Decoding the future – the unstoppable rise of data science

Dive into the world of data science, where decoding data opens doors to uncharted possibilities and the future is shaped by the insights of today.

In a world where data reigns supreme, understanding and harnessing its power is crucial. As a result, data science is incredibly popular – with good reason – and it’ll be a fundamental part of our society for many years to come. But what can you really achieve with training in data science? And could a data science degree truly set you up for future success?

Sitting at the intersection of technology, mathematics and business, data science demands that students, researchers, and professionals have a blend of skills that are becoming increasingly essential in the digital age. So, come with us on a journey into the heart of this burgeoning field and discover how our future is being shaped thanks to insights gleaned from big data.

Why data science matters to the world

Xiangrun (sally) zhu, a female master of data analytics student, is analysing data and information on a wall-sized screen.
Xiangrun (Sally) Zhu, a QUT Master of Data Analytics student.

Ever heard the phrase, ‘data is the new oil’? It’s true, we live in a time marked by an extraordinary abundance of information. But having mountains of data isn’t very useful if you don’t know what it means. Enter data science – that almost miraculous field that analyses massive volumes of data and turns it into solutions to everyday problems that have plagued us for centuries. When you put it that way, it’s pretty hard to overstate the importance of data science. It really is a linchpin, fundamentally reshaping the way we understand the world around us.

From predicting weather patterns to understanding consumer behaviours, data science serves as a key driver of innovation and efficiency across a wide variety of sectors. Importantly, it’s not just about the vast amounts of data being generated every day but about unlocking the potential within these data to make informed decisions, drive progress, and create sustainable solutions for some of the world’s most pressing issues.

As a result, those with skills in data science have a golden ticket to influence virtually any aspect of modern life they take an interest in.

Fascinating data science outcomes

Centre for data science research team investigating covid-19 data. Pictured from left to right: kerrie mengersen, abhishek barrhead, visiting professor antonietta mira, and edgar santos-fernandez.
Centre for Data Science research team investigating COVID-19 data. From left to right: Kerrie Mengersen, Abhishek Varghese, visiting Professor Antonietta Mira, and Edgar Santos-Fernandez. Credit: QUT.

For a tantalising glimpse into the ground-breaking impacts of analysing massive volumes of data, you need to look no further than Australia’s very own Centre for Data Science, which is run by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and is the lead node for the Australian Data Science Network. Led by the incredible Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, the QUT Centre for Data Science is achieving its mission of developing state-of-the-art solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. Here are just a few breathtaking examples.

Models drive businesses to new levels

A man is presenting business-critical data analyses on a whiteboard.
Credit: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images.

Running a primary production business in Australia is incredibly tough and the beef industry is no exception to that. Beef farmers face a variety of challenges such as unpredictable cashflow, difficulties in identifying suitable markets for cattle, and difficulties in scheduling management practices effectively. At least that was the case until the QUT Centre for Data Science partnered with Queensland startup, Black Box, to analyse vast amounts of beef production and cattle reproduction data to produce models that can accurately predict cattle carcass weight and conception times.

These groundbreaking models allow beef farmers to determine how much beef they’re likely to produce and when, and can help them schedule management tasks for the optimal time, reducing unnecessary costs and improving business efficiency. This isn’t just everyday data analysis, it’s a business revolution, allowing businesses to not only adequately predict and manage their cashflow but also increase their revenue. It’s just one example of how data science can contribute to business success.

Advances continue to benefit health

Scientist analysis viruses for vaccine development.
Credit: kokouu/Getty Images.

Perhaps one of the sectors best known for benefiting from data science advances is health. And analysis of large health-care datasets is constantly yielding solutions to some of our greatest challenges as humans living with pollution, climate change, and other health pressures.

One such tool that’s set to revolutionise healthcare is the new Australian Cancer Atlas. This interactive online platform reveals patterns of cancer incidence and survival rates across Australia, highlighting geographical disparities in cancer outcomes.

One discovery made using this tool is that between 2007 and 2016, rare cancers accounted for 22% of all invasive cancer diagnoses and 27% of cancer-related deaths in Australia. More than 1 in 5 people receiving a cancer diagnosis during that time were diagnosed with a rare cancer type, and nearly half of them sadly didn’t survive. But the real eye-opener was the prevalence of rare cancer diagnoses in rural and remote areas and the higher mortality rates in those regions.

Armed with this knowledge, researchers can now investigate the causes of these disparities, such as logistical challenges associated with accessing specialist care. And this is where data becomes a lifesaver, as it will enable the development of robust, data-informed strategies for improving patient outcomes in rural and remote areas.

This powerful tool, developed through a collaboration between the QUT Centre for Data Science and Cancer Council Queensland, isn’t just a tool. It’s a beacon of hope. It’s a testament to how data science can be harnessed to address pressing health challenges and inform targeted healthcare strategies.

And there are many other examples of data science being used in the health sector to improve patient outcomes. For example, the QUT Centre for Data Science has produced a similar atlas that maps the health, wellbeing, and learning of children and young people across Australia. And, in a striking example of cross-disciplinary collaboration between mathematicians and clinicians, data science has been used to develop systems for reducing waiting times for time-sensitive elective surgeries.

Sports coaches embrace the future

Woman holding a glowing basketball.
Credit: Tara Moore/Getty Images.

For sports enthusiasts, the application of data science in sports is nothing short of fascinating. Researchers and students from the QUT Centre for Data Science, Australian Institute of Sport, and the University of Sydney used ‘dynamic time warping’ to automatically map ball trajectories during elite women’s basketball games to improve the ability of computers to determine how similar they are.

This innovative approach saves coaches from having to spend hundreds of hours watching game footage to identify their team’s strengths and weaknesses. It also allows them to make quantitative performance assessments and predictions of a team’s chance of delivering a high- or low-scoring play.

Tackling barriers for conservation

An abstract curve chart made out of an old, concrete-heavy city transforming into a fresh, green environment powered by solar and wind energy.
Credit: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images.

Turning to the realm of conservation, data science is overcoming significant traditional barriers. QUT data scientists have used statistical modelling and VR technology to allow researchers and conservationists to explore threatened and endangered species and ecosystems from a distance. This approach has already produced ecological insights that can aid conservation efforts for Australia’s rock wallabies and koalas, and for marine ecosystems on the Great Barrier Reef. And the generosity of QUT Centre for Data Science in sharing the software broadly means these insights can have a global impact.

Even short-term student projects at QUT have made significant contributions to environmental conservation efforts through data science. For example, two undergraduate holiday research students, one studying mathematical modelling and the other data science, combined their unique skills to successfully model coral reef recovery rates. This vital research provides crucial insights into the resilience of coral reefs, a key component in the global conservation effort. And it complements other QUT research into the optimal setup of coral aquaculture facilities for large-scale reef rehabilitation.

These projects highlight the diverse applications of data science and the tangible impact expertise in data science is having on critical areas like public health, conservation, sports and healthcare. They also underscore a key message for those contemplating their career trajectory: to be a force for positive change in society, you don’t have to be a ‘front-line’ scientist or doctor. Data science researchers are driving innovations across the board, and you don’t have to spend long on recruitment websites to realise there are oodles of data science jobs, with great salaries, available for everyday people dreaming of making a difference.

The practical applications of big data analysis are vast and incredibly impactful. And you don’t need to already have a data science degree to get started now.

Take your first step on a new career

Qut distinguished professor kerrie mengersen, faculty of science, school of mathemical sciences, in front of a large screen featuring depicting several heat maps of australia.
Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, Faculty of Science, QUT.

Whether you’re thinking about enrolling in an undergraduate degree or looking to upskill or push your career in a new direction, QUT’s data science courses offer a gateway into the field of data science and a transformative journey of discovery.

  • Bachelor of Data Science – This undergraduate degree, offered online or on campus, is one gateway to mastering the art and science of data. You’ll dive deep into a curriculum rich in statistics, computer science, and practical applications, learning how to turn complex data into meaningful insights. With hands-on experience using real-world datasets, your skills will evolve from theoretical knowledge to actionable intelligence. The course duration is typically 3 years of full-time study, offering a comprehensive path to becoming a proficient data scientist. Additionally, QUT’s focus on industry-relevant skills ensures that you graduate job-ready, equipped to tackle challenges in various sectors. And with a degree from a university renowned for its cutting-edge data science research, you’ll be stepping into a world of exciting opportunities and innovations.
  • Master of Data Analytics – No matter your undergraduate background, enrolling in a Master of Data Analytics at QUT can prepare you for a truly future-focussed career. This postgraduate degree develops a blend of statistical, computation, and research skills, with a choice of three majors or a ‘no major’ option covering all topic areas. Real-world data sets, e.g. from Queensland hospitals and international COVID-19 surveys, will come alive as you transform them into actionable insights. Depending on your undergraduate degree, completion can take as little as 18 months to two years. And with Commonwealth Supported Places on offer, this course is more financially accessible than many other postgraduate degrees.
  • Vertical double degree – Don’t have a data science undergraduate degree? No worries! QUT’s vertical double degrees allow you to earn a bachelor degree in such areas as science, mathematics or information technology and pair it with a Master of Data Analytics in a single, integrated program. Typically completed in just 4–5 years of full-time study, this program fast-tracks your qualifications and lets you dive deep into the topics you’re passionate about. Thanks to the availability of Commonwealth Supported Places, this is also another way you can save on tuition fees.

Why might you choose a QUT data science course to kickstart your data science career? For one thing, QUT is Australia’s top data mining and analysis research institution. And, with a focus on practical experience and industry relevance, plus phenomenal access to world-leading data analysts through the QUT Centre for Data Science, a QUT data science course will ensure you’re real-world ready. And the cherry on top? You can tailor your education to the industries you’re passionate about.

In just 1.5–5 years, you could be well-equipped to meet the demands of our modern data-driven world. So, why wait? Embark on your data science journey at QUT, where your interest in data and your passion for making a difference can converge. Check out QUT’s Master of Data Analytics or its innovative vertical double degree structure now, so you don’t miss the next intake.

  • This content has been created and published for QUT.

Please login to favourite this article.