Queen’s University Belfast Visit, Day 2 (June 3)
by Teresa King (Bridgewater State University)
We started our day with the delicious “full Ulster” breakfast including for some of the more adventurous of us, a tad of Bush Mills whiskey on our porridge. Our QUB contact, Susan McCleary, met us at the hotel greeting us with her bright smile. She was truly miraculous in her ability to ensure that our busy itinerary ran smoothly. Our first visit was to Queens Center for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. Professor Manuel Salt-Tellez led the tour and explained how the center focuses on “science with a purpose.” In the molecular pathology laboratory they study the genetic samples from cancer patients in Northern Ireland to inform diagnostics and research questions. They plan to conduct population genomics in Northern Ireland. The center has 30 to 40 PIs and 50 postdoctoral fellows (15% international) focusing on prostate, G.I. (upper and lower), ovarian, and breast cancer.
Next Dr. Una McMenamin, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Public Health at QUB, discussed her research on the causes of upper G.I. cancers. More specifically, her research examines how statins and aspirin use predict cancer survival. She also described the Masters in Public Health available at QUB. It is a year full-time course. As part of the Masters program students conduct a three-month research project. Some of the advantages of the program include world-class researchers, a wide range of public health leaders and practitioners, and the small class size. Following her presentation we were treated to tea and scones.
Our third presenter was Dr. Jude Stephens, the Deputy Director of the Gibson Institute. Dr. Stephens discussed the definitions of sustainability emphasizing that what sustainability is really about is “living today as if tomorrow mattered.” QUB offers a 12 month full-time program that leads to the Masters of Science degree in either Leadership for Sustainable Development or Leadership for Sustainable Rural Development. The program focuses on three main aspects of sustainability: environmental accountability, economic efficiency, and social equity. Dr. Stephens also reviewed the experiences of their three Mitchell scholars who clearly benefited from the rich array of external placements available and graduated from QUB well prepared for leadership roles in sustainability and development.
Next we headed over to Engineering and Physical Sciences where we were welcomed by the Faculty Dean of Internationalization, Professor Stan Scott. Dean Scott emphasized that they are looking for students who want to be part of an international team–thus students need to have the ability to work with people of different cultural backgrounds. A fun tidbit about Dean Scott–his grandfather was a welder on the Titanic!
Next we heard from a couple of current graduate students on their research. One student was researching how to improve one dimensional modeling of turbo-charged engines. The other student was modeling the processing of semi-crystalline polymers. We also heard from three different faculty members. Dr. McPolin discussed how he had changed his teaching approach to focus on project-based learning. One such project was building a life size bridge out of Erector parts. This project received significant media attention and set a new record in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dr. Colm Donnelly discussed research conducted within the archaeology department on a medieval Gaelic graveyard. This research shed light on the lives or more accurately the deaths of the Northern Ireland inhabitants living in the 13th to the 16th century. The life spans for these individuals were quite short with the most common cause of death being tuberculosis. Finally Dr. Paul Ell, a historical geographer, discussed some fascinating research on GIS and cultural heritage. Following these presentations we were treated to a nice lunch.
After lunch, we traveled to the Titanic Quarter. On the way there our bus driver told us a funny story about the famous Crown Bar. He said the bar was first owned by a married couple one of whom was Catholic and the other Protestant. The Protestant husband wanted to name the bar “The Crown” in honor of England. The wife, who was Catholic, said that was fine as long as the floor had a mosaic of the crown so that people could walk over the crown!
Our first stop in Titanic Quarter was the Center for Secure Information Technologies. David Crozier discussed how the vision of the center is to be a global innovation hub where they take research and put it to work. The main areas of research include 1) device authentication to ensure that data is secure in the cloud; 2) secure ubiquitous networking including detecting malicious software, and 3) security analytics and informatics. David discussed how they turn their research into companies with QUB serving in the role of “supportive stakeholder.” QUB offers a Masters of Science in Cybersecurity. David discussed how they worked with industry partners to determine what companies want from employees when developing this program. He suggested that applicants to the Masters program should have strong programming skills.
The late afternoon was all about the Titanic. We were able to tour the Titanic’s dry dock and pump house. Our wonderful tour guide, Colm, brought this history to life with his enthusiasm for the ingenuity the Irish demonstrated in building the ship. It was clear to see why Colm has the reputation of being Belfast’s best loved “Titanorak.” He was sure to remind us that the Titanic was in great shape when it left Ireland and the people responsible for the boat once it sailed away were an English captain and a Scottish navigator! I was especially fond of Colm’s expressions such as “Out of the abundance of the heart–the mouth speaks!” Next we took a tour of the Titanic museum –the largest Titanic exhibit in the world.
We ended this lovely day with a tour of Belfast’s beautiful City Hall. The staff at City Hall were incredibly hospitable and invited us to sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair and to try on his robes. There was a reception for us where we were introduced to the new Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston. He was so welcoming and took many pictures with us. All in all it was a very informative day that ended with a great deal of “craik”–means fun in Gaelic.