ESP Director's Message
It is my pleasure to take over from Professor CM Wang as Director for the NUS Engineering Science Programme (ESP) starting January 2017. Professor CM Wang was director of ESP from Jan 2008 to December 2016, and I would like to place on record, heart-felt thanks on behalf of all our ESP team for his enthusiastic leadership, efficient yet open style of management over the last 8 years. Professor CM Wang, thank you for all the great services that you have rendered NUS ESP, we will miss you.
The Engineering Science Programme (ESP) was launched in April 2006 as a flagship educational initiative from the faculties of Engineering and Science at NUS. The main mission of ESP is to prepare students for careers in Research and Development, whether be it in industry or academia. The programme aims at combining strong science fundamentals with cutting edge engineering applications, so that ESP graduates can effectively contribute to solving the many complex multi-disciplinary challenges of our time, such as problems in communication, transportation, energy production, health, security, and environmental pollution.
Historically, many innovations and inventions have come from scientists and engineers crossing disciplinary boundaries. Archimedes of Syracuse was a great mathematician, physicist and engineer of ancient times, and his legacy of inventions and discoveries transcended any one discipline of study. Galileo, the great Renaissance Italian physicist, had a passionate interest in mechanical engineering and the making of scientific instruments. This enabled him to devise and carry out clever experiments to test out his many theories in the physics of projectile motion. Michael Faraday, a self-taught English electrical engineer who lived in the 19th century, was able to make fundamental advances in physics through his practical engineering way of answering fundamental scientific questions. The famous twitching of a frog’s leg, which, eventually led to the invention of the battery, took place over 200 years ago in the laboratory of Luigi Galvani, an Italian Professor of Anatomy who was fascinated by electric spark discharges. More recently, three physicists working in the research and development laboratory of an American telephone company (Bell labs) in the 1940s invented the transistor; they were of course, William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. They received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956. Although the motivation for their research work was driven for better telephone communication, more specifically, the aim of finding a replacement for vacuum tubes, they turned to a subject that would now be classified as Surface Science. This, as well as many other historical examples demonstrates that many inventions and discoveries have come from those who were working at the interface between science and engineering, and it is precisely the goal of NUS ESP to prepare graduates to work at this cross-disciplinary boundary.
Today, ESP has 12 ESP Associates, 4 adjunct faculty members, 4 administrative staff members, 3 lab technologists, 2 supporting staff members, 6 industry advisory committee members and 6 international advisory committee members. Our 12 academic staff are pooled from the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and have a wide variety of research experience, ranging from Nano Science and Technology, Energy Systems, and computational modelling and simulation. Each staff member brings a passion for teaching, mentoring, supporting and guiding the engineering science students. The early ESP Associates, who were hired as young assistant professors, have now been promoted to Associate Professors with tenure under rigorous evaluation criteria. This is testament to the quality of the faculty members who were each selected to teach and facilitate learning within the ESP, all the while conducting cutting-edge research. Over time, our staff members have formed are closely knit multi-disciplinary working group, not only for the teaching of ESP, but also for carrying out joint cross-disciplinary research.
Until 2016, we have had 7 batches of ESP students graduated from the programme (totalling 286 in number) and another 145 are now in the midst of their coursework. In addition to the selected specialisations (i.e. energy systems, photonics and optics, computational engineering science, nanoscience and nanotechnology) these students emerged with, a significant number of graduates minored in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Technopreneurship, and even Philosophy. True to the spirit that drove the founding of this programme, ESP graduates have gone on to pursue multidisciplinary professional careers in diverse industries, such as: manufacturing, electronics, energy, offshore, marine, nanotechnology, defense, software consultancy, photonics and optics. A large percentage of ESP students have also gone on to pursue their PhD degrees in premier institutions such as Harvard, MIT, CalTech, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford, as well as in NUS. That these students pursued their PhD degrees in a variety of engineering disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, chemical, aerospace, materials and transportation engineering, speaks to the breadth and success of the ESP curriculum. To date, 8 ESP students from the first batch (of about 40 students) have obtained their PhDs. The observed ESP graduates’ movements have reinforced the fact that they can work and study in virtually any field.
ESP students have won many honours, bringing back trophies, prizes and award certificates from both international and local competitions, such as the Mondialogo, IDEERS, Shell Ideas 360, and REAP and university awards such as University Outstanding Researcher Award and NUSS Medal. The Faculty has also not been shy in adding to the trophy cabinet, bringing home the Grand Prize for the Next Generation Port Challenge, IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award, the L'Oréal Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowship Award, the Outstanding Educator Award and a number of NRF grants, just to name a few.
Despite its young age, ESP is one of the earliest engineering programmes to be awarded a full accreditation by the Engineering Accreditation Board under the outcome-based accreditation assessment. At the end of 2016, we successively went through another round of international accreditation, which will take us through to 2021. The international recognition of the programme has led to the recent invitation for ESP to be one of the founding members of the International Engineering Science Consortium (the other members are University of California Berkeley, University of Toronto, KTH Sweden, Osaka University and University College London that have long-established and well known engineering science programmes).
I am honoured to be Director of such a forward looking multi-disciplinary team of staff, and proud of the many successes that we have already achieved. I am optimistic about the continued success of ESP in meeting its goal of preparing graduates who can rise to the great engineering challenges of our time. I am confident of our well-designed curriculum, in the high calibre of faculty members, supporting staff as well as the high quality of students that are admitted to the programme. ESP students continue excel in their creativity, innovativeness, a global outlook, multidisciplinary knowhow, and independent learning attitude. These skills and attributes will place them in a pole position to gain global competitiveness in a world forever changing.
I congratulate all ESP alumni, students and staff on your brilliant achievements over these past 10 years. I wish for you all exceptional achievements in the next 10 years and beyond.
For students who are deliberating on which one of the 10 NUS engineering programmes to read, ESP is the one for you if you wish to have a fulfilling multidisciplinary R&D professional career.
Apart from being the Director of the Engineering Science Programme at NUS, Anjam Khursheed is currently a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Science Department. His area of research lies in the subject of developing new kinds of focused electron/ion beam microscopes and electron/ion sources. He also carries out research in the subjects of computational electron optics and the design of electron spectrometers.
Anjam Khursheed obtained his BSC in Electronics and Physics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1979, and went on to do a PHD there in the subject of Electron Energy Spectrometers for the Scanning Electron Microscope. Apart from being a Postdoctoral Fellow at Edinburgh University (1987-92), Anjam Khursheed has also worked as an applied physicist at the High Energy Particle Physics Accelerator organization of CERN in Geneva, Switzerland (1984-7), where he worked on the design of high frequency electromagnetic cavities. He also worked on the subject of atomic clocks at the Politecnico di Torino, Italy (1992-1994). In 1995, Anjam Khursheed joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the National University of Singapore. Before becoming the director of the Engineering Science Programme, he had been deputy director of the programme since its inception in 2006.
Anjam Khursheed is the author of many patents, books and papers. He has written two single author books in his professional area, Scanning Electron Optics and Spectrometers (402 pages long), and The Finite Element Method in Charged Particle Optics (274 pages). From 2003 he set up the Innovator’s Lab which is dedicated to recreating great inventions and discoveries in the history of physics and engineering. He regularly conducts workshops on the subject of Physics Education for both physics school teachers and students, and is currently writing a book on this subject.