- Case Studies
The iCons Program
iCons—Integrated Concentration in Science—is a selective, 18-credit undergraduate science program offered by the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Designed for students majoring in the physical and life sciences, engineering, and public health, iCons provides integrative science education in two theme areas: Renewable Energy and Biomedicine/Biosystems.
iCons does not replace a major, it enhances a major by providing opportunities to engage with real world issues as part of interdisciplinary teams - skills that translate directly to careers at the leading edge of science. Students apply knowledge from their disciplines to existing problems of global significance, such as the cholera epidemic in Haiti, endocrine disruptors, or the development of algae biofuels.
Society faces daunting technological problems in areas such as renewable energy, climate change, drug design, and clean drinking water. Complex problems demand multi-faceted solutions. iCons provides meaningful interdisciplinary training for students who aspire to be tomorrow's scientific leaders.
The iCons Program Student Learning Outcomes
• Collaborate in diverse teams to critically evaluate societal challenges.
• Gain confidence in your ability to ask questions and seek answers.
• Use fundamental science principles to create experiments that yield valid insights and address gaps in scientific knowledge.
• Learn to write, speak, and think as a scientist as you create your own logical arguments and narratives.
• Articulate an interdisciplinary scientific argument to both scientists and non-scientists.
• Provide and receive constructive criticism when communicating with experts in different scientific fields.
• Critically evaluate experimental data from, and approaches to, scientific problems in your own and other fields.
• Develop an appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the scientific process.
The iCons Application Process
Students interested in joining the iCons Program who are pursuing laboratory-based majors in the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Engineering and the School of Public Health, submit an application in the fall semester of freshman year. The program is designed to be undertaken one course per year over the course of four years, and is therefore best suited for entering freshmen. However, sophomores are allowed to apply, knowing that they will have to double up on courses near the end of the program.
The iCons application is available for completion on the iCons website from September 1 through mid-October. Students must submit their applications online. (https://www.cns.umass.edu/icons-program/applying-to-icons ) Admissions Committee decisions will be communicated to applicants prior to the pre-registration period for spring semester.
The iCons Curriculum
The iCons curriculum integrates scientific expertise across disciplines, giving students opportunities to work with real-world case studies from day one. The program fosters collaborative learning, discovery-based projects, leadership development, and multidisciplinary analytical skills. Tying the experience together, each student begins a digital portfolio in iCons 1, and updates the portfolio as they progress through the iCons Program. Each portfolio will include reflections on academic and personal objectives at the beginning of a course, examples of academic growth and success, and end-of-course meta-cognitive reflections on the nature of the learning experienced in iCons.
Students choose a theme area before registering for the second-year courses, and are expected to join a lab by the spring semester of their Junior year. iCons students are not required to be members of the Commonwealth Honors College, but all iCons courses carry honors credit.
For more details see:
iCons Course Sequence: https://www.cns.umass.edu/icons-program/icons-course-sequence
Fulfilling Departmental Requirements: https://www.cns.umass.edu/icons-program/does-icons-count-for
The iCons Concentration or Sub-plan
For the majority of participating departments, iCons courses fulfill other program or major requirements. In departments where there is significant overlap, the iCons program is offered as a “concentration”, or “sub-plan”, within the major. In these departments, iCons 1 provides GenEd Interdisciplinary credit, iCons 2 fulfills the Junior Year Writing requirement, and iCons 3 fulfills an upper-level elective or equivalent. iCons 4 satisfies the Commonwealth Honors College requirements for a thesis/research project and may fulfill departmental honors requirements.
For Example, an iCons student who is majoring in Chemistry will follow a sub-plan within Chemistry denoted by the Registrar as “Chemistry with iCons Concentration”.
Majors within the following departments currently offer iCons as a Concentration:
1. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (College of Natural Sciences)
2. Biology (College of Natural Sciences)
3. Chemistry (College of Natural Sciences)
4. Computer Science (College of Natural Sciences)
5. Environmental Science Program (College of Natural Sciences)
6. Food Science (College of Natural Sciences)
7. Geosciences (College of Natural Sciences)
8. Microbiology (College of Natural Sciences)
9. Physics (College of Natural Sciences)
10. Psychology (College of Natural Sciences)
11. Veterinary and Animal Science (College of Natural Sciences)
12. Chemical Engineering (College of Engineering)
13. Public Health (School of Public Health and Health Sciences)
The iCons Certificate Program
In departments where there is little-to-no overlap between iCons courses and major requirements, students may earn a Certificate for their work in the iCons Program. The following departments, which accept iCons 2 as replacement for their Junior Year Writing courses, offer iCons as a Certificate Program:
1. Mathematics and Statistics (College of Natural Sciences)
2. Astronomy (College of Natural Sciences)
As new majors become involved in the iCons program, additional agreements are negotiated with departments to offer iCons either as a Concentration or as a Certificate Program.