The Special Programme in Science (SPS) is an academic programme encompassing multidisciplinary research, active peer-learning, and student mentorship. Established by the Faculty of Science in 1996, SPS hopes to develop scientific reasoning and independent study skills in Science students. In 2010, SPS underwent a major curriculum boost through the implementation of the Integrated Science Curriculum, comprising two research-based modules and four thematic modules. SPS students are introduced to some of the broad areas of contemporary scientific concerns through an interdisciplinary approach, a key hallmark of the programme. Opportunities also abound for students to participate in scientific investigations and embark on independent studies of advanced topics which are at the forefront of modern scientific endeavours. Moreover, SPS provides students with a wide network of seniors who are scientists, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. Our SPS Alumni boast credentials of being postgraduates or full-time academicians in reputable institutions across the world, such as MIT, Max-Planck Institute, NUS, Oxford, Cambridge, McGill, Carnegie-Mellon, NTU, Stanford, and so on.Can I go on the Student Exchange Programme?
Yes. SPS students usually opt to go for the Student Exchange Programme (SEP) in Year 3, after completing their first two years in SPS. If you wish to further your time in SPS and contribute to the programme, you can join the SPS mentorship programme and still embark on SEP.Is SPS all about science and research?
It is true that SPS is advertised as a programme with a strong focus in science and research. However, the daily buzz in the SPS room not only revolves around these. We have fun too! You can join other members for a meal at the common table, play some board/card games or have a casual chat about your other passions. Organised events such as fireside chats with prestigious SPS alumni, steamboats and movie nights are just some of the fun activities planned for us by the SPS committee. Run by current students, the SPS committee aims to foster closer ties amongst members of the community through various events. After the two years, many students emerge from the programme equipped with not only strong foundations in science and research, but also friends they will hold dear for a lifetime.Is SPS a minor?
Although it also consists of six modules, the SPS programme is not a minor. Nevertheless, the SPS programme has its own unique set of benefits as compared to minors.What is the SPS fund?
The SPS fund aims to support present and future SPS students who need financial assistance to attend supplementary academic programmes, visit luminary programmes, and participate in local or overseas competitions or conferences. We also wish to provide bursaries for SPS students who need financial assistance for their study. For further information, please contact us.
BenefitsWhat do I gain from SPS?
SPS aims to promote scientific discourse across all disciplines of Science. The hope is for every SPS student to graduate with the skills and other knowledge to gain an appreciation for research outside their major specialisation. To this end, students will enrol in the unique Integrated Science Curriculum, comprising six cross-disciplinary modules. Through group projects and small-group seminar classes, you will build scientific communication and teamwork skills that will come in useful in your further education or future workplace. At SPS, every group project is designed to stimulate your creative thinking and further your learning. In order to facilitate discussion, students enjoy access to SPS facilities, such as our own discussion area, seminar room, library and two well-equipped teaching laboratories.Will graduating from SPS be reflected on my transcript?
Graduating from SPS is a commendable achievement in and of itself, but unfortunately, this will not be reflected on your transcript. Nevertheless, SPS graduates do receive certificates that acknowledge their completion of the SPS programme. Furthermore, the projects done during SPS and their results are themselves a testimonial that you can feature in your CVs.
SuitabilityHow do I know if I am suited for SPS?
SPS is designed with two foci in mind: providing students with the soft and hard skills required for research, and developing competencies in interdisciplinary sciences. In recent years, computational thinking has become an essential tool in the sciences. To equip students with this skill, SPS modules are thus designed to emphasise the applications of computational thinking in scientific analysis and data visualisation. SPS modules allow for more freedom of exploration than regular science modules and hence, SPS students should expect to read extensively and ask questions. If you are particularly interested in the interplay between the various fields of science, then SPS is the place for you.Is SPS a replacement for an additional major or a minor if I am passionate about more than one branch of Science?
SPS exposes students to a host of different science disciplines without the need for prior knowledge in these fields. The knowledge you will learn will be broad-based but sufficient for you to gain an appreciation of most scientific research. A benefit of SPS is that you are exposed to many different disciplines of Science compared to just one if you take an extra major/minor. However, since SPS modules cover multiple branches of Science in their content, the depth gone into each branch will consequently be less in comparison to a minor or major where all the modules would be focused on that single branch. Furthermore, the diverse backgrounds of the students in terms of their majors and exploratory-style of learning means that each SPS module involves the application of concepts from different branches in a single module as students learn to share the perspectives of different majors and pick up knowledge from each other to tackle interdisciplinary problems. If in-depth knowledge of a single branch of Science is what you are looking for, an additional minor or major may be the better option for you.Most of the SPS modules and Staff Mentors seem related to Life Science, Chemistry and Physics. Is SPS suitable for students outside of these majors?
Definitely! SPS modules are geared towards inculcating the ability to solve problems with an interdisciplinary approach and learning the key skills required for research. These abilities and skills are applicable to all Science students. Furthermore, data analysis is a common thread between all majors and where students from other majors such as Mathematics, Data Science and Analytics and Statistics often show off their skills in SPS modules, contributing to peer learning. We have had many students from the other eligible majors complete the programme successfully.
How do I apply for SPS?
Application for SPS opens once every year between mid-June and early-August. Interested applicants can submit an online application on the Application Portal. You may also sign-up on the main page of the website to get a reminder on when the applications for the academic year open.
SPS is a two-year programme. As such, only students matriculating in the coming academic year can apply.
Which majors can apply for SPS?
Applications are only open to freshmen enrolled within the Faculty of Science. Unfortunately, SPS is not able to accommodate students from some science majors. This is due to multiple reasons, namely the difficulty in resolving timetable clashes and the curricula of some majors being too rigorous to easily accommodate SPS. The following majors listed below are eligible to apply to SPS:
- Applied Mathematics
- Data Science and Analytics
- Life Sciences
- Computational Biology
- Pharmaceutical Sciences
Application to SPS is only open to freshmen who are matriculating in the coming academic year. If you are in doubt about your eligibility for SPS, you can contact us to clarify.
I intend to apply to/have successfully applied for other academic programs (Eg. UTCP, USP, double major programmes or double degree programmes). Is it advisable for me to apply for SPS?
NUS offers a plethora of opportunities, and SPS is only one of many. More often than not, students wish to join multiple academic programmes which have piqued their interests. In addition to SPS, there are students who have enrolled in other academic programmes. We have also seen students take on extracurricular commitments such as varsity and external sports clubs. It is certainly possible for one to complete more than one academic programme and pursue their many interests, along with SPS. However, one should expect that it would be challenging to hold onto multiple commitments. We do have many success stories of seniors who have overcome the challenges and packed their undergraduate years with a variety of programs and experiences.
You can apply to SPS and other academic programmes concurrently. Students who intend to undertake more than one programme are advised to give their decision careful thought. You should take into consideration your interests, commitment and suitability before doing so.
If you would like to chat with seniors who have completed multiple programmes concurrently, contact us and we can link you up with them.
Is there an entry requirement for SPS? How are the students selected?
Beyond the fact that students applying have to be matriculating in the coming academic year, there are no strict entry requirements. In SPS, we are not simply looking for students with stellar academic records. We would like students who have a strong passion for science and research. That being said, SPS opens you to the world of research but does not necessitate that you pursue research as a career. Nor does it require that you come equipped with research experience. Beyond a passion for Science, students who also possess grit, are not afraid to fail and learn, and wish to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, are desired. All freshmen are encouraged to apply, regardless of academic and research background. Let SPS give you an opportunity, and give SPS a shot.
Students are selected based on their interest in cross-disciplinary scientific research and their ability to engage in team projects. We hope to select students with a strong passion for scientific research to contribute to scientific discussions.
After I submit my application, what are the next steps in the selection process?
Once you have submitted your application for admission to SPS in early-July, the SPS admissions team will reach out to you to schedule an interview in mid-July. This admissions interview will be approximately 30 minutes long, where the admissions team would like to get to know you better as a person and as a potential budding scientist. The interview will also include a short 5-minute presentation on any of your scientific interests. Once you have completed the interview process, you can expect a reply from the SPS admissions team in early August.
What is the average number of students accepted into the SPS programme each year?
The number of students accepted into the SPS programme each year depends largely on the number of applications. On average, the size of the incoming batch is between 30-40 students with a wide variety of majors.
The SPS application results are only released after the module registration exercise has begun. How should I go about planning my timetable?
You should plan your timetable with the assumption that you have not been accepted into SPS. Each student is required to take a minimum of 18 MCs every semester and the common practice is to enroll in five modules each semester. If and when you are accepted into SPS, no balloting is required because the SPS modules will be allocated to you. SPS Staff Mentors will also assist in solving potential clashes in your timetable and dropping modules, if necessary.
How many modules am I expected to read under SPS? Must I read all the modules to graduate from the programme?
There are a total of six tailored-made modules under the Integrated Science Curriculum. All modules are worth 4 MCs each. Four of these modules are thematic, and each module places emphasis on one of the fields of Science. The remaining two modules are research-based modules through which soft and hard research skills will be imparted. These modules are to be completed within two years and you will have to read all six to graduate from SPS. Graduating from SPS will also fulfil the faculty computational thinking requirement.
Must I read the SPS modules in the order described on the webpage?
Yes. Each module is only taught in one of the two semesters for every academic year. SPS is designed to be a two-year programme that will progressively expose students to different fields of science and independent study. The thematic modules begin with a look at the basic building block of all things, the atom, and end with a macroscopic understanding of the world we live in, the universe. For more information, refer to the SPS workflow.
How are the modules under SPS like? Is the teaching style similar to modules outside of SPS?
The process of research teems with victories and obstacles. SPS modules offer a microcosm of such a journey. At the core of SPS’ teaching philosophy is the idea that learning is a process of both successes and failures. Lecturers do not grade you based on the number of times you are right, but on the journey that you have taken to complete the project regardless of the outcome.
SPS modules adopt an interactive learning environment, where students are encouraged to ask questions and learn from the lecturers, mentors and their peers. Crucially, learning is made interesting with frequent experiments and field trips on occasion. SPS is also a place where lecturers are open to learning from their students and teaching their students beyond what is expected.
The emphasis of SPS modules is not on the quantity of the content. Rather, the lecturers strive to help students achieve a firm understanding of the content and enable us to apply what we have learnt in various fields. As such, there are few written examinations throughout the two years. In most modules, you are given the freedom to propose, design and conduct your own investigations. You would then be graded on your understanding, analysis and presentation of the topic. This is done through academic poster presentations, oral presentations, report writing and viva voce.
What if I experience timetable clashes?
SPS is made up of diverse groups of individuals, all pursuing different majors and specialisations. Timetable clashes are not unexpected. To cater to everyone’s timetable, there will usually be more than one session for small group seminar classes. For clashes with lectures, fret not too, as it will also be brought up and alternative timings will be proposed.
How are the SPS modules counted towards graduation? Do SPS students do extra modules compared to an average non-SPS student?
The computation of MCs from SPS modules towards faculty requirements may differ for different majors. We advise that you take a closer look at your department’s website for more details. Alternatively, you can contact us for further clarification.
SPS modules are not considered extra modules that are beyond the curriculum. It is structured as an alternative — and to some, more fulfilling — pathway towards completing the faculty requirements. In general, the Science faculty requires students in the B.Sc. (resp. B.Sc. (Hons.)) Programme to read and pass three (resp. four) modules from three distinct subjects groups outside of their majors. SPS students will fulfil the faculty requirements if they have passed three (resp. four) of the six SPS modules. In addition, every science major would have to fulfil the computational thinking (e.g. CS1010 variants) and scientific communication (i.e. SP1541) components as part of the faculty requirements. The completion of all six SPS modules would fulfill these requirements.
Upon the successful completion of SPS, the remaining modules that do not contribute to faculty and graduation requirements will be counted towards your Unrestricted Electives (UEs).
Are the SPS modules to be read on a letter-grading basis? Which modules can I exercise the S/U option?
All SPS modules are read on a letter-grading basis. You may exercise the S/U option for modules without prerequisites, i.e. SP2171 and SP2173.
SPS is meant to be completed in 2 years. If I do have timetable clashes that cannot be ironed out, can I defer the modules to Year 3?
Yes. While uncommon, situations like this have happened before. There are students who choose to defer one of the thematic modules due to timetable clashes. This would entail waiting for the next academic year to enroll in the particular module with the next batch of SPS students. Furthermore, this would delay your graduation from SPS by a year. However, we do not encourage deferment of SPS modules and this is subject to approval. To avoid such situations, students should pay close attention to the requirements of the programmes they wish to undertake and plan their modules in advance.
What if I cannot complete SPS?
It is our hope that everyone who enrolls into SPS will eventually complete the two-year programme. Nonetheless, there are students who realize that SPS might not be suitable for them at some point during the two years. Students can choose to withdraw from SPS at the end of a semester. SPS modules that are completed and passed will still be counted towards faculty requirements or unrestricted electives.
Do note that SP2171 is particularly tricky. SP2171 spans two semesters; and should you choose to leave SPS while the module is still in progress (IP), you will not be allowed to continue enrolling in SP2171. This would mean that you have to complete a science communication module (i.e SP1541) or fulfil this faculty requirement under other programmes, such as UTCP. The following point differs slightly for B.Sc and B.Sc (Hons.) students. In the event that you have passed two or fewer (three or fewer for B.Sc (Hons.)) SPS modules, you will be required to read modules from subject group(s) outside which your major falls, in order to fulfil the 12 MCs (16 MCs for B.Sc (Hons.)) faculty requirement.
Failing to complete the SPS programme would also mean that you would be required to complete CS1010 (or its variants) to fulfil the faculty requirements.
NUS stipulates that incoming students can only take a maximum of 20 MCs in Y1S1. This restriction makes it difficult for me to join SPS. Is there a way to circumvent this?
Enrollment into SPS would mean that this 20 MCs cap is not applicable to you. SPS Staff Mentors will assist you in enrolling into SPS modules, even if you have already exceeded the 20 MCs limit. However, one should be cautious about overloading as the workload may be too heavy for some individuals to handle.
What is the average weekly workload of an SPS module? Is the academic workload of an SPS student more than that of an average non-SPS student?
For thematic-based modules, there will be two hours of lecture, two hours of seminar classes and six hours of group work every week. For research-based modules, the workload is dependent on the nature of the project you embark on. While the weekly workload of an SPS student is around ten hours per module averaged across the entire semester, you should expect to spend some extracurricular time working on your group projects, especially towards the end of the semester. That being said, SPS students are passionate about scientific investigations, and you will find yourself enjoying these project discussions after school. Do note that both SPS and non-SPS students graduate with similar, if not the same, number of MCs, because you will be exempted from certain modules that non-SPS students are required to read.
As an SPS student, will I need to read more than 20 MCs each semester?
No! Science students reading SPS as their only academic programme will not be required to read more than 20 MCs each semester. If you are reading another academic programme (such as UTCP, RVRC, USP and a minor/double major programme) concurrently with SPS, you might be expected to read more than 20 MCs per semester during your first two years of undergraduate studies. With good planning, most SPS students are able to complete SPS, together with other academic programme(s). Usually, these individuals read an average of 20 to 26 MCs per semester in their first two years. If you would like to chat with seniors who have completed multiple programmes concurrently, contact us and we can link you up with them.
What happens at the end of two years in SPS? Is it compulsory to sign up for the mentorship programme?
At the end of Year 2, you would have had a good understanding of the content of the SPS modules. The mentorship programme is a chance for you to guide your juniors along their SPS journey. There are many things to be learnt in the process, such as science communication and leadership skills. The mentorship programme begins in your third year and can extend beyond your undergraduate years. The mentorship programme is not compulsory.
What is the workload like as a mentor?
Mentors are free to pick and choose the SPS modules they want to mentor, including the number. As such, there is flexibility in managing the workload. The workload and the type of work differs between modules. Furthermore, mentors often work in teams, allowing them to support each other during crunch periods in the semester where assignments or midterms abound. Proper planning and a good understanding of the workloads for the modules ensures little trouble with the mentor workload.