Project Name

Virtual Laboratories in Higher Education


For more information, please visit our website

Project Team

  • Maynooth University (MU)-Lead: Prof Denise Rooney (project lead), Prof Frances Heaney (academic lead), and Prof Carmel Breslin (academic lead)
  • Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS): Dr Brian Murphy (academic lead)
  • Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT): Dr Ronan Bree and Dr Bernard Drumm (both are academic leads)
  • University College Cork (UCC): Dr Eric Moore (academic lead)
  • Dublin City University (DCU): Dr Aoife Morrin (academic lead)

Provide a short description of the project

We are a consortium of five higher education institutions, Maynooth University (lead), Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), University College Cork (UCC), and Dublin City University (DCU) who have come together to work on an innovative project focused on the use of virtual laboratories as a teaching tool for the chemical sciences.

This ambitious venture, with enterprise partners and education technology providers will involve up to 5,000 students across the five partner higher education institutes over its lifetime. This timely project, will design a new curriculum to equip the next generation with the enhanced technical and work readiness skills critical for success in the modern bio/chemical sciences sector. Indeed, some of the largest industries operating in Ireland are  represented by the biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical and chemical sector and employees with high levels of technical training are crucial to these companies.

Our mission is to develop work-ready graduates with enhanced practical, project management, communication and team working skills through design of an agile and responsive curriculum where students are afforded the opportunity to experience a real-work environment through virtual training and engagement with enterprise partners and industrially relevant workplace problems. We aim to enhance engagement and student success in the learning of practical techniques and the understanding of key concepts in the bio/chemical sciences through a blended approach complementing a real laboratory, face-to-face, experience with a virtual laboratory experience.

Highlight interesting collaborations / partnerships

Each institute has established enterprise contacts who contribute to this initiative, including, Alltech, Analog Devices, Avectas, Ulysses Neuroscience, Mindconnex, WuXi Biologics, WuXi Vaccines Ireland, NIBRT, Carbon Coaching, Pfizer, MSD Brinny, Thermofisher, Janssen, Henkel, Abbott, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and Almac.


Our enterprise partners include global leaders and their participation and contribution to our teaching programmes will create a distinct, cutting-edge, unique and exceptional learning environment.


Engagement with enterprise stakeholders will involve the design of module content, interacting with students at showcase events, a seminar series with keynote enterprise speakers and student-enterprise partner workshops with roundtable discussions.


Our partners come from highly successful and thriving sectors in Ireland with companies who are leaders in the Pharmaceutical, Bio-pharmaceutical, Semiconductor and Food and Drink industries, reflecting the broad interests of our students.

Provide a brief summary of the project’s key enterprise engagements


  • Webinar launch of the project- companies in attendance were Alltech, Affinity Biomarkers, MindConnex, Agilent, Hovione, WuXiBiologics, Avectas, Ulysses Neuroscience, Novartis, Henkel, and Analog Devices.
  • Industry-invited talks to students from ThermoFisher, Ulysess Neuroscience, Avectas.
  • Showcase of the student Team working project with representatives from Veolia Water Technologies.
  • Pfizer, Almac and Ulysses Neuroscience, and Ispen presented at a ‘Community and Industrial Engagement event: Chemistry Research Symposium’.
  • Advisory panel (Mindconnex, Analog Devices, and Alltech) reviewed Mu module content in Jan 2022 and carried out a site visit and reviewed module content in Feb 2023,


  • Advisory panel (Abbott and Jazz Pharmaceuticals) will support the project on initiatives such as providing feedback on module content, pedagogical approaches, facilitating site visits for students, and guest seminars.



  • Hosted two Enterprise Engagement webinars in December 2022, in attendance were WuXi Biologics, WuXi Vaccines Ireland, Almac, Carbon Coaching, and NIBRT.
  • An on-campus workshop (1st March 2023) was hosted bringing senior management, academic staff, student partners and enterprise partners together to review module content and discuss the virtual labs project in focused break-out sessions.
  • On 15th March 2023, a career focused event will be hosted with alumni now based at companies meeting current students.


  • Module content has been reviewed by industry advisory panel from MSD Brinny, Janssen Biologics, Pfizer, Agilent and Thermofisher in particular o the design and implementation.
  • UCC team has been proactive with promoting and showcasing to the industry the research undertaken by the taught MSc and PG Dip in Bioanalytical Chemistry students.



  • The Team is engaging with Henkel approx. every 6 months for content review, brainstorming and content design to ensure the industry relevance of the main Module developing virtual content.

An industrial committee has been established recently (Dec 2022) at DCU School of Chemical Sciences, comprising national and international industry partners.

Project Showcase

A dedicated LinkedIn page, Twitter account, and web page were created to keep our visibility, publish our progress, and further engage with the public.

Members of the Team have presented at the following events:

  • Presentation at the National Forum meeting on the theme “Towards an Understanding of the Agile Curriculum”.
  • Half-day symposium supported by the office of the Dean of Teaching and Learning on ‘Delivering a more inclusive and equitable learning experience for STEM students’
  • Poster presentation (online) at the Methods in Chemical Research 2022 International Conference.
  • Oral presentations at Edtech 2022, in UCC.
  • Oral presentation at EDUtech Europe 2022 Amsterdam.
  • Invitation to give a webinar presentation on parts of the project to the members of staff of the UK-based Edtech partner LearnSci.
  • Presentation and stand at the Craft Beers & Spirits Summit 2022.
  • Presentation at DKIT-annual research day.
  • Presentation at a DkIT-wide event around feedback practice sharing and how to maximise the impact and potential of digital feedback for learners.
  • Invitation to provide the opening presentation at an institution-wide event at DkIT centering on promoting student success in learning and teaching.
  • Accepted to present at Physiological Society “Innovation and Updates in Teaching and Student Education across Physiology and STEM” conference (April 2023).

Members of the Team have organised and generally presented at the following events.

  • Initiative Launch launch webinar- attended by HEI senior management, academic and professional support staff, and industry representatives.
  • Event dedicated to the Virtual Labs project at UCC-National Forum’s Valuing Ireland’s Teaching and Learning Week, VIT&L.
  • Enterprise consultation day at MU with members of the Irish Brewing and Distilling Industry
  • Event for secondary school teachers at MU on ‘Celebrating the Teaching Learning of Practical Chemistry’.
  • Community and Industrial Engagement Chemistry Research Symposium at MU.
  • DCUs Virtual Labs Working Group Seminar Series.
  • DkIT employability workshop held with Student Advisory Group (Feb 2023). Here, the virtual labs project was mapped to the DkIT’s employability and graduate attribute framework
  • A stand for the Virtual Lab Project at the Cork Carnival of Science 2022.



Last updated: Monday 24 April 2023

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