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Queen's life-saving research wins education 'Oscar'

Queen's University's work in protecting the lives and livelihoods of some of the poorest people on the planet has won a prestigious national award.

At the Times Higher Education awards ceremony in London, Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta and colleagues in the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering received the Outstanding Engineering Research Team of the Year title.

The award recognises the team's work in tackling the world's worst case of ongoing mass poisoning and creating the first low-cost chemical free arsenic removal plant in India.

Queen's Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said that the award underlined the global impact of the University's research.

He said: "This pioneering project is a powerful example of how Queen's expertise and academic research can result in positive outcomes for society as a whole, and I am delighted to congratulate Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta and his colleagues on winning this major award."

The judges said: "Engineering at its core is about solving critical problems. The team from Queen's has exemplified this, finding an innovative solution to overcome arsenic contamination of groundwater and thus improve the quality of life in rural communities.

"Through effective team-working locally and internationally, a low-cost technological approach has been developed and deployed."

Employment and Learning Minister Danny Kennedy welcomed the news. He said: "I am delighted that Queen's University has won this prestigious Award. The accolade demonstrates in a very tangible way how high quality research can have extremely practical applications throughout the world that benefit every section of society. This has been recognised by the significant funding provided by my Department for Research and Development in Northern Ireland's universities. Dr Sen Gupta and Queen's are to be congratulated on the Award which follows the success of Queen's in being named as the Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2009."

Currently over 70 million people in Eastern India and Bangladesh experience involuntary arsenic exposure from consuming water and rice; the main staple food in the region. This includes farmers who have to use contaminated groundwater from minor irrigation schemes. It is estimated that for every random sample of 100 people in the Bengal Delta, at least one person will be near death as a result of arsenic poisoning, while five in 100 will be experiencing other symptoms.

Leading an international research team, Dr Sen Gupta implemented an innovative method of removing arsenic from groundwater without using chemicals. The team established a trial plant in Kasimpore, near Kolkata, offering chemical-free groundwater treatment technology to rural communities for all their drinking and farming needs. Six plants are now in operation in rural locations in West Bengal and are being used to supply water to the local populations using subterranean arsenic removal technology.

The award is the latest accolade for Dr Sen Gupta. Earlier this year he received an Excellence Award from the Asian Water Industry and the St Andrews Prize for the Environment.


Contact: Anne Langford
Queen's University Belfast

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