Teamwork is essential to iCons. It is in its blood.
However, working on a team does not always make the job easier – making the team work takes skill. Although teamwork is not explicitly taught, a key element of the iCons way is reflection (a skill that iCons 1 students practice often). Here is one team’s reflection on their first team experience in iCons, where they tackled the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria in smog.
Team 4 (Achala Narayanan, Alex Main, Erika Allen, and Grace Ortgiesen)
Creating nanowires to improve memory storage in everyday devices, looking at the connection between diet and breast cancer risk, and investigating the effects of climate change on aquatic insects - just a few of the real-world challenges that students in the iCons Program's fourth cohort “The Fourth Dimension” are tackling in their iCons 4 research projects.
We are so proud of iCons Class of 2017 student, Tristan Tay, whose contributions to UMass Prof Vincent Rotello's lab were recognized, as he was named as an author on the recently published paper on gene editing in the journal ACS Nano entitled, "Direct Cytosolic Delivery of CRISPR/Cas9-Ribonucleoprotein for Efficient Gene Editing". Tristan did a co-op last semester with a biotech startup in Cambridge, and he will be graduating UMass in Fall 2017, looking to pursue a Md/PhD degree.
For their first case study, the iCons cohort, The Seventh Kingdom, has chosen to study Antibiotic Resistance. They are using system diagrams to understand all of the aspects of the problem (political, social, environmental, etc). This will allow them to pinpoint the area that they want to focus their solution on in order to maximize the impact.
Spring & Summer 2016 saw the graduation of the third cohort of iCons students– known as The Third Axis and also brought about new administrative and instructional leadership of the iCons program. Professor Justin Fermann has moved into the role of iCons Director. As an instructor in iCons 1 for the last six years, Fermann is ready to take on the challenge of bringing iCons to the next level academically –as the program looks to open a third track and to redevelop the biomedicine lab course.
Scott Auerbach, founding director of iCons, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Massachusetts Project Kaleidoscope winter meeting, "Best Practices in STEM and Integrating Undergraduates into Research," at Worcester State University on Wednesday, Jan. 11. His talk is titled, "Keeping Science Real: The Agonies and Ecstasies of the UMass iCons Program." News Office release
Can we identify and quantify the presence of hormones in the breath? This is the question that Megan Brady (iCons ‘2017) is trying to answer through her analysis of “breath fingerprints”. By breathing into an H2O methanol solution and theoretically trapping the compounds and then testing the liquids using an LCMS instrument, Megan is hoping to get closer. The ultimate goal of this work--is to be able to help predict things like cancer, as some of these compounds, or volatiles, could be indicators of disease in the body.
November 1, 2016 found iCons students, Kiki Carey, Rebecca Howard, Erica Light, and Corrine Losch, and iCons instructor, Stephanie Purington standing in front of 60 or so participants in the Massachusetts STEM Summit 2016. And they were smiling. They were happy to be there, and as Erica Light said, they were "really interested in getting these case studies out to students" -- their enthusiasm was clear.
For two and half months this summer, the iCons summer interns diligently toiled to produce the first set of iCons Case Study materials for use in the high school science classroom. Interns Dominique Kiki Carey, Rebecca Howard, and Corrine Losch (all iCons class of 2019) joined iCons alumna, Erica Light (Class of 2016) to form a team charged with the mission of creating and executing high school curriculum that prepares students to be leaders in solving the world’s challenges through problem solving and critical thinking.
Please welcome Dr. Justin Fermann as the new Director of the iCons Program at UMass Amherst. Dr. Fermann is a Senior Lecturer in the UMass Amherst Chemistry Department, a position he has held since 2000. Dr. Fermann was involved in the initial design and development of the iCons Program in 2009-2010, and has been teaching in the iCons 1 “Global Challenges, Scientific Solutions” course since its inception in Spring 2011. Dr. Justin Fermann has been appointed by CNS Dean Steve Goodwin as the new director of iCons.