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‘Transformative impact’

New graduate programs will address critical shortages in IT sector

Teaching and Learning

By Kelly Foss and Jackey Locke

Three new course-based, master’s programs offered at Memorial University will help meet growing demand across technology sectors in the province.

Dr. Greg Naterer
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The programs will start in September 2022.

Students can choose among a master of applied science in software engineering, a master of data science and a master of artificial intelligence.

All programs offer unique opportunities for Memorial graduates to contribute to emerging areas vital to future economic growth in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Joint offering

The software engineering and artificial intelligence programs are jointly offered between the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Faculty of Science.

The new master’s programs will help to increase Memorial’s reputation of offering timely and advanced programs in global areas of growth, says Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

“A larger number of graduates in specialized computer fields of high demand by employers will support the rapid growth of Newfoundland and Labrador’s, and Canada’s, technology sector,” said Dr. Naterer. “It will also address challenges with the present talent shortage of computer professionals in the province.”

They also complement existing programs to provide students more opportunities for career choices.

Dr. Travis Fridgen
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“These programs play an important role in bringing talented individuals from around the world to Newfoundland and Labrador and have a direct impact on growing our economy,” said Dr. Travis Fridgen, acting dean, Faculty of Science. 

“Graduates of these programs will have knowledge and understanding of core areas and will be ready to work in applied positions in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, autonomous vehicles, automated decision-making, intelligent sensing, precision agriculture, personalized medicine, financial security, smart appliances and other emerging areas.” 

‘Transformative impact’

The master of applied science in software engineering will highlight the importance of computing and communication, which will be key for future technology advancement.

Software and intelligent systems, which form the main focuses of the program, are the key enablers to make this happen.

“In a recent book, AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, wrote that 40-50 per cent of current jobs will be technically and economically viable with artificial intelligence and software systems over the next 15 years,” said Dr. Naterer. “From this perspective, artificial intelligence and software engineering will have a transformative impact on society over the next decade.”

Dr. Cheng Li, head, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, agrees.

Dr. Cheng Li
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“It is estimated that the shortage of people with advanced programming skills in the Newfoundland and Labrador tech sector will be close to 2,000 over the next five years,” said Dr. Li. “These programs will help to address this challenge by providing graduates with the highly needed skills for our local job market.”

Graduates of the software engineering program will be able to pursue career options in software related jobs in the technology sectors, as well as data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Software careers will also be increasingly in higher demand in traditional sectors like offshore energy, ocean technology, mining and mineral processing, and the fisheries.

Data age

Dr. J.C. Loredo-Osti
Photo: Submitted

Dr. J.C. Loredo-Osti, head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science, says we are living in the data age and it is expected that data collection will be a highly automated process within the next decade. 

“This will not only create massive amounts of data, but will also demand professionals that can analyze it, devise data-oriented solutions and then implement them,” he said. “Data science experts are, and will be, in demand in almost every field — from space exploration to milking cows. This makes data science a very attractive career.”

He notes a large number of faculty at Memorial are already engaged in developing data sciences techniques as well as their application. 

“Many research disciplines make use of cutting-edge technologies for knowledge discovery and our institution is ready to move with the professional training of data scientists,” Dr. Loredo-Osti said. “With this program, the Faculty of Science is not only fulfilling its role in the training of personnel to address the big data problems, but also promoting technological development in the province and the country.”

Artificial intelligence

Dr. Oscar Meruvia-Pastor, deputy head of graduate studies in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science,  says artificial intelligence has become one of the most popular areas of computer science and there are few areas where artificial intelligence will not improve existing systems or processes. 

Dr. Oscar Meruvia-Pastor wears a black jacket and light blue shirt and glasses.
Dr. Oscar Meruvia-Pastor
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“AI systems are being used for a variety of applications, such as planning, knowledge discovery, automation, human-computer interaction, image processing, natural language processing and robotics,” he said. “That trend is expected to continue in future years as the use of artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and is applied to more areas of science.”

Dr. Sharene Bungay
Photo: Submitted

“The Department of Computer Science has growing expertise in this field and is well-positioned to train graduate students to satisfy the demands for AI in the tech sector across the province, Canada and around the world,” said Dr. Sharene Bungay, department head.

With all areas of society relying on the collection, interpretation and analysis of data, she says the accelerated growth in this reliance is increasing the need for specialists in areas such as data science, artificial intelligence and software engineering. 

“These new program offerings make Memorial a leading institution among Atlantic Canadian universities in responding to training students to work with, analyze and interpret large amounts of data and to provide software solutions to these and other areas.”

To learn more about these programs and the application deadlines for fall 2022, visit the School of Graduate Studies

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