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University launches Digital Sciences Initiative

29 April 2021
Initiative to develop “21st century” digital skills
The Initiative will focus on four key research missions: digital health imaging, digital agriculture, data-centric engineering and defence.

The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering has launched the Digital Sciences Initiative – a world-class program aimed at embedding and enhancing 21st century digital skills within research and across undergraduate degrees.

The initiative has also been established to break down barriers between faculties and disciplines by establishing multidisciplinary research areas that will solve some of the world’s greatest challenges in health, agriculture, advanced manufacturing and defence.

It will address these challenges both on a local and global basis by collaborating with industry and government, playing a leading role in Sydney’s technical precinct, Tech Central, as well as greater Sydney, including the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

In response to the huge advancements already being achieved through the digitisation of these industries, the Digital Sciences Initiative will integrate advanced data science and computing skills into research and undergraduate programs across all seven schools within the Faculty of Engineering.

It will also fast-track research and development within four key research missions that will enhance collaboration of researchers across faculties: digital health imaging; digital agriculture; defence; and data-centric engineering, in response to increased global industry demand for R&D in these areas.

Designed in consultation with researchers and industry, the digitally focused curriculum has also been created in response to a rapidly changing workforce and world.

Globally, engineering roles are increasingly demanding advanced digital skills across almost every industry, from aviation to biomedical engineering.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Willy Zwaenepoel said: “The Initiative is a unique opportunity for our University to seize an internationally leading position in digital sciences and engineering and align itself with industry and government initiatives in the four key research areas.

“Through our Faculty’s fostering of cross-faculty collaboration, we aim to be to be a driving force in fundamental digital science and technology research and education, with digital skills at the core of all our research and teaching undertakings now and into the future to the benefit of our graduates and industry stakeholders.

Just as the ability to read and write is a foundational skill for almost every discipline, digital knowledge has become an elemental skill within almost any engineer’s répertoire.
Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering

“Our key research missions will encompass researchers from disciplines across the University, to better respond to global challenges, such as using digital agriculture to increase food security, to using AI and machine learning in health to take pressure off overburdened health resources.”

Professor Zwaenepoel said the undergraduate curriculum has been designed to enable students to enter the workforce “job ready” and with an agile skillset placing them at the forefront of engineering innovation.

He said: "Just as the ability to read and write is a foundational skill for almost every discipline, digital knowledge has become an elemental skill within almost any engineer’s répertoire.”

“Rapid advancements in computational tools and the utilisation of rich data in engineering practice mean skills in data science and computation are being increasingly demanded across almost every engineering industry, from civil to aerospace engineering."

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Stephen Garton, said the curriculum's digital focus and the Initiative’s focus on collaborations between disciplines across the university would better equip researchers and graduates to design a better future.

“Our new digital curriculum for undergraduate engineering students will ensure our students are ready to respond to the world’s future challenges when they graduate,” said Professor Garton.

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