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Host-Microbiome Co-Metabolism

Group Picture Virtuome 2021.jpg

Virtuome is the Virtual Metabolic Humans’s flagship undergraduate summer research programme conducted in a fully virtual environment. Virtuome is designed upon a systematic team empowerment-driven interdependent core structure, combining functional and interpersonal participant development, including at individual, team, and programme levels. Based on the 3 pillars of biomedical research, personal development, and community involvement, a diverse group of undergraduate students from all across Ireland collaborate on challenging projects focused on Digital Health applications with the guidance of established leaders in their fields. With the mission to “craft a valuable learning experience for each other”, a particular emphasis is put on generating a portfolio of tangible outcomes, including presentations, videos, and written documents, to ensure the generation of demonstrable achievements alongside ample practice in interpersonal and leadership development to support participants in getting ahead in their future career trajectory.

Virtuome 2021 edition: 14th June – 6th August 2021

1 Programme

2 Task forces

3 Irish universities

6 Teams

8 Weeks

26 STEM undergraduates

513 Community contributors

In summer 2021, Virtuome welcomed 26 competitively selected participants from 3 Irish universities (NUI Galway, UCD, TCD), including cross-functional STEM backgrounds ranging from fundamental biology to engineering, and all maturities from years 1-4. Running from 14th June – 6th August 2021, our Virtuome 2021 participants advanced the creation of 2 state-of-the-art biochemical network visualisations in the human and microbiome contexts, designed and executed 6 digital health community involvement projects, and experienced steep learning curves relating to project management, team leadership, and science communications.

Virtuome shall continue to catalyse VMH engagement by building a sustainable community of future leaders in digital health, lasting beyond the programme as such. “Although the programme ends, the community persists” was the closing motto of the 2021 edition.

Virtuome 2021participant impressions

Programme reflections:


“I really can't recommend this programme enough. I met new people, produced a community engagement project I am genuinely proud of, attended research symposia on fascinating topics, and contributed to research. I feel that I have developed both personally and professionally during my time at this programme, and for that, I am very grateful!” – Ciara Varley, NUI Galway

“I really enjoyed the Virtuome programme. It gave me the opportunity to experience what it's like working as a researcher and I feel I've learned so many important skills from this programme. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in working in research in the future.” – Ellen Healy, University College Dublin

“Virtuome provided me with my first research experience. It was highly rewarding and at times challenging but overall it was an experience that I will greatly value as I begin my career in research.” – Andrew Roche, Trinity College Dublin

“Virtuome has given me an opportunity to grow my confidence in areas I found challenging, it was an incredible and collaborative environment. I've learned so much in only 8 weeks, and made lasting connections with students all over Ireland. The opportunity to work alongside fellow students and industry scientists was invaluable, the depth of knowledge that our combined group possessed and was willing to share with each other is something I feel extremely lucky to have experienced!” – Hannah Cummins, NUI Galway

“Virtuome provided me with incredibly valuable experience working as part of a multi-disciplinary research group. The skills learned during these 8 weeks will benefit me immensely throughout my future career. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone with a keen scientific curiosity.” – Rowan Smith, NUI Galway

“Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in such an exciting programme! I learned so many valuable skills and met some great people. Virtuome has given me great insight into the world of research and systems biology.” – Anne O'Dwyer, University College Dublin

“The 2021 online Virtuome internship programme has supplied me with valuable attributes I had not expected to gain starting the programme. The relevant aspect of science was always present while simultaneously developing ourselves as assured young adults.” – Niamh Burke, NUI Galway

"A very good experience and insight into Digital health. I am glad that I was able to take part in this summer project where a lot of control is in the hands of the students. In a time where in person events are rare, Virtuome managed to provide a valuable experience online. As a result I believe that this project will greatly improve the communication of any young scientist as we have to work as a team among many other bright minded young scientists.” – Adam Poyntz, NUI Galway

“Virtuome was a great program to be a part of. The program was engaging and allowed me to learn so much and develop so many new skills through helping to deal with challenges that came up as we completed aspects of the project along the way. I met so many wonderful people through this experience and learned from them.” – Sarah Lawler, Trinity College Dublin

"The Virtuome Research Experience was an invaluable program which allowed me to build and enhance skills essential for research in the future. I completed a series of projects as a team and taskforce which improved my ability to communicate effectively and achieve a common goal. Networking was a fundamental aspect of the program, making many new connections throughout our eight weeks of work. Along with our weekly research symposiums, presented by University researchers, I was able to broaden my knowledge of digital health.” – Niall Lang, NUI Galway

“I feel very grateful for to have been given this amazing opportunity to be part of the Virtuome programme. Having this opportunity to gain experience into health research has hugely impacted my own research skills and abilities.” – Ciara Downey, NUI Galway

“Thank you for providing us with an invaluable research experience. Overall it was well organised and has thought me how to make my research more communicable to the general public. Virtuome has inspired me to take on more science communication roles in the future!” – Collette Murtagh, University College Dublin

Virtuome 2021 - VMH organisation team:

Dr Cyrille Thinnes, Prof. Ines Thiele

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