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Unique M.Sc. in Engineering begins at LiU

A completely new master’s of engineering in software technology is currently being developed at Linköping University.

Fredrik Heintz

“There is no education programme like this in Sweden and we have been able to think in completely new ways,” says Fredrik Heintz, who leads the work on the new programme.

The first students in the graduate engineer Software Technology programme will arrive in spring 2013. Initially, 30 places will be available.

“It will be really exciting to see who applies and how great the interest is," says Fredrik Heintz, computer science researcher at the Department of Computer and Information Science.

Obviously he hopes to receive a large number of applications, as the need for this type of skill in industry is so great.

“They say software is the soul of Swedish industry,” he points out.

This is true. What would a mobile telephone, a car, a robot, a truck or even a paper mill be without software to connect things, run systems, communicate with the world outside and help operators to make the right decisions?

A central part of the programme is the project courses, where theoretical aspects are interlaced with practical problem solving and programming - even together with companies.

“Engineers are problem solvers, after all,” Heintz points out.

The students will naturally get to work in the major current software languages C++, C# and Java as well as several others, such as Python for systems integration and JavaScript for website development.

“They will attain an understanding of how different programming languages are constructed in different ways, so as to be able to easily get into the particular language used by the company where they will eventually be employed. They will also be able to choose the right language for any given application. No language is best for everything.”

Software also often comprises systems with long lifetimes, such as at Saab or Scania. So it is also important to know how to write software that will be capable of lasting 30 or 40 years, and how to delve into an existing piece of software and improve its functionality.

“Here we can work with open source code - they might be tasked with implementing a new function into Firefox, so they first have to learn how the code is constructed. As in art, there is a lot to learn by first copying the masters,” he says.

Another important part of this education programme is creating a readiness for change and a curiosity to test and learn new things.

“Developments move so fast in this industry. The iPhone arrived in 2007 and Android telephones the year after; today the demand for application developers is enormous. In five years, which is the same amount of time it takes to educate an engineer, an entirely new industry has developed.”

Entrepreneurship and innovation will therefore be built into the course. In this industry, the journey from idea to finished product is short and major production costs are not a concern, only brainpower and technical skill. Heintz uses Instagram, a photo service on Facebook, as an example:
“From idea to product took eight weeks, and this spring Facebook bought it for USD1 billion – around SEK 7 billion.”

However these new engineers will not just be learning about mobile phones. The group developing this new education programme, at the behest of the board of studies for computer and media technology at the Institute of Technology, identified four important areas where there is a great need for software engineers:

  • Computer controlled decision-making: how we can find and sort out what is important from the gigantic quantities of data and make the information manageable and understandable.
  • Large scale distributed systems: all the distributed and integrated systems in, for example, cars, aeroplanes, heavy transport, robots and so on. ‘The soul of Swedish industry’. “Here we need to be able to supply the fundamental Swedish industries with competence,” Heintz says.
  • Mobile and social applications: These are here to stay. Currently, there are 1.5 billion mobile phone contracts and the number is growing exponentially.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics: one of LiU's spearhead areas, which is growing in importance, as are systems that can plan and make complex decisions themselves, like robots that can naturally work with people, for example to take care of an ageing population. Driverless cars and other vehicles are also pivotal.

“There are driverless cars that are certified roadworthy in the USA today,” says Heintz.

As it is a master’s in engineering there will, of course, be traditional teaching in fundamentals like mathematics and science. The new master’s in software engineering replaces the bachelor’s degree in computer science, which suffered from diminishing numbers of applicants since it had to be changed from a four-year master’s to a three-year bachelor’s programme due to the Bologna process.

About ten people from three departments – Electrical Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Mathematics – are now involved in creating course plans and developing courses, and others will be brought in at a later date.

“It’s really exciting to be able to build a new programme completely from scratch and think in new ways. We are also hoping to reach a completely new category of student. If you want to change the world you have to work in software engineering,” Heintz says.


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Last updated: 2017-02-13