MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) is a global partnership in graduate education among MIT, The National University of Singapore (NUS), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). It aims to set a new standard for international collaboration in graduate research and education, to invigorate engineering education in Singapore, and to strengthen MIT through extending its global impact, enhancing its curriculum, and improving its infrastructure.


SMA was initiated on January 1, 1999, with students in the first two of the five planned "Programmes" entering July 1, 1999. These first two Programmes are "Advanced Materials" (AM) and "High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems" (HPCES). A Programme in "Manufacturing Systems and Technology" is scheduled to begin in July, 2000, and Programmes in "Chemical Engineering" and "Computer Science and Engineering" are scheduled to begin in July 2001.

The academic calendar, course content, grading method and degree requirements for the three degrees offered in each Programme follow to large extent MIT practice and standards. The university hosting the program (NUS or NTU) awards degrees to successful graduates. Students also receive a SMA certificate confirming the completion of the program of study.

Each Programme will have a minimum of 6 faculty members from MIT, devoting up to half time to SMA, and an equivalent number from either NUS or NTU. Those devoting half time to SMA are designated "SMA Faculty Fellows". Targeted number of students enrolled in each Programme is 54. Of these, approximately 30 will be professional masters students enrolled in a one-year (12-month) course of study. The remainder will be research masters and doctorates.

Subjects are taught largely by distance education (DE). In addition to the distance education aspect of the Alliance, MIT Faculty Fellows will spend several weeks a year in Singapore in face-to-face lecturing and research collaboration. All SMA students will spend at least two weeks at MIT during their matriculation; doctoral students will spend a full semester at MIT. An annual symposium in Singapore will be held to evaluate progress and enable students and faculty to interact with industry.

Research comprises an important aspect of the research master and doctorate. Theses of all SMA research students are jointly supervised by an MIT and a Singaporean faculty member.


SMA is governed at the top by a "Governing Board" comprising academic, government and industrial leaders in Singapore and members of the faculty and administration at MIT. This Board is roughly comparable to a board of directors. At the next level down, a "Joint Academic Committee" meets quarterly (usually via video-conferencing). This committee comprises administration and faculty both from Singapore and MIT; its function is similar to that of a School Council. The individual academic "Programmes" are directed by "Faculty Chairs" (one from MIT and one from Singapore), responsibilities of these Chairs are similar to those of a Department Head.

Administratively, SMA is managed by two Co-Directors and two Deputy Directors, one each from Singapore and one from MIT. The MIT Co-Director is Merton C. Flemings, who also serves as Director of the MIT Center for the Singapore-MIT Alliance. Anthony T. Patera is Deputy Director and Anddie Chan is Assistant Director.


Descriptive literature announcing SMA was distributed to graduating classes of leading Asian Universities soon after the first of the year, 1999. A total of 518 applications were received by the end of March, 102 offers were made and 65 students enrolled. Of these 65, 37 percent were from China, 32 percent were from Singapore, 18 percent from India and the remainder from other South East Asian countries. GRE scores were waived for students from top schools in Singapore, India and Malaysia. However, those student scores obtained compare favorably with the scores of students being admitted to graduate school in MIT's Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. 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 SMA degrees in advanced materials offer broad foundations in advanced materials, encompassing processing, microstructure, properties and performance, with a particular emphasis on microelectronics applications.

The S.M. degree (a professional master's 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 M.Eng. degree (a research master's degree) includes a similar, but more rigorous, core curriculum and a master's thesis jointly supervised by SMA fellows from Singapore and MIT. The Ph.D. degree includes an expanded choice of elective subjects and a minor subject selection outside of the materials area.

The MIT Chair of the Advanced Materials Programme is Subra Suresh. Faculty members involved include Lallit Anand, Dimitri A. Antoniadis, Gerbrand Ceder, Joel P. Clark, Eugene A. Fitzgerald, and Carl V. Thompson as Faculty Fellows.


The SMA degrees in high performance computation for engineered systems is a crucial component in the prediction, analysis, design, optimization, and control 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 S.M. (a professional master's degree), M.Eng., and Ph.D. degree programs all include a core curriculum; the M.Eng. degree requires a master's thesis; the Ph.D. degree also requires several additional advanced courses and a doctoral thesis. 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 MIT Chair of the High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems Programme is Anthony T. Patera. Faculty members involved include Dimitris J. Bertsimas, Robert M. Freund, Thomas L. Magnanti, and Jaime Peraire, Jacob K. White as Faculty Fellows, and Georgia Perakis, Andreas Schulz and James Orlin as Associates.


MIT's Center for Advanced Educational Services, 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. An important aspect of work ahead is to help bring on line at least one new distance learning classroom in mid-2000 and two additional classrooms in mid 2001. In addition to CAES, SMA staff also work closely with MIT's Information Services groups to implement high bandwidth connection for the distance education classes. Vijay Kumar, Director of Academic Computing, and Richard Larson, Director of CAES are jointly responsible for the SMA's web-based platform development.


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 develop our own modes of operation, based on communications technology, 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 undergraduate and graduate education of our own 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. As examples, the HPCES Programme will engender a number of new and well-supported cross-department and cross-school MIT courses, as well as research collaborations and a seminar series, that will benefit MIT (residential) students. A new Master of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, a part of the strategic plan of the Department, will be greatly aided in its development by the funding and course development of SMA.

For additional Alliance details, contact Anddie Chan, Assistant Director, Singapore-MIT Alliance at (617) 253-4222 or Also, more information on this program can be found on the World Wide Web at

Merton Flemmings

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99