Brian Friel Statement

“For more than 50 years, Brian’s plays have brought Irish theatre to the international stage and the Field Day Theatre Company, which he co-founded in 1980, transformed the landscape of Irish theatre.

“In 2008, Queen’s established the Brian Friel Theatre and Research Centre and has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the playwright. Brian showed a keen interest in the work of our students and, in 2011, the Brian Friel Medal was inaugurated for the highest mark in theatre practice.

“With his active encouragement and support, the University organised the first Brian Friel Summer School this year in Donegal.

“Queen’s awarded Brian an honorary degree in 1992.

“Everyone at the University would like to extend their deepest condolences to Brian’s wife, Anne, and the wider family circle.”


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New supercomputer software takes us one giant step closer to simulating the human brain

Breakthrough computer software created by Queen's and the University of Manchester that will be used to power the world’s fastest supercomputers of the future is now being tested for use at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory, at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire.

Developed as part of a major £960k project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the ground-breaking software will increase the ability of supercomputers to process masses of data at higher speeds than ever before.  This next generation of software is now being tested, evaluated and optimised for use by computational scientists.

Supercomputers are the key drivers of scientific advancement in every aspect of research. By simulating detailed models of natural phenomena such as ocean currents, the blood flow of a human body and global weather patterns using thousands of computer cores in parallel, scientists can use the information they produce to help address some of the big global challenges including sustainable energy, the rise in global temperatures, and worldwide epidemics.

The new software will be critical to the next generation of Exascale supercomputers, that could exist within the next 5 years, and will be capable of performing 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, or one billion, billion calculations per second. This is a thousand times more powerful than the Chinese Tianhe1A – the fastest supercomputer in operation today. But Exascale supercomputers will also rely on the development of equally as powerful, cutting edge software that will enable them to process masses of data at higher speeds than ever before. The new software will also contribute to increased energy efficiency, without which the supercomputers will be limited by the power they consume.

Dr Mike Ashworth, Head of Application Performance Engineering at STFC’s Scientific Computing Department, said: “Our next generation of supercomputers will enable scientists to tackle challenges that seem impossible today, such as detailed simulation of the whole Earth system and of the human brain. As well as tackling big global challenges, they are becoming absolutely crucial to industry for breakthroughs in faster and cheaper development of new products and materials.  I am very excited that STFC’s world leading expertise in software development is playing a key role in enabling our collaborators to develop this next-generation software, which will be vital for tomorrow’s exascale systems.”

The project’s Principal Investigator, Professor Dimitrios Nikolopoulos, from the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Software that exploits the capability of Exascale systems means that complex computing simulations which would take thousands of years on a desktop computer will be completed in a matter of minutes. This research has the potential to give us insights into how to combat some of the biggest issues facing humanity at the moment.”

The Scalable, Energy-Efficient, Resilient and Transparent Software Adaptation (SERT) project is funded by the EPSRC under the Software for the Future II programme.


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Queen's celebrates multi-million pound contribution to Northern Ireland economy

Queen’s will host a Northern Ireland celebratory event this evening (Thursday) to mark the 40th anniversary of the successful Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. The UK-wide initiative has contributed millions of pounds to the Northern Ireland economy over the years and has become one of the largest graduate recruitment programmes across the UK.

Since 1993 Queen’s University has collaborated on 350 successful KTPs, leading to careers for 400 KTP Associates and generating £350m in increased profits for the Northern Irish businesses involved. In the process, 700 jobs have been created, representing an investment in plant and machinery of £67m. 

Benefits to the University and its researchers from the long-term-collaboration with industry have included new opportunities to research and develop solutions to real-world problems, with associated spin-off benefits in the publication of hundreds of research papers and articles.

KTP at Queen’s has become the standard-bearer for the whole of the UK. Queen’s consistently tops the UK league table for both quantity and quality of University KTP projects, in spite of our comparatively small regional size and pool of businesses. There have been 13 national awards In Northern Ireland, for our partnerships, our academics and our KTP Associates.

In the 40th year of KTP, this special anniversary event will see the mobilisation of KTP Ambassadors from among our KTP Associate Alumni from across Northern Ireland and further afield.  Short presentations will be given to share what KTP has meant to graduates and business-people and the effect it has had on their company or subsequent career.

Among the distinguished guests will be Jeremy Fitch of Invest NI and Mike Biddle from Innovate UK – the main funders for the KTP initiative in Northern Ireland. 

Invest NI contributes £1.4m annually into KTP projects, delivered by Queen's University, Ulster University and the FE Colleges, which are typically co-funded equally by Innovate UK.

Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI's Executive Director of Business Solutions, said: “Over the 40 years, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have offered businesses access to highly innovative support which has helped these firms to become stronger and more competitive. Collaboration is a key part of the success of our knowledge base. The contribution KTPs are making to our future economic prosperity is clear. Invest NI will continue to encourage local companies to embrace innovation and take advantage of the benefits of KTP.”

Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University, is a longtime supporter of KTP.  He will be hosting the celebratory evening and, having participated in the KTP initiative, is well placed to share his insights into its successes over the years.  Professor Jones said: “Anyone involved in a KTP project in Northern Ireland, past or present, can be proud of its contribution.  Our small region is extremely successful in KTPS nationally, hosting about 7% all UK KTPs over the 40 years. And there is much more to come!’

For more information regarding KTPs at Queen’s University Belfast please contact KTP Manager Lorraine Marks or Tel 028 9097 3970

For more media information please contact Queen's University Communications Officer Una Bradley or Tel 028 90097 5384

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Queen’s researchers suggest almost half of children in care in NI have behavioural difficulties

According to a new report by researchers at Queen’s, and based on a sample of 233 Looked After Children and Young People (LACYP) in Northern Ireland, almost half of children in care in Northern Ireland have behavioural difficulties.

The report, carried out by researchers from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s, has been funded by the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.  The three-year study looked at the mental and physical health of LACYP in Northern Ireland and how the care system meets their needs.

Entitled ‘Mind your Health – the physical and mental health of looked after children and young people in Northern Ireland’, the report highlights the health challenges faced by these children and young people, how these are currently being addressed and what improvements might be made.

It is estimated that there are around 2,800 LACYP in Northern Ireland.

This is the first report of its kind to systematically assess the types of health problems that LACYP in Northern Ireland experience, and the range of initiatives being undertaken to improve health outcomes.

The research team reviewed policy and practice documents and also carried out interviews with health professionals, including senior social workers, as well as carers and young people themselves.

Key findings include:

  • 40 per cent of LACYP had been diagnosed with behavioural problems; 35 per cent with emotional problems and 21 per cent with depression or anxiety;
  • One third were suffering from a longstanding illness or disability;
  • Young people living in residential care had a much more negative health profile than those living in foster or kinship care;
  • Despite the levels of behavioural and emotional problems, most carers considered the children and young people to be ‘healthy’; indicating that notions of health tend to be physically orientated;
  • Some LACYP had difficulties in accessing the services they needed, due to a range of issues including long waiting lists; lack of availability in local areas; difficulties in accessing the appropriate service and a lack of available information;
  • Gaps in service provision were identified, with some having to do with lack of resources and capacity issues;
  • Some positive factors were identified as currently helping to meet the children’s health needs including: priority status for LACYP in their referral to particular services; professional co-operation; placement stability and well supported foster placements; and support services from statutory and voluntary organisations.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the development of bespoke statutory guidance for Northern Ireland. Similar guidance is currently available in England.  This would clarify the roles and responsibilities of Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts and voluntary organisations in relation to health promotion and assist a range of professionals involved to efficiently and effectively meet the health needs of this vulnerable group.

Other recommendations include:

  • Greater support for foster families to avoid breakdown in placements, especially when children have complex needs; and
  • Greater emphasis to be placed on prevention, targeting vulnerable parents on the edge of care, and early intervention, including early screening of children entering care to pick up emotional vulnerabilities, or providing support to carers during the teenage years when relationships begin to come under strain.

Lead researcher and psychologist, Dr Dominic McSherry, said: “This research is first and foremost about understanding the health needs of LACYP in Northern Ireland, and highlighting ways that these can be addressed to ensure their future health and wellbeing.

“These children and young people receive limited attention in health services research, even though their poor health potentially impacts on a whole range of outcomes, including educational and economic achievement, quality of life, and future parenting. Furthermore, health problems can place significant strain on placements and lead to placement breakdowns, which itself can be emotionally costly for the young people and the families involved.

“The research we carry out at Queen’s is not just academic – it’s for the benefit of the individual and the wider community. As a University we want to make sure that our findings are used in order to make a difference to the quality of life for Looked After Children and Young People in Northern Ireland by informing legislation, policy and practice. To their credit, the NI government and Health and Social Care Board have begun to invest significantly in prevention and early intervention programmes, and in the provision of therapeutic services for LACYP, but this commitment needs to be continued and built upon”.

Co-researcher and sociologist, Dr Montserrat Fargas Malet said: “Improving the health outcomes for this vulnerable group has the potential to considerably reduce social services and government expenditure, as children in care are 10 times more likely to be excluded from school; four times more likely to be unemployed; 50 times more likely to be sent to prison and 60 times more likely to become homeless.”

Professor Panos Vostanis, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Leicester, and who was a member of the study advisory group, said: “This excellent research is the most comprehensive piece of evidence to date on the links between policy, services and practice in meeting the complex needs of looked after children.  Taking into consideration the recommendations, this report will help improve the physical and mental health care of this vulnerable young population in the health and welfare system of many countries.”

The report, 'Mind your health – The Physical and Mental Health of Looked After ‘Children and Young People in Northern Ireland is available here:


For media inquiries please contact Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thu-Fri) at Queen's University Communications Office T: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 Email:

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Queen’s University Belfast in global top 200

Queen’s has moved up 75 places to number 200 in the world according to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16.

THE World University Rankings are arguably the world’s most prestigious and widely referenced university rankings. Queen’s performance is based on five criteria – teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “This is good news for Queen’s and for Northern Ireland and confirms our position in the top 1% of universities in the world. It complements the University’s recent impressive performance in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016, in which the University moved up to number 31 in the UK, and also the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), which placed Queen’s joint 8th in the UK for research intensity.

“These results are further recognition of our success in delivering globally recognised education and research, which makes a real and lasting impact on society.”

Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings, said: “The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, now in their 12th year, apply rigorous standards, using tough global benchmarks across all of a global research university’s key missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The results are trusted by students and their families, academics, university leaders and governments. For Queen’s University Belfast to make 200 in the world is an outstanding achievement to be celebrated.”

For more information visit


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 Email:

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Queen’s University hosts major, international dentistry conference

Dentists from around the world will gather at Queen’s this week for a landmark conference.

The combined annual meeting of the European College of Gerodontology, the Association of Consultants and Specialists in Restorative Dentistry, and the Specialist Registrars in Restorative Dentistry Group takes place on October 1-2 and marks the first time that any of these organisations have gathered in Ireland, north or south.

Experts from North and South America, Europe and Asia will discuss issues including the economic challenges of our ageing population and clinical topics including dental implants, periodontal disease and head and neck oncology. 

Speakers will include Professor Jimmy Steele who, along with his clinical and academic work, has held a number of external roles, including leading the ‘Review of NHS Dental Services in England’ for the Government in 2009, and subsequently working with the Department of Health to pilot and consider implementation of the recommendations.

Also addressing the conference will be Professor Finbarr Allen, recently appointed as the new Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry and Director of the National University Centre for Oral Health in Singapore.  

Queen’s Centre for Dentistry was ranked No 1 in the UK in the 2015 National Student Survey. This followed the Guardian League Tables’ ranking of Queen’s Dentistry as No 3 in the UK.

Dr Gerry McKenna of the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, and currently President of the European College of Gerodontology, said: “To bring this amount of world-level expertise and talent to Belfast is incredible. Queen’s is very proud to be hosting this event, which is of international significance. In many parts of the world we have an ageing population, with all sorts of knock-on issues for society, geriatric dentistry being one of them, so this conference could not be more timely.

“It also comes at a great time for Dentistry at Queen’s. After a £4million refurbishment, facilities at the School are now among the most modern in Europe. The new clinical techniques lab, in particular, provides an exceptional teaching environment for undergraduates where they can learn and develop their clinical skills under close supervision before embarking on treatment for their patients.”

For further information, please contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Una Bradley on Tel. 028 9097 5384, email (Mon-Thurs) or Tel. 028 9097 3087, email (Fri)

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Queen's spin-out secures €1.2M towards growing UK Manufacturing Base

Queen's University spin-out MOF Technologies today announced the receipt of €1.2M funding to expand their UK manufacturing base and scale up production of their clean technology-enabling nanomaterials – Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs).

This success builds on MOF Technologies’ recently announced collaborations with IBM and General Motors in the commercialisation of MOFs to transform a range of clean-tech applications. These include gas storage and filtration, heat transformation and the use of natural gas for vehicular transport.

The funding is part of a European Horizon 2020 project which includes partners such as Johnson Matthey and GDF Suez. The project itself, named ProDIA, received support totalling €7.6M and focuses on the production of nanoporous materials for a range of clean-technology applications, most notably in the fields of gas storage, air purification and heat pumps. MOF Technologies is the largest recipient of the funding within project ProDIA, and is one of only a handful of companies to receive such a significant level of support via the Horizon 2020 scheme.

Through this collaboration, MOF Technologies will scale up its proprietary manufacturing process to enable them to supply large scale industrial applications. Bucking the current trend of off-shoring, MOF Technologies will grow and further establish its manufacturing base in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with new facilities scheduled to open in Q1 2016.

Dr Paschal McCloskey, CEO of MOF Technologies, said “MOF Technologies view this success in securing funding from Horizon 2020 as verification of our plans to scale up our innovative production process. This ensures the ongoing growth of our company to deliver the full commercial potential of MOFs in the clean tech and other industry sectors.”.

Dr Pat McComiskey, Investment Manager at Queen's University's QUBIS Ltd, said “MOF Technologies are one of only three local companies who have secured this funding and it will enable the company to accelerate its growth plans”. 

Media enquiries to: Una Bradley, Queen's University Communications Office, or

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Queen’s leads the way in celebrating European Day of Languages

Queen’s University Belfast is leading the way in celebrating this year’s European Day of Languages (EDL), on 26 September, 2015.

With international students and staff at Queen’s representing more than 80 countries, the University will mark the broad range of languages spoken by people currently living in Europe, and the diverse cultures that accompany them.

Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT), based in Queen’s School of Education, is responsible for promoting and coordinating EDL across Northern Ireland.

Ian Collen, NICILT Co-Director, said: “We encourage everyone in the workplace and at all levels of education to get involved in celebrating the wealth of languages used across Northern Ireland.

“Whether you decide to speak another language for the day, teach a friend a few words in another language or listen to a radio station from another country, let us know about it and most of all, have fun.”

Events at Queen’s are taking place throughout the week leading up to European Day of Languages and will be kicking off with stilt walkers and street performers at the McClay Library on Thursday, 24 September from 12.00 noon until 3.00pm. The event aims to promote the many varied opportunities, available to all students and staff at Queen’s through the Language Centre, to improve their language skills in over 20 different languages and gain training in cultural awareness. 

Queen's University Belfast NICILT will be hosting a Sign Language Workshop giving visitors a taste of British and Irish sign languages on Saturday 26 September, from 10.30am until 11.30am in the Lanyon Building, Room G0/074. This event is open to the public and free to attend. To register for this event contact:

European Day of Languages is an opportunity to inspire and encourage people of all ages to get involved and excited about learning a new language and to reflect on the advantages of language competence and life-long language learning.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5292 email:

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£500,000 project at Queen’s to convert catering waste oils to fuels and chemicals

Researchers at Queen’s University have been awarded a grant to support a £500,000 project to convert waste fats and oils into biofuels, which could be used as replacements for petrol, diesel and aviation fuels.

The project, supported by the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE), which is hosted at Queen’s and funded through the Invest Northern Ireland Competence Centre programme, is a joint initiative with Queen’s spin-out company MOF Technologies, Belgian firm Oleon and Co. Antrim-based CaterWaste.

The current process to convert catering waste, namely fats and oils, into biofuels is lengthy and complex, involving multiple solvents and high temperature and pressures. But a new process, using catalysts provided by MOF Technologies via a new technique to avoid the use of solvents, can be used at low temperature and pressures. It is anticipated that the biofuels, as well as the value added chemicals created in this new process, could also be used in cosmetics, inks and building materials.

CASE Director, Sam McCloskey, said: “This project is one of more than a dozen funded by CASE, which is giving more than 30 local companies unique access to the world-class research expertise, skills and facilities at Queen’s, Ulster University and AFBI. These collaborations are crucial to the development of Northern Ireland’s sustainable energy sector, and are a fine example of how local SME’s can work alongside academia and multinational organisations to develop new technologies and processes for their business.”

Dr Paschal McCloskey, CEO of MOF Technologies, said: “By using our innovative manufacturing process we can manufacture next generation catalysts that are used to efficiently convert these waste materials into valuable fuel and chemical sources.

“This is another example of how through our novel production process MOF Technologies is contributing to the development of new environmentally friendly manufacturing technologies for the 21st century.”

This exciting project forms part of CASE’s £5 million budget from Invest Northern Ireland. The Centre is highlighting a range of projects within the sustainable energy sector on Wednesday 23 September as part of a ShowCASE event. Held at Queen’s University’s Riddel Hall, the event will also feature information on accessing up to £1.5 million for research and development collaborations within the sustainable energy sector.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email:

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Giant Meccano Bridge Secures World Record

Officials from Guinness World Records have confirmed that Queen’s Big Bridge Build – a bridge spanning almost 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon dock – is the world’s largest Meccano structure.

The Big Bridge Build, a year-long project, is the brainchild of the University’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering.  Academics and students created the bridge, with the help of local school children, as part of the university’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). 

Hundreds of people visited Belfast’s Clarendon Dock over the weekend to marvel at the stunning construction as they waited to hear the official announcement of the World Record bid. The project was made possible with the help of Spin Master Corp, the proud owner and producer of Meccano, as well as McLaughlin & Harvey and Aecom who gave valuable advice to the students as well as assisting with the construction and installation of the bridge across the Clarendon Dock.

The students celebrated their achievement by walking across the bridge for the first time, which was officially declared open by Meccano’s Meccanoid Robot, much to the delight of attending youngsters.

Speaking about the achievement Danny McPolin, Senior Structures Lecturer at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said: “This event has been a fantastic way to celebrate the student and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to show local children more about the exciting courses we offer here at the Queen’s University.

“With a growing skill shortage in Civil engineering, we hope that our work will encourage more children to consider the study of civil engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.”

Members of the public who attend the event had the opportunity to speak to students and academics, as well as the event sponsors, who were on hand to discuss the bridge build and civil engineering in general.  Youngsters were also able to create their own Meccano structures in a dedicated Gazebo sponsored by Smyths Toys Superstores. 

Ben Varadi, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Spin Master Corp., said: “We are truly in awe of this remarkable achievement.  Spin Master is incredibly proud that this timeless and iconic toy, invented over a 100 years ago, continues to inspire the world’s future architects and engineers.”

Paul McCormick, Managing Director, Highways & Bridges, EMEA & India at AECOM, commented: “We are proud to have been involved with the Big Bridge Build project and it’s wonderful to seeyoung people getting excited by the fantastic opportunities civil engineering can offer. We hope this event inspires more young people to take up STEM subjects at university level and pursue careers in engineering.”

John McCarey, Chief Engineer at Civil Engineering contractor McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd added: “It has been a pleasure to work with Queen’s to support these engineers of the future with this exciting project. We have been involved from the start of their world record attempt, providing them with a contractor’s insight and bringing our technical expertise to the very particular challenges of this brilliant third year design project. To gain the World Record is the Icing on the Cake!”

The Guinness World Record ‘Big Bridge Build’ in numbers!

Length of Bridge - 28.5 (96ft)

Longest Span of Bridge - 14m

Height of Bridge - 6m (26ft)

Weight - 600kg

Pieces of Meccano – 11,000

Nuts, bolts, washers – 60,000

Total length of Meccano pieces (laid end to end) – 3,835m

This is equivalent to the length of 341 Routemaster buses or the height of 10 Empire State Buildings!


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email:

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Queen’s University accelerates up Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016 rankings

Queen’s University has moved up seven places, to number 31 in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016, due out this weekend.

Competing with universities across the UK, Queen’s has also been placed 15th overall for Student Experience, 14th for Research and 28th for Graduate Employment.

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University said: “This is good news for both Queen’s and for Northern Ireland. A successful Queen’s University will mean a successful Northern Ireland. It is particularly satisfying that Queen’s is now ranked 15th in the UK for Student Experience.

“Our facilities, among the best on these islands, support a student experience second to none.  94% of our graduates are in employment or further study six months after graduation.”

Placed 14th overall in the UK for research, this latest guide complements the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), where Queen’s University was placed joint 8th in the UK for research intensity.

Queen’s returned over 95 per cent of academic staff, which was the fifth largest staff return in the REF 2014. The University also has 14 subject areas ranked within the UK’s top 20 and 76 per cent of its research classified in the top two categories of world leading and internationally excellent.

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016 is published over the course of three days, beginning with a free 56-page supplement this weekend in The Sunday Times (September 20). It provides the most comprehensive overview of higher education in Britain. A separate analysis of student satisfaction with the quality of the teaching at each institution is published for the first time this year. A fully searchable website with full university profiles and 66 subject tables will be published at on Sunday for members of The Times and The Sunday Times.


For more information, contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen’s University engineering students riveted by 100ft Meccano bridge

Engineering students from Queen’s University are hoping to set a new world record after building a 100ft footbridge in Belfast, made entirely from Meccano.

Designed and built by a group of third year Civil Engineering students and local school children, the temporary Meccano bridge, which will span more than 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon Dock, will be unveiled at a free public event on Saturday 19 September.

The ambitious year-long project was the brainchild of academics and students from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, as part of the University’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Around 11,000 pieces of Meccano were used to build the bridge, which weighs 600kg (around 1,300lbs).

Those involved are hoping that the bridge will be a record breaker. Representatives from Guinness World Records will be on site to confirm if the project to build a bridge entirely from Meccano has earned a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest ever Meccano construction.

The project has received funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, AECOM, Meccano and Queen’s Annual Fund with technical support and advice from civil engineering contractors, McLaughlin and Harvey.  Smyths Toys and Belfast Harbour will be supporting the event.

Members of the public are invited to the bridge opening, where they will get the chance to speak to students and academics about the project and ask questions about civil engineering at Queen’s.

Dr Danny McPolin from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, who led the project, said: “We see this event not only as an opportunity to celebrate the students’ and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to give local children an insight into the exciting courses on offer at Queen’s. We hope to welcome as many youngsters as possible on the day and cement their interest in studying Civil Engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.”

Professor Trevor Whittaker, Head of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said increasing the number of Civil Engineering graduates is key to securing a prosperous economic future for Northern Ireland.

He said: “STEM subjects open doors to some of the world’s most exciting careers, and our graduates leave Queen’s with skills that set them apart in a very competitive job market. Queen’s graduates are making a difference in industry and academia worldwide, and with the global construction market set to grow by 70 per cent by 2025, the our graduates will continue to make  a visible, lasting impact on the world.

“Queen’s offers an array of opportunities to enable students to develop key skills through industry placements and study abroad schemes. As the Big Bridge Build has shown, we work closely with industry to anticipate their needs and to ensure the relevancy of our courses to employers.”

Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This innovative project underlines the importance of creativity in design and the built environment. It also gives many young people the opportunity to sample a career in civil engineering.

“While underlining the importance of the creative industries, the Meccano bridge shows what can happen when we take new approaches and look for innovative solutions. While this initiative is as much about the journey as the destination, to end with a new world record would be a fantastic achievement. It would truly reflect the efforts of all those who have taken an unusual idea and turned into a creative reality.

“With this in mind, I wish everyone involved well as they bid for history.”

The project has also attracted the interest of some notable figures, including Dame Athene Donald, Lord Richard Rogers and Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud who have all sent messages of support.

The event will run from 12.00 noon to 3pm with the Guinness judgement expected at 12.30pm.  Food and refreshments will be available.

The Meccano bridge will be lit during the evenings of Friday September 18 and Saturday September 19, before being dismantled on Sunday, September 20.


Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office. Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri), Tel: 028 9097 5310/56320 Email:

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Transatlantic partnership to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer

A US-Ireland partnership involving researchers at Queen’s University has been awarded £2.9m to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer, which is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK.

The grant has been awarded under the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme. It will bring together world-leading experts in drug delivery and cancer research at Queen’s, Dublin City University and the University at Buffalo.

The five-year programme will focus on the development of ‘nanomedicine’ in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, for which current treatment options are limited. The transatlantic team aim to develop miniscule technology – so tiny that it is invisible to the naked eye – to deliver drugs directly to cancer sites and thereby improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

Almost 9,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK every year. It has the lowest five-year survival rate of any common cancer and one that has barely improved in 40 years.

In Northern Ireland, during 2009-2013 an average of 220 cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed each year. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed in 2004-2008 was 5%.  

Pancreatic cancer is often very advanced by the time it is diagnosed and only 3% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. More than 80% of people with the disease are diagnosed when it has already spread, so they are not eligible for surgery to remove the tumour – currently the only potential cure.

This partnership is a unique arrangement involving funding agencies in the USA, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland who combine resources to enable the best researchers from Ireland and the USA to work together on research to address critical issues and generate valuable discoveries that will impact on patient care. 

Queen’s University Professor Christopher Scott, Director of Research, Molecular Therapeutics Cluster in the School of Pharmacy, who is leading the project, said: “Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK. Many chemotherapies could be more effective, and induce fewer side effects, if they could access the tumour more easily; this is what we aim to examine in this project. By working in partnership with researchers in New York and Dublin it will allow us to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which can move our work out of the laboratory and towards clinical trials.

“This is another example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of the Public Health Agency’s HSC R&D Division, which is funding the Northern Ireland part of this project with support from the Medical Research Council, said: “We are delighted to be funding this project which will tackle an important area around drug delivery in pancreatic cancer which we know is a difficult disease to treat. We expect that the outcomes from this international research will lead to significant advances in the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer in the UK, Ireland and beyond.”


For further information please contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email

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Northern Ireland’s brightest sparks win a free education at Queen’s

Queen’s University has awarded a free university education to five of Northern Ireland’s brightest young minds, as part of a major scholarship scheme.

As a Queen’s Scholar, each of the students who are from Ballymena, Limavady, Maghera, Newtownards and Belfast, will have their annual tuition fees paid for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

The awards are worth almost £75K to the five winning students, who were selected from 139 students nominated by 78 schools and colleges.

This is the third year of the Queen’s Scholar’s scheme in which each school or college across Northern Ireland was asked to nominate pupils who could demonstrate exceptional achievements outside academic life, whether in sport, music and the arts, business and enterprise or through community work, with a particular focus on leadership, enterprise and social responsibility.

The top 50 applicants were invited to a selection day where they undertook a series of mini interviews and unseen presentations before the winners were selected.

This year’s Queen’s Scholars are:

  • Carrie Coulter (Ballymena), Ballymena Academy, Ballymena -  Medicine
  • Jordan Ferris (Limavady), Limavady Grammar School, Limavady - BSc Finance
  • Callum Mullan Young (Maghera), St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt - Chemical Engineering
  • Stephanie Hill (Newtownards), South Eastern Regional Campus, Bangor – History
  • Niamh Lundy (Belfast), St. Dominic’s Grammar School, Belfast - English

Anthony McGrath, Domestic Student Recruitment Manager at Queen’s, said: “The standard was exceptionally high this year and everyone who was nominated and progressed to our selection day can be very proud of their achievements. We are delighted with our five winners who will now become ambassadors for the University and I know they will represent us with pride.

“Each Scholar comes from a different background with differing outlooks on their future but they all know that Queen’s is the gateway to their long term success. We look forward to seeing their progression and know that their recent successes can be a springboard to their longer term goals”.

The Queen’s Scholars will meet University staff during the Undergraduate Open Days, which will see approximately 14-15,000 students from schools and colleges around Northern Ireland visit the campus.

The Open Days will be taking place on 10, 11 and 12 September, 2015 and will be an opportunity for prospective students to visit the campus with their friends and family to see for themselves what Queen’s can offer them.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 or email

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Queen’s University Belfast goes global as they get set to compete in the 2015 FEXCO Asian Games in Shanghai

Queen’s University Belfast is sending a delegation of staff and International students to compete at the 20th FEXCO Asian Games in Shanghai, China, on 23-25 October 2015.  The FEXCO Asian Games are the largest Gaelic Games tournament in the World outside of Ireland. University College Dublin participated successfully last year, and Queen’s will be the first Northern Ireland University to take part. The project is supported by Queen’s University Sport, the Queen’s Annual Fund, Motiv8, Queen’s International Office and Invest NI.

Impressively, the team of students are new to the game and have only been training since April 2015. All Ireland Winner and Queen’s GAA Development Officer, Aidan O’Rourke, is coaching the team along with current Armagh and Queen’s players, Fionnuala McKenna and Caroline O’Hanlon. Aidan commented on the team progress to date: “Working with the students has been a pleasure over the past few months. I’ve been involved in many teams over the years but I have to say these students have embraced the competitive and team ethos associated with the game more than most. Considering the language barriers and the fact they are new to the sport, their skill levels have dramatically improved as a result of their application and the strong bond they have built with each other."

The teams participating in the Games, from 23 clubs representing 13 countries across Asia, will battle it out at the Shanghai Community Sports Club.

The University’s team represents 7 different nationalities (China, Malaysia, Thailand, USA, Portugal, Iran, and Germany) and, in partnership with Queen’s International Recruitment, will act as ambassadors during a number of scheduled visits to schools and universities in Shanghai.

Prior to the tournament, the 9th Annual Asia-Pacific Irish Business Forum (APIBF) will be held on Friday, 23 October 2015,  in the Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental Hotel in Pudong, Shanghai, bringing together Irish business people in the Asia region and those with an interest in Irish business.

Director of Queen’s Marketing, Recruitment, Communications and Internationalisation, Isabel Jennings, remarked: “The visit is aligned with Queen’s ongoing commitment to internationalisation and the key aim of increasing student mobility. Events and initiatives such as the Asian Games provide opportunities for our students to unlock their full potential in a global context. It is our hope that the Queen’s team will have an exceptional experience whilst representing the University at the Games and we congratulate those students who have made the team, and wish them well for the event. ”

Invest NI will also be hosting a reception in Shanghai for Queen’s on Saturday, 24 October 2015, which provides an opportunity for Queen’s alumni and businesses with a connection to the University to come together in the region.

Michael Garvey, Director Asia-Pacific for Invest NI, commented: “It’s great to have Queen’s represented in the region and at the Games. We are delighted to partner with the University in Shanghai to help further our network and promote the exciting opportunities that exist for NI business."

Queen’s will officially launch the venture on Wednesday, 9 September 2015, at Queen’s Sport Upper Malone at 6.00pm before the team plays University College Dublin (UCD) in an exhibition match on the Queen’s Sport Arena at 7.00pm.

For further information please contact: Karl Oakes 07772432454

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Queen’s leads €50m programme to develop new antibiotic treatments for cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis

Researchers at Queen’s are leading a €50 million, Europe-wide, project to develop new drug treatments that could improve the lives of patients with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

The iABC (inhaled Antibiotics in Bronchiectasis and Cystic Fibrosis) consortium, which is made up of world-leading lung specialists from across Europe, will develop new ‘inhaled antibiotics’ to manage chronic lung infection, the main cause of disease and death in patients with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

The new antibiotics, which are to be trialed over a five year period and are being developed in response to an urgent need for new forms of inhaled antibiotics, are expected to improve patients’ quality of life by reducing lung infections and flare ups, improving lung function, and overcoming antibacterial resistance which frequently occurs in patients with these conditions.

The programme will also establish the first European patient register for bronchiectasis, providing a platform to improve the quality of care for patients across Europe, as well as making it easier to develop and trial new drugs.

The Consortium, which is led by researchers from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, and the School of Pharmacy, at Queen’s University, with EFPIA partners Novartis and Basilea, is funded by the European Commission through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and involves researchers from 20 organisations in eight countries across Europe. The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust will be a key partner in clinical trials of the new antibiotics.

Professor Stuart Elborn, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, and Lead Researcher on the project, said: “There are limited antibiotics available to treat lung infection in cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis, and the bacteria causing them are becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotics. To ensure the development of new drug types we are bringing together world leading researchers with proven expertise in antibiotic development, clinical trials, and high-quality research.

“This work has the potential to deliver inhaled antibiotics that will improve the quality of life and survival of cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis patients. It is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s University to advancing knowledge and changing lives by working with international experts.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Northern Ireland and Queen’s University are leading the way in developing new treatments for chronic lung diseases. The work of Professor Elborn and his colleagues is already making a huge different to thousands of people living with these conditions. Today’s funding announcement will ensure that this life-changing and life-saving research will continue.”

The development of the iABC-consortium has been supported by the Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) for Health, based in the Research and Enterprise Directorate at Queen’s and the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency.

The Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) network, established to provide support to EC funding applicants, is funded by Northern Ireland’s Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) and Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “I commend Queen’s on successfully securing €23.3 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This award will facilitate world leading collaborative research to develop new antibiotic treatment options for people with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

“I am pleased that the Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) for Health, funded through the DEL-DETI Higher Education EU Framework Support Programme, played a substantial role in securing this funding. The NICP network provides specialist advice and assistance to academics and businesses across areas of economic relevance to Northern Ireland and of priority to the European Commission.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, said: “I want to congratulate Queen’s University on this tremendous success in Horizon 2020 which will see over €23m come to Northern Ireland. Securing these major international research awards is an important part of the NI Executive’s Innovation Strategy to transform our economy into one that is knowledge based. The University’s success is not only testimony to the world class research capabilities we have in Northern Ireland but also to the support provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department for Employment and Learning  though the Horizon 2020 Northern Ireland Contact Point Network which played a key part in helping secure this research award‎."

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency said: "This significant award builds on a long track record of world-leading research led by Professor Elborn and his team in Northern Ireland, in collaboration with international partners in Europe and the United States. HSC R&D Division is proud to have supported this research group over the last 15 years, a period that has seen their work contribute to major improvements to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. I am delighted that our continued support and partnership with the team has helped them secure this award to carry out further research in this important area."

The iABC consortium involves researchers from the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) Queen’s University Communications Office +44(0)28 9097 5320 / 5310 email

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Queen’s University developing new drug against leading causes of death in the UK – sepsis and ARDS

Scientists at Queen’s are developing a potential revolutionary new treatment for Sepsis and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which are among the leading causes of death in hospitalised patients in the UK. 

Currently, there are no effective treatments available for these life threatening syndromes.

The novel anti-inflammatory drug, SAN101, is being developed by a team of scientists and clinicians at the School of Pharmacy and the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s, alongside colleagues at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). It is the result of an initial discovery made over 6 years ago at Queen’s.

Pre-clinical results are published today (Wednesday 2 September) in Science Translational Medicine – one of the world’s leading journals on experimental medicine. The research was funded by a major grant from the Medical Research Council awarded in 2012, following initial support from the Public Health Agency (PHA) HSC R&D Division.

Sepsis is one of the most frequent cause of death in hospitalised patients, with an estimated 19 million cases worldwide every year and around 8 million deaths. The condition claims 37,000 lives in the UK every year and costs the NHS around £2.5 billion annually. There may be up to 45,000 cases of ARDS each year in the UK and Ireland and up to 22,000 deaths.

The team at Queen’s have developed a nanoparticle that binds to immune cells in the body and inhibits the excessive cycle of inflammation which drives the development of sepsis and ARDS. This new approach has the potential to reduce the impact of sepsis and ARDS in acutely ill patients.

Professor Chris Scott from Queen’s School of Pharmacy said: “Through this research we are well on the road to developing a medical treatment for sepsis and ARDS.

“Sepsis arises when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, setting off a series of reactions including widespread inflammation. This inflammation can lead to a significant decrease in blood pressure, which inhibits blood supply to vital organs and can lead to multiple organ failure.

“A frequent complication of sepsis is ARDS – where the lungs can't provide enough oxygen for the rest of the body. Up to 25 per cent of patients with severe sepsis will develop ARDS and up to half of these patients will die.

“What we have developed is an anti-inflammatory nanoparticle – a microscopic particle that binds itself to cells called ‘macrophages’, which are often found at the site of an infection. We have found that this nanoparticle essentially blocks inflammation and interrupts the chain of reactions that lead to severe sepsis and ARDS.”

Dr Adrien Kissenpfennig from the Centre for infection and Immunity said “This is an exciting study demonstrating the effectiveness of a novel nanoparticle formulation in mouse pre-clinical models of sepsis and a new ex-vivo human lung model of ARDS. This necessary research represents an essential milestone in the development of SAN101, paving the way for continued development towards eventual evaluation in patients.”

Professor Danny McAuley from the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s is the lead clinician on the study. He said: “At present, there is no effective treatment for either sepsis or ARDS. There is a huge clinical need for a drug to fight the inflammation caused by sepsis and ARDS that causes so much damage to the body. Through this research, we are well on our way to developing that drug and, with the right funding and strategic partnerships, we could see it being trialled in patients in as little as two or three years. This is an exciting development and an excellent example of the potentially life-changing and life-saving impact of Queen’s research.”

Professor Scott will be presenting the development of SAN101 at the Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences of Great Britain Conference in Nottingham on the 9th September 2015.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency said: “This exciting development in critical care research clearly demonstrates the value of investment in early stage translational research projects - such as those supported through the HSC R&D Division Translational Research Groups.  I am delighted that the funding provided by HSC R&D Division has helped the team to achieve these promising results which have the potential to significantly improve the outcomes for patients with sepsis and ARDS.”

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thu-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 / 5310 email

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What really happened in 1916? Queen’s hosts open courses on centenaries

In this season of centenaries, Queen’s University’s Open Learning Programme is making a major contribution through a series of courses focusing on the momentous events of 1916.

The courses, which are open to the public, examine the period from many perspectives.

Cathal McManus, co-director of the Open Learning programme at Queen’s, will offer a number of  courses looking at 1916 through key figures like Pearse and De Valera, while he sets Irish events into the wider context of Europe at war in ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’.

Ronnie Hanna will lead a course on the Empire at War and another course spanning both world wars. Stephen Heron links past and present in his course on Commemorations, Parades and Symbolism in Northern Ireland.

Particular theatres of war are the focus in other courses; Tom Thorpe explores the historical debates around military operations on the Western Front, while Steve Flanders tackles the Middle East.

And an often neglected topic, the experience of war for British and Irish women, will be examined by Robert Whan.  There is even a course on war-time crafts run by Pamela Emerson.

While the Open Learning programme often  runs a special series on a topic of contemporary interest, there is a huge variety of courses in the programme; subjects range from First Aid to World Literature, from the fascinating history of Japanese tattooing to Arabic and Chinese language and culture.

Anybody can come along to the programme.  No prior qualifications are needed and the classes are informal and accessible. 

Dr Tess Maginess, co-director of the programme, said: “The wide range of courses reflects just about every interest.  If you want to learn the hidden history of the Irish and Scottish in colonial Barbados, you can enrol for ‘Redlegs and Redshanks’. And if you just need a bit of TLC, you can come along to one of the many complementary therapy courses.”

Dr Cathal McManus added: “We are also introducing a set of continuing and professional development courses in the field of education, for example the Registered Behaviour Technician course and courses for primary and secondary school teachers on how to implement inclusion and diversity with incomer pupils.”

The full brochure can be accessed online at or it can be sent by post. Enrolment is easy and people can sign up online, by telephone or by post. The Open Learning team are based at 20 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN, tel. (028) 9097 3323/3539.

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on or 028 9097 3091

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Leading Queen’s cancer specialist lands top role

A leading cancer expert from Queen’s University who is pioneering improved approaches for treating cancer with radiotherapy is set to become the next Vice-President of an international research society.

Professor Kevin Prise, Deputy Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, has been chosen as Vice-President-Elect of the US Radiation Research Society. He was elected via a ballot of all Society Members.

Professor of Radiation Biology, Kevin leads the Radiation Biology Group at CCRCB which is working on improved approaches for treating cancer with radiotherapy.  Professor Prise, in collaboration with Professor Joe O’Sullivan, Clinical Director, and Professor Alan Hounsell, Clinical Physics Research Lead, plays a major role in the Prostate-Cancer UK Movember Centre of Excellence at CCRCB which is researching new approaches for treating men who are likely to fail current treatments for prostate cancer.

Speaking about his appointment, Professor Prise said: “This is a rare privilege and exciting challenge, especially for a non-US member of the Society.

“This role is a great opportunity to profile internationally the work we are doing at Queen’s and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”

Professor Prise, living in Lisburn but originally from Aberdeen, will take up the position of Vice-President in September 2016 and will serve as President from September 2017.

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on or 02890973087

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Sitting is as bad for health as smoking, claim Queen’s University researchers

Prolonged sitting is just as dangerous to your health as smoking, according to researchers at Queen’s.

It is now believed that sitting for long periods of time is linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even early death, and could be just as big a threat to public health, if not more so, than smoking.

The Queen’s researchers are part of a European consortium which has received a €4.5 million European Commission grant to help develop innovative ways to tackle sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in older people.

Working with researchers in Spain, Denmark, Germany, France and Scotland, the four-year study will see the Queen’s team develop new ways of helping adults over 65 years of age to sit less and become more active, before testing them on 1,300 people in four European countries.

Dr Mark Tully, from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s University, is leading the project in Northern Ireland.

“Levels of sedentary behaviour increase as we age, which poses a significant threat to the health of our population, especially as Northern Ireland is set to face the largest increase in the number of older adults, than other UK countries.

“One of the biggest threats to health is the amount of time spent sitting. On average people spend over nine hours, or up to 80 per cent of their waking day, sitting down.

“Public health scientists have recognised the need to develop effective interventions to address the high levels of inactivity across ages, with sitting regarded as ‘the new smoking’,” he said.

One Canadian study has revealed that adults who spent most of their time sitting were 50 per cent more likely to die during the follow-up than those that sit the least.

And Queen’s researchers have already shown that mothers who sit more during pregnancy are likely to have heavier babies, while men who spend more time sitting at work have poorer kidney function.

Dr Tully continued: “During this study we hope to be able to identify effective methods to help our ageing society make positive lifestyle changes in order to improve their health and wellbeing. This programme will then be available for delivery through the health system in each of the member countries,” he added.

Some suggestions that could be used to help people be more active at work are treadmill and height adjustable desks, which allow users to alternate between standing and sitting. Indeed, Dr Mark Tully himself regularly uses his treadmill desk during his working day.

For further information please contact Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University Belfast on or 028 9097 5391. 

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Badger persecution does not reduce bovine TB risk in cattle

Illegal persecution of badgers does not reduce infection risk of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and may play a role in maintaining epidemic hotspots according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

The Institute for Global Food Security collaborating with the University of Glasgow and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, found that illegal disturbance of badger social groups contributed significantly to new bovine TB breakdowns in nearby cattle herds.

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, and published in Natural Scientific Reports, found that about 5% of badger setts in Northern Ireland had recent signs of illegal interference or persecution. For example, recent digging indicative of badger baiting, sett entrances being blocked with soil, boulders and branches or being pumped full of slurry, setts being ploughed over or having farm debris dumped on top, damaged by livestock trampling, and development such as the construction of roads or newly built houses.

Dr David Wright, who led the study said “Whilst interference with badger setts was relatively rare it was clustered in known bovine TB hotspots in cattle and we hypothesised that those taking action against badgers may actually contribute to maintaining the disease. So we were interested in investigating the interaction of cattle and badgers in disturbed and undisturbed populations.”

Bovine TB has proven difficult to control and eradicate in cattle costing the UK Government more than £100M in annual testing, slaughter and compensation. The badger has been identified as a major factor contributing towards the difficulty of eradicating the disease as it is a wildlife reservoir of infection. However, the relative importance of badgers in maintaining the cattle epidemic is extremely controversial.

Both the British and Irish Governments have invested in large-scale regional badger culling programmes in an attempt to control the disease. In Britain, badger culling has been associated with a decreased prevalence of TB in cattle inside cull areas, but an increase in neighbouring herds such that the total impact has been judged negligible. Moreover, culling operations are expensive, have animal welfare implications, and are difficult to implement. The proposed reason for the limited effect is due to so called ‘perturbation’ as culls are never 100 per cent effective with surviving badgers migrating due to social group disruption spreading the disease as they go. Nevertheless, in the Republic of Ireland where badgers have been removed over larger, more isolated regions, it has been claimed that badger culling is effective in controlling the disease in cattle.

The new study found that farm-level risk factors, including the number of cattle movements, frequency of international cattle imports, previous bovine TB history and the proximity of neighbouring farms with a bovine TB history were far more strongly associated with new cattle herd breakdowns than measures of the badger population or badger persecution. This suggests that disease control could be improved further by increased frequency and accuracy of cattle testing, development of more sensitive tests and improved farm biosecurity.

Nevertheless, the risk of bovine TB breakdowns in cattle was significantly elevated in areas of high badger social group density and high rates of persecution through sett interference.

Dr Neil Reid, Lecturer in Conservation Biology at Queen's University, explained “The relationship between badger persecution and bovine TB in cattle could either be because persecuting badgers perturbs the population stimulating spread of the disease or farmers are more likely to persecute badgers if their livestock have previously had a TB breakdown. We can’t say which way round the relationship is but we can say that persecuting badgers certainly does not lower TB risk in cattle, it is illegal and may make the situation worse. Farmers should be aware of the risks incurred by disturbing badger setts.”

This is the first study to highlight the potential importance of badger population disturbance, rather than officially sanctioned Government culling, in sustaining the bovine TB epidemic in cattle.

For the full paper click here.

Media inquries to Queen's Communications Office on or 02890973091

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Queen’s University offers advice for A-level results students

Queen’s University has issued advice to students who will receive their A-level results today (Thursday 13 August 2015).

Jennifer Dwyer, Head of Queen’s Admissions and Access Service, said: “This can be an anxious time of year for students and we understand how important the decision to choose a university and the right course is, that is why it is essential that students and their families have as much information as possible at this time so they can make the right decisions for them.

"The University receives A-level and AS-level results directly from UCAS and candidates do not need to communicate their results to the University. Students will be contacted if any results appear to be missing. Those who did not take an examination listed on their application should let the University know without delay.”

Decisions made by Queen's, the University of Ulster, and Stranmillis University College are posted on a website hosted by Queen's and are updated twice each day.

The address is This also carries the most comprehensive details and is the simplest way to find out about the status of an application and Clearing vacancies. Details are also published on the UCAS website at

Applicants who achieve the exact grades or points specified in their conditional offer should have their place confirmed through UCAS following the publication of results. These applicants do not need to telephone the university or college. The only official notification is through UCAS which will advise applicants by email that there has been an update on Track. Successful applicants must log into Track to read their AS12 letter to find out what action they need to take. This varies depending on the preferences of individual universities.

Students who do better than expected can, through the Adjustment process, hold their offer while they look for an alternative course. It may be difficult, however, to find a vacancy on a high demand course. Full details are available on the UCAS website

Students who average out or narrowly miss the grades required may still be accepted for their original choice but, at Queen’s, the capacity of the University to do this has been restricted by decisions of the NI Executive to impose significant funding cuts on higher education budgets.

Please be assured that the priority of universities is to communicate decisions as quickly as possible and that every effort is made to accommodate as many applicants as possible on the course of their choice or a suitable alternative. Queen’s has provided all students holding offers with an Enquiry Form. This should be returned to the University as soon as possible if they want to be considered for an alternative course, in the event that they are unsuccessful for their original choice. Assuming Queen’s can help, a changed course offer would be made. This is simpler than going through Clearing.

Any student unable to gain admission to either their firm or insurance choice, and who is not offered an acceptable alternative course, will be eligible to participate in the Clearing process. Details of Clearing vacancies appear in the national press, on and on university websites. Students must be pro-active, as Clearing vacancies usually disappear quickly.

Alternatively, some students may decide to repeat one or more subjects and reapply for 2016 entry. Any student considering this option should check with the institution concerned about receiving an offer as a repeat candidate, and remember the entry requirements may be different.

Jennifer Dwyer added: “It is crucial to make decisions sensibly at this time of year and not to accept alternative courses, or Adjustment or Clearing places without careful consideration. There are many people who can help. Students unsure about which option to pursue should discuss their situation carefully with their parents, their school or college or the Careers Service of the Department for Employment and Learning.”

Telephone Support Lines

Queen’s operates these lines to ensure that students receive the guidance they need.

The telephone number to use is 028 9097 3838 (multiple lines) andlines will open from 9.30am to 6.00pm on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 August. Further information (including weekend opening times) can be found online at

On Monday 17 August, a personal advice session will be held in the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University between 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm.

Full details and FAQs are available at


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091 or email

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National award for Queen’s cancer researchers

Cancer experts from Queen’s University Belfast have received a major award exceeding £3.6M from Cancer Research UK aimed at developing a national digital pathology programme to assist and accelerate the delivery of Precision Medicine in the UK.

The CRUK Accelerator Award brings together a consortium of cancer pathologists, biologists and immunologists from the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre, who will work in partnership with researchers from the Universities of Southampton, Manchester and Newcastle, University College London and the Institute of Cancer Research.

Already recognised as experts in identifying faulty genes and molecules in tumours, the Belfast team will now lead this nationwide research programme dedicated to expanding the application and use of digital pathology to quantify specific tumour markers. The programme will be supported using software from PathXL, a Queen’s University spin-out company which specialises in high resolution imaging of tumours and cloud-based digital pathology.

Queen’s Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Centre and Cell Biology, said:  “The selection of this research programme submitted by the Belfast CRUK Centre is further proof that Queen’s cancer researchers are at the cutting edge of the latest innovations to improve outcomes for cancer patients across the world. Through this new research programme we will develop knowledge that can inform the targeted use of immunotherapeutic agents in cancer patients.”

“We are thrilled to receive this award and I congratulate my colleagues Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez and Professor Peter Hamilton, in leading this successful bid. It is further recognition of the powerful alliance that our Centre is forging with local and international industry to deliver new advances in cancer care”.

Queen’s University Belfast will also lead the education and training programme in pathology that underpins the national network.

Professors Salto-Tellez and Peter Hamilton, Professors of Molecular and Digital Pathology respectively at Queen’s University, added: “Traditionally, researchers have used standard slides to examine tissue cells under the microscope. However, in recent years our research at Queen’s has pioneered the way to exploit digital technology to revolutionize the way we look at tumours, enabling us to obtain a deeper understanding of the cancer and provide a more detailed diagnosis to clinicians, as well as better tools for our scientists”. 

Professor Hamilton said: “This award demonstrates how Belfast has been leading in digital biotechnology for cancer research and diagnostics.  This CRUK funding will allow Belfast and the wider UK team to accelerate cancer discovery using these novel technologies, promote their application in clinical practice and maintain Belfast CRUK Centre’s reputation as a world leader in digital molecular pathology”.

Des Speed, CEO of PathXL, said: “We are delighted that this innovative research project is progressing to implementation, and are looking forward to working with all centres in the consortium.

“It is very exciting to be at the forefront of this UK-wide strategy for digital and molecular pathology in cancer, which has the potential to drive dramatic change. This award is further recognition that Northern Ireland is leading the way in developing digital pathology, and of the strength of the PathXL software platform.”

Researchers from each of the collaborating UK academic institutes will meet at Queen’s University on 19 and 20 August to launch this new initiative.


For further information please contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email

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Queen’s University research to help improve ex-military personnel’s transition to civilian life

Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded more than £96,000 to explore the experiences of military personnel involved in counter-insurgency operations and ultimately aid their transition back to civilian life.

The two-year study, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), will be led by Queen’s University’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, which aims to support the pursuit of peace and social justice through world-class research.

While previous research has investigated the experiences of armed forces who have taken part in ‘conventional’ forms of armed conflict, this will be amongst the first to focus solely on those involved in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. It is intended that the research findings will be used to help influence policy makers and service deliverers in their work with the re-integration of the ex-Service community back into civilian life.

Lead researcher Professor John Brewer, who is Professor of Post-Conflict Studies at the Institute, said: “Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations are different from conventional warfare between nation states because they involve trying to deal with internal, civilian insurgency while also trying to militarily defeat several disconnected armed groups rather than formal armies.  On the completion of COIN operations there is rarely a national narrative of celebration and honour, so ex-COIN personnel return to civilian life without the public fanfare that accompanies the ending of conventional warfare.  As such, their experiences are distinctly different to those involved in more conventional wars, which can affect their re-integration when they eventually leave the armed services and seek to settle back in to civilian life.

“We are familiar with COIN operations in Northern Ireland, but counter-insurgency operations are widely associated with wars of independence, with decolonisation, and contemporary operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are very different cases and the research will explore the experiences of COIN personnel in three cases over time: Britain’s wars of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s, the UDR in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, and Afghan veterans today. COIN personnel involved in these conflicts will be interviewed by Queen’s researchers.

“COIN operations have become increasingly familiar in modern warfare. As such, there is an urgent need to understand the experiences of COIN personnel so as to inform the development of policies and support structures post-service. The research will help us in trying to make a difference to the lives of armed force personnel and their families when coping with a return to civilian life.”

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) was established to help ex-Service men and women make a successful transition back to civilian life. This latest project was prompted by a call within FiMT’s Transition Mapping Study published in 2013 for further ‘results-focused research’ to address the experiences of those who have been involved in COIN operations.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust said: “The UK’s armed forces have considerable experience of both counter insurgency and major combat operations.  This project for the first time will allow us to understand how the very different characteristics of the two types of operations, affect people’s ability to transition successfully into civilian life.  I’m certain the findings will provide clear insights for both policy makers and service deliverers.”

For more information on Queen’s University’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice visit


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

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Queen’s University researchers play ‘tag’ with cheetahs

A team of international researchers, including Dr Michael Scantlebury, from the School of Biological Sciences, Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, have conducted research revealing techniques used by predators and prey – with some surprising results.

The study, published this month in the journal eLife examines what determines the outcomes of predator-prey interactions in wild animals and how both predators and prey can best increase their chances of success.

The study was a joint collaboration with zoologist Professor Rory Wilson and sports science expert Dr Iwan Griffiths from Swansea University, and South African researchers Dr Johnny Wilson and Dr Gus Mills, looking first at how mass should affect an animal’s speed and cornering ability.  

Although it is recognised that larger animals tend to be able to run faster, the study highlighted how larger animals actually have to exert greater forces to turn but have relatively less capacity to provide the necessary force for this than smaller animals.

To see how this theory played out in the wild, Dr Scantlebury, Dr Wilson and Dr Mills equipped nature’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, with accelerometers to look at how they dealt with variously sized prey.

The tagged cheetahs chased everything from small hares to large wildebeest and ostrich and, true to predictions, were found to turn more often and more sharply when pursuing smaller prey.

Dr Scantlebury said: “This truly shows how both predators and prey are involved in an evolutionary arms race important for each of their own survival - to catch dinner or avoid being eaten”

“Predator chases are governed by fundamental principles, which include not being able to turn abruptly if you are travelling fast, or indeed if you are large.”

Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office, on or 028 9097 3091.

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