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Umass iCons Program and Biomedical Engineering Form Partnership

Martin Hunter

Martin Hunter

The UMass Amherst iCons Program recently announced a new collaboration with the UMass Amherst Biomedical Engineering Department (BME) in the College of Engineering to develop an innovative laboratory course open to both iCons and BME students. The effort is being spearheaded by Martin Hunter, senior lecturer in biomedical engineering, and Erica Light, adjunct lecturer in iCons.

Light and Hunter will co-teach ICONS 390BH – Integrated Discovery Lab in Biomedicine – debuting in the spring 2022 semester. This pioneering laboratory course combines the key elements of iCons – interdisciplinary student teams, real-world problems and student-designed innovation – with the world of biomedical science and engineering.

“The College of Engineering welcomes this expanded cooperation between our college and the UMass iCons Program. We’re delighted to bring together both faculty and students from biomedical engineering and iCons for this engaging and rewarding real-world laboratory experience,” said College of Engineering Dean Sanjay Raman.

This partnership between UMass iCons and UMass BME provides value in both directions. BME faculty member Martin Hunter brings experience with hands-on lab techniques that are typically not found in a standard life science laboratory, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, and casting and molding. iCons faculty member Erica Light brings deep expertise in student-driven teaching and learning, having graduated from iCons herself. As a product of this collaboration, BME plans to adapt experiments designed by students in ICONS 390BH for the BME Senior Design Laboratory.

“I am excited about the iCons approach of training students to become uniquely well-prepared to face the world's most pressing, complex problems – facing these problems with passion, creativity, confidence, humility, and ethical perspectives. I want to bring more of that into the BME curriculum,” said Martin Hunter.

iCons and BME plan to open this new laboratory experience to more students after the initial pilot in spring 2022. They also plan to conduct educational research into the effects of student freedom of choice on feelings of competence and belonging in life science and engineering labs.

The UMass iCons Program is a certificate program on real-world problem solving in biomedicine/biosystems and renewable energy, open to all students at UMass Amherst in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and business. The mission of iCons is to inspire a diverse generation of innovators in STEM and business, with the attitudes and skills needed to solve problems facing society. iCons, which is in its 12th year, has graduated 230 alumni who have found career success in education, entrepreneurship, industry, law, medicine, policy, and research. The program is supported by the UMass College of Natural Sciences, the Mahoney Family, the Chleck Family Foundation, and members of the iCons Industry Consortium.

A version of this article was originally published by the UMass Amherst Office of News and Media Relations.