The Faculty of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the University of Oslo (UiO) was recently granted a € 2.6 million MSCA COFUND project – TraCS, training in computational science – to fund 32 PhD-students in a program that provides young, talented researchers with the computational and data science skills needed to transform research and innovation across Europe.
This is the first time a Norwegian doctoral program has received this prestigious grant. The project was one of 13 selected from 65 applications from across Europe, receiving a 99 % score. The program builds on the competence developed in Center for Computing and Science Education (CCSE), a Center for Excellence in Education at the University of Oslo that aims to integrate computational skills into science education across all levels.
“There is an enormous need for professionals with deep digital competence in Norway and across Europe”, says CCSE director and TraCS project leader, Professor Anders Malthe-Sørenssen. “We believe all researchers should build solid skills in computing and data science, in addition to a disciplinary basis. “
“An experimental bioscientist or materials scientists must learn computing and data science with methods and examples that are adapted to their field of research in order to be able to apply these methods effectively in their field. This will give them the combination of competences in a discipline and in digital skills needed to impact research and education in their discipline, bring a new cross-disciplinary approach to research and innovation, and digitally transform academia and industry.”
Will call for applicants this year
With funding for this program, the Faculty gets 96 work years over a five-year period. The program is cofounded by EU and UiO with a total budget of € 8.6 million. The program will have its first call for applicants with deadline in November 2020 and the first cohort of PhD-students will start in August 2021.
The students will go through an initial intensive training in scientific programming, computational science and data science. They will then apply and develop these skills in a research project in their science discipline – mathematics, bioscience, geoscience, chemistry, materials science, astronomy or physics – in research groups at the University of Oslo. The research groups and supervisors are experienced supervisors on a top international level, have a track record in interdisciplinary research, and integrate computational and disciplinary approaches.
– Essential skills for future biologists
“We are excited to have these students as researchers in experimental neuroscience”, says Professor Marianne Fyhn at the Department of Biosciences.
“Computational skills are needed both to understand and analyze experiments as well as to model the underlying processes. These are essential skills for future biologists.”
“This program opens for a new way to train PhD-students at UiO – in cross-disciplinary cohorts. We have found that a good learning environment is essential for student learning in our bachelor and masters’ programs – now we will develop a similar approach to PhD-studies”, says Malthe-Sørenssen.
“We hope that the students will initiate long-term friendships and collaborations – across disciplines – that will impact their future research careers. We will also study the effect of the program through an associated education research program”, says Malthe-Sørenssen.
– Will be of crucial importance
“We are very proud to host the TraCS program”, says Dean Morten Dæhlen. “That we are able to secure a major grant from EU in a strong international competition shows that our research groups are internationally competitive.”
“The focus on skills in computational and data science is also aligned with the new strategy of the Faculty. The TraCS program will therefore be of crucial importance for the cross-disciplinary center we are now establishing in computational and data science at the Faculty.”
The students will be offered secondments – three-months research stays – in one of 35 international partner institutions spanning all sectors.
“Partner institutions have also expressed a clear interest in participating in the computational and data science training program”, says Malthe-Sørenssen. “Indeed, the training we provide these students with is highly sought-after also in industry. This is also an exciting opportunity to work with industry and government institutions on reskilling the workforce.”