Nicholas Tooker and Shira Epstein Team up as iCons Teaching Fellows
Nicholas Tooker, a lecturer in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, and Shira Epstein, the director of Campus Makerspaces and a lecturer in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, have been announced as two of the three 2022-2023 iCons Teaching Fellows by iCons, which stands for the integrated concentration in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). The iCons award provides funding for faculty to join the iCons teaching team while also receiving professional development funds.
According to the iCons article, the fellowship enables selected faculty to benefit from professional development and training in student-driven instructional methods, to teach classes with more-inclusive values, and to bring their own expertise and unique experiences to the iCons Student Program. The mission of the iCons Student Program is “to inspire a diverse generation of innovators with the attitudes and skills needed to solve the problems facing our world.”
Tooker and Epstein will be utilizing the fellowship to teach the “iCons 389H Team-Oriented Lab Discovery in Renewable Energy.” The course is a team-oriented, student-driven discovery laboratory in which students address real-world, energy-related issues.
As Epstein says, the class will be built on “student-driven projects that draw on the students' own interests and passions” while exercising skills such as “scientific thinking, literature review, project proposal, experimental design, data analysis, and scientific writing and presentation.”
Together, as the iCons release explains, Tooker and Epstein will provide crucial insight stemming from their roots in the College of Engineering while gaining valuable professional development from the iCons Program.
Tooker is the Professor of Practice in the CEE department. The focus of his research lies in environmental and water-resources engineering, and this expertise will be a valuable asset to the Renewable Energy lab course.
Tooker earned his Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, his M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Davis, and his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman.
Epstein led the creation of the UMass Amherst Makerspace as an interdisciplinary hub for makers on campus. She works on maintaining the space and equipment, supervising staff, and aiding students with their projects. As she says, “My Makerspace experience in mentoring and reviewing interdisciplinary projects allows me to follow along with and provide insights to student projects that draw from a very broad range of topics.”
Epstein received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
The UMass Amherst iCons Program explains that it “prepares our best undergraduates to be problem solvers, leaders, and innovators in science, technology, and business. iCons recruits quality students across a diverse range of science, engineering, and business disciplines to identify global problems and find cutting-edge solutions.”
As just one prime example, during the fall semester of 2022, undergraduate Cleo Hein of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department was a member of an iCons team of UMass Amherst students in a competition among nine semester-long projects. The competition was conducted in partnership with the Museum of Science (MOS) in Boston, which looked at how to decrease the city’s carbon footprint. See College of Engineering Student Collaborates with iCons Team to Shrink Boston’s Carbon Footprint. (March 2023)