Now more than ever, students of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) need to develop skills for real-world problem solving (see Nature 523, 272–274; 2015). These include leadership, collaboration, communication and interdisciplinary thinking — all sought after by companies and organizations that must compete in today's global economy.
In the Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) Program I have launched at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (see www.cns.umass.edu/icons-program), STEM students explore the part that science can play in tackling societal challenges such as cancer, climate change and clean energy. For example, one iCons team identified electrical energy storage as a crucial societal need, which motivated them to design and perform an original investigation on the efficient electrolysis of water. Such innovative educational experiences generate new categories of learning that broaden the meaning of student success — important both for students and for the future.