iCons Program Announces Online Innovation Portal

iCons Program Announces Online Innovation Portal

The Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) Program announced the upcoming unveiling of an online, web-based “innovation portal” to showcase student research projects into real-world problems as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a remote instruction tool.

The Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) Program announced the upcoming unveiling of an online, web-based “innovation portal” to showcase student research projects into real-world problems as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a remote instruction tool, says iCons founder and professor of chemistry Scott Auerbach. He and the program’s faculty researchers and instructors intend the portal to allow iCons student research to enjoy increased impact through online dissemination.

Established in 2010 by executive director Auerbach, the Mahoney Family-sponsored iCons program is a four-year, multidisciplinary undergraduate program hosted by the campus’s College of Natural Sciences. Its mission includes producing the next generation of leaders in science and technology with the attitudes, skills and knowledge needed to solve inherently multi-faceted problems facing the world.

Emily Hansen, a senior iCons student from Kingston, says, “I’ve been looking forward to sharing my research at the iCons Senior Expo since I started iCons freshman year; I was so disappointed to learn it was cancelled. But now we have the opportunity to reach an even broader audience with the iCons Innovation Portal.” Hansen is a physics major studying clean electricity generation in the iCons renewable energy track.

Teams of iCons students are currently working to design solutions for problems such as the spread of COVID-19 and campus carbon emissions, among others. At present, there are 160 iCons undergraduate students working on such real-world problems. All iCons student teams offer public presentations on their research findings and potential solutions at end-of-semester events, which have been canceled this semester.

Auerbach says of the portal, “We are reassured that iCons students will still have an avenue to communicate their research findings to the outside world – findings on COVID-19, on greening the energy landscape at UMass and on many other pressing issues. For the iCons educational model to function best, the hard work of our students needs to see the light of day to have impact.”

The iCons Innovation Portal will provide a searchable database of student research presentations on topics on its two concentration areas, renewable energy and biomedicine. It will allow the online audience to pose questions to student researchers. Future versions are expected to include a cross-linked iCons Portfolio Gallery where each student will reflect on their accomplishments, challenges and growth. Educational research has shown that such reflection is key for students to consolidate the deeper lessons learned during their most challenging educational experiences, organizers say.