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 goals and aims of SMA are threefold:


SMA was initiated on January 1, 1999, with the first two of its five programs: Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano- Systems (AMM&NS), and High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems (HPCES) beginning on July 1, 1999. A third program, Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology (IMST), was introduced the following July, and the last two programs, Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems (MEBCS) and Computer Science (CS), got underway on July 1, 2001.

The academic calendar, course content, grading method, and degree requirements of SMA follow MIT practice and standards, to a large extent. Degrees are conferred by the host university (NUS or NTU), along with an MIT cosponsored SMA certificate confirming completion of the program of study.

Each program has a minimum of six faculty members from MIT and an equivalent number from either NUS or NTU, each of whom devote up to half of their time to SMA and are designated as SMA faculty fellows. Programs also have SMA associates who assist the fellows by giving several lectures each year. ForAY2002, forty-one MIT faculty participated in SMA.

Subjects are taught primarily by distance education. However, MIT faculty fellows also spend several weeks a year in Singapore, and some faculty have spent or will spend eight weeks or an entire semester, engaging in face to face lecturing, discussion, and research collaboration.

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

Research comprises an important aspect of the research master's and doctorate degrees in all five programs. As part of the curriculum, through industry sponsored research projects, students have the opportunity to work with some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world through specific industry projects. An MIT and a Singaporean faculty member jointly supervise research students' theses.

Management Structure

SMA 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 is comprised of administration and faculty from both MIT and Singapore, and which meets quarterly (usually via videoconferencing). Finally, the individual academic programs are codirected by program chairs, one each from MIT and Singapore.

Administratively, SMA is managed by two codirectors and two codeputy directors. On the MIT side, Professor Anthony T. Patera serves as director of the MIT Center for the Singapore-MIT Alliance and Professor Steven Lerman serves as the deputy director.

Summer Conference

All SMA students spend two and one-half weeks at MIT for a summer conference which is designed to help Singaporean students become immersed into the MIT environment and the SMA program. There are two components to the summer conference: pre-immersion and immersion. The pre-immersion component consists of discussions with entrepreneurs in their respective fields, while the immersion program includes English language workshops, lectures, and lab sessions taught by MIT faculty, and social gatherings and activities.

Distance Learning

MIT's Academic Media Production Services (AMPS), under the direction of Assistant Provost Vijay Kumar, has assumed responsibility for the technology and operation of the distance learning aspects of SMA. SMA staff work closely with AMPS staff in selecting modes of operation and necessary equipment through a joint SMA distance education working group. This group assisted with recommending the distance learning equipment that is currently used in Rooms 1-390, 3-370, 8-404, and three research interaction rooms. In addition, the AMPS staff also works closely with the SMA staff to update the SMA web site.

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Entering Class

A total of 1,974 applications were received for the five programs operating in academic year 2002–2003. To date, 317 offers were made and 188 applicants accepted the offers. Of these, 38 percent were from China, 24 percent were from Singapore, 17 percent from India, and the remainder from other south east Asian countries.

GRE scores were waived for students from top schools in Singapore. However, those student scores obtained compare favorably with the scores of students being admitted to graduate school in MIT's Departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Leaders for Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. Both GRE and TOEFL scores for the class of 2003 are slightly higher than last year's class. Besides the draw of the MIT name, one factor that has aided in recruitment of top students is the fact that all students are offered full fellowship support (including travel costs) for their entire matriculation.

The targeted number of students enrolled in each program is 50; approximately 35 professional master's students enrolled in a one-year (12-month) course of study, with the remainder enrolled as research master's or doctorates.

Noteworthy Events in 2002

SMA embarked on a number of important outreach programs this year. Specifically, the 2002 symposium in Singapore was attended by dignataries such as President Vest, Provost Brown, Chancellor Clay, Dean Magnanti, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Tony Tan, and Singapore's minister of education, Admiral Teo.

Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp kicked off the SMA/ILP seminar series in the fall of 2001, and was followed by a spring seminar given by Professor Lester Thurow. Not all activities are seminars— music professor Marcus Thompson conducted a master class in music. These outreach activities serve to share our distance education facilities and capabilities with other departments at MIT, NUS, and NTU.

Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano-Systems

The SMA degrees in Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano- Systems (AMM&NS) offer broad foundations in advanced materials. They 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 SM degree (a professional masters degree) in advanced materials constitutes 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 MEng degree (a research masters degree) includes a similar, but more rigorous, core curriculum and a master's thesis jointly supervised by SMA fellows from Singapore and MIT. The PhD degree includes an expanded choice of elective subjects and a minor subject selection outside of the materials area.

A number of innovations in distance education are being developed through the SMA program. In fall 1999, a new tool, "Web-lab," developed at MIT (and partially supported by SMA) was successfully used to remotely operate device characterization equipment at MIT from NUS. This enables students to conduct real-time experiments while being 8,000 miles away. Expansion of this device is planned for next year

The research collaboration growing from cosupervision of MEng and PhD student research has already led to the submission of joint publications and presentations at an international conference. Joint research activities among the alliance universities and Singaporean research institutes continues to prosper, 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, Lallit Anand, Dimitri A. Antoniadis, Craig Carter, Gerbrand Ceder, Eugene A. Fitzgerald, Clifton G. Fonstad, and Mark Spearing as faculty fellows, with Nicola Marzari as an associate. Subra Suresh, department head of Materials Science and Engineering serves as the program advisor.

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High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems

The SMA program in High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems (HPCES) is focused on high performance computation 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 program has chosen effective computation for design and operation of engineered systems as its research theme.

The SM (a professional master's degree), MEng, and PhD degree programs all include a core curriculum; the MEng degree requires a masters thesis; the PhD degree also requires several additional advanced courses and a doctoral thesis. The SM degree focuses on the critical and effective application, modification, and integration of existing simulation and optimization software. The MEng and PhD degrees emphasize the formulation, analysis, and implementation of new computational methods for the simulation and optimization of engineered systems.

From the fall 2001 to spring 2002, seven subjects were taught to both SMA (via videoconferencing and taped lectures) and MIT students; four in the fall of 2001 and three in the spring of 2002. The SMA students performed very well when compared with their MIT cohorts.

The MIT chair of the HPCES program is Jaime Peraire. Faculty members involved include Thomas Magnanti (program advisor), Dimitris J. Bertsimas, Robert M. Freund, Anthony Patera (codirector) and Jacob K. White as faculty fellows, with Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou, Georgia Perakis, Andreas Schulz, Gilbert Strang, and Karen Willcox as associates.

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Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology

Degree programs in Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology (IMST) include the SM, the MEng, and the PhD. IMST offers highly competitive courses of study that explore the many facets of manufacturing technology. Challenging coursework integrates the process, product, system and business aspects of this vibrant industry, while focusing on the core of manufacturing systems. Advanced coursework will expose students to innovative theories and methodology, as well as a rigorous investigation of financial, strategic, and global aspects of technology innovation and new business generation.

The SM, MEng, and PhD degree programs all include a core curriculum; the SM degree includes a theme project; the MEng degree includes a Masters level research thesis; the PhD degree includes additional subjects on advanced topics in each of the fundamental areas.

The SM degree program is aimed at practitioners who will use this knowledge to become leaders in existing, as well as emerging, manufacturing companies. The MEng and PhD degree programs will 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, and Kamal Youcef-Toumi as faculty fellows, with Stanley B. Gershwin as an associate.

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Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems

The Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems (MEBCS) Program offers two innovative courses of study (SM and PhD) that 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 to accept high-level professional or research positions in thriving industries, new start-up companies, academic institutions, and research centers.

The professional master's (SM) degree program prepares graduates for the shaping and solving complex problems, resource management, teamwork, and leadership. The PhD 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 SMA program in MEBCS provides a unique and bold educational opportunity for graduate students interested in pursuing careers at the frontiers of life science and fine chemical technologies. Students attending this program have ample opportunity to work with some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world through specific industry projects. The MEBCS program is designed to prepare future leaders for positions in knowledge driven industries poised for global economic growth in the new millennium.

The MIT chair of MEBCS is Jackie Y. Ying. MIT 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 SMA faculty fellows, while faculty member Bernhardt Trout is an associate.

Computer Science

The SMA program in Computer Science (CS) provides a unique educational experience for graduate students interested in careers in industry and research establishments. The students are exposed to the broad foundations of computer science, encompassing computer architecture, software systems, algorithms and advanced applications.

The SM in computer science is a one-year professional degree program based on 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 PhD degree program in computer science 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 Saman P. Amarasinghe, Alan Edelman, Leslie Kaelbling, Stuart Madnick, Tomas Lozano-Perez, Martin Rinard and research scientist Larry Rudolph are faculty fellows.

Benefits and Goals

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

On the MIT side, an important benefit is that this highly focused, well-funded alliance gives us the opportunity to broaden our role as a global university, to define our own style of contact-intensive distance education, and to learn how to bring this global interaction to Cambridge to enhance the undergraduate and graduate education of our own students.

We anticipate strengthened departmental curricula as a result of the SMA-funded course and 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. In fact, since the inception of SMA, 41 SMA courses—or 63 percent of the total number of the SMA classes offered—have been cross listed at MIT. To date, over 1,000 MIT students have received credit for taking these cross listed classes. SMA continues to find ways to enhance teaching and research at MIT and at the two universities in Singapore.

Anthony T. Patera
School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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


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