News

Queen’s University announces novel drug delivery system with potential to reduce rates of HIV

Description: Queen’s, along with their collaborators, PATH, ViiV Healthcare, the Population Council and LTS Lohmann Therapie-Systeme AG will combine their complementary expertise to develop a novel microarray patch for HIV PrEP in preparation for future clinical trials.  HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. The new collaboration led by international non-profit PATH was recently awarded a three-year, $9.4 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. USAID is a key implementing agency of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and is responsible for over half of all PEPFAR programs with activities focused in 35 priority countries and regions, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.  The collaborators will work with women and healthcare workers in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda to design a microarray patch product that meets their needs. Microarray patches are a discreet, easy-to-use technology that contains tiny projections that painlessly penetrate the top layer of skin to deliver a drug.  The novel high-dose patches to be developed here have been pioneered at Queen’s. The projections themselves contain large amounts of HIV medications in the form of microscopic solid particles. When the projections dissolve in skin, the tiny particles release the medication over weeks and months. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 1.8 million people became infected with HIV in 2016, with the majority of infections occurring in young women in sub-Saharan Africa. Consistent use of daily oral HIV PrEP can help reduce the risk of infection, but compliance can be challenging. A discreet delivery mechanism that enables self-administration of a long-acting PrEP—with the potential to protect users for weeks or months at a time—could increase consistent usage for at-risk women and others. Professor Ryan Donnelly, from the School of Pharmacy, who is leading the project for Queen’s, welcomed this major opportunity: “This exciting project is very much in line with the research ethos of the University, which is centred on Global Challenges. HIV remains a global health emergency. "By developing a risk-free delivery system that could help prevent HIV transmission, our partnership stands to change the lives of people across the world, especially those in the world’s poorest countries." The patch is should be ready for clinical trials by the end of this advanced 3-year pre-clinical programme.

Queen’s part of £54 million funding initiative to transform health through data science

Description: Each site has world-class expertise and a track record in using health data to derive new knowledge, scientific discovery and insight. Queen’s University Belfast will work with Swansea University (led by Professor Ronan Lyons) as one of these substantive sites, using its expertise in data science to drive advances in precision medicine and public health in close partnership with NHS bodies and the public, in order to translate research findings into benefits for patients and populations. Professor Mark Lawler, Queen's University's Lead on the Programme said, “I am delighted that we have been chosen as a substantive site for this exciting new initiative. This research will be a game-changer in driving new knowledge to combat common diseases including cancer, asthma and eye disorders and will allows us to use Big Data to save people’s lives.” From April this year, the six sites will work collaboratively as foundation partners in Health Data Research UK to make significant improvements in people’s health by harnessing data science at scale across the UK.  Each site’s research organisations will receive long-term funding awards and will become part of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK.  This initial funding has been awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts. Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, commented: “I am delighted to make today’s announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population.  The six HDR UK sites, comprising 21 universities and research institutes, have tremendous individual strengths and will form a solid foundation for our long-term ambition.  By working together and with NHS and industry partners to the highest ethical standards, our vision is to harness data science on a national scale. This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma.  I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit.” Professor James McElnay, Acting-Vice-Chancellor and President, Queen’s University Belfast said, “This is a tremendous achievement for our researchers here at Queen’s. It is a recognition of the leadership that we have shown in the area of Big Data and Health Science and represents a superb opportunity to employ these skills to enhance human health." Professor Chris Elliott, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Queen’s commented, “I am delighted that we have achieved this prestigious award, it aligns perfectly with the One Health Strategy of our Faculty and highlights our ability to lead and deliver high quality research with patient impact.” Health Data Research UK is committed to the highest ethical standards and will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity. It will work at scale and forge national and international partnerships to deliver: New scientific discovery A vibrant training environment for the next generation of data scientists A trustworthy UK-wide research and innovation ecosystem for health data research. Commenting on the success, Professor Ian Young Head of the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland) said. “I am delighted that Queen's University Belfast came through this rigorous competitive selection process and will help lead a transformative data science initiative across the UK. Northern Ireland has key skills in this area and translating outputs from this programme will have key benefits for patients and society in Northern Ireland.”  The successful Health Data Research UK sites are: Cambridge – Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute, University of Cambridge London – UCL, Imperial College London, King's College London, Queen Mary University of London, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Midlands – University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick Oxford – University of Oxford Scotland – University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde Wales/Northern Ireland – Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast  

`Oumuamua had a violent past and has been tumbling around for billions of years – Queen’s University

Description: The first ever interstellar visitor to our solar system has had a violent past which is causing it to tumble around chaotically, a Queen’s University Belfast scientist has discovered. `Oumuamua flew through our solar system in October and was originally thought to be a comet, then it was later revealed as a cucumber-shaped asteroid. Since October, Dr Wes Fraser, alongside Dr Pedro Lacerda, Dr Michele Bannister, and Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, all from Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Mathematics and Physics, have been analysing the brightness measurements of the object. They have been working with an international team, including Dr Petr Pravec from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Dr Colin Snodgrass from The Open University and Igor Smolic ́from the University of Belgrade. Straight away, they discovered that ‘Oumuamua wasn’t spinning periodically like most of the small asteroids and bodies that we see in our solar system. Instead, it is tumbling, or spinning chaotically, and could have been for many billions of years. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for this, it is thought that `Oumuamua impacted with another asteroid before it was fiercely thrown out of its system and into interstellar space. Dr Fraser explains: “Our modelling of this body suggests the tumbling will last for many billions of years to hundreds of billions of years before internal stresses cause it to rotate normally again.  “While we don’t know the cause of the tumbling, we predict that it was most likely sent tumbling by an impact with another planetesimal in its system, before it was ejected into interstellar space.” Until now, scientists had been puzzled that `Oumuamua’s colour varied between measurements. However, Dr Fraser’s research has now revealed that its surface is spotty and that when the long face of the cucumber-shaped object was facing telescopes on Earth it was largely red but the rest of the body was neutral coloured, like dirty snow. Dr Fraser explains: “Most of the surface reflects neutrally but one of its long faces has a large red region. This argues for broad compositional variations, which is unusual for such a small body.” The research findings, which have been published in Nature Astronomy, have helped to build a more accurate profile of `Oumuamua. “We now know that beyond its unusual elongated shape, this space cucumber had origins around another star, has had a violent past, and tumbles chaotically because of it. Our results are really helping to paint a more complete picture of this strange interstellar interloper. It is quite unusual compared to most asteroids and comets we see in our own solar system,” comments Dr Fraser. Since `Oumuamua was spotted in October, a team of researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have been analysing the object in detail. This is the third paper to be published by their team, which includes PhD students Meabh Hyland and Thomas Seccull. Dr Wes Fraser, Dr Michele Bannister, Dr Pedro Lacerda and Professor Alan Fitzsimmons have been supported by funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council for their research.

Three Queen’s University Belfast students to compete in the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Description: Three talented Queen’s University Belfast students have been selected to represent Northern Ireland in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which are being held on the Gold Coast of Australia in April. Health, Physical Activity and Sport student Emma Mitchell, from Banbridge, will compete in Athletics – 5,000m & 10,000m; Finance student Curtis Coulter, from Bangor, will compete in Swimming; and Economics student James Edgar, from Lisburn, will take part in the Triathlon. All three athletes have been supported by Queen’s Sport during their studies. Third year Emma and fourth year Curtis have been supported by the University’s Elite Athlete Programme, and first year James by the Sports Bursary programme. The scholarships and bursaries offered by Queen’s Sport are designed to give support to students who compete at the highest level in sport so that they can achieve both their academic and sporting goals.  14 Elite Athlete Scholarships are available annually for Queen’s University students, in addition to over 120 Academy Scholarships and Bursaries. Queen’s Sports Development Manager, Karl Oakes highlights the importance of universities in the performance pathway of an athlete: “Queen’s Sport have played a significant role in the development of some of our finest local sporting talent and are proud to be supporting Curtis, Emma and James through our existing performance sport programmes which offer a holistic student-athlete support package covering mental, emotional and athletic development. “We understand there are many challenges facing our local high performing student athletes especially regarding expert coaching, funding and academic flexibility. We will continue to work in partnership to create a world class sporting and academic environment for all our students to become the best versions of themselves and wish Team NI every success at the Games.” Speaking about the support received from Queen’s Sport Elite Athlete Programme, Emma Mitchell said: “Queen's Sport and the University have been a fantastic support towards my sporting career. The benefits offered through the Elite Athlete Programme have opened a lot of doors for me, not only sporting but also academically. “The use of Queen's Sporting facilities, in particular the PEC is great - with this unlimited access my coach is able to plan and schedule my gym training accordingly. The financial support has allowed me to travel and compete throughout the UK and Europe, which has enabled me to produce performances and target times, as well as gain valuable racing experience throughout Europe. The support from Queen's Sport played a vital role in securing my place on Team Ireland for the World University Games in Taipei, where I had two top 10 finishes in the 5000m and 10,000m.”  After graduating all three athletes hope to continue to compete in their chosen sport and will follow a career in their studies when their sporting careers end.

Queen's University Scientists Invite City to Unite for World Cancer Day

Description: Queen's University Belfast scientists are backing Cancer Research UK’s awareness campaign for World Cancer Day and urging everyone to join them. Marked on February 4, World Cancer Day is designed to raise awareness of cancer and to promote its prevention, detection and treatment. Dr Matt Humphries said, “Every hour someone in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with cancer so by wearing a Cancer Research UK Unity Band, people can show solidarity to those affected by the disease”. “As a cancer scientist, I know first-hand the impact the disease has on individuals and families.  That’s why I’m inviting everyone to be part of a movement that can help make a real difference to so many people’s lives.” Together they are working on a ground breaking project to develop new ways of analysing tumours that could help doctors identify the best treatments for patients. Dr Humphries continues, “Our area of research is known as digital molecular pathology. Queen’s University have developed a computer program* which allows us to examine tissue from tumours very quickly and at a very high level of detail”. “Using this programme we can gather huge amounts of data about lots of different cancer types. Our hope is that we can identify patterns in this data that could help identify groups of patients who might benefit from new treatment strategies.” Doctors Humphries and Craig are working on research funded by Cancer Research UK Centres Network Accelerator Award, led by Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez and Dr Jacqueline James at the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Lab at Queen’s University. The charity awarded £3.9 million to the university in 2015, to develop new pathology and image analysis techniques for solid tumours.  Dr Humphries explained, “This task would be impractical for a single pathologist, if not impossible, as manually reviewing slides of tumour samples is a very slow process. “For example, before the introduction of this programme, I was able to thoroughly analyse around 500 to 1,000 samples over a 12 month period. “Since coming to Northern Ireland six months ago to work on this project, I have been able to review thousands of samples using this new computer software. One avenue of research the scientists are currently exploring is to study how the immune system interacts with bowel cancer. They are using one of the largest collections of patient samples assembled, which will include samples from patients across the UK. “We are looking at the response of the patients’ immune cells to treatment and cancer. Our ultimate goal will be to accurately categorise patients into appropriate treatment groups, according to the nature of their tumour. We hope that this could lead to better treatment strategies, tailored to patients, that could ultimately improve survival,” adds Dr Craig. This programme of research will be carried out in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Biobank, a joint project between Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. One in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime and although survival has doubled since the early 1970s, Cancer Research UK needs everyone to act right now to help this progress continue. Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland said: "Belfast is recognised worldwide for ground-breaking cancer research and last year around £3 million on our life-saving work in Belfast. “Banding together on World Cancer Day is a unique way for people in Northern Ireland to unite with the rest of the UK, and the world. It’s a chance to show that, together, we are a powerful force against cancer.”

Intense laser experiments provide first evidence that light can stop electrons

Description: It is well known that when shining light on a object, some of the light is reflected and some is transmitted. However, Dr Gianluca Sarri from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University was part of an expert team that found that if the object is moving extremely fast, and if the light is incredibly intense, strange things can happen. Electrons, for example, can be shaken so violently that they actually slow down because of the energy they radiate. Physicists call this process ‘radiation reaction’.  This radiation reaction is thought to occur around objects such as black holes and quasars (supermassive black holes surrounded by a disc of gas). Being able to measure radiation reaction in the lab will therefore provide insights into processes that occur in some of the most extreme environments in the universe. Radiation reaction is also interesting to physicists studying effects beyond ‘classical’ physics, as the equations (known as Maxwell’s equations) that traditionally define how light behaves can fall short in these extreme environments. Now, the team of researchers, which included Queen’s University and was led by Imperial College London, have directly observed radiation reaction in the lab for the first time. Their results are published today (Wednesday 7 February)  in the journal Physical Review X. Successful collisions They were able to observe this radiation reaction by colliding a laser beam one quadrillion (a billion million) times brighter than light at the surface of the Sun with a high-energy beam of electrons. The experiment, which required extreme precision and exquisite timing, was achieved using the Gemini laser at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Central Laser Facility in the UK. Photons of light that reflect from an object moving close to the speed of light have their energy increased. In the extreme conditions of this experiment, this shifts the reflected light from the visible part of the spectrum all the way up to high energy gamma rays. This effect let the researchers know when they had successfully collided the beams. Dr Sarri commented: “The results are exciting as, they open up an entirely new area of research. Not only are the implications for fundamental physics and astrophysics invaluable, but these results effectively pave the way for ultra-high intensity studies that will be carried out with international facilities, such as the Extreme Light Infrastructure.” Senior author of the study, Dr Stuart Mangles from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, said: “We knew we had been successful in colliding the two beams when we detected very bright high energy gamma-ray radiation. “The real result then came when we compared this detection with the energy in the electron beam after the collision. We found that these successful collisions had a lower than expected electron energy, which is clear evidence of radiation reaction.” How to make intense light Study co-author Professor Alec Thomas, from Lancaster University and the University of Michigan, added: "One thing I always find so fascinating about this is that the electrons are stopped as effectively by this sheet of light, a fraction of a hair's breadth thick, as by something like a millimetre of lead. That is extraordinary." The data from the experiment also agrees better with a theoretical model based on the principles of quantum electrodynamics, rather than Maxwell’s equations, potentially providing some of the first evidence of previously untested quantum models. However, more experiments at even higher intensity or with even higher energy electron beams will be needed to confirm the preliminary results. The team will be carrying out these experiments in the coming year. The team were able to make the light so intense in the current experiment by focussing it to a very small spot (just a few micrometres - millionths of a metre - across) and delivering all the energy in a very short duration (just 40 femtoseconds long: 40 quadrillionths of a second). To make the electron beam small enough to interact with the focussed laser, the team used a technique called ‘laser wakefield acceleration’. The laser wakefield technique fires another intense laser pulse into a gas. The laser turns the gas into a plasma and drives a wave, called the wakefield, behind it as it travels through the plasma.  Electrons in the plasma can surf on this wake and reach very high energies in a very short distance.

Queen’s University researchers exploring sustainable solution for ammonia emissions

Description: Ammonia is released into the atmosphere mainly from livestock production and its manures, and returns to the ground as nitrogen deposition encouraged by rainfall. These nitrogen deposits are harmful to sensitive environments, such as boglands and woodlands. The recent report Making Ammonia Visible, put together by the independent Expert Working Group on Sustainable Agricultural Land Management for Northern Ireland, under the chairmanship of John Gilliland, called for greater education around the issue of agricultural ammonia emissions, commissioning of more research to better understand the ammonia issue and the implementation of mitigation measures. Researchers at Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (SCCE), School of Biological Sciences (SBS) and Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) have teamed up with eight industrial partners – AgriSearch; Devenish Nutrition; JMW Farms; Monaghan Mushrooms; Magdek; Moy Park; Dale Farm and Ocean Veg Ireland – and secured £250,000 to explore the recycling of organic by-products from the food industry in a way which would allow those by-products to ‘absorb’ ammonia emissions. Dr Panagiotis Manesiotis, from SCCE, who is co-leading the project along with Professor John McGrath of SBS and IGFS, said: “Ammonia is a major polluter and by creating a ‘sorbent’ to trap it, we can significantly reduce its presence in the atmosphere. We will be using waste from the food industry to create this sorbent or ‘molecular sponge’, so the technology is inherently sustainable. “In this way, we will not only clean up our environment, but also help protect those special habitats and Areas of Special Scientific Interest which are under threat.” The funding has come through Agri-Food Quest (a collaboration between Queen’s University, Ulster University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, with funding from Invest NI). Agri-Food Quest Manager Stephane Durand said: “Agri-Food Quest competence centre is delighted to sponsor a project on mitigation measures to control the emission of ammonia. This project is a great example of what we can achieve with co-operation between government departments, universities and the whole industry to solve these problems and help drive growth in the agri-food sector without compromising the environment.”  

Queen’s research suggests the Sicilian mafia arose to power from lemon sales in the 1800s

Description: Arguably one of the most infamous institutions in the Western world, the Sicilian mafia, first appeared in Sicily in the 1870s and soon infiltrated the economic and political spheres of Italy and the United States. Dr Arcangelo Dimico, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School, and the research team hypothesized that the Sicilian mafia rose to power due to the high public demand for oranges and lemons following physician James Lind’s discovery in the late eighteenth century that citrus fruits could prevent and cure scurvy, due to their high levels of vitamin c. Dr Dimico said: “Although outcomes of the mafia’s actions such as murders, bombings, and embezzlement of public money have been observed during the last 140 years, the reasons behind its emergence are still obscure. The researchers used two unique data sets from Sicilian towns and districts gathered from a parliamentary inquiry conducted between 1881–1886 (Damiani 1886) and from 1900 (Cutrera 1900). They found that mafia presence in the 1880s is strongly associated with the prevalence of citrus cultivation. Dr Dimico added: “Given Sicily’s dominant position in the international market for citrus fruits, the increase in demand resulted in a very large inflow of revenues to citrus-producing towns during the 1800s. Citrus trees can be cultivated only in areas that meet specific requirements, such as mild and constant temperature throughout the year and abundance of water, guaranteeing substantial profits to relatively few local producers. “The combination of high profits, a weak rule of law, a low level of interpersonal trust, and a high level of local poverty made lemon producers a suitable target for predation, as there was little means to effectively enforce private property rights. Lemon producers, therefore, resorted to hiring mafia affiliates for private protection and to act as intermediaries between the retailers and exporters in the harbours.” Until now the Sicilian mafia’s origins have always thought to have been a consequence of the weak institutional setting related to the failure of the feudal system present in Sicily and from the political instability in Italian history. However this research is the first piece of evidence to suggest that their rise to power was actually due to the boom in the economy. The findings have been published in the Journal of Economic History: https://pure.qub.ac.uk/portal/files/128795793/mafia_complete.pdf.

New Head of Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) appointed

Description: Queen’s University Belfast has today announced the appointment of Joan Parsons as the new Head of Queen’s Film Theatre.  Previously Senior Programmer at Showroom Workstation in Sheffield, Joan brings a successful track record in developing audiences for independent film across the North of England.  Reacting to her appointment, Joan Parsons said, “I am delighted to be joining QFT, it is a fantastic organisation with a great reputation for cultural excellence across the UK and Europe. To begin leading QFT during this momentous year of its 50th anniversary is a privilege and I look forward to what the future holds.” The appointment comes as the BFI confirm QFT will continue to lead and manage Film Hub NI, part of the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN). Supported by National Lottery funding FAN is a unique collaboration made up of eight Hubs managed by leading film organisations and venues strategically placed around the country, and is the backbone of the BFI’s strategy to ensure the greatest choice of film is available for everyone across the UK.  As outlined in its five year strategy for UK film, BFI2022, the BFI is making key changes to FAN across the UK, which will see Film Hub NI have increased responsibility to fund local festivals as well as working more closely with BFI NETWORK talent development partners in Northern Ireland. Caroline Young, Director of Student Plus, Queen’s University Belfast, said “On behalf of Queen’s University Belfast, I am delighted to be able to welcome Joan Parsons as the new Head of QFT and excited that the University will continue as the lead organisation in the delivery of Film Hub NI, based at QFT.  Joan brings a wealth of experience from her role at Showroom Workstation in Sheffield and has a particular interest in working with young audiences, an area which aligns with both the University’s growth aspirations and the BFI’s strategic objectives.” Film Hub NI has been in existence since 2013, based at QFT, harnessing the creativity and energy of the bourgeoning film exhibition sector across Northern Ireland. From 2013-2017, FHNI have supported 95,000 attendances at film screenings, supported over 90 independent film projects across NI and recruited 83 membership organisations from Enniskillen to Newcastle, Belfast to Dungannon. The membership ranges from large-scale exhibition organisations to a wide range of community level outfits, who are helping to bring the joy and love of film to a wider audience, especially in rural areas. Across the next four years, FHNI will work with its members, Northern Ireland Screen and the BFI to develop opportunities for young people and diverse audiences to engage with the film world. This initiative takes its place in a very exciting film landscape in NI, with exhibition joining the film production and education sectors in a developing and blooming scene, led by Northern Ireland Screen. Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen said: “I am delighted to welcome Joan Parsons to Queen’s Film Theatre. Her appointment comes at a very exciting time for QFT, as the cinema looks forward to its 50th birthday celebrations later in the year, and as the BFI announce that Queen’s University Belfast has been confirmed as the lead organisation to host Film Hub NI for the next four years. As Chair of the Film Hub NI Assessment group, I am looking forward to continuing to work with the team to develop the film exhibition sector even further.” Nationally, £4million of National Lottery funding per year until 2022 will enable BFI FAN to continue its broad range of activity to encourage greater engagement with independent and British film across the UK and give greater support to new talent where they live. With increased decision-making responsibility, Hubs will continue to back innovative audience development activity, enabling them to meet the specific needs of their local exhibitors and audiences, and deliver greater choice and access to a diversity of content to audiences everywhere, with a focus on reaching 16-30 year olds.

Queen’s University celebrates UNESCO in Northern Ireland

Description: Representatives from UNESCO sites and projects in the UK and Northern Ireland are gathering in Belfast today (31 January 2018) to learn more about Northern Ireland’s extraordinary connection with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and to celebrate its power to work together with the region. From the dramatic coastline of Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site, to UNESCO Chairs at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University undertaking global research in education models and community integration, UNESCO sites and projects in Northern Ireland help support intercultural dialogue and international cooperation. To celebrate this important connection between UNESCO and Northern Ireland, a reception is being convened by the UK National Commission for UNESCO, the UK’s central coordinating body for UNESCO related-matters in the UK, in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. The Reception also marks the opening of the 5th UK UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Network Colloquium, which is taking place at Queen’s University Belfast on 1 February 2018. The Colloquium will see UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks from across UK Universities gather to exchange best practice, and learn from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University about their world-leading research. Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said: “It’s always a pleasure to visit Belfast, and I’m particularly pleased to be here for a gathering of UNESCO Chairs from universities right across the UK, from the University of Glasgow to University College London.  UNESCO’s mission is to promote peace through intercultural dialogue and international collaboration, and it delivers that mission primarily through its networks – including UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks – enabling colleagues to work together across borders and support one another in addressing the challenges they face. “Northern Ireland is home to two UNESCO Chairs, who are both experts in the field of education and its potential to reduce conflict and enhance human rights.  I am grateful to Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast for their vision in supporting this internationally significant research” The UNESCO Chair in Globalising Shared Education Model for Improving Relations in Divided Societies at Queen’s University Belfast builds on the research and programme work at the Centre for Shared Education at Queen’s which has contributed to the development and mainstreaming of a curriculum based programme in schools to promote education and reconciliation outcomes for pupils and teachers in Northern Ireland. Professor Joanne Hughes, UNESCO Chairholder at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “I feel incredibly privileged to have been awarded a UNESCO Chair which offers significant leverage for the work of myself and colleagues in the Centre for Shared Education. We believe education can play a significant role in promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, and the unique UNESCO brand has been instrumental in supporting our research programme and helping us influence policy and practice not just in Northern Ireland but also in other deeply divided societies. The event at Queen’s offers a great opportunity for knowledge exchange, as UNESCO Chairs from across the UK are connected by their endeavours to tackle the most pressing global concerns of our time.”