Advising FAQ

This is the advising FAQ page. We also maintain a general FAQ page for prospective students.

Questions related to iCons 2

Can I take iCons 2 and iCons 3 at the same time?

If you have met the pre-requisites, you may petition to take iCons 2 and iCons 3 at the same time, and you may be added on a space-available basis. Students wanting to get into iCons 3 in the normal sequence have priority over students wanting to take iCons 3 early.

I just completed iCons 2 and want to change tracks. How do I do this?

You can’t. Once you begin a particular track you must remain in that track.

Does iCons 2 fulfill my Junior Year Writing requirement?

Yes, for most majors, but please double check Page 4 of the iCons at a Glance document. If your department is not listed, please contact icons@cns.umass.edu.

What should I do if I have a minor (10 min or less) overlap between my iCons class, and a class required by my major?

You follow this two-step process:

  1. Add into the class required by your major.
  2. Notify the iCons staff by emailing icons@cns.umass.edu to request that we add you into your next iCons class by furnishing the following information: Name, SPIRE ID, iCons theme, and iCons class.
     
    For example:
    Scott Auerbach
    12345678
    Renewable Energy
    iCons 2

When is iCons 2?

The two section of iCons 2 meet at different times:

  1. Section 1 - Biomedicine/Biosystems: Tuesday/Thursday from 10:00 to 11:15. 
  2. Section 2 - Renewable Energy: Tuesday/Thursday from 11:30 to 12:45.

How do I get into iCons 2?

If you have already taken iCons 1, you simply add it in SPIRE. iCons 2 = NatSci 289H. There are two sections listed:

  1. Section 1 - Biomedicine/Biosystems
  2. Section 2 - Renewable Energy

What is the "normal" sequence of iCons courses?

  1. The normal sequence of iCons courses is:
  2. Spring Freshman year – iCons 1
  3. Spring Sophomore year – iCons 2
  4. Fall or Spring Junior year – iCons 3
  5. Senior year – iCons 4 
  6. Students taking this sequence receive priority enrollment in all iCons courses.

Questions related to iCons 3

How do I "look" for a research lab?

Aim to find a lab where the research is interesting to you, and where you can draw a connection to your iCons problem area (either Biomedicine or Renewable Energy -- for now). Read UMass Amherst faculty research websites, listen to your gut about what you find interesting, then write a short email to each of the professors whose research interests you. Make sure to do the following in your message:

  • Introduce yourself: Name, major, iCons theme
  • Express your sincere interest in their research, and explain that you are looking to join a lab ASAP 
  • Ask if they are planning to take in any undergraduate students, and if so, would be willing to meet for 15 minutes to discuss common interests sometime soon

If you get a meeting, make sure to prepare for the meeting by downloading a paper of theirs and read it, generating thoughtful questions and even some of your own ideas for future work. If the 1st meeting goes well and you remain interested in their work, ask for a follow-up meeting where you talk about the possibility of joining their lab, eventually leading to your having your own project. Then, if/when you join their lab, be a good team player and a careful, creative, honest, and hard-working scientist. That's all :)

What are the prerequisites for iCons 3 Biomed?

  1. iCons 1 and iCons 2 Biomed
  2. Either Biochem 275 or Biology 285

When is iCons 3 Biomed?

There are two sections of iCons 3 Biomedicine/Biosystems (Bio 383H):

  1. Section 1 - Monday 12:20 - 4:25/Wednesday 1:25 - 4:25
  2. Section 2 - Tuesday 11:30 - 4:05/Thursday 1:00 - 4:05

For iCons students in the Biomedicine/Biosystems concentration, planning to take iCons 3 Biomed in the 2015/2016 Academic Year:

iCons 3 Biomedicine/Biosystems (Bio 389H) will take place during the Fall semester 2015, rather than the Spring 2016. The prerequisites for Bio 389H are: Bio 285 or Biochem 275, with a grade of 'C' or higher in either course.

If you are unable to take Bio 389H in the Fall of 2015 because you haven't completed the prerequisites, or you have a scheduling conflict, you may petition the iCons Program by e-mail (icons@cns.umass.edu.) requesting to take an alternative in Spring 2016: Bio 397 MH (Cell and Molecular Biology Lab). In order to take Bio 397 MH, you must have completed or be concurrently enrolled in Bio 285.

How do I register for iCons 3 Biomed?

You must submit an application (Bio 383H: Gene and Genome Analysis) answer ONLY the first 6 questions (name, email, Spire ID, major, iCons Y/N?, target section).

What are the prerequisites for iCons 3 RE?

  1. iCons 1 and iCons 2 RE, with a grade of C or higher. 
  2. Calculus 127 and 128 or Calculus 131 and 132 with a grade of C or higher. 
  3. Science lab courses (or science courses with associated labs, such as Chem 112 or Physics 132) from at least two different departments, with a grade of C or higher.

When is iCons 3 RE?

iCons 3 RE is Friday from 1:00 - 5:00. There are optional open-lab hours TBD by the instructor.

How do I register for iCons 3 RE?

If you have already taken iCons 2 RE, then you can simply add iCons 3 RE in SPIRE. The formal course name is NatSci 389H, which is the permanent course number.

Questions related to iCons 4

What do I need for my 499Y thesis plan?

You must be able to articulate the following details in your plan, due April of your Junior year:

  • Title: An overall topic to study
  • Paragraph on Objectives: A particular question that you yourself will focus on, and why this question is important
  • Paragraph on Methods: An idea of the battery of methods you plan to use to answer the question
  • Paragraph on Impacts: If your work is successful, how will it impact your field of science, and the related societal problem?
  • Reading list: That you begin in time to hit the ground running by September of your Senior year

View the 499-Y Honors Research Instructions and Contract and Registration Form

What is the structure iCons 4?

iCons 4 is made up of 6 credits of research or project work and 2 credits of Integrative seminars taken in the Fall and Spring semesters of your Senior year. Here is how it breaks down:

  • 6 credits of an iCons 4 “Advanced Study” Project - 3 credits in Fall, 3 credits in Spring
  • 1 credit iCons “Integrative Team Science Seminar” (NATSCI 490FH) - Fall of Senior year
  • 1 credit iCons “Integrative Science Senior Exposition Seminar” (NATSCI 490 SH), Spring of Senior year

What is my iCons 4 "Integrative Experience" reflection about?

iCons starts with the premise that to solve really big problems, we need interdisciplinary technical approaches. So for every research project in iCons 4, it is crucial (why crucial?) for a student to engage in two different but related reflections: 

  1. Problem: connect the dots in writing between your research and a big problem, i.e., if your research were to go fantastically well, what big problem could you solve or get much closer to solving? This is easier for some project than for others, but this should be done FOR ALL PROJECTS. 
  2. Approach: reflect in writing on the extent to which you took an interdisciplinary approach in your research and thinking. And we mean interdisciplinary in the broadest possible sense, including not only bridging fields of science, but bridging all fields in your work. So for example, Ryan needed to know things about geography (altitudes and population demographics) in addition to the statistics and other epidemiological principles applied to understanding the Haitian disease. You blended several disciplines in your work. It is of great importance to reflect on how and why such blending was crucial to whatever success you enjoyed in your research.

I am a student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department; how does iCons 4 relate to my Senior Design Project?

If you are NOT a member of the Commonwealth Honors College, the Senior Design Project may count for 6 credits of Advanced Study in iCons 4. The requirements are:

  1. The project counts for at least 6 credits over 2 semesters
  2. The project is supervised by a qualified research/project adviser
  3. A written report is produced that is evaluated by the adviser and an iCons faculty member
  4. The project involves advanced study sufficiently rooted in science and/or engineering, in service of solving a problem connected to a societal problem
  5. The iCons Curriculum Committee (iCons director and iCons 4 instructor) agrees that the proposed substitution meets iCons 4 criteria, making judgments about (1) the extent of rooting of the work in science and/or engineering, (2) the connection of the problem to a societal problem, and (3) the sufficient qualifications of the adviser.

Can I wait until senior year to find my iCons 4 lab?

No. The problem is that many potential advisors won't welcome you into their lab at the late date of senior fall or even summer's end. Many advisors will not allow a student to begin a new research project at the beginning of senior year, because that student has so little time to get up to speed on things. For many advisors, you'll need to convince them that you'll do some reading over the summer to get up to speed, so when you start in the Fall you can hit the ground running. It's much harder (namely impossible) to make that case if you approach them at the end of the summer or the beginning of senior fall. We strongly suggest you find a lab during junior spring, before you leave campus.

How do I get credit for independent lab work that is related to my iCons 4 thesis?

Enroll in "Dept" 396(H) for an independent study ("H" if you are in the Commonwealth Honors College), where "Dept" is the name of your major department. For example, if you are a biology major in CHC, you would sign up for Bio396(H).

I currently do independent research in a lab. Will iCons 4 conflict with this research, or can my independent research count as my iCons 4 research?

Your iCons 4 project can be built upon your previous research and performed in the lab where you already work, provided that the research connects to your iCons theme (Biomed or RE). 

If your independent research will not overlap with your iCons theme, then you could do one of two things. One option is to take on a second research project. That’s a lot of work, so the other option is to shift your research focus, about which you’ll need to talk to your PI to ensure s/he has the necessary knowledge to advise you.

What is the role of my iCons 4 research adviser?

In general, the iCons 4 (i4) research adviser offers advice to help you succeed in your research project. Such advice might involve (but is not limited to) help in choosing topics and questions, in framing hypotheses and designing experiments, and in analyzing and interpreting data. Your research adviser may also provide encouragement and perspective along the way of your research experience. 

From an administrative perspective, your i4 research adviser provides constructive criticism on your proposal, and eventually accepts the proposal and hence gives you the green light to do the work. Your i4 research adviser then meets with you in a mutually-agreed-upon meeting schedule, to help supervise the research. Then your i4 research adviser provides constructive criticism on your written thesis, and eventually gives you a grade on your written thesis. 

Your i4 research adviser is NOT involved with the peer support teams, the cohort wide meetings, the integrative experience, or any of the Senior Expo planning.

What constitutes an iCons 4 “Advanced Study” Project?

A structured research or design project of 6 credits taken over 2 semesters, such as: 

  • Departmental 499 Y/T Senior Thesis/Research Projects
  • Engineering Senior Design Projects

To be considered an “iCons Advanced Study Project” the project must meet the following criteria:

  • The project counts for at least 6 credits over 2 semesters
  • The project is supervised by a qualified research/project adviser
  • A written report is produced that is evaluated by the adviser and an iCons faculty member
  • The project involves advanced study sufficiently rooted in science and/or engineering, in service of solving a problem connected to a societal problem
  • The iCons Curriculum Committee (iCons director and iCons 4 instructor) agrees that the proposed substitution meets iCons 4 criteria, making judgments about (1) the extent of rooting of the work in science and/or engineering, (2) the connection of the problem to a societal problem, and (3) the sufficient qualifications of the adviser.

How do I select an appropriate research project for iCons 4?

Choose a project that offers a balance between: (i) Your intellectual interest in a given topic and (ii) The topic's potential for transformative science.

How do you know if a topic has scientific potential? Ask yourself whether it will allow for the application of the Scientific Method.

The steps of the Scientific Method:

  • Ask a question
  • Pose a hypothesis (essentially an educated guess for the answer of the question)
  • Design a study to test the hypothesis
  • Carry out the study, fixing its flaws along the way
  • Collect, analyze, and interpret data
  • Determine if data are consistent with hypothesis
  • If yes, party hardy
  • If not, revise hypothesis until it becomes consistent with available data, and then party hardy
  • Write up results in scientific format