WUR boosts Masters' programmes with data science

Published on
October 26, 2021

It goes without saying that the development of autonomous greenhouses requires the use of Artificial Intelligence. But the use of data science is not quite that obvious in research in the domain of nutrition and health. Or rather, it was less obvious. Wageningen University & Research invests significantly in new education programmes within our domain. This academic year, three master's specialisation programmes have been launched, and a completely new master is one step closer to reality.

The three so-called inter-specialisations enable masters' students of Nutrition and Health, Management, Economics and Consumer Studies and Communication, Health and Life Sciences to combine their specialisation with data science as of the start of the new academic year 2021-2022.

Lukasz Grus
Lukasz Grus

Lukasz Grus – coordinator education development at the Wageningen Data Competence Center (WDCC) – is the motor behind data science education. 'Data Science is already well-integrated in studies such as Geo-Information Science, Biosystems Engineering and Bio-informatics. When I started at WSCC three years ago, I immediately saw that more domains could benefit from data science. The chair groups under which Human Nutrition and Health and Consumption and Healthy Lifestyles reside agreed, so we went ahead and started developing an education programme.'

Employers increasingly demand knowledge of data science in combination with domain expertise

The inter-specialisation students will follow courses such as Artificial Intelligence for Food and Health, Data Science for Food and Consumer Behaviour Research and Solving Societal Health Challenges with Data Science in addition to the regular master's programme. Grus: 'All students at WUR are confronted with data science, but in the inter-specialisation, it is more attuned to their specific study domain.'

That is the added value, Grus explains. 'Employers, both in the academic domain as elsewhere, increasingly demand knowledge of data science in combination with domain expertise. They want scientists that know how to collect data, interpret it and -increasingly- know how to programme and develop Artificial Intelligence applications. Consider, for example, in the domain of health and nutrition, apps that map and monitor people's health and provide a tailored diet instruction based on what the person's intake was the previous day and what groceries they must shop.'

Our new master's has passed the first accreditation stage

In addition to that development, the WDCC-coordinator is busy developing a completely new master's programme Data Science in Food & Health, that has come closer to reality this summer. 'We passed the first accreditation stage. The Ministry of Education considers us macro-effective, meaning that the topic is socially relevant, the employment market needs people that are trained in this field, and there are no comparable programmes elsewhere.' Grus hopes to complete the second stage of the accreditation this fall, enabling the first masters' students to start the programme next academic year.

Data Science @ WUR

Data science and artificial intelligence are revolutionising our approach to exploring the potential of nature for improving our quality of life.

Wageningen UR's mission is ‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.’ The digital technology revolution (using data science and artificial intelligence) is providing WUR with unprecedented methods and means to explore the potential of nature. Together with public and private organisations, WUR is working hard to integrate these technological advancements within its domains (climate, biodiversity, feeding the world, circular economy, healthy food & living).

In our degree programmes, WUR students become acquainted with current possibilities and promising future advancements. Our ‘traditional’ knowledge of plants, animals and the environment is being vastly improved thanks to data science and artificial intelligence.