The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON introduces new engineering degrees: Preparing graduates for jobs of the future

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Recognising the changing role of the engineer, the University of Newcastle (UON) has redesigned its engineering degrees, unveiling a new format that will prepare graduates for the jobs of the future.

David Budden
David Budden

"UON's new engineering degrees recognise that our graduates are likely to have multiple and highly diverse careers requiring multiple skillsets,” Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Professor Brett Ninness explained.

“The future will need engineers who can see the big picture - who are bold, agile and entrepreneurial.”

For UON graduate David Budden, who describes himself as an engineer, biologist and entrepreneur, the appeal of engineering is in the evolving opportunities to make a difference in today’s rapidly changing world. With degrees in computer engineering and computer science, the 26-year-old has embarked on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) path.

“For my PhD, I wanted to find an area where I could use my skills for ‘real human benefit’. The health sciences were an obvious field for me, and my thesis focused on exploring the epigenetic factors driving breast cancer metastasis.”

Now a post-doctoral AI researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), David’s PhD research focused on modelling the regulation of gene expression using machine learning, information-theoretic and statistical approaches.

“Any improvement in our understanding of gene expression has profound impact on our ability to prevent and treat human disease.”

Beginning with his coursework and final year project at UON, David’s AI journey has led him to many high profile companies and research institutions. He has completed internships at Google, CSIRO and IBM Research, and now works closely we a team of Harvard neuroscientists to investigate the structure and function of unmapped regions of the human brain.

In January David will leave MIT and join DeepMind, an Alphabet (Google) company conducting cutting-edge research in AI.  He is also on the board of several AI-centric start-ups which are conducting ground-breaking work in the sporting, fitness and education sectors.

UON’s large-scale restructure of its engineering degrees will focus on nurturing future generations of thought leaders and entrepreneurs like David Budden.

To match the future graduates, UON’s revitalised engineering programs are adaptable, socially-conscious and diverse – recognising the changing role of the engineer. They will have a critical role to play in overcoming the unprecedented challenges our world now faces.

Prof Ninness said UON’s redesigned engineering degrees would ensure graduates were well-prepared for the changing employment landscape and an increasingly innovation-oriented Australian economy.

“To solve problems such as food and water security, climate change, data security and assisting our aging population, we’re going to need a new generation of engineers - engineers who are at home with developing technologies like advanced robotics, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, advanced materials, biotechnology and bioinformatics.

“We need engineers who want to make a difference, so we’ve designed our degrees to match.”

The restructured engineering degrees include professional practice courses that will be delivered in collaboration with industry, and expose students to world-changing technologies.

Students can also select interdisciplinary sets of courses in areas such as biochemistry, communications, computer science, entrepreneurship, human cell and molecular science, leadership, pharmaceutical chemistry, industrial design, and legal studies. This flexibility will allow students to develop breadth and depth in their skill set, setting them up to thrive in the changing world of engineering.

For those who want to take their learning to the next level, the unique degree structure offers a Master of Professional Engineering, with just one additional year of study. Unlike other models, this further year of study is not required for students to become a professionally-recognised engineer, but gives high achievers an optimal way to differentiate themselves.

While you can't predict the future, you can predict the world is going to face unprecedented challenges. The professionals at the centre of adapting to and solving these challenges will be engineers.

To learn more about UON’s engineering degrees visit

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