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The first students to participate in the Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems program of the Singapore-MIT Alliance spent three weeks on campus this summer in an intense introduction to MIT coursework and research.
Fifteen graduate students from the University of Singapore had introductory sessions in Singapore before traveling to the United States to meet the MIT faculty members who will teach them via video teleconferencing throughout their master's or doctoral programs.
Professor Jackie Ying of chemical engineering, who co-chairs the program with Professor Miranda Yap of the National University of Singapore, explained that bringing the students to MIT early in the program will help the students and faculty get to know one another before they begin seminars where they sit in classrooms on different continents. The 12-hour time difference between the two countries will require that MIT professors teach the classes in the early morning and beam them to Singapore where students will watch in the evening.
"We'll be able to see their faces and they will be able to see us," said Ying, who was raised in Singapore and New York. "But it gives you a lot of challenges in trying to find ways to effectively communicate." Bringing the students to MIT "gives us a chance to get to know them and encourage them to ask questions when they don't understand. They're used to having big classes; now they're in a small course. We expect them to be more interactive."
The students come from Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Wisconsin.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 29, 2001.