Surrounded by opportunities for spatial engineering

A graduate degree in spatial engineering at the University of Melbourne is helping Lavannya Sivagurunathan combine her interest in the physical environment with a bent for engineering.

Spatial engineering involves “everything around us”, Lavannya says. “Every time I learn something new, I can see directly how it’s applied in the real world.”

After completing her Master of Engineering (Spatial) in 2020, she plans to enter one of the fastest-growing fields of engineering. Spatial engineering brings together mapping and analysis of the environment in space and time, along with advances in digital technologies and the Internet of Things. These connect the many ways people use and move through their environment with information about the physical locations.

Lavannya’s studies have included mapping the terrain and infrastructure connectivity needed for autonomous vehicles, setting up satellite positioning systems, and understanding how ‘digital twins’ are developed. Digital twins are dynamic virtual 3D models of buildings and other physical environments that can be used for planning, management and even scenario testing.

She is enthusiastic about what the new digital twin technology offers, and it is increasingly being adopted across diverse industries. “It's pretty cool how this allows organisations to make data-driven decisions when they want to make and deliver quality services to the community” she says.

Common career paths for spatial engineers include as surveyors and analysts in urban planning, infrastructure and construction industries measuring natural and built environments. However, Lavannya sees opportunities that are much broader. These include the development of connected smart cities, disaster management, drone technologies, defence and healthcare. One of her recent projects involved mapping patterns of community mobility that influences the transmission of Coronavirus.

As part of an international internship opportunity in Germany, Lavannya worked for a software company, Racemappr to develop an app for high endurance athletes and event organisers. The app uses GPS information to track and ensure the safety of athletes especially in remote terrains. Lavannya helped them to incorporate concepts from spatial engineering and geographic mapping into their work, while expanding her own perspectives. “They taught me a lot about web design, UX/UI designs and how to create mobile apps that easily speak to other devices. It’s something I never would have thought to be involved in,” she adds.

“I am lucky to have landed an opportunity as a Spatial Analyst. I have always wanted my work to embrace emerging technologies to build smart cities, influencing communities for generations to come.”

Interested in studying spatial information? If you have a science or maths background and want to become an accredited spatial engineer, study the Master of Engineering (Spatial); a 2-3 year degree based on your prior qualifications.

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