Singapore-MIT Alliance

The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) is a global partnership in graduate education between MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The objectives of the SMA program are threefold:


The SMA program commenced in 1999, with the first two of the five planned programs, "Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano-Systems" (AMM&NS) and "High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems" (HPCES), beginning in July 1999. The third program, "Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology" (IMST), was introduced the following July, followed by the last two programs, "Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems" (MEBCS) and "Computer Science" (CS), which began in July 2001.

The academic calendar, course content, grading method, and degree requirements are aligned with MIT practice and standards. Degrees are awarded by the host university, along with an SMA certificate confirming completion of the program of study.

Each program has a minimum of six SMA Faculty Fellows from MIT and six from Singapore. SMA Faculty Fellows commit to devoting fifty percent of their time to SMA.

Subjects are taught primarily via distance education (DE). However, MIT Faculty Fellows spend several weeks in Singapore engaging in face-to-face lecturing and research collaboration.

All SMA students spend at least two weeks at MIT during their matriculation; doctoral students spend a full semester at MIT. In addition, an annual symposium in Singapore is held to evaluate progress and enable students and faculty to interact with industry.

Research comprises an important aspect of the research master and doctorate degrees. Research students' theses are jointly supervised by an MIT and a Singaporean faculty member.

Management Structure

The SMA program is governed at three levels. At the top tier is the Governing Board, which comprises academic, government, and industrial leaders in Singapore, and members of the faculty and administration at MIT. At the next level down is the Joint Academic Committee, which comprises administration and faculty from MIT and meets quarterly (usually via video-conferencing). The individual academic programs are co-directed by Faculty Chairs from MIT and Singapore.

The administration of SMA is managed by two co-directors one from MIT and one from Singapore. The MIT Co-Director is Anthony T. Patera, who also serves as Director of the MIT Center for the Singapore-MIT Alliance.

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Distance Learning

MIT's Center for Advanced Educational Services (CAES), under the direction of Richard C. Larson, has assumed responsibility for the technology and operation of the distance learning aspects of SMA. SMA staff work closely with CAES staff in selecting modes of operation and necessary equipment through an SMA Distance Education Working Group jointly chaired by Anddie Chan and Mike Barker. In addition to CAES, SMA staff also work closely with MIT's Educational Media Creation Center and Information Services to implement high bandwidth connection for the distance education classes. Vijay Kumar, Assistant Provost, and Richard Larson, Director of CAES, are jointly responsible for the SMA's web-based platform development.

Pre-Immersion and Immersion Programs

All SMA students spend two and a half weeks at MIT as part of the "Pre-Immersion" and "Immersion" programs, which are designed to help Singaporean students become immersed into the MIT environment. The "Pre-Immersion" component consists of discussions with entrepreneurs in their respective fields, and the "Immersion" component includes English language workshops, lectures and lab sessions taught by MIT faculty, as well as social gatherings and activities.

Entering Class

The target number of students for each program is fifty-four. Of these, approximately thirty are expected to be professional masters students enrolled in a one-year course of study, with the remainder comprising research masters and doctorate students.

In academic year 2001-2002, a total of 958 applications were received for the five programs operating, 297 offers were made, and 176 applicants accepted the offers. Of the 176, 44 percent were from China, 19 percent were from Singapore, 29 percent from India and the remainder from other South East Asian countries.

GRE scores were waived for students from top schools in Singapore. However, the student scores that were obtained compare favorably with the scores of students being admitted for graduate study in MIT's Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, and there has been a rise in both GRE and TOFL scores for the class of 2002. Offering students full fellowship support (including travel costs) for their entire matriculation has been a factor in recruiting top students.

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All SMA programs offer both professional master's degrees (S.M. degree) and doctoral research degrees; some programs also offer research master's degrees (M.Eng. degree). All of the degrees include a core curriculum, with the addition of a master's thesis for the research master's degrees, and additional advanced courses and a doctoral thesis for the Ph.D. degrees.

Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano Systems

The SMA degrees in Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano Systems (AMM&NS) cover the fundamentals of electrical, optical, magnetic and mechanical properties of materials, and the fundamentals of processing of materials for high technology applications, with an emphasis on applications in microelectronics.

The AMM&NS S.M. degree is a 12-month program, including three subjects in the necessary fundamentals, and three electives with a focus on microelectronics. The degree also offers students an opportunity to carry out a semester-long research or industry project. The AMM&NS M.Eng. degree includes a similar, but more rigorous, core curriculum and a master's thesis jointly supervised by SMA Fellows from Singapore and MIT. The AM Ph.D. degree includes an expanded choice of elective subjects and a doctoral thesis.

The research collaborations growing from co-supervision of M.Eng. and Ph.D. student research has led to the submission of joint publications and presentations at an international conference. Joint research activities among the Alliance universities and Singaporean research institutes have also been initiated in a number of areas, especially in the area of metallization and materials reliability in microelectronics.

The MIT Chair of the AMM&NS program is Carl V. Thompson. Faculty members involved include Subra Suresh (Program Advisor), Lallit Anand, Dimitri A. Antoniadis, Craig Carter, Gerbrand Ceder, Joel P. Clark, and Eugene A. Fitzgerald as Faculty Fellows and Martin Schmidt and Mark Spearing as Associates.

High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems

The SMA program in High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems (HPCES) focuses on simulation and optimization of engineered systems. High performance computation is a crucial component in the modeling, simulation, design, optimization, control and visualization of engineered systems in a wide range of technology and service industries. Students learn to apply and develop advanced numerical techniques for simulation and optimization relevant to a diverse set of applications from aerospace, electrical, industrial, mechanical, and other engineering fields, as well as logistics, management, and finance.

The HPCES S.M., M.Eng., and Ph.D. degree programs all include a core curriculum, which is followed by a master's thesis for the M.Eng. degree, and several additional advanced courses and a doctoral thesis for the Ph.D. degree. The S.M. degree focuses on the critical and effective application, modification, and integration of existing simulation and optimization software; the M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees emphasize the formulation, analysis, and implementation of new computational methods for the simulation and optimization of engineered systems.

The HPCES program has chosen the broad area of "Effective Computation for Design and Operation of Engineered Systems" as its primary research emphasis. There are already quite a few publications from the Singapore and MIT Fellows in conference proceedings and archival journals that cite SMA support.

The MIT Chair of the HPCES Program is Jaime Peraire. Faculty members involved include Thomas Magnanti (Program Advisor), Dimitris J. Bertsimas, Robert M. Freund, Thomas L. Magnanti, Anthony Patera (Co-Director), and Jacob K. White as Faculty Fellows, and Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou, Nitin Patel, Georgia Perakis, Andreas Schulz, Gilbert Strang, and Karen Willcox as Associates.

Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology

Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology (IMST) degrees offer competitive courses of study that explore the many facets of manufacturing technology. The coursework integrates the process, product, system and business aspects of industry, while focusing on the core of manufacturing systems. Advanced coursework exposes students to innovative theories and methodology, as well as to a rigorous investigation of financial, strategic and global aspects of technology innovation and new business generation.

The S.M., M.Eng., and Ph.D. degree programs all include a core curriculum. In addition to the core curriculum, the SM degree includes a theme project; the M.Eng. degree includes a Master's level research thesis; the Ph.D. degree includes additional subjects on advanced topics in each of the fundamental areas and a doctoral thesis.

The IMST S.M. degree program is aimed at practitioners who will use this knowledge to become leaders in existing, as well as emerging, manufacturing companies. The IMST M.Eng. and Ph.D. degree programs are designed to prepare students for careers in industrial research and development centers, research institutes or academic departments interested in fundamental research in manufacturing.

The MIT Chair of the IMST Program is David E. Hardt. Faculty members involved include Lallit Anand, Jung-Hoon Chun, Steven D. Eppinger, Stephen Graves, Lawrence M. Wein and Kamal Youcef-Toumi as Faculty Fellows and Stanley B. Gershwin as an Associate.

Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems

The Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems (MEBCS) program offers two degree programs-the S.M. degree and the Ph.D. degree-which integrate a molecular understanding of biological and chemical phenomena with advances in process engineering for the life sciences and fine chemical industries. Through a combination of cutting edge research and advanced coursework in molecular engineering sciences, graduates are poised for high level professional or research positions in thriving industries, new start-up companies, academic institutions, and research centers.

The S.M. degree program prepares graduates for shaping and solving complex industry problems, resource management, teamwork and leadership. The Ph.D. program prepares graduates for advanced careers in industrial research and development centers, research institutes or academic departments interested in biological and chemical engineering processes with emphasis on synthesis skills, engineering design and interdisciplinary approaches.

The MIT Chair of the MEBCS Program is Jackie Y. Ying. Faculty members Robert A. Brown (Program Advisor), Alan T. Hatton, Paul E. Laibinis, Harvey F. Lodish, Kenneth A. Smith, Gregory N. Stephanopoulos and Daniel I.C. Wang are Faculty Fellows and faculty member Bernhardt Trout as an Associate.

Computer Science

The SMA program in Computer Science (CS) covers the broad foundations of Computer Science, encompassing computer architecture, software systems, algorithms and advanced applications.

The CS S.M. degree is a one-year professional degree program, which incorporates coursework that prepares graduates for careers in the development of advanced computer systems. It is aimed at training students to apply their knowledge of Computer Science to industrial problems, particularly in the development of large software systems and embedded computing. The CS Ph.D. degree program is a research program that provides the necessary depth to equip graduates for careers in industrial research and development centers, research institutes or academic departments interested in cutting-edge research in all aspects of Computer Science.

The MIT Chair of CS is Charles Leiserson. Faculty members Tomas Lozano-Perez, Saman P. Amarasinghe, Arvind, Leslie Kaelbling, Stuart Madnick and Martin Rinard are Faculty Fellows.

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Benefits and Goals

Singapore's goals for SMA include invigorating engineering education within its top universities, enhancing creativity and entrepreneurship in its educational system, and attracting talented young people to Singapore.

Benefits of the SMA program for MIT are that this highly focused, well-funded alliance provides the opportunity to develop new modes of operation based on communications technology. MIT's goals for the program are to broaden MIT's role as a global university, to define a unique style of contact-intensive distance education, and to learn how to bring this global interaction to MIT as a means of enhancing undergraduate and graduate education for all of MIT's students.

We anticipate strengthened departmental curricula as a result of SMA funded new and existing subject development. We also anticipate enhanced inter-departmental and inter-school collaborations as a result of both SMA curriculum development and SMA funded research projects. Several of the programs cross-list their courses to provide MIT students with the opportunity to engage in distance learning.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance looks forward to leading the world in distance education.

Anthony T. Patera

More information about the Singapore-MIT Alliance can be found at

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