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Studying Data Science at UWA

25/11/2020 |
3 mins

Hi, I'm Jeremy and I'm a Master of Data Science graduate. I was part of the first cohort of students to go through UWA's Master of Data Science course after it began in 2017. I graduated with distinction and have been in the workforce as a data scientist for nearly a year now.

I had a slightly unusual background for someone entering the Master of Data Science course. I studied music at undergraduate level and, after several years working in a variety of jobs, I was considering ways to broaden my career opportunities. I had always enjoyed mathematics and had some experience with programming and AI, mainly through designing and building digital art installations. I felt data science represented a way for me to direct my skills and interests towards a qualification that came with really exciting career prospects.

One of the interesting things about data science as a profession is that data scientists need to have skills across a broad range of areas. These might include data engineering, using machine learning methods, visualisation and communicating with broader audiences.

Jeremy AnsellI think the breadth of the course was one of its most interesting features. It was rewarding to combine what I learnt across various units into a holistic understanding of the data science process. The course also incorporated option units we could choose according to our interests, including web development, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, advanced statistics and data-driven business decision making. I took a unit in computationally intensive statistics that I found particularly interesting because it allowed me to learn more about the fundamental workings of many algorithms I use on a regular basis.

Fundamentally, data science is about drawing conclusions or making decisions based on evidence, and to do this in practice, you need the right technical and theoretical skills. One of the great things about UWA is that it provides a really strong foundation in these skills. But at the same time, there's a lot of scope to branch out and explore areas that interest you through the option units. Working on real-world projects was also incredibly valuable, as they give you practice at synthesizing skills in different areas.

Throughout the second year of my degree, I undertook a research project in which I worked with an astrophysicist on using neural networks to investigate the origins of distant galaxies. Beyond pure data science skills, it is also incredibly important for data scientists to understand project workflows and to work well with specialists from other fields, so this was a great opportunity to develop real-world skills by working on an end-to-end data science project.

While not strictly part of the course, one of the other great things about being a data science student at UWA is the strong community of very enthusiastic students and staff, with regular social and career events. UWA has a supportive and enthusiastic community, encompassing current students, clubs, teaching staff and alumni. There are opportunities to learn from one another, network, socialise and stay abreast of new developments.

I think the breadth and variety of what data science involves means that every day in the job is different and interesting. It's also a very active field, which means its tools and techniques are constantly evolving, and there's always something new to learn. I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of my current role. Data science work is technical, but it also requires big-picture thinking and creativity in order to come up with good solutions to new problems.

Personally, something that I'm very motivated to contribute to is the urgent transition to renewable energy and sustainable use of our planet's natural resources. In the future I hope I can use my data science skills to have a role in these changes. I would also like to give back to the open source software community whose work I have benefitted so much from, so I’d like to be able to volunteer some time to work on this.

One of the great things about data science is because it's such a widely applicable set of skills, there's a lot of scope to move into different industries according to what interests or drives you. It's a great set of skills to have, whether you want to work as a data scientist or whether you want to use these skills within a different career. In any case, people with the skills to manage and extract value from data will continue to be highly sought after.

Interested to see where a degree in Data Science could take you? Find out more about Data and Computer Science at UWA.

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