Special Programme in Science (SPS)

The Special Programme in Science was founded in 1996 to nurture talent among budding scientists. It is an intense programme for a selected group of undergraduates with a fierce passion and strong aptitude for science. It is directed at students who cherish outstanding scholarship, and delight in the rigourous training of the mind and character. Participants are introduced to some of the broad areas of contemporary scientific concerns through an interdisciplinary approach, a key cornerstone and hallmark of SPS.

Opportunities abound for participants to dabble in scientific investigations and to embark on in-depth studies of advanced topics that are at the forefront of modern scientific endeavour. The programme also provides students with a rare opportunity to interact with renowned scientists visiting the university.

A series of four integrated science modules allow for a more multidisciplinary approach when facing scientific problems, and will include opportunities to pursue research projects.


Brief Overview and Timeline

Each of the six modules is worth four modular credits. (MCs) The six modules can be separated into two categories, namely research-oriented modules and thematic integrated modules. The six modules are listed as below:


Research-Oriented Modules Thematic Integrated Modules
SP2171 - Discovering Science SP2173 - Atoms to Molecules
SP3172 - Integrated Science Project SP2174 - The Cell
SP3175 - The Earth
SP3176 - The Universe


The six modules are to be taken over a duration of two years, beginning in the freshman year. Students will start with SP2171 Discovering Science in their first semester which will be conducted over both Semesters 1 and 2 of the first year. 4 MCs will be awarded for SP2171 upon successful completion in Semester 2. In addition, students will also read SP2173 Atoms to Molecules in Semester 1 followed by SP2174 The Cell in Semester 2.

In the second year, students will read SP3175 The Earth in Semester 1 and SP3176 The Universe in Semester 2. Students are also required to fulfil a research component which takes the form of SP3172 Integrated Science Project. SP3172 can be taken in either Semester 1 or 2 of the second year. Students will fulfil a total of 24 MCs within the SPS. The sequence of modules to be read is shown below:


Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 SP2171 Discovering Science (4 MC) –completed over 2 semesters
SP2173 Atoms to Molecules (4 MC) SP2174 The Cell (4 MC)
2 SP3172 Integrated Science Project (4 MC) SP3175 The Earth (4 MC)
  SP3176 The Universe (4MC)


Research-Oriented Modules

There are two research-oriented modules aimed at equipping students with the relevant skills to embark on undergraduate science research. The students will acquire essential research and communication skills and apply them in focused literature surveys. From their exposure in scientific literature, students will then be equipped with the knowledge to eventually plan and perform their own undergraduate research. The detailed curriculums of the two research-oriented modules are outlines as below.

SP2171 - Discovering Science (4MC)
This module is a series of lectures conducted to improve students' computational, modelling and communication skill as an integral part of the Integrated Science Curriculum. Students are also required to engage in small-group discussions and undertake focused literature surveys on special topics of their choice within the four major themes in the Integrated Science Curriculum of the Special Programme in Science, namely Atoms to Molecules, The Cell, The Earth and The Universe. Students will read this module in Semester I and Semester II of their first year of study, with a 4-MC workload over two semesters.

SP3172 - Integrated Science Project  (4MC)
This module is similar to an undergraduate research project where a greater initiative in planning the research work is expected of the students. Students will be expected to embark on research projects of an integrated nature to complement the thematic integrated science modules in the Special Programme in Science. Students can either choose to take this module in either Semester 1 or 2 of the second year.


Thematic Integrated Modules

There are four specially designed integrated modules with themes that progress in scale of size. Each of these modules will integrate Biology, Chemistry and Physics using Mathematics and Statistics as tools. Students will be taught to think in an integrative manner instead of looking at each discipline in isolation. There will also be a focus in the current trends in the scientific fields. The detailed curriculums of the four thematic integrated modules are outlines as below.

SP2173 - Atoms to Molecules (4MC)
This is the first module of the thematic integrated modules, covering nature at different scales from "Atoms to Molecules", "The Cells", "The Earth" and "The Universe".

"Atoms to Molecules" strives to answer a simple question: "How do atoms come together to produce the vibrant diversity observed in the physical, chemical and biological world?" To this end we follow mans’ quest to understand the atom, the development of 'quantum mechanics' and how this leads to our understanding of molecules as collections of atoms. We will also visit the development of techniques that probe the microscopic domain and use some of them (spectroscopy, tunnelling microscopy) in hands-on experiments. We will conclude by studying novel, cutting edge topics such as fullerenes and graphene. It should be noted that there will be an extensive use of computational tools (e.g. MATHEMATICA) will be made for simulations and surmounting mathematical barriers.

SP2174 - The Cell (4MC)
This is the second module of the thematic integrated modules, covering nature at different scales from "Atoms to Molecules", "The Cells", "The Earth" and "The Universe".

Using simple bacteria as the model organism, key chemical and physical principles underlying several biological processes which cells can integrate and function as an autonomous machine in order to regenerate (self replicate), repair and re-program (differentiate), respond (energy harness and utilization) and re-model (community formation) will be explored. These processes will be examined at single molecule, single cell to multi-cellular levels under their general ability to store, decode and process information ("Information"), to self-assemble, migrate ("Dynamics") and to harness and utilise energy ("Energy").

SP3175 - The Earth (4MC)
This is the third module of the thematic integrated modules, covering nature at different scales from "Atoms to Molecules", "The Cells", "The Earth" and "The Universe".

This module focuses on the physical, chemical and biological processes that have shaped the development of the Earth. The module takes a systems approach in order to understand the interconnectivity between the various components of the Earth system, i.e. the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Using this approach, students will study the impact that anthropogenic activities, such as burning fossil fuels, has had on the Earth system.

SP3176 - The Universe (4MC)
This is the fourth module of the thematic integrated modules, covering nature at different scales from "Atoms to Molecules", "The Cells", "The Earth" and "The Universe".

This module traces the developments in theoretical and observational cosmology, starting from Newtonian cosmology, Hubble's observations, the Big Bang, formation of stars and black holes to recent ideas in the origin and fate of the Universe.


Other Opportunities

Apart from the modules, students can gain experience and leadership skills through serving for the SPS committee. Work opportunities would be provided, ranging from the website administrator, to a science demonstrator. From their third year, SPS students are given the opportunity of helping conduct the SPS modules, by participating as junior mentors (in their third year) and senior mentors (in their fourth year).

Designation Name Contact No.
Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 6516-5130




Related Link
SPS Student Website