‌The Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program is a transformative approach to enhancing higher education by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in long-term, large-scale, multidisciplinary project teams that are led by faculty.

"Vertically Integrated" refers to VIP team compositions, which can include undergraduate, postgraduate (taught) and research students in addition to University staff.  As of 2022 NUI Galway became the only Irish univeristy to join the VIP Consortium, led by Georgia Institute of Technology

Through VIPs, students work in teams with faculty to address grand challenges. Students earn credits and can participate in multiple semesters, with returning students taking on additional leadership/project responsibilities.  


What is a VIP?

VIPs are interdisciplinary research projects that recruit undergraduate students from a range of disciplines to work on discrete research outputs relevant to the project. VIPs have been rolled out in over 40 universities worldwide and they build the research impact of the VIP PIs and the employability and research awareness of the student members.

What does a VIP involve for Principal Investigators (PIs)?

  • Proposing a long-term research project that undergraduate students can work on over successive semesters
  • Recruiting a team of at least 5 undergraduates
  • Tailoring the work to the students skills and the PI's project goals
  • Dedicating 6 hours per semester (split between the VIP PIs) for fortnightly one-hour meetings with the team
  • Setting students work on a specific task (research proposal, review, video, podcast)

Who can Apply?

VIPs are open to all disciplines.

How to Apply

If you are interested in proposing a VIP, please fill out the Expression of Interest form 

Further Queries

Dr Denis O’Hora, Director of the MSc in Consumer Psychology, Designing Futures VIP Champion 


Dr Oonagh Meade, Lecturer in Transdisciplinary Research, Designing Futures


Univeristy of Galway VIPs

Active* Consent

PI: Dr Pádraig MacNeela; Dr Siobhán O’Higgins and Ms Gemma MacNally

College: College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies

The Active* Consent programme has grown out of the University of Galway tradition of research and community engagement. In tackling societal issues like consent, sexual violence and harassment, we have conducted research into young people’s sexual experiences and attitudes towards consent since 2013.  With this data, Active* Consent creates original consent education and training resources including workshops, eLearning modules, educational videos, original dramas, and social media campaigns for colleges, schools, and sports organisations. The Active* Consent programme believes that the most effective form of consent education supports young people’s sexual health and agency and is taught through a sex-positive lens which honours peoples’ choices whether or not they choose to become sexually active.

Bench to Bedside

PI: Dr Sinéad King

College: College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies

This project focuses on basic and translational neuroscience, discovering biomarkers and translating them into novel interventions for people suffering from neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions. There are opportunities within the project to work on further developing a patient and public involvement community for this research, interviewing participants, working with industry and preparing research publications.

Sustainable innovation in smaller enterprises

PI: Dr Sinéad Mitchell; Dr Gesche Kinderman, Dr Sheila Malone and Dr David Kreps

Colleges: College of Business, Public Policy and Law; College of Science and Engineering

The project involves engaging directly with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and will allow the students to develop their consultation and analysis skills through engagement with a practical step-by-step process with owner-managers. This will be done through the application and enhancement of a framework to engage with SMEs towards their organisational advancement in sustainability. There will be opportunities for students to engage in four steps of the project. Step 1: A Sustainability capability diagnostic interview and on site visit. Step 2: The selection of appropriate tools. Step 3: The application of various tools Step 4: Review the data and re-assess the company. It is expected that the students will learn the skills and tools to engage effectively with SME owner managers in a systems approach, leading an organisation to advance in business sustainability maturity.

Democratizing Knowledge through Comedy

PI: Dr Jessamyn Fairfield

College: College of Science and Engineering

Bright Club Ireland is a platform for communicating academic research using standup comedy, comprising live events across the country, a YouTube channel of past talks, and the podcast You’re Up Next. Bright Club is transdisciplinary, and speaker participants use techniques from theatre and improv comedy to learn how to communicate their work in an informal setting that breaks down barriers between the university and the public. Opportunities for students on this project include reviewing literature around comedic research communication, audience interviews, and possible research publication, editing of short videos from past Bright Club talks and producing or participating in live Bright Club events.


Worlds of Sound

PI: Dr Denis O’Hora & Dr Eoin King

Colleges: College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies & College of Science and Engineering

This VIP explores the physics of sounds, our subjective experiences of sounds and our responses to sounds. We are particularly interested in investigating environmental sounds, how they promote or inhibit wellbeing and the role our experience of sound plays in these effects. Some sounds help us relax, but some distract and annoy. We are particularly interested in the sounds of traffic, wind turbines, the waves and different forms of music. We also hope to identify Zones of Tranquillity in our cities. The work of this VIP will feed into an international research initiative coordinated by the IEA (international Energy Agency), in which Dr King and Dr O’Hora are collaborating with world leading researchers to accelerate the development and deployment of quiet wind turbine technology and consolidate understanding of wind turbine sound emission, propagation, and ultimately its perception by residents. Student opportunities include developing focus group discussions, ethics applications, research proposals, recruitment, mapping sound experiences, press releases, testing apps, videos, podcasts, and blogs.


Figuring Out Y

PI: Dr Emma Holian

College: College of Science and Engineering

Figuring Out Y is an initiative aimed at improving community engagement and education in STEM with particular emphasis on numeracy and mathematics proficiency through local environment application. The initiative has a number of distinct strands of focus. The project offers; 1) opportunity for community engagement promoting awareness of numeracy applications in the local environment and every-day life, through the design and management of social community events, such as “Hidden Figures Hunt”, 2) identification and promotion of numeracy integrated in literature, in particular children’s literature, 3) opportunity to contribute to pedagogical research in numeracy education at primary, second and third-level, with particular focus on disadvantaged cohorts.


Theatronomics: the business of theatre, 1732-1809

PI: Prof David O'Shaughnessy, Dr Aidan Kane

Colleges: College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies, College of Business, Public Policy, & Law

Literary studies have largely steered clear of eighteenth-century theatre financial archives due to their complexity and magnitude. However, account books and ledgers contain valuable data about ticket sales, audience members, revenues, actor salaries etc., which have much to tell us about the constraints on cultural production.

The EU-funded THEATRONOMICS interdisciplinary team of economists and theatre historians will study this data using financial analysis sensitive to the particular contexts of the period. The project will analyse manuscript data from the two major London theatres, Covent Garden and Drury Lane. By applying innovative econometric methods and utilising the tools of digital humanities on rich transatlantic archives, THEATRONOMICS will reveal a new perspective on theatrical culture in the eighteenth century. There will be opportunities for students to develop case-study material (e.g. for blogs), to fact-check, to showcase econometric methodologies for cultural history, and to conduct new research about the lives of actors, playwrights and theatre workers.


Theia Eye Care

PI: Ms Sinead Murray, Dr Adnan Elahi, Mr Prateek Dixit

Institute: Lambe Institute for Translational Research

The Theia Eye Care project aims to create a medical device to treat Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which is the leading cause of Dry Eye Disease. Our target market is the US, where 13 million citizens are diagnosed with this condition. Creating a medical device requires a multidisciplinary approach. Skills such as engineering, business, psychology, marketing, IT, amongst others are required to help develop this device. We are excited to share our knowledge with enthusiastic students looking to apply their college learnings to our research project.

Songs of Travel

PI: Dr Liz Coleman, Dr Eoghan Clifford

College: College of Science and Engineering

Songs of Travel (SOT) is a transnational project which will use music to raise awareness and create empathy towards climate change and migration. The project involves the development and implementation of a sustainable model of operation for specialised classical music festivals and to improve access to and circulation of contemporary classical music.

4 classical music festivals from Holland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden and an Austrian boutique game development studio are partnering to co-commission and present 5 new artistic works on the theme of migration. Research will be conducted into attitudes towards sustainability in the music world. An educational resource will be created to support engagement with contemporary classical music and to highlight themes of migration and social inclusion.

The overall outcome of SOT will be increased awareness and empathy towards climate change and migration, increased longevity for new works of music, research-supported sustainable models for music festivals and raised profiles of the cultural heritage of migrants. Students will have the opportunity to get involved in developing green policy for partner music festivals, public dissemination of results from emission modelling study (e.g. through social media, infographics, videos etc.) and reports and evaluations of behaviour change workshops. 

The Songs of Travel (SOT) project is funded by the Creative Europe Programme under the European Cooperation Projects call. Project partners are Music for Galway (Ireland, Lead Partner), Valdres Sommersymfoni (Norway), Fairplay Chamber Music (Sweden), Keys to Music Foundation (The Netherlands), and Causa Creations (Austria). 


Critical Element Supply Management

PI: Prof Piet Lens, Dr Juan Castilla-Archilla, Dr Amitap Khandelwal

College: College of Science and Engineering 

In the search for developing an economy that uses only raw materials and feedstocks that are renewable, rather than depending on and depleting finite resources like the critical elements, this VIP project will have a technological and a management component. In the technical component, fundamental research on the bioavailability and toxicity of critical metals is accompanied by applied research on (bio)leaching of these critical elements from secondary ores (e.g. spent catalysts, batteries, metallurgical slags and e-waste) and how these can then most optimally be recovered. Some of these technologies can also be used for the protection of the environments, where acid rock drainage from abandoned mines contains elevated metal concentrations that requires an intervention to protect the downstream human settlements and ecosystems.

In the management component, geopolitical, Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) aspects and mining risks will be investigated. We investigate how the primary risk of the geographical concentration of where the mining and, in particular, the processing is being done can be minimised. Zero carbon mining as well as other environmental and social aspects require scrutiny. Consumers want to know how the materials they consume are sourced. The project will investigate how standardisation and certification of green and sustainable mining can be achieved.


Data and Artificial Intelligence for the Knowledge Society

PI: Prof Ed Curry

College: College of Science and Engineering 

According to UNESCO, “knowledge societies are about capabilities to identify, produce, process, transform, disseminate and use information to build and apply knowledge for human development. They require an empowering social vision that encompasses plurality, inclusion, solidarity and participation. The need for continuous learning is a general characteristic of the knowledge society and the capacity for each individual to learn throughout life is crucial.” The research that is being carried out at University of Galway’s Data Science Institute (DSI) uses data and artificial intelligence to drive knowledge society vision. This project offers the opportunity for students to explore, understand and reframe this research in a way that makes it more understandable to a non-technical audience. Student opportunities include interviewing key data science PIs, understanding data science research and it’s multidomain application potential and the creation of a portfolio of videos, podcasts and other media. Students also get the opportunity to work with experienced public engagement professionals on the creation of this novel content and material.


Futures of Law: Robots or Humans?

PI: Dr Rónán Kennedy and Dr Abigail Rekas

College: College of Business, Public Policy and Law

The use of digital technology for legal work (known as ‘lawtech’) is enabling new approaches to legal practice and the development of new business models for law firms. These digital innovations can enable increased efficiencies in legal work, as well as lower costs for clients and service users. It is also changing the skillset required by people working in the legal industry. These changes give rise to concerns that skilled professional work is increasingly casualized, subject to insufficient regulation and quality control, and subject to being off-shored to lower-cost locations in the developing world. Recent developments in technology have even led to the speculation that lawyers, judges and even legislators could be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and that the legal professions might be reduced to tending machines or disappear altogether.

Although extensively researched, due to the rapid development of technological capabilities, the area is still under-theorised, particularly for jurisdictions outside the United States and the United Kingdom. In Ireland, for instance, there is very little concrete information available, and there is almost no peer-reviewed literature specific to this jurisdiction. 

This project involves undergraduate, postgraduate (taught) and research students developing an essential knowledge basis on law tech, data analytics, AI and other recent innovations in the legal industry around the world. These students will apply this knowledge to research key topics such as potential pitfalls or opportunities in access to justice, the digital divide, and algorithmic equality. 

It would be of particular interest to students in law, business, or information technology/information systems degrees, but would also welcome anyone with an interest in social justice, economic opportunities, or historic change.

Cardiovascular Health for All

PI: Dr Oonagh MeadeDr Lisa Hynes & Dr Anne Browne

College: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies

Community Partner: Croí Heart and Stroke Charity

The Cardiovascular Health for All is a partnership between the Health Behaviour Change Research Group and Croí Heart and Stroke Charity. The project aims to support the development and evaluation of community-based health interventions at Croí. The aim of these interventions are to prevent cardiovascular disease and to promote health and well-being for those living with cardiovascular disease. Developing and evaluating interventions to support people with cardiovascular disease requires input from people working from many different disciplines (e.g. physiotherapy, nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, medicine). Students on this project will gain experience in a wide range of research activities, including working with the Croí Patient and Public Involvement group to shape research plans, collecting and analysing information for pilot health interventions, sharing research with academic and non-academic audiences.

https://www.universityofgalway.ie/hbcrg; https://croi.ie

Understanding Minds

PI: Dr Jane Conway

College: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies

Students will join the Understanding Minds Lab in the School of Psychology. Our social cognition research focuses on understanding how the mind processes social information and we study this using an experimental approach. We investigate how our minds build models of the social world, how these models can vary across cultures and individuals, and how this process can go awry in neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders including schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder. As part of this group, students can participate in the design and programming of experiments, data collection and analysis, literature reviewing and hypothesis generation, and outreach activities including a mental health art exhibition.

VIP Student Testimonials 


Julia Grabiasz |   BA Joint Honours Student

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.

Noel Fahy |   2nd year BSc student

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 |   BA Joint Honours Student

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

Erin Timlin |   Final year BA Joint Honours student

I study Psychology 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. I felt I lacked the practical learning element aspect of research. This module 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. 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.

Dylan Parslow |   BA Joint Honours student

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.