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The Future of Modern Technologies

About CSB


The Computation and Systems Biology (CSB) degree programme is a partnership between the world-recognized CSBi programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the visionary biology, bioengineering, and biotechnology programmes at NUS, NTU, and the A*STAR Research Institutes.

Students with backgrounds in either biology (with strong math skills), physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, or engineering are encouraged to apply. Students must be attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of the CSB degree programme, and have a strong interest in systems and computational approaches to stem cell and tissue biology. Students accepted into the CSB track will take a selection of modules offered in Singapore and MIT, including five MIT/CSBi courses beamed live from MIT -- a signature feature of the high degree of integration between the Singapore and the MIT/CSBi PhD courses. The CSB programme courses will cover topics in computational biology, systems biology, genomics, proteomics and imaging theory and technology, some of which will be team-taught by faculty members from Singapore and MIT. As part of the CSB degree programme, concepts emphasized in the class room will be applied in research projects that are tightly linked to the education programme.

CSB research projects will focus on the development of advanced technologies in biological probes, imaging, and computational biology, and the application of these technologies to medically relevant problems in tissue biology, including stem cell differentiation, tissue morphogenesis, infectious disease models, and tissue physiology.

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Course Descriptions

The SMA/CSBi PhD curriculum draws from courses in the CSBi PhD programme as well as elective courses at MIT, NUS, and NTU. Students will take four core courses for a foundation in systems and computational biology and three elective courses that expand the breadth and extend the depth of study. The core and elective courses will be offered at MIT, NUS and NTU either as long-distance or residence courses. Students are expected to complete most of their coursework in the first two years. Long distance courses are co-taught by MIT and Singapore faculty.

Core Courses

Modern Biology (One Subject)        
A semester of modern biology strengthens the biology base of all students in the programme. Subjects in biochemistry, cell biology, development, genetics, molecular biology, or neurobiology fulfill this requirement. The particular biology course taken by a student will be determined in consultation with the SMA PhD Graduate Committee. This requirement can be fulfilled by a suitable Singapore course held on the home campus of a candidate. Subjects that can fulfill the biology requirements for the SMA PhD degree are listed as follows:




Computational Biology (Two Subjects, both compulsory)   
A semester of computational biology provides students with a background in the applications of computation to biology, including analysis and modeling of sequence, structural, and systems data. This requirement can be fulfilled with “Advanced Statistical Theory and Data Mining SMA5303 (15.077, 15.76)” and “Biomedical Information Technology SMA5304 (BE453J, 2.77J/20.453J/HST.958J)”. The courses combine lectures that describe the fundamental principles of computational methods with homework assignments designed to give students hands-on experience using them.

Topics in Computational and Systems Biology (One Subject)       
All first-year students in the programme are required to participate in “Computation and Systems Biology SMA 5301” which is team-taught by faculty members from MIT and Singapore and held in Singapore. It is a literature-based exploration of current frontiers and paradigms in this emerging field.

Advanced Electives

The requirement of three advanced electives is designed to develop both breadth and depth for students in the SMA/CSBi PhD program. The electives add to the base of the diversified core curriculum and contribute strength in areas related to student interest and research direction. The three electives can be chosen from several courses offered in the broad categories of biology, engineering and computation.

The SMA/CSB programme will follow a tissue systems biology track that emphasizes tissue-level biology, advanced imaging technologies, and computation. Each student will select his advanced electives, in consultation with the SMA PhD Graduate Committee and the student’s thesis committee. These electives need to satisfy the distribution and area requirements.  

Biology advanced elective (One Subject)    
An advanced graduate course in biology offered at MIT or the home institution. Tentative discussions to develop a stem cell biology course in the Biology curriculum are underway. Such a course would be appropriate as an SMA/CSB advanced elective.

Courses offered at the National University of Singapore:

Courses offered at the Nanyang Technological University:

Courses offered at MIT:

Computational Biology advanced elective (One Subject)
Specific problems in systems biology require students to acquire, organize, and process massive amounts of disparate types of data (genomic, proteomic, imaging, etc.). From databases and other sources, students must extract, quantify, analyze, and model the information. Students are required to take one of the following courses.

Courses offered at MIT:

Courses offered at NTU:

Courses offered at NUS:

Engineering Measurement advanced elective (One Subject)
Central to studying complex biological problem is the ability to probe and measure molecular processes in live cells and tissues. Engineering measurement electives cover methods for studying molecules and cells as well as the methods to detect and quantify biomolecules that are chemically or genetically tagged with fluorescent and other molecules. Students are required to take one of the following courses.

Courses offered at MIT:

Courses beamed between MIT and Singapore:

Courses offered at NTU:

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Degree Offerings

CSB is not accepting applications for the September 2011 intake.

Pathways into the Programme

An NUS/NTU PhD degree with SMA Certificate

The SMA II – Computation and Systems Biology (“CSB”) offers only a PhD degree programme. The PhD degree is conferred by either NUS or NTU, depending on the university that the main thesis advisor is affiliated to.  

Students must demonstrate a working familiarity with molecular and cell biology, biochemistry or genetics, mathematics (differential equations), and physics or physical chemistry. An ideal candidate will have majored in engineering with a strong biology/bioengineering track or in biology with a strong background in engineering, physics, math or computer science.

For successful completion of the program, students must successfully complete the CSB/SMA curriculum, pass a written and oral qualifying exam within the first 24 months of their candidature, satisfy a six-month residency requirement, and successfully defend a research thesis. The thesis projects will be based on problems identified within the Inter-University and Flagship Research Projects, comprising both computation and systems biology components and jointly supervised by MIT and Singapore faculty.

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Graduate Fellowship

Singapore-MIT Alliance Objectives
SMA is an unparalleled and exciting distance-technology enabled educational and research opportunity – a compelling new value proposition – that attracts and retains the very best engineering and life sciences graduate students and researchers from across Asia. SMA develops talented human capital for Singapore’s industries, universities, and research establishments; provides a platform and vehicle for organizational and institutional learning that will raise the general level of all partner institutions; creates world-class educational programs and high-impact research initiatives in areas crucial to the growth of the Singapore economy; and fosters strong academia-industry-Research Institute collaborations, providing the basis for an enduring and viable partnership. SMA is characterized by quality, diversity, integrity, commitment, and service – both to Singapore and to the global knowledge community.

Graduate Fellowship Program
Students who receive a SMA Graduate Fellowship will receive full support for tuition, stipend and travel. The students will be eligible, depending upon the programme they are accepted into, for the following degrees: an MIT Masters and an NUS/NTU Masters; an MIT Masters and an NUS/NTU PhD; or an NUS/NTU PhD.

SMA has established a rigorous screening process to ensure that only the most able applicants become SMA Graduate Fellows.

The following conditions apply:

  1. Only applicants who will have received a Bachelor’s degree by the time that a programme’s academic year commences are eligible. Applications will also be accepted from students who have already received a Bachelor’s degree.
  2. Only applicants who have been admitted to NUS/NTU are eligible. Applications will be accepted from students who are awaiting confirmation of admission into NUS/NTU.
  3. Evidence of past accomplishments, academic potential, leadership potential, the potential for producing innovative research, creativity, and moral and ethical values are some of – but not exclusively – the characteristics that the Fellowship committee will consider.

In addition to your application, you must submit:

  1. A one-to-three page summary explaining your aspirations for applying for an SMA Graduate Fellowship, what you intend to do upon completion of your studies, and your future career goals. Please include your name (family name in capital letters first, followed by given name in lower-case letters) in the top right corner of each page.
  2. When received, you must send a copy of your acceptance letter from MIT to the Singapore-SMA Office (located at E4-04-10, 4 Engineering Drive 3, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117576).
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