CS + Science

Smart solutions

By Myles Gough

Computer scientists find clever ways to tackle big problems.

There is a growing demand for computer science graduates to help solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Scientific advances mean researchers are collecting and generating more data than ever.

The major task now is to make sense of it all. One of the most sought-after skills is the ability to manage, interpret and share huge amounts of complex data. That’s where programmers come in.

Joshua Hollick is a computer scientist and engineer working at the Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch (HIVE) at Curtin University in WA.

Joshua helps scientists and engineers turn complex data into visual representations – such as 3D models, diagrams or interactive imagery – which make it easier to see the patterns.

“Being able to visualise this data in an intuitive way can often provide insights that lead to new scientific models or a better understanding,” he says.

This is especially true for big challenges in the environment, such as climate change, food security and biodiversity.

Future solutions

Claire D’Este is a researcher at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO. She studied information technology at QUT and did a PhD in artificial intelligence at UNSW Australia.

Her studies have helped her “show natural scientists new ways to examine their data and better ways of looking after it so it can be reused to create new knowledge,” she says.

Claire is programming an all-terrain robot to navigate autonomously at night. The objective is to enable round-the-clock environmental and agricultural monitoring.

Her research could help farmers protect crops from disease, and give ecologists information on the nocturnal habits of animals and the distribution of invasive species that threaten Australian biodiversity.

Computer scientists are also playing an important role in promoting sustainable power consumption. Andreas Reinhardt, a researcher at UNSW Australia, has been developing a smart energy management system.

It uses wireless sensors to collect information from power points, and machine learning techniques to analyse and interpret the data.

It can tell you exactly how much power the appliances in your home are using and help you modify your usage to reduce your carbon footprint.

“It’s thanks to my solid computing background that I was able to design and develop a software architecture in which I can implement and evaluate solutions to this problem,” Andreas says.

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Data scientist, application software developer,
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Science/Computer ScienceUNSW Australia

Engineering (Computer)/Computer ScienceUniversity of Newcastle

Engineering (Computer Systems)/Mathematical & Computer SciencesUniversity of Adelaide

Information & Communication Technology/ScienceUniversity of Tasmania

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