Why iCons?

The iCons Mission: To produce the next generation of leaders in science and technology with the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to solve the inherently multi-faceted problems facing our world.

The Problem: Science in Silos
Today’s society faces urgent challenges: Developing clean energy, curing disease, producing drinkable water, and responding to climate change. To make meaningful contributions to the issues of their time, students must possess a deep understanding of relevant scientific concepts, and the ability to apply these concepts in real-world contexts. Unfortunately, most fields of science are taught the same way they were a century ago – in separate silos isolated from economic and political realities. Without offering a wider cultural perspective, science instruction cannot inspire today’s students to create solutions our world needs.

While deep technical expertise is critical to solving the world’s biggest problems, standard science instruction alone does not provide students the breadth of training they need to succeed as future leaders in industry, government, or academia. New skill-sets in collaboration, communication, leadership, and interdisciplinary thinking define the needs of the 21st century technical workforce. Organizations must identify and recruit employees armed with these skills to compete in today’s world. Where will organizations find such people?

The Solution: The iCons Program
Preparing 21st-century scientists requires a 21st-century approach. The University of Massachusetts Amherst has developed the Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) Program, a unique approach to science education that answers this pressing need: To produce the next generation of leaders in science and technology with the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to solve the inherently multi-faceted problems facing our world.

The iCons Program is at the cutting-edge of integrative education, bringing together undergraduate students from all walks of science and engineering to:

  • Collaborate on complex societal issues in science-diverse teams;
  • Understand multi-faceted problems from multi-disciplinary perspectives; and
  • Develop and study creative solutions to real-world challenges.

Building on the disciplinary strength of each student’s major, the 20-credit iCons curriculum consists of one course per year over four years, culminating in world-class research experiences. iCons projects involve student teamwork on case studies, laboratory experiments, and research – all fostering cross-disciplinary communication and integrative problem-solving skills. After the first year, each student chooses a track in either Biomedicine/Biosystems or Renewable Energy. New concentration areas in Clean Water and Climate Change are being developed. Students apply to the program as freshmen, and are taught by an interdisciplinary team of professors and experts in their fields.

The Outcome: Today’s Students and Tomorrow’s Leaders
The iCons Program at UMass Amherst attracts the best-and-brightest students, laying the foundation for creative and entrepreneurial careers by radically altering both what we teach and how we teach. iCons students will make immediate and substantial impacts in whatever organizations they join, and bring these organizations to new levels of competitiveness. Most importantly, with the advent of the iCons Program, UMass Amherst is preparing scientists who will help address some of the most urgent issues facing our society today.

Program Overview: iCons is a 20-credit academic program offered by the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. iCons provides integrative science and engineering education that addresses problems of global significance through interdisciplinary teamwork.

iCons students have individual majors in departments spanning the Colleges of Natural Science, Engineering, and Public Health. The iCons program enhances each student’s disciplinary training through a four-year program of interdisciplinary case studies, laboratory work, and research, producing problem-solvers with powerful communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

Program Curriculum: iCons At a Glance