A New Day for iCons

UMass iCons 12th Cohort Orientation | December 4, 2021

On December 4, 2021, the UMass iCons Program launched the 12th cohort – the largest and most diverse cohort in the program’s history. And for the first time, the UMass iCons Program welcomed students from across the Isenberg School of Management. All told, the 12th cohort boasts 73 students from 25 majors in 5 UMass schools & colleges, with 61% of students identifying as BIPOC.

Student majors range from accounting to astronomy, marketing to mathematics, biomedical engineering to biochemistry, and public health to psychology.

Prof. Scott Auerbach, the Mahoney Family Sponsored Executive Director of iCons, says, “Welcoming the largest and most diverse cohort to date is a great milestone in the history of the UMass iCons Program. We are so proud of the newest iCons innovators, coming from 20 STEM majors and 5 Business majors, and we applaud their belief in the power of people to solve important societal problems.”

Joining the new cohort were special guests including the UMass Amherst Chancellor, Kumble Subbaswamy, and Dean Karl Rethemeyer of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Chancellor Subbaswamy worked with and learned from the new iCons students as they identified real-world problems worthy of study in their iCons 1 course, which takes place in Spring 2022. We also welcomed our new iCons 1 instructor, Prof. Wei Fan. Wei is the iCons Teaching Fellow and joins us from the UMass Chemical Engineering department.

The annual event features a discussion and debate among new iCons students about what problems are worthy of study in their first iCons course (ICONS 189H – Global Challenges, Scientific Solutions). Students in the 12th cohort pitched many problems including Food Insecurity, Water Scarcity, and Nuclear Waste Treatment, but the winner this year was Antibiotic Resistance because of its overlap with health and agricultural practices. Students reflected on how empowering it is to choose the curriculum of their iCons work.

Check out photos from the day.


The mission of the UMass iCons Program is to inspire a diverse generation of innovators in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business with the attitudes and skills needed to solve problems facing our world – problems like developing clean energy, curing disease, and responding to climate change. Building on the disciplinary strength of each student’s major, iCons projects at all levels involve collaborative student teams working on cross-disciplinary communication and integrative problem-solving skills.

The iCons Program is supported by our major sponsor – the Mahoney Family – as well as by the Chleck Family Foundation and members of the iCons Industry Consortium: Waters Corporation and Zipher Medical Affairs.