Grad profiles: First cohort of digital innovation students cross the stage

Stella Bae and Amir Alavi, Computer Science

- May 25, 2022

Stella Bae and Amir Alavi, left and right, are among the first-ever graduates of Dal's Master of Digital Innovation. (Provided photos)
Stella Bae and Amir Alavi, left and right, are among the first-ever graduates of Dal's Master of Digital Innovation. (Provided photos)

This article is part of a series focusing on the grads of the Dalhousie Class of 2022. Spring Convocation runs from May 24 to June 3 in Halifax and Truro. Read all our profiles here as they are published, and for more information visit the Convocation website.

Spring 2022 sees the first cohort of students graduate from the Faculty of Computer Science's Master of Digital Innovation (MDI) program. Launched in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, new graduates of the program are ending their degree in a very different way than they started.

While for many of the students, fall 2021 was their first and last term learning on campus (due to the pandemic), their experience at Dalhousie has left an impression.

Interdisciplinary learning

Stella Bae recently moved to Toronto to begin her graduate position as a Junior Data Scientist at financial firm Onex. She credits the MDI program for expanding her knowledge and skillset as she embarks on the next stage of her career.

The MDI is an interdisciplinary program that provides students with the skills and experience to manage change and identify opportunities in the ever-evolving digital landscape. Drawing on expertise from the Faculties of Computer Science, Management, and Medicine as well as the Schulich School of Law, students can customize their program through certificates in digital business, health informatics and data science.

It was the flexible and interdisciplinary aspects of the program that initially encouraged Stella to apply.

“I have come from a diverse background. I studied psychology as my undergrad, did small-scale contemporary historical research in Japan, grew my passion for data science while working for health research, and today I work in a finance firm as a data scientist,” Stella says.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the program attracted me the most. Coincidently, the three pillars of the program (digital business, health informatics, and data science) are all related to my past and current experience to some extent. You can easily customize your study based on your interests and needs.”

Real-world experience

After spending many years working in the medical and health industries, Amir Alavi saw the program as an opportunity to enhance his digital skills and knowledge in his field of health.

“I have studied medicine and have more than ten years of experience in pharmaceutical business,” Amir explains. “I came to know health informatics when I started to work on the patient registries and informatics part of the health system. I thought if I wanted to keep myself updated and to understand what was going on, I had to enroll in a program that helps me achieve that.”

Both Amir and Stella took advantage of the internship option offered as part of the MDI curriculum. This has been popular with this first MDI cohort, with 100 per cent of students taking the internship option securing employment.

Amir’s internship at the Nova Scotia Health Authority as a business analyst saw him working on impactful projects, including One Person One Record. His work with the organization has led to him being employed full-time with them post-graduation as a junior clinical informatics analyst.

He is enthusiastic to take his learnings including a better understanding of what “innovation in the digital era” looks like into his future career.

New opportunities

As Stella embarks on her next steps, she is excited about the possibilities now that she has a better understanding of technology and its many applications.

“Knowledge of different machine learning techniques and coding skills in Python and R that I acquired through my coursework and internship has broadened my perspective on the potential role of AI in psychology,” she says.

This combined with an expanded entrepreneurial mindset is allowing her to think big about the future.

“Artificial intelligence has an inseparable relationship with psychology and will open up an enormous number of opportunities to unlock the mystery of the human brain. Eventually, I would like to pursue my PhD where I conduct deep research in developing a non-human entity that has humane characteristics.”


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