New straight-to-PhD programme at SUTD

Only 20 out of the 500-strong incoming cohort will be offered the Singapore University of Technology and Design Honours and Research Programme from May 2019, when the first school term begins.
Only 20 out of the 500-strong incoming cohort will be offered the Singapore University of Technology and Design Honours and Research Programme from May 2019, when the first school term begins.PHOTO: ST FILE

20 students to start in May; they will each receive a $15,000 grant

A new programme will allow a select group of students here to do research on top of their regular academic load, and upon graduation, jump straight into their PhD.

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) said only 20 out of the 500-strong incoming cohort will start the SUTD Honours and Research Programme (Sharp) in May, when the new academic year begins.

In a media briefing yesterday, the university said students have to score at least two H2 As in mathematics and a science subject in the A levels, or the equivalent for other qualifications, to be considered.

The programme is open to both engineering and architecture students.

The SUTD said it is looking to double the Sharp intake in the future.

Each student will receive a $15,000 grant, half of which is for their research project and the other half is for conferences and other expenses.

A faculty member will also provide one-on-one research supervision and mentorship, but the students can apply for internships at local and overseas research institutes as well.

By the end of the 31/2-year programme, students will need to have completed research projects and a research thesis.

The regular undergraduate programme is also 31/2 years long.

While other students have access to an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, the Sharp programme is more structured, an SUTD spokesman said.

SUTD's president, Professor Chong Tow Chong, said: "Sharp aims to equip students with deep critical thinking and problem-solving skills that help them think out of the box, to come up with original solutions or ideas."

Students in the programme will graduate with a bachelor's degree in either engineering or science, and have the option of applying to take up a direct PhD in engineering or architecture, or a master's in engineering research.

The university has received about 50 applications since it started accepting them in December last year.

Applications close in March.

Mr Ethan Leng, 19, an engineering science student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic who will be graduating in May, recently received an acceptance letter to enrol in the Sharp programme in 2021, after he completes his national service.

"This programme will give me a head start - I will get to start exploring research fields earlier and decide on a specialisation earlier," he said, adding that he is likely to take up the offer and is interested in doing research in the electronics field.

Prof Chong also announced changes in the engineering degree programmes which are meant to create more flexibility for the university's minor programmes, of which there are currently seven on offer.

The university will now give engineering undergraduates more freedom to choose unrestricted electives that they can take as minors.

With this, students no longer need to overload their timetables to secure their minor, said the university.

It added that it will also expand its grade-free system, in a bid to place less emphasis on examinations.

One academic year at the SUTD spans three terms, and students typically take four courses per term.

Currently, first-year students' grades for courses taken in their first term do not count towards their Grade Point Average.

From May, first-year students can choose two additional courses to be grade-free over the second and third term.

Said Prof Chong: "We want to give incoming students greater flexibility and ease in pursuing their interests and broaden their knowledge and hands-on experiences... while de-emphasising the focus on academic grades."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'New straight-to-PhD programme at SUTD'. Print Edition | Subscribe