By Shabana Begum
Come August, 20 to 30 students will begin classes in a new bachelor’s programme in data science and artificial intelligence (DSAI), designed to meet the growing demand for such expertise in Singapore.
The undergraduate course will offer existing modules from both the Computer Science and Mathematical Sciences disciplines.
New modules such as Data Visualization and Data Applications in Natural Sciences have also been designed for the four-year programme. The current course content on the SCSE website may be subject to further changes.
During their course of study, DSAI students will learn computing, mathematics and essentials in software and product development, among others.
The DSAI programme will train students to analyse data and use artificial intelligence knowledge to solve real-life problems in areas ranging from science and to environmental sustainability.
Students will also get to apply their knowledge in industries such as finance, healthcare and biotechnology through applied research projects and a professional internship.
The new programme was announced by NTU President Subra Suresh on 10 Jan when he shared his vision of a Smart Campus at a town hall session. Information about the new course curriculum was released on the University’s website on 17 Jan.
The Career and Attachment Office’s (CAO) career consultant in Information and Communication Technology, Ms See Wai Yen, said the demand for data scientists and AI professionals is currently higher than the supply of experts available.
“Employers from various industries, from e-commerce to oil and gas, have told CAO that they would like to hire graduates who are proficient in data analysis or are knowledgeable in AI,” said Ms See.
“We have had to inform them that NTU offers modules pertaining to data and data engineering, but we don’t have a degree programme on these fields yet.”
Identifying the shortage for talent at the national level, AI Singapore (AI.SG) was launched last year by a host of statutory boards such as the National Research Foundation to enhance AI capabilities in Singapore and build on the country’s Smart Nation vision.
For instance, AI.SG hopes to use AI to address healthcare challenges that will come with an aging population and make investments to catch the next wave of scientific innovation.
Under its AI Apprenticeship Programme, 200 candidates proficient in programming, big data technologies and cloud computing will undergo intensive training while being mentored by industry professionals.
Singaporean professionals within their first three years of graduation from university are eligible to apply for the programme.
Acknowledging that data science and AI are promising disciplines, SPMS and SCSE students welcomed the new programme.
“In today’s big data era, there is an insane demand for qualified data scientists in almost every field,” said Alvin Heng, 22, a second-year student from SPMS.
Tay Han Yi, a second-year student from SCSE, said she would enroll for the DSAI course if given the chance as her Computer Science major does not offer extensive training in mathematics and data analysis.
“In the data science field, you’d need more knowledge in mathematics and the Computer Science programme offers only three mathematics modules. The DSAI curriculum seems to offer a more in-depth understanding of data science.”
Currently, Computer Science students who are interested in data science can take up to six upper-level modules from the data science elective focus area.
Speaking to the Nanyang Chronicle, Mr Laurence Liew, director for AI Industry Innovations at AI.SG, also welcomed the new DSAI course at NTU.
He said the organisation is looking forward to hiring incoming DSAI undergraduates for internships and projects if students possess the skills they are looking for.
But Mr Liew also stressed that for the students to remain employable, they should not only focus on academics.
“They should also join the AI community by contributing to various open source projects as developers or leaders,” he said. Open source projects refer to collaborative projects where the source code — a code that controls how a software works — is available to the public for modification, free of charge.
“This is the only way to make yourself stand out.”