Singapore–MIT Alliance
Skip navigation
Skip navigation Skip main site navigation
Skip section subnavigation Skip breadcrumb trail
Go to main navigation


A Unique Perspective on Molecular Engineering


The Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems (MEBCS) degree programme offers an exciting and innovative curriculum in the field of molecular engineering. Its innovative courses of study integrate a molecular-level understanding of biological and chemical phenomena with advances in process engineering for the life sciences and fine chemical industries. Coursework presents advanced engineering concepts that unite multiple length scales "molecular, microscopic and macroscopic" through a close coupling of biological and chemical sciences. Students will be exposed to state-of-the-art concepts in structured fluids, surface functionalization, microstructure tailoring and materials design in relation to fine chemicals and pharmaceutical synthesis. Students will also study the molecular and cellular aspects of biotechnology, genomics, bioinformatics, proteomics, drug design and delivery that underlie advanced bioengineering.

MEBCS coursework provides a unique curriculum and companion research programme that emphasises molecular engineering as it pertains to advanced materials synthesis and biotechnology. Classes and research are conducted collaboratively with the MIT faculty, and SMA students will also have the opportunity to interact with scientists and engineers at a number of leading research institutes and centres, such as the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), and Bioprocessing Technology Centre (BTC), all of which are internationally renowned for their basic and applied R&D programmes.

| top of page |

Pathways into the Programme

An NUS Masters with SMA Certificate

A professional master's degree programme which prepares graduates for the shaping and solving of complex problems through the development of required skills in critical thinking and analysis and resource management. This one-year programme also focuses on teamwork and leadership, effective communication and technical documentation. The S.M. degree offers students an opportunity to interact with the MIT faculty during the Immersion Programme on the MIT campus. In addition to advanced coursework, students will carry out two six-week-long intensive Industrial Immersion projects under the direct supervision of an SMA Director and in collaboration with participating companies.

An NUS Masters AND NUS/NTU Ph.D. degree with SMA Certificate

A research doctorate degree programme with an emphasis on synthesis skills, engineering design, and interdisciplinary approaches. This degree prepares graduates for dynamic careers in industrial research and development centres, research institutes, or academic departments interested in biological and chemical engineering processes. The Ph.D. degree programme is a commitment of three or more years, with a full semester of study at MIT.

| top of page |

Career Paths

The SMA programme 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 programme have ample opportunity to work with some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world through specific industry projects. 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, start-up companies, academic institutions, and research centres. The MEBCS programme is designed to prepare future leaders for positions in knowledge-driven industries poised for global economic growth in the new millennium.

Courses are primarily for students with backgrounds in chemical engineering, physical chemistry, biophysics, and/or materials engineering. Careers might include progressive positions in:

This programme equips students with a unified perspective on translating molecular information and discovery into products and processes.

| top of page |


MA 5401 Molecular and Cellular Aspects of Biotechnology
This introductory course will provide a basic understanding of molecular biology, cell structure, cell growth and division, and cell regulation by internal and external signals. The second part will focus on production of recombinant proteins by cultured animal cells, including the processes of protein secretion; protein folding; glycosylation and other post-translational modifications; and protein quality control. It will also address how the process of receptor-mediated endocytosis can be used to target therapeutic proteins and genes to specific cells in the body. Genetic engineering of bacteria and animal cells, including techniques for site-specific mutation of proteins and for expression of foreign genes in mammalian cells will be discussed. The generation and use of transgenic animals and plants for production of recombinant proteins will also be covered.

SMA 5402 Biotechnology Laboratory
The objective of this laboratory component to SMA5401 is to introduce basic microbiological and biochemical techniques to familiarise students with biological systems through experiments.

SMA 5403 Molecular Aspects of Materials Design
This course provides a molecular perspective for engineering the properties of organic, inorganic, and composite systems. It focuses on the atomic-level energetic relationships that affect structure and interfacial interactions and give rise to many macroscopic properties. Various thermodyanamic analyses of aggregation, surface effects, and phase behavior are used to provide a molecular perspective and insight into the prediction of physical properties, the design of self-assembling systems, and the tailoring of a material's properties. Practical case studies are used to demonstrate the relationships between structure and function across many length scales and to develop a chemical intuition for the design of complex chemical systems.

| top of page |

SMA 5411 Molecular Thermodynamics
The goals of this course are to develop a quantitative basis for estimation of the equilibrium properties of mixtures found in biological and chemical systems. The course will draw on both classical and statistical thermodynamics to develop analytical tools for the description of multicomponent solution phase equilibria in electrolyte and non-electrolyte systems (both monomeric and polymeric), and in gels, membranes and protein solutions. The conformational and structural stability of proteins will be covered, as will the thermodynamics of self-aggregating systems such as micelles, vesicles and other structured fluids. An introduction to surface thermodynamics (surface tension, adsorption) will round out the course. Practical examples will be used throughout to reinforce the fundamental principles introduced in this course.

SMA 5412 Transport and Reaction Processes
The initial portion of this subject will provide a unified introduction to momentum, mass, and heat transfer. Topics will include diffusion, conduction, and convection in both homogeneous and heterogeneous media. Diffusional limitations on the rate of heterogeneous reactions will be explored. The latter portion of the subject will treat chemical kinetics in some detail with an emphasis on heterogeneous systems for which adsorption/desorption phenomena are particularly important. Reactor applications will include both conventional reactors for which concepts such as the residence time distribution are important and also physiological systems.

SMA 5413 Kinetics of Biological and Chemical Systems
This course provides a comprehensive treatment of the kinetics of basic chemical reactions and biological processes. It begins with a fundamental analysis of reaction order in homogeneous reactions and proceeds with the kinetics of heterogeneous systems and catalytic reactions. Methods of measuring and calculating reaction rate constants will be included. After a basic stoichiometric analysis of biological reaction networks, the course will discuss kinetics of enzymatic reactions and extensions to kinetic characteristics of reaction pathways and bioreaction networks. Similarities and differences between chemical and biological kinetics are discussed along with concepts of rate-limiting steps and distribution of control among several reactions in a pathway. The course concludes with applications to the kinetic analysis of chemical and biological reaction systems in the chemical and bioprocess industries.

| top of page |

SMA 5421 Nanostructured Catalysts Design and Organic Synthesis Catalytic processes are critical to the synthesis of chemicals, materials, and pharmaceuticals.
This subject describes the tailoring of materials with unique pore structures and nanocrystallinity to provide for designed functionalities in catalytic applications. Strategies for surface modification and compositional design targeted towards enhancing catalytic activity, selectivity and stability will be discussed. The characterization and use of nanostructured catalysts in organic synthesis will be presented; of particular interest are the synthetic transformations and catalytic chemistry underlying oxidation/reduction, hydrogenation, acid catalysis, polymerization, and asymmetric synthesis of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

SMA 5422 Special Topics in Biotechnology
This course reviews current topics in biology and biotechnology with particular emphasis on technologies catalyzed by developments in the field of genomics. These developments are changing the landscape of the chemical and medical industries through the introduction of biology as the enabling technology of manufacturing operations and biomedical information upgrade. The course will provide an in-depth analysis of the scientific fundamentals and technological extensions of topics like: sequencing and genomics, bioinformatics, expression phenotyping via DNA microarrays, rational drug design, proteomics technologies and analysis, drug delivery, and others.

SMA 5423 Bioprocess Engineering
The use of animal cells is now the major way to produce biological therapeutics. This course will cover the pertinent concepts in the use of animal cells for production of recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies. Comparison on the use of bacterial hosts with animal cells for therapeutic protein production will be considered. Topics will include nutritional requirements for cell growth, kinetics of cell growth, cell death and product formation. Bioreactors for suspension and anchorage-dependent cells will also be discussed. Issues related to process validation and safety in the use of animal cells will be addressed from a regulatory point of view.

To apply to MEBCS, please submit the following application forms:

| top of page |
Go to top of pageGo to main navigationGo to additional information