Workshop Examines artificial intelligence and emerging technologies

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15 April 2019
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Christina Kingen

Medicine’s keen higher degree researchers inspired discussion about the innovative uses of emerging technology for health and medical researchers.

PhD candidates from the School of Psychiatry, Snow Li and Lizzy Nguyen were frustrated knowing that some simple technology could improve efficiency and communication in health. However, they also realised these sectors are traditional for a reason.  Healthcare products and services can’t be just a prototype when human lives are on the line. These frustrations prompted a few questions: how can AI and emerging technology transform health and the healthcare sector; what are current interdisciplinary researchers and successful health start-ups doing; and are there opportunities for researchers who want to do more?

With these questions in mind, Snow and Lizzy created an interactive workshop, AI, Tech and Healthcare, why do I need to know more as a researcher?  It featured a diverse group from other faculties, university, industry and start up organisationsSnow and Lizzy were overwhelmed by the response from the research community.  With over 100 people registered and more on the waiting list, the appetite for the interdisciplinary event was strong. 

“We hope by the end of the day, we provided a general overview of the impact of AI and emerging technology on healthcare, and how research skills can be transferred and married with technology companies,” Snow explained, “We also wanted to create discussion about the impact of AI and emerging technology on research.”

“The best part about the event was the panel discussion,” Lizzy said, “our audience was very knowledgeable, and the conversations were inspiring. One question was about the definition of artificial intelligence, and the discussion it prompted showed a clear discrepancy about how those from industry, research, and healthcare define the term.” 

Snow volunteered as a mentor and Lizzy participated as a mentee in Medicine’s Higher Degree Research Peer Mentoring Program last year. As the program concluded, they had the opportunity to pitch a project idea for a chance at a $1000 award sponsored by UNSW Medicine Theme Neuroscience, Mental Health & Addictions.  It was this award that funded the project.

Snow and Lizzy have been in talks with the faculty’s higher degree research team about the possibility of running the event bi-annually to further strengthen relationships with industry.  They anticipate that future workshops would centre around specific themes in tech and healthcare and act as a space where academics and industry professionals can discuss innovative ideas and form collaborations.