Students develop their research leadership skills through Vertically Integrated Projects

May 10 2024 Posted: 14:27 IST

Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) transdisciplinary research projects addressing important societal challenges that provide students with hands-on research experience. Our students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds work together with their VIP Principal Investigators (PIs) to progress the VIP project and are supported to become effective research team members in interactive VIP classroom sessions.

This semester marked the launch of our Vertically Integrated Project 2 module which facilitates students who have already done the introductory VIP module to further develop their research leadership skills and experiences.

Shukrat Rahim a second year Bachelor of Science student and Julia Grabiasz a third year BA Joint Honours student were among the students who completed the first VIP 2 module this semester. They both continued their work on the Theia Eye Care project which is focused on developing a medical device for dry eye disease.

Shukrat describes the team’s activities this semester which moved on from their focus on market research in semester 1 to product designing, branding and marketing in semester 2. In semester 2, the team led developing a marketable solution to relieve dry eye symptoms in patients. The team worked on sketching logos to developing dry eye disease product designs, conducting interviews and surveys, and performing a SWOT analysis for their product.

Julia valued participating in the project across two semesters and appreciated the growth in leadership skills she developed as well as the in-depth exposure to the world of conducting real-life research.

"I had the privilege of participating in the VIPs program during both semester one and semester two of my studies. Being part of the Theia Eye Care group within the VIPs program provided me with an invaluable opportunity to witness firsthand the dynamics of real research. Through this experience, I gained invaluable insights into collaborative group work and had the chance to engage in authentic research practices. Moving into semester two, where the VIP program shifted its focus towards leadership, was a transformative experience for me. Having the chance to step into a leadership role, supported and guided by the program, allowed me to cultivate crucial leadership skills such as navigating and inspiring a team towards common goals." (Julia Grabiasz)

Shukrat valued the ability students had to guide the content of workshops that would support them to achieve their research objectives. Workshops were offered by Designing Futures colleagues from the Ideas Lab and Student Success Coaching team as well as the VIP Lecturer and covered topics such as research leadership, coaching as a leadership style and design thinking.

"Participating in both VIP1 and VIP2 was an invaluable experience for me. What particularly stood out in VIP2 was its customisable nature, allowing us to request workshops that aligned with our team's goals for the semester. This flexibility made the module exceptionally versatile, as it offers more potential than many other courses, as it evolves every year, guaranteeing new learning opportunities and experiences." (Skukrat Rahim)

The Theia Eye Care VIP team is led by PIs Ms Sinéad Murray, Dr Prateek Dixit and Dr Adnan Alahi. Sinéad describes the positive experience she had over the last two semesters of working with her VIP student team:

"As a PI, I learned as much as the students did. The students brought an innovative and creative way of tackling problems which Theia Eye Care benefited from immensely. Their hard work resulted in real-life data from the US which helped us gain a greater understanding of our customer. This to us was invaluable. The data collected by the students in VIP 2 will be used as part of our fundraising strategy in the coming months. I would recommend being a PI on the VIP programme as it offers new and creative ideas that have real impact."

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