Special Programme in Science (SPS)

Prospective Students

All SPS students are required to complete six modules which are meant to establish some familiarity with interdisciplinary science through seminars, laboratory, field work, simulations and research projects. We place a strong emphasis on independent learning, and offer abundant opportunities for those who are sufficiently motivated to cover advanced topics and engage in scientific investigation.


Each of the six modules is worth four modular credits (MC). They can be separated into two categories: research-oriented modules (8MC) and thematic integrated modules (16MC). These are:

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These 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. 4MC 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) and SP3176 (The Universe) in Semester 2. Students are also required to complete SP3172 (Integrated Science Project), which can be taken in either Semester 1 or 2 of the second year. Altogether, these amount to 24MC within the framework of SPS:

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There are two research-oriented modules aimed at equipping students with the necessary skillset 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 to scientific literature, students will then be equipped with the knowledge to eventually plan and perform their own undergraduate research. The detailed curricula of these modules are as follows:

I. SP2171 – Discovering Science (4MC)

This module is a series of lectures conducted to improve students’ computational, modelling and communication skills, 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. Students will read this module in Semester 1 and Semester 2 of their first year of study, with a 4MC workload over two semesters.

II. SP3172 – Integrated Science Project (4MC)

This module is similar to an undergraduate research project, but with more initiative in planning research work expected of the students. Students will embark on research projects of an integrated nature to complement the thematic integrated science modules in the Special Programme in Science. Students may choose to take this module in either Semester 1 or 2 of the second year.


There are four specially designed thematic integrated science modules (“Atoms to Molecules”, “The Cell”, “The Earth” and “The Universe”), covering nature at different scales, from that of minuscule atoms to that of the vast Universe. with themes that progress with scale. 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 on current trends in these scientific fields. The detailed curricula of these modules are as follows:

I. SP2173 – Atoms to Molecules (4MC)

“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 man’s 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 examine the development of techniques that probe the micro/nanoscale domain and use some of them (atomic spectroscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy) in hands-on experiments. We conclude by studying novel, cutting edge topics related to carbon such as fullerenes and graphene. Extensive use of computational tools (e.g. Mathematica) will be used for simulations, and for surmounting any mathematical barriers.

II. SP2174 – The Cell (4MC)

“The Cell” provides a general introduction to the key chemical and physical principles underlying several biological processes which cells integrate and use to function as autonomous machines capable of regeneration (self-replication), repair and re-programming (differentiation), response (force-sensing) and re-modeling (tissue formation). These processes can occur at scales ranging from single molecules and cells to many cells or entire tissues because of their general, common ability to self-assemble and migrate; to harness and utilise energy; and to store, decode and process information.

III. SP3175 – The Earth (4MC)

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

IV. SP3176 – The Universe (4MC)

“The Universe” traces developments in theoretical and observational cosmology, starting from Newtonian cosmology, Hubble’s observations of the expanding Universe, Einstein’s cosmology and the Big Bang, interstellar chemistry, formation of stars and black holes to recent ideas in the origin and fate of the Universe.


SP3277 - Nanotechnology: from Research Bench to Industrial Applications

is an optional SPS module offered during the Winter break. This module was born out of the collaboration between La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia and NUS. It encompasses a Nanotechnology Study Tour to Japan to provide significant international exposure for students in the areas of science, technology, manufacturing and commerce with an emphasis on nanotechnology. It is also aimed at enhancing the understanding of cultural, business and governmental interactions and linkages with Japan.


Apart from the modules, students can gain experience and leadership skills through serving for the SPS committee. Work opportunities are also provided, ranging from website administrator to 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 student mentors (in their fourth year).