Behind the scenes people like Dr Ruth Luscombe are deploying artificial intelligence to battle Australia’s wild bushfires. Along with her team of software engineers and data scientists, Ruth codes models and a platform for early wildfire detection and assessment.
“We connect to ground sensors and satellite data, do some analysis in real time to see if any smoke or fire is starting, then we provide digital maps and electronic notifications for subscribers to let them know about the fires,” she says.
“The early detection of fires is really important because it means that the firefighters can get to the fire faster and safer.”
Her advice is to choose subjects you find interesting and areas with good employment and future prospects.
“At university I started with engineering because I thought it would get me lots of job opportunities – but I changed degrees to IT because I liked it more,” she says.
Ruth completed a bachelor of IT, majoring in maths and computing. Later she studied for a PhD in mathematics. The term “data science” wasn’t around when she was studying but her skills were relevant for this new career.
At university she learnt programming languages like C, C++, Java and Lisp, before later using Delphi, Mathematica, Visual Basic, C# and most recently Python.
“All of these tools and ideas will change. So you just have to keep learning as you go,” she says.