Wits offers new post graduate courses in e-Science.
The university created a national e-science teaching and training platform and is leading the pack in combating the scarcity of scientists and professionals qualified in dealing with data science amongst five other universities said programme director, Turgay Celick.
Six South African universities will introduce the new Master’s degrees that will deal with big data, namely the MSc and MA degrees in e-Science from 2018. Celick said the degrees are
part of government’s efforts to build a capacity for the nation and development for the data science industry.
“For the past five years there has been a trend and academic development in producing academic programmes in the field of data science and there is also a big demand from the industry. We
are addressing this demand at undergraduate level and postgrad level particularly at the Master’s level,” said Celick.
In the first year of the 18-month programme, teaching will take place at Wits for all the students registered at the other institutions. The students will complete their theses at their respective institutions. The 2018 intake of 30 students will be fully funded.
Programme manager, Caryn McNamara, said  bursaries will come from the Department of Science and Technology, through the Council for Science and Industrial Research. “Although, students can bring their own funding from other funders if they have secured funds from elsewhere,” said McNamara. Celick added that they are also engaging local industrial partners to fund more students.
Celick said the e-Science course will, in the future, add other degrees. “There will be other degrees in 2019. Perhaps we will see some degrees for commerce and business. We are also considering introducing some new disciplines that go with the first two degrees, like computational law and degrees for the law.”
“In 2018 [we] will introduce bridging courses designed as online modules. If you have a basic Bachelor’s degree and can complete [required] components and pass the entrance exam then you can register for either stream,” he said.
The Dean of the faculty of science, Ebrahim Momoniat, said Wits is looking forward to finally having the degree introduced at the university.
“We are excited about the programme because it puts us at the forefront of what they call the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. We will be training students from humanities as well as science in data science. That is what makes the programme unique. It takes across all disciplines into this future of data science,” said the dean.
“At Wits, we have big data sets in health sciences, physics and [other faculties]. By equipping students and staff with these skills we are empowering staff and students to analyse these data sets in a much more efficient and scientific way. In fact, with all the data sets we have, we don’t know if we have the cure for AIDS or TB. It could be all there. It’s about taking all this data we have and asking the right kind of questions. Data science helps find the answers,” said Momoniat.
Mathematics Student Council chair, Omphemetse Lebeloane, welcomes the new e-Science degrees. “We are very happy and what Wits is doing is a very good initiative, since we are living in [a] more digitised world,” he said.
The full-time course applications are open until October 31 for Wits students.