Combine and conquer
By Fran Molloy
It takes a team of creative thinkers and skilled problem-solvers to change the world.
Studying science and engineering is all about problem solving, which often leads to practical, hands-on careers. But there’s also plenty of room to unleash your creativity by combining science or engineering degrees with humanities, business, or creative arts.
Combined (or double) degrees allow students to do two degrees at the same time. Many unis now allow students to choose their own pair of degrees, though most also have standard combination degrees on offer. It’s a powerful way to follow your passion while gaining expertise in a career-focused discipline.
People with broad skill sets who can work well with others are going to be in high demand. In 2015, the Australian Government announced $127 million in funding to increase partnerships between universities and industry – part of a worldwide trend toward collaboration in research. See pp. 20–21 for just some of the available Bachelor degrees and double degrees in which you can study science.
Ecology and statistics
The work of influential Australian environmental scientist Dr Jane Elith serves as an example of collaboration across disciplines.
She works with statisticians, computer scientists and ecologists to ‘clean up’ species data from databases containing more than 50 million records.
“I don’t like to get things wrong. That’s why I team up with experts,” she says.
With this data, Jane creates advanced computer modelling that can directly influence the survival of endangered species, like the greater glider – a large gliding marsupial found in the ranges and coastal plains of eastern Australia.
Jane’s models are used worldwide by government, in agriculture and in environmental management to map the spread of invasive species, determine the impact of development on threatened plants and animals, and predict the impact of climate change on ecosystems and habitats.
Astronomy and film production
Following a PhD in extragalactic astronomy at the University of Sydney, and research on supermassive black holes in distant galaxies, Dr Tanya Hill took up a role at Melbourne Planetarium. There she collaborates with animators, designers, writers, actors, composers, musicians and sound designers to produce exciting and interactive planetarium shows for the public.
Tanya’s presentations appear in more than 20 countries and include up-to-the minute research from scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics. “The telescopes that we’re building here in Australia are the next generation of astronomy,” she says.
BUILD YOUR OWN DEGREE
There’s a growing number of ways that students can combine undergrad degrees and gain skills leading to new and exciting careers.
Kaveh Ghezel, head of undergrad recruitment at the University of Sydney, says combined degrees are increasingly popular, allowing students to substitute subjects from each course for electives, often completing two three-year qualifications in just four years.
“Employers prefer combined degrees because students tend to be well-rounded and have great communication skills. They become more creative thinkers when they broaden their areas of specialisation,” he says.
Author: Fran Molloy
FRAN MOLLOY is a freelance journalist and university lecturer whose career has spanned newspapers, radio and online publications. She writes about business, careers, research, science and environment.