast, and will graduate with a BSc degree in Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition.

Speaking ahead of his graduation, James, said: “Queen’s is renowned worldwide for its work in the field of Food Security and I have been lucky enough to have been taught by some of the world’s leading researchers in this field. As a result I am now looking forward to my new role and can’t wait to graduate this week. It is an exciting job in an expanding company which is currently supplying products to over 30 countries around the world. I’m delighted to be joining all those Queen’s graduates who are helping to grow the Northern Ireland economy.”

Top of Page

Omagh student beats illness to land top job upon graduation
Stephen McCaffrey
Stephen McCaffrey
Jessica Buchanan
Jessica Buchanan

A life-threatening illness has failed to halt an engineering student from graduating and landing a coveted graduate job with Jaguar Land Rover.

Stephen McCaffrey, from Omagh, is due to begin his job as Advanced Manufacturing Engineer, working on future Jaguar Land Rover models, in September. Stephen’s achievement is even more remarkable given that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma last year. Despite his cancer treatment beginning three days before he was due to sit his exams, he managed to complete all of his coursework. After four months of chemotherapy he was given the all clear in October 2013 and is due to graduate with a Masters of Engineering.

Speaking ahead of his big day, Stephen, said: “Graduation is a triple celebration for me. I am graduating with an honours degree, I have been given the all clear and I have landed a great job. I am just over the moon and can’t wait to celebrate. I owe a debt of gratitude to Queen’s for the support they gave me while I was ill. Queen’s helped guide me through exactly what I needed to do so I could focus on my treatment. I would particularly like to thank Geoff Cunningham in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering for his efforts in helping me to continue my studies and treatment with minimum disruption. I’m delighted to be joining an industry giant like Jaguar Land Rover once I graduate.”

Over 80 of Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies have Queen’s graduates in senior leadership positions. Hoping to join them in the future are two Queen’s University Management School students who were successful in this year’s UK ‘Undergraduate of the Year' competition.

Mark Devine, from North Belfast, was named 'Undergraduate of the Year' in the Mathematics, Economics and Finance category. As part of his award Mark will begin a 12-week internship at Gazprom Marketing & Trading Ltd (GM&T). The internship, which begins after Mark graduates with a BSc Finance this week, comprises 11 weeks at GM&T head office in London and one week in the company’s Singapore branch, where he will be working as part of the Product Control team.

Jessica Buchanan, from Jordanstown, was shortlisted for the Undergraduate of the Year Award in the Commercial Excellence category and consequently secured herself a summer internship with Nestle as sponsors of the award. Jessica is due to start a job in BDO as she studies chartered accountancy after she graduates with a BSC in Business Management.

Top of Page

Queen’s scientists exhibit the ‘designer liquids’ turning industry green

A groundbreaking process for removing toxic mercury from natural gas – using a new class of fluids called ionic liquids - is just one of the exciting new pieces of research to be showcased by Queen’s University Belfast at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition.

Researchers from QUILL – the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories – will display their latest, award-winning findings into making the chemical industry more environmentally friendly at the exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, July 1, at Royal Society headquarters in central London.

On average 12,000 members of the public, including families and school-groups, visit the exhibition every year. This year’s show runs from July 1-6, and admission is free.

QUILL is the only exhibitor from Northern Ireland at this year’s event, and central to its stand will be two as-yet unpublished pieces of research – how to remove toxic mercury from natural gas and, also, a new process for trapping carbon dioxide from power plants and gas fields.

Petro-chemical giants PETRONAS and Clariant recently signed a licensing agreement for the mercury-removal material developed with QUILL, enabling this novel, sustainable technology to be available to all. Researchers at QUILL have also developed a suite of ionic liquids capable of capturing carbon dioxide from power-station flue gases as well as deep-sea oil wells. Both breakthroughs have potentially massive benefits to industry, and the health of the wider public and planet.

Displaying the ionic liquids in a range of stunning, fluorescent colours, the QUILL exhibit will focus on the amazing properties of these liquids, which are essentially salts that are liquid at room temperature. With low to zero potential for pollution, ionic liquids are much ‘greener’ than the solvents traditionally used in industry. QUILL’s interactive stand will allow members of the public to explore first-hand the many amazing properties of these liquids – for example, how they can be made magnetic.

Co-Director of QUILL, Professor Ken Seddon said: “There are two main things about ionic liquids which sets them apart and make them ideal for developing ‘greener’ alternatives to solvents. They have no vapour pressure, which means they can’t burn or explode. The other thing is that their structure allows them to be manipulated in order to perform pre-designed functions. So where there are 300 conventional molecular solvents, there are over a trillion available ionic liquids.

“That’s why we call them ‘designer liquids’ as we can alter their properties to suit specific purposes. That’s how we came up with the method of removing toxic mercury from gas, research we carried out in association with the oil and gas giant PETRONAS, and which has already won us multiple awards. It’s also how we tailor make ionic liquids to trap carbon dioxide.”

Another co-director of QUILL, Professor Jim Swindall said: “The work we have been doing here at QUILL has been taking industry by storm, offering a credible alternative for the first time to the use of dangerous, volatile solvents. In conjunction with our industrial partners, we have created ‘super-hero’ liquids, with superior abilities, low pollution and enhanced safety features.

“QUILL was one of the first research centres in the world to follow a model of collaborative research between industry and academia and, so far, it’s been a big success. QUILL is also the only centre in the world focusing on ionic liquids. We are very excited about sharing this hopeful, good-news story with the greater public.”

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition takes place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG. Further information can be found at: http://www.sse.royalsociety.org/2014  

For more information, contact the Communications Office at Queen’s University on Tel. 0044 (0)28 9097 3091 or by email: comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Northern Ireland’s top students battle it out to receive a free education at Queen’s

Some of Northern Ireland’s best and brightest students will compete this week to become a prestigious Queen’s Scholar, which comes with the benefit of a free education at Queen’s University (Monday 30 June and Tuesday 1 July).

70 students have already gone through a rigorous selection process to reach the final stage of the intense Queen’s Scholars competition, having been nominated by their schools.

The final contenders will compete to become one of ten Queen’s Scholars, each of whom have their annual tuition fees paid by the University for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

This is the second year of the Queen’s Scholars competition, which offers one of the most prestigious awards packages available from any university in the UK and Ireland. The awards are worth a total of some £150K to the ten winning students, whose names will be announced in September.

Over the next two days (Monday, 30 June and Tuesday, 1 July), the 70 finalists will complete a series of interviews and a presentation on a previously unseen topic in front of a judging panel.

Isabel Jennings, Director of Student Plus at Queen’s, said: “Each of the Queen’s Scholars finalists has already demonstrated their exceptional record, both inside and outside the classroom, whether in sport, music and the arts, business and enterprise or through community work.

“Over the next two days we are really going to test their leadership and enterprise skills, their sense of social responsibility and their ability to think on their feet and perform under pressure. It’s these skills and attributes that, alongside their academic strengths, will mark them out as Queen’s Scholars – the best and brightest young people Northern Ireland has to offer, and the leaders of tomorrow.

“I wish each of our finalists the very best of luck, and I look forward to welcoming the ten successful candidates back to the University in September to begin their student experience as Queen’s Scholars.”

This year’s finalists are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the ten inaugural Queen’s Scholars who have just completed their first year at Queen’s.

Pharmacy student Aaron Hutton from Carrickfergus said: “As an aspiring researcher, one of the highlights of my first year has been getting to know some of the world-class pharmacy researchers who work and teach at Queen’s. Ten years from now, I’d like to be a researcher at Queen’s, having completed by degree and hopefully a PhD. As a Queen’s Scholar I am getting access to some of the best teaching staff and facilities in the UK, if not the world. Outside the lab and the lecture theatre, I’ve made an effort to embrace the whole student experience and I’ve made some great friends through Queen’s Motor Club. On top of that, I know that my fees are being taken care of. So at the moment, I feel like the world is my oyster.”

Sam Mathers from Straid is studying Architecture at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering. Sam said: “My first year as a Queen’s Scholar has been great. My role as an ambassador for Queen’s has taken me back to my old school, Ballyclare High School, to speak to other students who hope to avail of the Queen’s experience. I’ve been given a real insight into the breadth of activities available at Queen’s, including more than 200 clubs and societies available to students, and I’ve made some great friends through my studies, my involvement with the Queen’s Symphony Orchestra, in which I play percussion, and my weekly Swedish language class. My first year at Queen’s has been an amazing experience, and to know that my fees are being paid is a huge bonus.”

The Queen’s Scholars awards are an integral part of Queen’s annual scholarship package, which is worth around £250,000 and benefits almost 200 students per year, representing a crucial investment in Northern Ireland’s future prosperity.

For more information on all Queen’s undergraduate scholarships visit www.qub.ac.uk/scholarships

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) or Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5310/5320 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  

Top of Page

Queen’s scientist makes major cystic fibrosis breakthrough

A Queen’s University doctor has played a key role in a major breakthrough to change the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Queen’s University’s Professor Stuart Elborn, an international authority in respiratory medicine, with colleagues from the United States and Australia have led pivotal studies of a new treatment for people with Cystic Fibrosis. The combination therapy, developed by Vertex (a Boston, USA company), improves lung function and reduces hospitalisations for patients with the most common type of cystic fibrosis.

Two Phase 3 studies of the drugs ivacaftor and lumacaftor, which included over 1,100 patients worldwide, built on previous studies of ivacaftor in patients with G551D and other related mutations.  Ivacaftor is the first drug to treat the underlying causes of cystic fibrosis rather than just its symptoms and is currently approved for patients with the ‘celtic gene’ mutation carried by about four per cent of all patients and 10-15 per cent of patients in Ireland. This therapy is a leading example of precision medicine, where treatment is based on a test for genetic mutations.

This recent trial looked at the treatment of patients with two copies of the F508DEL mutation which is carried by roughly half of all cystic-fibrosis patients.  It found that a combination of ivacaftor with lumicaftor was effective in improving lung function between 2.6 and 4 per cent.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal lung disease affecting 75,000 children and adults world-wide, and is caused by inherited genetic mutations that vary among different patient groups.

Professor Stuart Elborn, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, and the European lead on the study, said: “This is a very significant breakthrough for people with cystic fibrosis.  While we had previously found an effective treatment for those with the ‘celtic gene’ this new combination treatment has the potential to help roughly half of those with cystic fibrosis, those who have two copies the F508DEL mutation.

“This is another example of how Queen’s scientists are working internationally to change lives around the world.”

The study was led by a team from Europe – Dr Stuart Elborn, Queen’s University Belfast, the USA - Dr Bonnie Ramsey, and Dr Michael Boyle, and Australia - Dr Claire Wainwright.  Twelve patients from the Northern Ireland Adult and Paediatric Cystic Fibrosis Centres participated in the study.  The local investigators were Dr Damian Downey and Dr Alistair Reid from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

 

Top of Page