Student and staff experiences of Vertically Integrated Projects at the University of Galway

Mar 09 2023 Posted: 10:20 GMT

Our Designing Futures Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) module started this semester with 10 students from Arts and Science participating. VIPs are transdisciplinary research projects addressing important societal challenges that provide students with hands-on research experience. Students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds work together with their VIP Principal Investigators to progress the VIP project and are supported to become effective research team members in weekly interactive VIP classroom sessions.

This semester, students joined the Bench to Bedside Project led by Dr Sinéad King and the Worlds of Sounds Project led by Dr Eoin King and Dr Denis O’Hora. The Bench to Bedside project is focused on translating neuroscience research for patient benefit and the VIP team worked on enhancing patient and public involvement in the project. The Worlds of Sounds project is focused on the physics and psychology of sound and students this semester worked on sound mapping exercises on three walkways in Galway city centre.

We have 11 additional VIP projects available for students joining VIP modules in the next academic year: ‘Sustainability Advancement in SMEs’, ‘Democratizing Knowledge through Comedy’, ‘Figuring out Y (a community maths engagement project)’, ‘Theatronomics: the business of Theatre, 1732-1809’, ‘Theia Eye Care’, ‘Songs of Travel’ (focused on using music to highlight migration and climate change issues), ‘Critical Element Supply Management’, ‘Data and Artificial Intelligence for the Knowledge Society’, ‘Futures of Law: Robots or Humans’, ‘Cardiovascular Health for All’, and ‘Understanding Minds’.

Dr Sinéad King presented on the benefits she experienced of being a VIP Principal Investigator this semester at our Designing Futures all staff information event on the 6th of March. Sinéad said that the work the VIP students have conducted this semester has been key to meeting the patient and public involvement deliverables on her project and enhancing engagement from members of the public. Students have supported the refinement of the project website, developed the project’s social media presence and developed poster and other supporting materials for events at this year’s Brain Awareness Week at the University of Galway.  

VIP students have shared their motivations for joining the VIP modules and their experiences to date. Noel Fahy, 2nd year BSc student shares that the module has given him a key insight into how academic research works:

'As a student of the first ever VIP programme in University of Galway I can firmly say that this module has exceptional potential. It combines learning with practicality. It does this by teaching the processes behind a research project, and then as a student you get to implement those processes in the same semester. At this module’s core, students become part of a transdisciplinary team headed by one of the university’s Principal Investigators. Anyone who has any interest in academic research should take an opportunity like this with both hands. I have learned more about the world of academic research from this one singular module than every-other module I’ve taken combined.'

Temitayo Adededi, a final year BA Joint Honours student appreciated the key skills she developed on the module to date and how this has supported her preparations for her future career in psychology. She also developed a strong understanding of the importance of involving members of the public and research and methods of engaging people in research:

'Participating in the VIPs as a psychology student has been immensely beneficial to me. Not only has it given me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in seeing the conduction of research in action, but it has also allowed me to develop important skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. Through working on a research project, I have learned how to formulate research questions, design outreach methods, and interpret findings. Furthermore, being involved in research has given me a deeper understanding of the scientific process and has helped me to appreciate the complexity and nuance involved in conducting research. It has also shown me the great importance of involving the public and spreading information about research in as many ways possible. Overall, participating in the VIPs has not only enriched my academic experience but has also prepared me for future career opportunities in the field of psychology.'

Dylan Parslow, BA Joint Honours student, joined the VIP programme to develop his research experience and work with a transdisciplinary research team. Dylan enjoyed working with people from different disciplinary backgrounds. Dylan joined a project closely aligned with his research interests in psychology and in particular neuropsychology which provided him with important insights into his future career interests:

'I was interested in participating in a Vertically Integrated Project, hoping to get transdisciplinary experience as part of a group in a large-scale professional project. I got everything I had hoped for and more with the neuroscience-based 'Bench to Bedside'. This project allowed me to experience elements and insights relevant to the master's and potential future careers I hope to pursue. I had the opportunity to work with and see the many advantages of working with individuals of different disciplines and backgrounds, as you would experience in industry settings. Every week I found the VIP classes aided us and were relevant to our group work within our project, taking the experience overall further and transcending expectations. I enjoyed my time within my project so much that after seeing the other group's presentation on their project, 'Worlds of Sound', it made me wish I could do all the other projects! I hope to return to a Vertically Integrated Project next year, and if any of the projects piqued your interest, we might be working together too.'

Erin Timlin, a final year BA Joint Honours student told us that the VIP project experience was very valuable to her as she did not have a dissertation/thesis component to her degree. The module allowed her to develop her skills and experience and explore her career interests. Erin valued how the weekly lectures were adapted to student needs and VIP project objectives:

'I study Psychological Studies and Sociological and Political Studies. I am a part of the ‘Bench to Bed’ side project.  Having the opportunity to be a part of the Vertically Integrated Project was an extremely valuable experience.  This module provided me with the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the research process. My degree can feel very broad at times, I did not have the option to do a thesis or dissertation and thus felt as though I lacked the practical learning element aspect of research. However, this module has enabled me to work alongside academics in the field of neuroscience, an area I thought I may be interested in for a future career. The research is aided by classes, where students shape the learning material. If a student feels as though they need to improve skills or acquire knowledge that will assist them in their research the VIP staff will support you. I developed and improved many personal skills such as teamwork, project management, public speaking, methods of appraising evidence and critically evaluating papers and prior research. All these skills I believe will serve me in my future career. Aside from the academic advantages of a module like VIP, the overall experience was very rewarding, you get the opportunity to interact with a variety of people, at different stages of their academia and across multiple disciples.'

If you are a staff member or a student with any questions about the VIP modules, contact Dr Oonagh Meade, Lecturer in Transdisciplinary Research at

Image: VIP students at their mid-semester research presentations

L-R – Dr Sinéad King, Dr Oonagh Meade, Dylan Parslow, Ryan Carroll, Noel Fahy, Caoimhe Totterdell, Temitayo Adedeji, Erin Timlin, Linzi Hardiman, Joseph Kennedy, Ema Paradinovic

Follow @GalwayDF