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First ever Belfast Festival of Social Sciences is launched

The first ever Belfast Festival of Social Sciences, which offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research, is being launched this week (Saturday 1 November).

The week-long Festival, which is a partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and is part-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), includes public debates, conferences, workshops, interactive seminars, film screenings and virtual exhibitions.

The Festival aims to highlight how social science research makes a difference and influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future.  Some of the events include: I’m a psychologist get me out here!, an interactive workshop for 12-15 year olds to look at understanding emotion; Outdoor Scientists, a programme introducing school children to nature; and So you think you know about poverty?, an event to tackle myths around the nature and extent of poverty.

Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “At Queen’s we are committed to making a positive impact on society.  This festival serves to illustrate how social science research makes a difference by shaping public policy, making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st century society. This festival allows the public the chance to see and experience how our social science research is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRISS) at Ulster University, said: “At Ulster University Social Science forms an integral part of our approach to shaping futures through both teaching and practice. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all everyday – at work, in school, when raising children and within our communities. We are delighted to jointly bring a week of valuable events that is open to everyone to come and discover, discuss and celebrate the diversity and contribution social sciences make in society.”

The festival runs from Saturday 1 November until Saturday 8 November across various locations in Belfast and Derry.

For a full programme of events, visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/ResearchEnterprise/ResearchDevelopment/TrainingandEvents/UpcomingEvents/BelfastFestivalofSocialSciences/

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk and 028 9097 3087.

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Queen’s University researchers call for earlier diagnosis of autism

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have called for earlier diagnosis of autism on the back of increasing evidence that earlier interventions have more positive outcomes.

Professor Karola Dillenburger, from Queen’s School of Education, led a three-year research project which analysed early behaviour interventions in children with autism. The research found that professionals were reluctant to diagnose autism early out of fear of labelling young children with what has traditionally been viewed as a lifelong condition. Many children are put on waiting lists rather than offered early diagnosis.

Professor Dillenburger argues that early behaviour analytic interventions were not only more medically hopeful – arguing that early support can improve quality of life for children with autistic spectrum and their families – but more ethical. Professor Karola Dillenburger from Queen’s School of Education said: “What our research has shown is that autism could – and should – be diagnosed much earlier than is common practice. International evidence shows that early applied behaviour analysis-based interventions are effective and can change the trajectory of autism for a significant majority of children.

“Early diagnosis does not only take advantage of the plasticity of the brain during early development, it is also a prerequisite for social and financial supports for families affected by autism. Our findings were that children with autism and their families were at higher risk of poor mental health, poverty and social exclusion than other families.

“What we also discovered is that the prevalence of autism is higher than previously thought – parents of 3.5 per cent of 11-year-olds were told their child has autism.”

The Queen’s researchers based their findings on a secondary analysis of data collected by the University of London for the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a longitudinal general population survey of 18,522 children born in the UK in the year 2000.

Professor Dillenburger and her team found that by the time these children were three years of age, physical difficulties such as walking on level ground were ten times higher in children later diagnosed with autism than in other children. Speech and language difficulties as well as hearing problems were four times more prevalent for these children. Very early indicators included difficulties at birth and problems with verbal and motor behaviours during the first year of life.

The research also found that behaviour problems were significantly more widespread in these children and the gap widened considerably over time; children with autism were significantly more unhappy with their lives and reluctant to attend school. Behavioural challenges can be addressed and prevented much more easily in younger children, argue the researchers, preventing these poor outcomes.

In conclusion, Professor Dillenburger said: “Our key finding was that children later diagnosed with autism showed early health problems, indicating that early diagnosis is both possible and necessary.”

Nichola Booth of the charity Parents, Education and Autism Therapists NI (PEATNI) welcomed Queen’s findings, saying: “The findings of this research further cement the importance of early diagnosis. When we focus on the individual early we can provide relevant support and design tailored interventions to ensure that individuals with autism and their families can have a better quality of life.”

The full research, which was supported by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) can be read at: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/17518423.2014.964378  

For more information contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s tackles global food fraud in new online course

A new online course at Queen’s University Belfast is set to examine global food fraud.

The five week course entitled ‘Tackling the Global Food Crisis: Supply Chain integrity’ will examine the complex area of food security, with a focus on how a sustainable future can be achieved.

The five-week online course which is free and open to anyone, anywhere in the world will cover topics including food fraud, pollution and climate change. The course will also explore the implications of an increasing population, the increasing affluence of South East Asia and the competition for 'high quality foods' which previously went to Europe and the United States.

Delivered by a team of academics, the course will be headed up by Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University. Professor Elliott recently completed the Government report on the UK’s food supply chain published by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Professor Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University, said: “Many complex factors are playing a role in food security or as some prefer to call it now, food insecurity. Throughout this five week course we will investigate the pollution of our soils and waterways as well as looking at the challenges for the future to supply food of sufficient amounts, safety, quality and authenticity.

“We as consumers have a heightened awareness of what is in our food, where it comes from now and in the future. The globalisation of food production and threats from climate change means that the risk of contamination, due to accidental or deliberate acts have heightened substantially. We will delve into these issues and are looking forward to a lively debate throughout the five weeks of the course.”

The course, which is the third Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to be delivered by Queen’s, begins on 17 November 2014 with support from the Centre for Educational Services and Information Services.

To watch the trailer and register for the course visit: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/global-food-crisis

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk and 028 9097 3091. 

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Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems.

In the largest ever study of its kind, the researchers in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery fund, also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.

251 children and young people were involved in the study which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups – 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.

Professor Sam Porter of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University, who led the study, said: “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs.”

Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and co-researcher, added: “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, said: “Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomised controlled trial in a clinical setting. The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”

The research team will now look at the data to establish how cost-effective music therapy is in relation to other treatments. The research findings will be presented at a conference in Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast today (Thursday 23 October 2014).

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University on 028 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s student named Study USA Student of the Year
Cara Heaslip with Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry
Cara Heaslip with Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry

Queen’s University Belfast Law student Cara Heaslip spent a year studying business at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Cara was named Student of the Year after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how her experience has helped further her employability.

Speaking about the award, Cara who is originally from Crawfordsburn, said: “It is such an honour to receive this award and as I look back on my time in the US, I can genuinely say it was a life-changing experience.

“I go into my final year at Queen’s with newfound skills – including both people and business skills -  both of which will help maximise my career prospects. They say the best teacher is experience and through Study USA I have learnt more than I could ever have imagined.

“Thank you to Dr Farry and DEL for funding the programme over many years – and also thanks to the British Council and in particular, the Study USA team, for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an incredible experience."

She was among 70 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was honoured at 20th anniversary celebrations at Titanic Belfast last Friday (October 17).

Study USA, formerly known as the Business Education Initiative, is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent 1800 students from Northern Ireland to all four corners of the United States where they have successfully completed a year studying business at one of 140 institutions.

To celebrate two decades of the programme, the anniversary celebrations brought together the programmes most recent graduates, alumni from each year of the programme and their employers, as well as welcoming Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and guest speaker, Elizabeth Dibble Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London.

This year, the Student of the Year Award was sponsored by leading audit firm, KPMG Northern Ireland. Jon D’Arcy, Chairman of KPMG Northern Ireland said: “KPMG is delighted to sponsor the Study USA Student of the Year award especially as, over the years, a number of our people have participated in this programme as undergraduates.   “Study USA provides our young people with an invaluable opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone; to live and study in another country; learn new skills; get involved with community projects; and generally boost their employability.”

For more information on British Council Northern Ireland or Study USA, visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org

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President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins to visit Queen’s

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins will be Guest of Honour at Queen’s University Belfast on Thursday evening (23rd October). President Higgins will launch Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting, an event the following day, at which members of the public are being invited to discuss the balance between remembering, forgiving and forgetting the past.

On Thursday evening at Riddel Hall at Queen’s, President Higgins will deliver a keynote address on the theme of Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting. During the event, Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, newly appointed Leader of the Corrymeela Community, will also recite from his canon of work.

The Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting event on Friday (24th October), in The Great Hall at Queen’s, is organised by the University’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, and forms part of the University’s commitment to civic engagement through the Civic Conversations at Queen’s programme.

Academics from the Institute are encouraging members of the public to register and join in the discussion on Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting, which has been created in partnership with The Corrymeela Community, the Community Relations Council, Reconciliation Fund of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Compromise After Conflict Research Programme from the Leverhulme Trust.

The free event includes speakers who have direct experience of these three themes from societies emerging out of conflict across the world, including Colin Parry OBE, founder of The Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace who will address forgiveness; Professor Thomas Brudholm, University of Copenhagen, a leading academic on the Holocaust, who will address remembering and Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, University of Free State, who served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and who will address forgetting.

The morning lectures will be chaired by Bronagh Hinds, from DemocraShe, a community development and peace group based in Belfast. In the afternoon, the BBC’s William Crawley will chair a panel discussion consisting of Jude Collins, journalist; Rev John Dunlop, former Moderator of Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Paul Gallagher, Victim and Survivor Group; Alistair Little, Beyond Walls Project; Dawn Purvis, Healing Through Remembering Project; and Jennifer McNern, Victim and Survivor Group. The event will close with some final reflections from Rev Lesley Carroll, a member of the Eames-Bradley Consultative Group on the Past, and Susan McEwan, from Corrymeela.

Speaking ahead of the visit by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “President Higgins is recognised around the world for his work in the promotion of peace and democracy. He has been a keen supporter of universities and their role in working towards the elimination of inequality and securing a prosperous and peaceful future for societies. We are therefore deeply honoured that he has agreed to join us at Queen’s to launch the second of our Civic Conversation events.

“The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ICTSJ), symbolises Queen’s commitment to supporting positive change in society and providing an arena in which our legacy issues can be openly discussed.”

Professor John Brewer from Queen’s ICTSJ has organised the Remembering, forgiving and forgetting event. He added: “We are delighted President Higgins is joining us to launch our event. It is an important endorsement of our Civic Conversations at Queen’s programme and its importance for all those who wish to have their voices heard on legacy issues in a non-political and wholly civic arena.

“When we come to realise that learning to live together is not automatic and does not follow naturally once violence has ended, managing the problems legacy issues cause becomes vital to stabilising our community and to progressing healing and reconciliation in society. At Queen’s we are proud that we can facilitate and encourage that process.”

Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting takes place on Friday, 24 October in The Great Hall at Queen’s University Belfast. The event is free and open to all with refreshments provided. Pre-registration is required and participants can register at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/isctsj/

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk  

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Queen’s in international ‘attosecond’ science breakthrough

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast have been involved in a groundbreaking discovery in the area of experimental physics that has implications for understanding how radiotherapy kills cancer cells, among other things.

Dr Jason Greenwood from Queen’s Centre for Plasma Physics collaborated with academics from Italy and Spain on the work on electrons, which has been published in the international journal Science.

Using some of the shortest laser pulses in the world, the researchers used strobe lighting to track the ultra-fast movement of the electrons within a nanometer-sized molecule of amino acid. The resulting oscillations – lasting for 4,300 attoseconds (billion-billionths of a second) – amount to the fastest process ever observed in a biological structure.

Dr Greenwood said: “Explaining how electrons move on the nanoscale is crucial for the understanding of a range of processes in matter as it is this charge which initiates many biological, chemical and electrical processes. For instance, the charge produced from the interaction of ionizing radiation with DNA and its subsequent ultra-fast movement can lead to damage of the DNA and cell death which is exploited in radiotherapy to treat cancer. This knowledge is therefore important for understanding the action of radiotherapy beams in cancer treatment.

“Being able to describe how light interacts with electrons on these timescales could also lead to improvements in how light is converted into electricity in solar cells or faster microprocessors which use light rather than electrical signals for switching transistors.

“This research will hopefully open up the emerging field of attosecond science which seeks to understand how ultrafast electrons play a key role in chemistry, biology and nanotechnology. This is very early research but this new field of ultrafast light-induced electronics is likely to have an impact in biology, chemistry and materials in the next five to ten years. Practical applications down the line may include improvements in cancer radiotherapy, highly efficient solar cells and much faster computer processors.”

The research was carried out by Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics in collaboration with the Politecnico Milano, the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, University of Trieste and Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnologies IFN-CNR of Padua, Italy. The full paper can be read here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6207/336.abstract

For more information contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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New research at Queen's into sexual services

New research by Queen’s University is the first time people involved in selling and buying sexual services have been directly approached in relation to prostitution policy in Northern Ireland and their views sought on the legal framework.

Lead researcher Dr Susann Huschke, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, said: “The issue of prostitution has received considerable interest in Northern Ireland over the last year, mainly due to the proposal within Lord Morrow’s Private Member’s Bill (Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill) to criminalise paying for sexual services. This study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, aims to fill some of the existing research gaps by conducting a mixed methods study of prostitution in Northern Ireland.”

Welcoming the research report Justice Minister, David Ford said: “Next week the Assembly will consider Lord Morrow’s Bill. Lord Morrow and I share a determination to do all we can to address the misery of human trafficking and modern day slavery, and we have worked closely to agree on almost all of the Bill’s provisions. However, we differ over Clause 6 of the Bill, which, if adopted, will change the existing law from criminalising the purchase of sex from a prostitute subjected to force, to criminalising the purchase of sexual services in any circumstances.

“My position is that I don’t believe that the complexities of prostitution can be adequately addressed in a single clause in a Bill. Instead, the law and policy surrounding the distinct issue of selling or purchasing sexual services should be considered separately, in detail, and with the benefit of properly informed research.”

The Minister continued: “Earlier this year I commissioned Queen’s University to carry out research into prostitution in Northern Ireland and I have now received their final report. The research has established that the framework of prostitution in Northern Ireland is more complex and diverse than the picture generally painted. I have, however, seen no evidence to suggest that the change proposed by Lord Morrow would reduce the incidence of trafficking. Indeed the report contains evidence to suggest that criminalising the purchase of sex, as a single clause in this Bill, may create further risk and hardship for those individuals, particularly women, involved in prostitution.”

The research found that:

  • only 2% of sex workers who responded to the survey supported criminalising the purchase of sex;
  • 61% of NI-based sex workers in the survey thought it would make them less safe;
  • 85% believed that it would not reduce sex trafficking;
  • only 16% of respondents to the client survey said it would make them stop paying for sex altogether.

For more information download the report at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/publications/publication-categories/pubs-criminal-justice/independent-research-into-prostitution-in-northern-ireland.htm

 

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Virtual e-Cancer hospitals could benefit thousands of patients

One of the UK and Ireland’s top experts in personalised medicine, Professor Mark Lawler from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast has highlighted how initiatives that promote the sharing of genetic data and the creation of virtual e-Cancer hospitals have the potential to benefit thousands of patients around the world.

These ground-breaking initiatives will be discussed at a global event in San Diego today (Sunday 19 October).

Professor Lawler will address members of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) on Cancer Core Europe, a visionary approach by 6 European Institutions to create virtual e-Cancer Hospitals, where data sharing between different centres can maximise success in diagnosing and treating cancer.  Creating a shared data resource significantly increases understanding of how cancer occurs, speeds up the completion of   successful clinical trials, thus facilitating more rapid and  effective therapies to be delivered for cancer patients.

Also being discussed is the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) project that uses our knowledge of the genetics of cancer cells to drive innovative pan European clinical trials.

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics at Queen’s and EORTC ambassador, said: “Co-operation and data sharing is the key  to both of these initiatives – rather than   competing against each other as we may have done in the past, we are now competing against our common enemy … cancer .”

“GA4GH is an international coalition, dedicated to improving human health by maximizing the potential of genomic medicine through effective and responsible data sharing.  It has the potential to revolutionise how we use genetic and clinical information and information technology to deliver benefit to patients with a wide range of diseases.”

Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s, said: “Collaborating with global initiatives such as GA4GH and EORTC emphasise the international standing of Queen’s research efforts and allow both scientists and ultimately patients to benefit.”

Queen’s University is a founding member of the GA4GH, which now has over 220 Alliance members from 30 countries, and Professor Lawler is a member of the GA4GH Clinical Working Group.

Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “We are proud to be a founding member of this unique alliance and to be making a significant contribution as it gains global recognition.  It aligns with two of our key strengths, cancer research and data analytics and has the potential to transform the global health landscape.”

The GA4GH conference is part of the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics running until Wednesday.

Ends

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

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Fungal infections a worldwide catastophe according to Queen’s researchers

Fungal diseases which are killing 150 people every hour across the world have become a worldwide catastrophe, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

They join researchers from several countries across the world in an effort led from University of Manchester in a global call for policy makers and health agencies to address the problem of fungal diseases which result in the death of 300 million people worldwide every year.

Dr Ronan McMullan from Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Eileen Dorgan from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have been collaborating with GAFFI (Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections); an international organisation set up last year to highlight what doctors believe is a worldwide catastrophe that is growing year on year.  Researchers believe that the problem could be halted with widespread access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines, medical training and better patient awareness.

Dr Ronan McMullan from the Centre for Infection and Immunity in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “Among Ireland’s population fungal infections are estimated to affect around 117,000 people every year. The majority of these infections are recurrent vaginal candidiasis (‘thrush’) with an estimated 95,000 episodes per year. Although life-threatening infections among patients in ICU, as well as patients who have undergone transplantation or had leukaemia, are less common with just over 1,000 infections per year these are an important problem.”

“The challenge in Ireland is mostly related to increasing awareness among both the public and doctors as well as developing and implementing cutting-edge diagnostic tests to enable these infections to be diagnosed and treated more promptly.”

GAFFI’s founding President is Dr David Denning, Professor of Infectious Disease in Global Health at the University of Manchester. He said: “Fungal disease is the Trojan horse – the silent, unappreciated global catastrophe on an scale no one has grasped until recently. For example, after TB as many as 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over five years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide. Severe asthma with fungal allergy could account for half of the 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, yet it is treatable with antifungal drugs. Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally yet the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment for millions of people.

“Skin fungal infections affect a billion people worldwide. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work. In its first year, GAFFI has drawn a roadmap for fighting fungal infections globally, for the first time.”

In the last 12 months GAFFI has identified and estimated the burden of fungal disease in almost 40 countries, including both NI and RoI, successfully lobbied the World Health Organisation to include two life-saving drugs on the Essential Medicines List and convinced the World Medical Association to address governments across the world to improve diagnostics and treatments of fungal disease.

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk and 028 9097 3091.

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Queen’s University in research bid to save thousands of mothers’ and babies’ lives

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded a major, international grant to investigate if the perinatal condition of pre-eclampsia could be treated with cheap, everyday drugs.

Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Yongxin Yu from Queen’s Centre for Experimental Medicine will use the $250,000 to test around 300 drugs – many of them in common usage – which are considered relatively safe to administer to pregnant women.

If, as hoped, the two-year research project identifies an effective treatment for pre-eclampsia, it could save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies around the world.

Dr Yu described full-blown eclampsia as a “health crisis” which kills 500,000 babies and 75,000 mothers each year, mostly in developing countries. In the UK, it is still responsible for the deaths of 1,000 babies each year.

Mothers-to-be with diabetes are four times more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, which involves dangerously high blood pressure and damage to the placenta. There is no known cure, but if it can be diagnosed at the earlier, pre-eclampsia stage, babies can be delivered by emergency Caesarean section, although often prematurely.

Dr Yu, from the Centre for Experimental Medicine in School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, at Queen’s, said: “The placenta has to grow a huge amount of blood vessels in a short space of time. What we medical researchers have noticed is that certain molecules promote this growth, while others inhibit it. In the case of women who develop pre-eclampsia, there are too many inhibiting molecules. Following on from my previous research, I now want to see if I can halt these inhibitors with drugs. It’s important these drugs be cheap and widely available – the purpose is to come up with a treatment that can be used all over the world. That way, we will not only be advancing knowledge but changing lives.”

Co-researcher Professor Tim Lyons, also from the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, said: “Pre-eclampsia can be fatal if not caught, but even when it is, there are long-term health effects: women who’ve had pre-eclampsia are at higher risk from developing kidney and cardiovascular disease later in life, as are their babies.”

Honorary Professor of Endocrinology at Queen’s, David McCance said: “Pre-eclampsia can be a devastating complication of pregnancy. This grant offers an exciting research opportunity and is another example of Queen’s being an international research leader and how local talent can have a global impact.”

The Queen’s research proposal was one of just 26 selected from over 500 applications from around the world to the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development funding. The Saving Lives at Birth partnership, launched in 2011, includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, and Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada). The Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development is a global call for innovative prevention and treatment ideas, approaches, and technologies that aim to reduce infant and maternal mortality around the time of birth.

This project, which will monitor the effect of a variety of drugs on placenta cells, is part of Queen’s expanding research efforts in pre-eclampsia that are being conducted in collaboration with a range of local and international academics, clinicians and NGOs.

Consultant obstetrician Alyson Hunter, from the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast, said: “The prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia remains a major challenge in obstetrics. Aspirin has been used with limited success in preventing pre-eclampsia but Dr Yu’s and Professor Lyons' research may discover another commonly used, cheap medication that may be much more effective and help save many lives worldwide.”

A full list of Saving Lives at Birth award-winners can be found at http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/aug-1-2014-saving-lives-birth-grand-challenge-development-announces-round-4-award-nominees  

For more information contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University researchers in bid to uncover the birth of Belfast’s docklands

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast are in a bid to uncover the birth of Belfast’s docklands in a new three-year research study.

Dr Liz Thomas from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP) at Queen’s will undertake a unique new project this autumn, which aims to shed light on living in the 19th century dockland town, Sailortown, in Belfast.

Beginning this project, Dr Thomas has appealed for anyone with any connection to Sailortown to come forward with their stories of the town or stories that may have been passed down through the generations about the people and the place. Dr Thomas said: “I have always been interested in every aspect of life related to the sea and docks, probably because my grandfather worked on the docks in Dublin and I really am interested in anyone who has any connection to Sailortown to tell me their stories no matter how mundane it may seem.

“I would love to hear stories about the women in Sailortown and I would be delighted for people with any connection to Sailortown to get in touch with me if they would like to be part of the study and excavation. I am truly looking forward to working with this community and feel very privileged to have this opportunity to work with the people of Sailortown.

“This dockland area is significant because it represents the origin of Belfast as a world maritime and industrial capital. It has an amazing and complex history and the British Academy has recognized the significance of this area and its people by funding my three-year fellowship.”

Dr Thomas has been awarded a highly prestigious three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to complete this project.

Over 800 applications were submitted to the British Academy for the 2014 award, but only 45 were successful, of which only four of these awards were assigned to archaeology. This is the first time in 18 years Queen’s has hosted a recipient of this prestigious fellowship.

Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor, Patrick Johnson said: “This award is an outstanding achievement, in a highly competitive field. Securing prestigious fellowships of this quality aligns perfectly with my Vision for a world-class international university.” Professor Audrey Horning, mentor to Dr Thomas on this project and Head of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s said: “This is a significant achievement for Liz, for GAP, and for Queen’s and the School (of GAP) are absolutely delighted.”

From the 19th century, Sailortown residents were instrumental in the development of Belfast as one of the world’s first industrial capitals.

From the late 1960s, redevelopment of this dockland site had begun. Alongside the redevelopment of this historic dockland site, the community who lived in Sailortown, mostly descended from a long lineage of those working in the docklands, were relocated to different homes spread across Belfast and apart from each other.

However even after 40 years, the old Sailortown community spirit endures with the former residents reconvening weekly outside St Joseph’s Church, ‘The Chapel on the Quays’.

The local community groups also supporting this project are the Sailortown Regeneration Group (SRG), Shared History Interpretative Project (SHIP) and Harbour Lights.

The cross-generational and cross-community excavation is planned for next spring, and will be conducted over a two-week period. Dr Thomas and the Sailortown Regeneration Group are also investigating the possibilities of developing a permanent exhibition in a heritage-themed playground on the site following the excavation.

For more information contact Queen’s Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University student volunteers recognised by UK Cabinet Office
Mogue Lawless
Mogue Lawless

Five Queen’s University Belfast students have been recognised by the UK Cabinet Office for their contribution to volunteering.

One student has been honoured by the Prime Minister David Cameron with a Points of Light Award and four students have been selected as Young Social Action Ambassadors in recognition for volunteering excellence.

Mogue Lawless, a fourth year Business Management student, was named the 123rd recipient of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award. This award recognises outstanding individuals who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

Mogue, who was last year named Queen’s Student Volunteer of the Year, has drawn on his personal experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to raise awareness of mental health problems. He set up an initiative called Start Talking, which uses art to promote the importance of keeping healthy in mind and body.

He was nominated for the Points of Light Award by the Young Social Ambassadors network, a group of young people who have been selected by the UK Cabinet Office for their own contribution to volunteering. The UK-Wide network will help the government, in its programme Step Up To Serve, to find exceptional examples of volunteers from communities across the UK.

Out of six Ambassadors chosen in Northern Ireland, four are from Queen’s University. They are: Fergal McFerran from Dunloy, Paul Loughran from Belfast, David Sands from Lisburn and Ryan Clarke from Newtownabbey.

Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s, said: “This is an exceptional achievement for our student volunteers and I would like to congratulate all of those involved. These students are testimony to the fact that at Queen’s a degree is about much more than an education, it is a gateway to the world. Through the student experience at Queen’s there are many opportunities to get involved in volunteering and to make a very positive impact on society.”

Speaking about his award, Mogue Lawless said: “I am delighted to have been honoured by the Prime Minister with a Points of Light Award. Through the excellent support services available at Queen’s I was able to get the help I needed as I battled with my OCD throughout my studies. I am now using my experience to help others with mental illness.”

Speaking about his appointment, Fergal McFerran said: “As a Young Social Action Ambassador my role is to celebrate the incredible work that volunteers in Northern Ireland are doing on a day-to-day basis to improve their communities. Quite often those who dedicate themselves to improving society here go about their business unnoticed, we want to recognise their contributions in the hope that it inspires others to participate in community action too.”

Announcing the Young Social Action Ambassadors, Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive Officer of Step Up To Serve, said: “It is great to see so many fantastic volunteers from such a wide range of organisations taking part in this vital work. This is an exciting opportunity for them to be working alongside government and Step Up To Serve which will help to inspire more people to volunteer.”

Wendy Osborne, CEO, Volunteer Now says: “I am delighted that the Young Social Action Ambassadors from Queens University are bringing the values of volunteering to the wider community through their own volunteering excellence. Having attended training in 10 Downing Street they are searching for inspirational people to record their stories. These case studies will be used by the Cabinet Office to showcase volunteering, used within reports and speeches as well as influencing policy development.  The Ambassadors will have the opportunity to reflect the dedication of so many volunteers who offer their time and make a vital contribution to the well being of society.”

For further information on Queen’s University volunteering visit: http://www.qubsu.org/VolunteerSU/

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 3091.

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Queen’s University business start-ups shine at INVENT Awards


Queen’s University Belfast has once again proven itself to be a hub of innovation at the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT Awards 2014.

The awards showcase exciting business start-up ideas and are designed to highlight prototypes with the best chance of commercial success. The burgeoning of spin-out companies from Queen’s points to it being an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship and helps drive the Northern Ireland economy.

Queen’s researchers won two of the five overall categories: Life And Health; and Agri-Food. Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at Queen’s, was also honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award.

A £33,000 prize fund will be distributed among all the winners who will also get to take part in a business mission to San Diego and San Francisco later this year.

Scott Rutherford of Queen’s Research and Enterprise unit, which helps support spin-out companies from the university, said: “Once again the quality of Queen’s start-up businesses has been recognised at the Invent 2014 awards and I am pleased that Dr Kett and Dr Dalzell topped their categories at this year’s event. This award is just the starting point for two of our most promising researchers and I look forward, together with my team, to helping develop and accelerate the impact of these exciting new ventures, originating here in Northern Ireland. I am also delighted that the visionary leadership of Professor McCanny, who has combined both excellence in research and a strong commercial orientation throughout his distinguished career, was celebrated on the night.”

Queen’s topped the Life And Health category with its innovation ‘Vaccine Tabs’. Dr Vicky Kett, from the School of Pharmacy, developed this vaccine nasal delivery system that is needle and pain-free, more stable and more effective than the familiar vaccine jabs. Dr Kett said: “The reason why our vaccine is different is that it offers improved stability over other vaccine formats and is also easy to administer with a simple applicator. This lessens both the dependence on constant refrigeration and the need for dedicated healthcare professionals to administer the vaccine, which are both issues in the developing world. In other words, this research could have a global impact. All the winners were picked for the business potential of their ideas and the quality of their business plan, so this win has helped set us on the road to commercialization.”

Queen’s also scooped the Agri-Food award for its development of clean, ‘green’ pesticides. Dr Johnathan Dalzell, from the School of Biological Sciencies, headed up the project to develop a family of non-toxic pesticides that would be specific to crop parasites.

Dr Dalzell said: “This marks a new departure for us and one that we really hope to build on – where we work increasingly with local industry and develop partnerships across the whole bio-technology landscape. It’s about taking research out of the university and out into the real world of business and commerce.”

Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, was honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award. Professor McCanny is credited with developing the vision that led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Science Park and its £37 million ECIT institute, of which he is currently Director. He also led the initiative that created the £30 million UK Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) which is based at ECIT.

Professor McCanny said: “I was very surprised and very honoured to receive this, marking as it does the 10th year of ECIT’s presence on the Science Park. ECIT’s success, to date, has been very much a team effort, reflecting on the one hand the excellence of the research undertaken at the Institute and on the other the entrepreneurial spirit that strives to translate new ideas created into wider economic benefit.

“At ECIT we have created a fairly unique model of ‘Open Innovation’ where academic researchers work alongside industry-experienced engineering and business development staff to make this happen. When ECIT was first established on the Science Park in 2004 it was a fairly derelict site. Today, thanks to the efforts of staff at the Science Park and at ECIT it now hosts over 120 companies employing over 2,100 people. It is very pleasing and rewarding to be part of that.”

The overall prize at the INVENT Awards was won by husband and wife team Sean and Leona McAllister who developed software called Plotbox, which has been described as “Google maps for cemeteries”.

For further information on the awards visit: http://invent2014.co/uk

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office or comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 3091.

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Changing Lives: Queen’s impact on display in heart of Belfast in new exhibition

A compelling display of the work of Professor Phil Scraton from Queen’s University Belfast in relation to his research on the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 men, women and children lost their lives, is just one of the items on display in a new exhibition appearing in Belfast City Hall from today (Monday, 6 October).

Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject has been created by Queen’s University and tells the story of how Queen’s staff are putting Northern Ireland in the national and global spotlight. Showing the impact Queen’s, as a world-class University, is having on the world around it, exhibits relate to every School at Queen’s, covering poetry to pharmacy and astrophysics to architecture.

An array of objects, including  one of the original portable defibrillators developed by Professor Frank Pantridge and original handwritten works by Belfast’s first Poet Laureate Dr Sinead Morrissey, sit alongside striking images of Queen’s researchers from photographers Christopher Heaney, Paul McErlane, Simon Kirwan, Martyn Boyd and Ivan Ewart.

Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject runs until Wednesday, 29 October in the Exhibition Space, Ground Floor, City Hall. Admission is free. Further information is available from the Communications and External Affairs at Queen’s. Telephone 028 9097 3091 or email m.e.donaghy@qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: 028 9097 5384 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Academic to advise on development of credit unions

A Queen’s academic has been appointed to chair a new committee which will support the development of the credit union movement into the future. Professor Donal McKillop from Queen’s University Management School will chair the new Credit Union Advisory Committee.

The role of the Committee is to advise the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, on the improvement of the management of credit unions and the protection of the interests of members and creditors of credit unions.

Donal is internationally renowned for his work in this area and his research has led to the introduction of new legislation in the Republic of Ireland and the establishment of a restructuring board to ensure the sector’s long term sustainability.

Speaking about his appointment, Donal said: “I am delighted to have been offered Chair of the Credit Union Advisory Committee by The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD. I am a strong advocate of credit unions. They provide valued services to their members and more generally to the local communities in which they are located. Credit unions never stand still. They are continually evolving influenced by the environment within which they operate and by the changing needs of their members.”

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Success for Queen’s at Invent Awards
Professor John McCanny
Professor John McCanny

Queen’s University Belfast has been successful at this year’s Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT Awards 2014.

Queen’s researchers won the Life and Health category with their innovation ‘Vaccine Tabs’.  Dr Vicki Kett, from the School of Pharmacy, developed a vaccine nasal delivery system that is needle and pain-free, more stable and more effective than the familiar vaccine jabs.

Dr Kett joins the other five winners of the categories to win part of the £33,000 prize fund and will now take part in a week-long visit to San Diego and San Francisco on 1-5 December 2014.

Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, was honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award.

Professor McCanny is credited with developing the vision that led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Science Park and its £37 million ECIT research flagship for which he is currently Director.  He also led the initiative that created the £30 million UK Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) which is based at ECIT.

For further information on the awards visit: http://invent2014.co/

Media inquiries Queen’s Communications Office or comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 3087.

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New study suggests humans to blame for plummeting numbers of cheetahs

A new study led by Queen’s University Belfast into how cheetahs burn energy suggests that human activity, rather than larger predators, may force them to expend more energy and thus be the major cause of their decline.

Wild cheetahs are down to under 10,000 from 100,000 a century ago with conventional wisdom blaming bigger predators for monopolising available food as their habitat becomes restricted. The traditional thinking has been that cheetahs no longer have sufficient access to prey to fuel their enormous energy output when engaging in super-fast chases.

But, in the first study of its kind, published today in the international journal Science, academics from Queen’s, other Universities and conservation institutions have made the surprising discovery that, in the main, cheetahs do not use significantly more energy than other, similar-sized mammals.

The scientists also discovered that, in searching for prey, cheetahs incur more energy loss than in outbursts of running which, although spectacular, are infrequent. So, where their prey have been reduced or re-distributed through human impacts, their ability to balance energy budgets has been severely curtailed.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Scantlebury from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences said: “We studied 19 free-roaming cheetahs each for two weeks across two sites in southern Africa, one in the Kalahari desert and the other in a wetter area. We injected heavy water into the animals before tracking them continuously and collecting their faeces. From these samples, we could determine how much of this heavy water they were losing each day and calculate their energy expenditures.

“What we found was that the cats’ energy expenditure was not significantly different from other mammals of similar size – cheetahs may be Ferraris but most of the time they are driving slowly. What our study showed was that their major energy costs seem to be incurred by travelling, rather than securing prey. If you can imagine walking up and down sand dunes in high temperatures day in, day out, with no water to drink you start to get a feel for how challenging these cats’ daily lives are, and yet they remain remarkably adapted and resilient.

“They can even withstand other species, such as lions and hyenas, stealing their prey. The reality may be that human activities – for example erecting fences that inhibit free travel or over-hunting cheetah prey – are forcing cheetahs to travel ever-increasing distances and that this may be compromising their energy more than any other single factor. Our study, which is the result of ten years’ of research, seriously questions previously held assumptions about the factors affecting population viability in large predators threatened by extinction.”

Co-researcher Dr Nikki Marks, also from Queen’s University Belfast said: “Research of this type helps improve our understanding of the challenges facing cheetahs as they strive to survive and helps inform future decisions on conservation strategies for cheetahs and other threatened animals.”

Manuscript co-author Dr John Wilson of North Carolina State University said: “Too often we blame lions and hyenas for decimating cheetah populations when in fact, it is likely to be us humans that drive their declines. Imagine how hard it must be for a small cub to follow its mother further and further through the desert to look for food, while she herself is fighting for survival.”

Another key member of the research team, Dr Gus Mills from The Lewis Foundation said: “Having spent the best part of six years studying these animals in the Kalahari you get a good understanding at first hand of the challenges they face in order to survive, even without the detrimental impact of human activity.”

The Queen’s-led research was carried out in partnership with Oxford University, Swansea University, Ohio State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Pretoria, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, The Lewis Foundation (South Africa), the South African Wildlife Research Expedition and the Zoological Society of London. It was supported by awards from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Royal Society.

For more information contact Queen’s Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University in £400,000 bid to reduce cyber-attack threats to national grid

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have received funding of almost £400,000 to reduce cyber-attack threats to the UK’s national grid.

The project aims to identify vulnerabilities within the national grid as wind and solar generated electricity become more widely used. The grid operates over the telecoms network making it vulnerable to cyber-attack.

The research is one of four new projects which make up a £2.5million initiative, co-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK’s National Cyber Security Programme, which will focus on the cyber-security of the UK’s critical infrastructure including manufacturing plants, power stations, the electricity grid, and the rail network.

Professor Sakir Sezer, from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s, said: “Presently, Ireland frequently operates with over 50 per cent of electricity supplied by wind generation.  Operating the system with such high levels of renewable generation is a challenge, and requires complex wide area monitoring and control. 

“Should the telecoms systems that support the control system be compromised, the impact of the resultant loss of electricity supply would have far-reaching consequences for society.  This would involve loss of consumer supply, supply to hospitals, industry, and would even affect the gas, water and sewage networks.

“The researchers will demonstrate assured and improved operational decision making and lay the groundwork for a new, cyber-threat resilient, control architecture for the grid.” 

The Research Institute in Trustworthy Industrial Control Systems (RITICS), based at Imperial College London, is co-ordinating the overall research with projects at Queen’s, the University of Birmingham, City University London and Lancaster University.

The research teams will work with industry partners to understand and analyse the risks from cyber-attack, examine how risk is communicated to business and provide effective interventions to counter the risk. Metrics and software tools will be produced so that non-technical decision makers can assess cyber-security in the context of their business.

Professor Chris Hankin, from the RITICS at Imperial College London, said, “Where control systems are linked to the internet we need to understand how failures could cascade across the system. We will be looking at new ways of repairing damage to systems if an attack happens.

“We need to address how to approach network maintenance for industrial control systems, particularly as most systems operate on a 24/7 basis. So we will be looking at how we can ensure better protection without compromising performance.”

Ends

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk or 02890973087.

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Queen’s scores hat-trick at regional 2014 KTP awards

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Queen’s University Belfast and Hughes Insurance has been named as the NI Regional Winner in this year’s KTP Awards, held last night (Thurs, 25 Sept) in The Merchant Hotel.

Queen’s is the UK’s leading institution for KTPs, working with businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the University.

Speaking about the award, Hughes’ Chief Executive, Gareth Brady, said: "Hughes Insurance has been working closely with Jim McCann at Queen’s for the last three years to develop new ways to improve our customer contact activities. The KTP was hugely successful for us, embedding new technology and expertise in our business, and contributing to a 4.5 per cent increase in customer retention figures.”

Queen’s also saw Professor Su Taylor, from its School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, named as the UKs Academic Ambassador for KTP.

This Award is made in recognition of the outstanding contribution made to KTP by a member of academic staff and the role they have had in influencing the uptake of KTP throughout their institution. Professor Taylor has been involved in eleven Partnerships with local pre-cast concrete companies and has published 52 academic papers on her work.

A KTP Associate with Queen’s was also awarded the title of Business Leader of Tomorrow for his work on a Partnership with McFarland Associates Ltd in Belfast.

Brian McFarland, Managing Director of the company, said: “Paul Callender’s ability to network at an extremely high level internationally, find new markets and apply novel technologies, is what has made this KTP so successful. He has consistently gone beyond the original goals for the project and satisfied the requirements of both the company and academic partners. At the end of his KTP he will be offered a senior role within the company.”

KTP is a driving force in local wealth and job creation, with KTP businesses seeing an increase in pre-tax profits of around £270,000 per year. On average, each project creates three extra jobs, secures training for an additional 14 staff members, and invests an additional £166,000 in plant and machinery. Northern Ireland currently has 8 per cent of the UKs KTPs.

Recognising the success of Queen’s in this year’s awards, Dr Mary Flynn, Head of KTP and Business Networks at Queen’s, added: “As the UK’s leading KTP university, Queen’s has helped more than 350 companies improve their products and services through knowledge transfer. We are currently working with 40 companies across all sectors, ranging from multi-nationals to very small firms, but we want to see more businesses cross our threshold.

“I am delighted to see so many of our Partnerships being recognised for their hard work and commitment. Queen’s is where business begins and it is now, more than ever, that businesses need to think of new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Our KTPs at Queen’s enable them to do that by giving unrivalled access to the world-class research and technology available here.”

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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Six Queen’s University students named ‘brightest and most innovative in the world’

Six students from Queen’s University Belfast have won an international award for being the brightest and most innovative in the world.

The students, who were this week announced as winners in The Undergraduate Awards, were selected from nearly 5000 submissions from over 200 universities worldwide.

The Undergraduate Awards, which are now in their fourth year, aim to give recognition to the brightest and most innovative undergraduate students in the world, and those who are leading creative thinkers, problem solvers and future leaders.

  • Ciarán Quinn, from Armagh, won the award in the Historical Studies Category for his paper entitled How did the Irish Free State’s efforts to regulate sexuality (and its motivations for doing so) compare with trends elsewhere in interwar Europe?
  • James Pow, from Lisburn, won the award in the International Relations & Politics Category for his paper entitled Still Rising: The Career Politician in the British House of Commons, the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet.
  • Tracy O'Connor, from Glengormley, won the award in the Language and Linguistics Category for her paper entitled To What Extent can the Poetry of Borja da Costa be Seen as Promoting the Idea of a Common National Identity?
  • Maran Lowry, from Derry, won the award in the Life Sciences Category for his paper entitled Assessing the Escapement Success of Migrating European Silver Eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) from Lough Neagh Using Acoustic Telemetry to Corroborate a Traditional Mark/Recapture Method.
  • Aaron Reid, from Lurgan, won the award in the Mathematics & Physics Category for his paper entitled Solar Vortices.
  • Grace McKenna, from Magherafelt, won the Undergraduate Award in the Medical Sciences Category for her paper entitled Identification of Tumour Suppressor Genes whose loss mediates sensitivity to conventional chemotherapy and targeted therapeutics.

As well as these winners, 13 students from Queen’s were Highly Commended across eight of the categories.

David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “I would like to congratulate all of our students on their success at this year’s Undergraduate Awards. We, at Queen’s pride ourselves on the world-leading education on offer here and the success of our students in these prestigious and internationally competitive awards is testimony to that. A degree at Queen’s is about much more than an education, it is about the student experience and being afforded a lifetime or opportunity.”

Louise Hodgson, Executive Director of the Undergraduate Awards, said: “The Undergraduate Awards is the only pan-discipline academic awards programme in the world. The Awards recognise the best and brightest students and brings them together to encourage inter-disciplinary cooperation that transcends borders, advances scholarship, and promotes new academic thinking. I wholeheartedly congratulate all of the winners.”

The winners are invited to attend The Undergraduate Awards Global Summit, which is taking place in Dublin, Ireland from November 19th-21st.

Media inquiries to Claire O'Callaghan Queen’s Communications Office, comms.office@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 3091.

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