The UMass iCons Program, hosted by the College of Natural Sciences with students in science-intensive disciplines across the university, has launched the online UMass iCons Innovation Portal that provides a searchable database of student research presentations, and even allows users to suggest new research problems for students to solve. Since May, the portal has received over six dozen solutions to research questions on a range of topics from the effects of climate change on soil nutrition to the future of wound healing.
According to Scott Auerbach, the Mahoney Family Sponsored Executive Director of iCons, “We needed to find a way to keep our students engrossed and engaged with their work in this new world of online education – the Innovation Portal does just that by giving students a way to make a difference.”
“Having my research on the UMass iCons Innovation Portal makes me want to work harder on my next iCons projects. Now that I know my work will be out there for the public to see, I will view my work through a new lens,” says Kathryne Lovell, a sophomore Civil Engineering major. Sarah Kaunfer, a junior Microbiology student says, “The UMass iCons Innovation Portal is excellent. My entire research team is excited about it. It is very rewarding to see our hard work showcased among so many other wonderful projects.”
Teams of iCons students have used the Innovation Portal to share solutions for problems such as the spread of COVID-19, campus carbon emissions, improving wound healing, and many others. Creating an organizational scheme for the Innovation Portal proved to be quite challenging, says Auerbach, considering that iCons involves 160 students from 30 different majors in science, technology, engineering, and math, working in teams.
Innovation Portal users can search for iCons solutions by problem keywords, author names, and a variety of other search terms. The UMass iCons Innovation Portal also encourages online users to pose questions directly to student researchers, and to pose problems that should be pursued in future iCons work.
Established in 2010, the UMass iCons Program is a four-year, multidisciplinary undergraduate certificate program. 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.