The UMass Amherst iCons Program hosted a successful Senior Research Exposition for the 6th graduating cohort on May 2, 2019 in the Integrated Sciences Building. After posters, talks, and a cohort graduation ceremony, a select group attended the award ceremony in the Old Chapel. It was here that the UMass iCons Program announced the recipients of the annual Crowley-Nowick Award for iCons Student Leadership & Philanthropy and the Mahoney Alumni Award.
The Crowley-Nowick Award is granted to two students at the beginning of their senior year. The recipients are nominated by their peers, and demonstrate leadership skills and a dedication to the iCons Program. For the 2019-2020 year, Joseph McGaunn and Emily Hansen have been selected to represent the 7th cohort.
Hansen is a double major in physics and chemistry on the renewable energy track. For her, the initial adjustment to college came with struggles, including the feeling of being an outcast in terms of her major. Her inspiration to join the iCons program came from her freshman year peer mentor, iCons alumna, Angie Essa.
“I was super lost,” she said, “everyone was biology and I was physics.”
Essa introduced her to the program, and Hansen went for it.
“Ever since, I’ve wanted to give back,” Hansen said.
Joseph McGaunn is a biochemistry major on the biomedical track of the program. He is involved in iCAN, the iCons Alumni Network, and the iCons podcast “A Little About A Lot.” He was happy to get the acknowledgement of his dedication to the program.
“I think it was a big honor that all the work I’ve tried to put in got recognized,” McGaunn said with a smile, “it is an honor to have the responsibility for the next generation.”
Both students are also responsible for coordinating a scholarship for the next incoming class of iCons students, and both Crowley-Nowick recipients take this very seriously.
Hansen explained “I want more of a sense of commitment in the 3 years to inspire a sense of responsibility after”
McGaunn added “they all have something they can learn from each other.”
The iCons Program also presented the Mahoney Alumni Award to Samantha Giffen. This award is designed to honor iCons graduates that continue to give back to the program and who demonstrate the iCons approach in the workforce. Giffen graduated in 2016 and was awarded the 21st Century Leader Award received during her senior year at UMass. She is currently working towards her PhD in public health at Harvard University. She specifically studies host-pathogen interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
For Giffen, the excitement the iCons seniors had was invigorating. She especially enjoyed the poster session where she got a chance to talk to students individually.
“I remember standing in their shoes,” Giffen said, “so being on the other side to ask about research is so cool!”
When she originally applied for the Mahoney Award, Giffen was unsure about how it would turn out. Upon discovering she was the recipient, she was humbled.
“I remember feeling very much just ‘wow, I have learned a lot and given back to the program!” Giffen said.
Whether a current student or an alumni, all are dedicated individuals ready for their next chapter. Some graduates are headed to complete terminal PhDs (Yale, University of Michigan, Brandeis), others to the eastern side of the state for pharmaceutical work at Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb or to research at the Broad and NIH, and one is even headed out to Panama with the Peace Corps. We wish these leaders in science all the best as they continue their work moving the needle on global problems.