VIP Picture

We are so happy that you are interested in potentially joining a VIP team. Students on VIP teams work with lots of others, such as faculty, fellow students, other collaborators, etc., on important real-world projects. We encourage participation for several semesters if not years. You will earn academic credit for your participation through the VIP course.
Below, we have described the program in a little more detail from the perspective of students, but if you have any other questions, please let us know at

What are the benefits of VIP for students?

There are numerous benefits associated with involvement in research in general. For example, students who participate in research have been shown to have the following:

  • Improved written and oral communication skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Acquiring information independently
  • Analyzing literature critically
  • Developing intellectual curiosity
  • Academic and professional socialization
  • Having better credentials for grad school/careers
  • Success in graduate school

There is also research on the benefits of VIP participation in general. For example, VIP provides a way for students to participate in large-scale research projects for several semesters. Students who participate for longer periods of time are likely to see improved gains in all of the above areas as they gain expertise in the research experience. In addition, because VIP is a team-based research experience, students will learn more about how to effectively work in teams. And students will get to know their faculty mentor and other project leaders, who ideally can write letters of recommendations for graduate school and jobs later on.

What students do as part of their VIP project?

Tasks vary depending on a lot of factors, such as what discipline the project is in, what level you are, what stage the project is in, etc. Other tasks will be decided on in consultation with the Instructor(s) and other team members.

What is the overall timeline of a VIP experience like for a student in a given semester?

Students in their first semester of a VIP project will be oriented to the topic and the project. You can likely expect to read journal articles on the topic, engage in safety training or human subjects ethics training (if applicable), and learn how to use equipment or design studies. Once you've gotten more familiar with the project and the topic, you will do more advanced work. Students who have been on a VIP team for a few semesters may be asked to take on leadership roles, helping to mentor newer students on the project. Students who have been on a VIP team for multiple years may be doing very independent work that can become a capstone project or senior thesis.

How is student performance in a VIP team graded?

All students will enroll in a course each semester that they participate in a project. The Primary Instructor(s) of each team will create a syllabus for their section of VIP, which will explain the grading requirements. Students may be graded on the quality of their work on the project, their performance on a team, their attendance/participation in team meetings, and possible outputs such as a final poster, oral presentation, and/or paper (note that this list is not exhaustive; please consult the instructor(s) for more information).

Are there any restrictions on the kinds of students who can participate?

The VIP program is open to all students of all majors at all levels. You can join teams that are in your major or outside of your major, although we advise you to consult with your academic advisor regarding how VIP credit can fit into your degree program. 

Some of the project descriptions may target students in particular majors, but if you're interested in joining a project and your major isn't listed, please do not hesitate to reach out to the primary instructor of the team to see if you might be a good fit. Often, students' backgrounds, interests, and enthusiasm may make them a good fit even if their major is not listed.