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 and High Performance Computation for Engineered Systems, beginning on July 1, 1999. A third program, Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology, was introduced the following July, and the last two programs, Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems and Computer Science, got under way 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 fellows from MIT and an equivalent number from either NUS or NTU. Programs also have SMA associates who assist the fellows by giving several lectures each year. For academic year 2003, 45 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 to an entire semester engaging in face-to-face lecturing, discussion, and research collaboration in Singapore.

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

Research comprises an important aspect of the research masters and doctorate degrees in all five programs, and industry-sponsored research projects play an important role in the professional masters degree. 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 comprises administration and faculty from both MIT and Singapore. Finally, the individual academic programs are codirected by program chairs—one apiece from MIT and Singapore.

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

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Summer Conference

SMA students spend three weeks at MIT as part of the program for a summer conference, which is designed to help Singaporean students become immersed in 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, interactions with MIT graduate students, and social gatherings and activities.

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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 works 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 subjects 1-390, 3-370, 8-404, and in the three SMA research interaction rooms. In addition, the AMPS staff also works closely with the SMA staff to update its web site.

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Entering Class

A total of 1,923 applications were received for the five programs operating in academic year 2004. To date, 238 offers were made and 137 applicants accepted the offers. Of these, 28 percent were from Singapore, 24 percent were from China, 16 percent were from India, and the remainder were from other Southeast Asian countries.

Graduate Record Examination (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 Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for the Class of 2004 are slightly higher than last year's class.

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

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Noteworthy Events

On March 24, 2003, the three institutions, NUS, NTU, and MIT, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to take the Singapore-MIT Alliance (currently designated as SMA-1) to the next level of graduate education and research in science and engineering. This next phase (SMA-2) is slated to commence in 2005.

SMA continues to embark on a number of important outreach programs. Specifically, the 2003 symposium in Singapore was attended by dignitaries including chairman of the MIT Corporation Alex d'Arbeloff, Provost Brown, Dean Magnanti, and the Singaporeminister for Trade and Industry, George Yeo.

Professor Victor Zue kicked off the SMA/Industrial Liaison Program seminar series in the fall of 2002; this was followed by a spring seminar given by Dean William Mitchell. These outreach activities serve to share our distance education facilities and capabilities with other departments at MIT, NUS, and NTU.

SMA graduated its first PhD student, Chee Lip Gan, in June of 2003. Chee Lip has accepted a faculty position at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

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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 masters 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, "Web-lab," a new tool 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.

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 SMA universities and Singaporean research institutes continues to prosper, especially in the area of metallization and materials reliability in microelectronics. As evidence, SMA graduate student Gan Chee Lip received the Silver Award at the 2003 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting.

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, head of the Department 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 the broad area of "Effective Computation for Design and Operation of Engineered Systems" as its research theme.

The SM (a professional masters degree), MEng, and PhD degree programs all include a core curriculum, the MEng degree requires a masters thesis, and 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 2002 to spring 2003, five subjects were taught to both SMA (via video-conferencing and taped lectures) and MIT students—three in the fall of 2002 and two in the spring of 2003. The SMA students performed very well when compared with the MIT cohort.

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, and 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, Duane Boning, Jung-Hoon Chun, Stephen Graves, and Kamal Youcef-Toumi as faculty fellows, with Jeremie Gallien, Stanley Gershwin, and David Simchi-Levi as associates.

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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 masters (SM) degree program prepares graduates for the shaping and solving of 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 was Jackie Y. Ying from July 2002 through February 2003; from March 2003 onward, Gregory N. Stephanopoulos has been the acting chair. MIT faculty members Robert A. Brown (program advisor), Alan T. Hatton, Paul E. Laibinis, Harvey F. Lodish, Kenneth A. Smith, and Daniel I.C. Wang are SMA faculty fellows, while faculty members Subra Suresh and Bernhardt Trout are associates.

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Computer Science

The SMA program in Computer Science 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 Computer Science 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 interdepartmental and interschool collaborations as a result of both SMA curriculum development and SMA–funded research projects. In fact, since the inception of SMA, 28 SMA courses—or 65 percent of the total number of the SMA classes offered—have been cross-listed at MIT. To date, over 1,900 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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