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NUS Engineering Science Programme : Revisited

December 25, 2010

First, I would like to thanks Joshua for helping me with the comments…:P I have been a bit lazy, but i still log in once a while. I guess I will update a bit more often next semester. And by the way, i am currently a year 3 Engineering Science Programme undergraduate in Computational Engineering Science specialization.

In retrospect, two years have passed since I last posted about Engineering Science Programme, and i am slightly surprised by the number of inquiries i received consider that this is not exactly a widely known course. In any case, my understanding and perception of Engineering Science Programme have changed since then, and I would like to share some of them to answer some of the inquiries. (Consider this an FAQs :P)

Bear in mind that my answer is only applicable in Singapore, not else where. (ie. Malaysia)

Q: Is Engineering Science Programme suitable for me if I don’t intend to do research? Would private company recognize my degree?

A: In my opinion, the only way you will know if a course is suitable for you for sure is to try it yourself. Chance are, there will be something you like about this course, and there will be something you don’t.

Pardon me for the digression just now. So, let say you dislike research, prefer working with clients (like consultant job, maybe), and would like to work for private company instead of government sector. Would you be able to find a job using your ESP degree? How “good” is the degree when it comes to competing with conventional engineering degree like chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering..etc.?

The first question is straightforward: if your CAP is not too low (at least second lower), not too picky about your job, doesn’t mind if your job scope is not exactly related to what you have learnt, then yeah, definitely, provided Singapore is not struck by economy disaster.

For energy system, there’s REC (Renewable Energy Company). For nanotechnology, you can try hard disc manufacturer (ok, at least, my friend in Nano specialization told me so). For Photonics…you have to ask Joshua or other graduating senior. I merely know that one of them is planning to start his own business, the last time i checked. For computational engineering science (which is notoriously known as the specialization with  the least student), you can try IBM, theoretically, or at least this is what the ESP office claims…I am looking into more information regarding this at the moment.

If everything else fail, the door of banking sector (of course, don’t expect a position such as Financial Analyst or Actuarist) and MOE is always open. So yeah, you can get a non-research base job.

Now for the second question…short answer: No real advantage. I would assume that the people at HR judge people more on interview performance and CAP, provided that ESP degree is considered related to the job position (if not, you would probably need to convince them that it is, pr find another job).

If you want to pursue a career in energy system, you can actually go for mechanical engineering, chemical engineering or even electrical engineering (Remember your power grids?). We do specialize in the third and fourth year, by sharing some modules with them.

If you want to pursue a career in nanotechnology, you can go for material science engineering or electrical engineering. Or even physics, really.

If you want to pursue a career in photonics…well, i am not too sure about the other alternatives. My guess would be physics and electrical engineering. Electrical engineer studies a lot about signal processing, which is vital when it comes to things like MRI.

If you want to pursue a career in computational engineering science…it depends. Let say you prefer computational fluid dynamics, or computational mechanics, mechanical engineering is a viable choice. If you want to go deep into numerical analysis, go math. If your idea of “computational” is programming, compiler, cloud computing, parallel algorithms, grid computing…don’t come here, go to school of computing instead.

Short summary: When it comes to job application, there’s no real advantage for ESP graduate. Obviously, we can argue that we are better than other engineering graduates by giving several reasons, but the usefulness of our argument in an interview depends on how you speak (or talk cock, like what the Singaporean like to say).

Whether it is actually disadvantageous would depends on the job and the interviewer. For instance, I think that IBM would probably much prefer computing students over ESP students. But REC, on the other hand, do accept ESP graduate with open hand, or at least those with Energy system specialization.

Q: I heard that Engineering Science Programme is very challenging and only the best of the best (or whatever the other say) can enroll in this course. I also hear rumors that ESP students are usually so busy with their studies that they always become “phantom” in halls. Would I be able to secure a good cap if i enroll in ESP?

A: Myth debunking time: Just because the quota is small doesn’t mean that this is an elite course. And FYI, Chemical Engineering has higher entry point than us. Some classmates of mine are from Raffles and Hwa Chong (not all of them good academically), but many aren’t (though some of them are godlike). Personally, I would say that most of my classmate are talented, either in academic field, doing projects, communication skills, presentation skills…etc. But the same can be said about other engineering courses too, only that their cohort is too large for you to have deeper understanding of each classmate’s ability. Like any other courses, we have a few classmate who owns pretty much everyone, at least academically, a few classmate who are basically…dreaming and drifting away, and the majority who have different weakness and strength.

The first year modules are indeed tougher than other engineering students. Personally, I found advanced calculus a nightmare. But first year onwards…I would say that the difficulty level is more or less the same. Moreover, we share most of the modules with other engineering or science students for year 3 and year 4.

Most of us are kept busy, not because of revision, but because of a little fiend called “design project”, which we will do every semester since year 2. There are enough material for a full blog post regarding my opinion on design project, so just save it for next time when i am free.

So you want to know if it is easier to get a good CAP here than other engineering course…

Well, if the module is ESP exclusive, expect the bell curve to be seriously skewed due to the small cohort. But even if it is not, engineering modules in NUS are not generally generous in giving out As. Math modules in NUS is MUCH MUCH worse (and from what i hard from a friend, NTU is not much better , either). Hence if you want to slack off and yet still get a good CAP, go to faculty of art and social science, or enroll in more business modules (provided you are good in talking and writing).

Conclusion: Either way you can’t slack off, so don’t choose a modules base on the ease of securing a high CAP. And if you are clever and hardworking enough, you probably won’t be asking this question in the first place.

Q: Is there a lot of PRC (People’s Republic of China) people in this course? I don’t want to be own by them…also, is it true that the gender ratio is seriously imbalance for this course?

A: Let’s face it: This is Singapore. Excluding social science, pharmacy and medicine modules they usually form a sizable portion in any other courses in NUS. Running to NTU doesn’t help. My friend in Math and Econs in NTU has worse luck. Still, I found the stereotype that PRC students own everyone else in the class an exaggeration. Ok, perhaps they do better academically on average, especially in math modules, but not to the extent that they are unbeatable. There are also some PRC students who don’t do well in studies. And no, most of them are not  the super hardworking type that would work non stop for 24 hours like what some relatives and friends of mine in Malaysia would like me to believe.

Gender ratio…from my experience, the prospective students who would ask this question, would most likely be a male. Don’t ask me why. Well, suffice to say that the female students in ESP never exceeds 20%. (That partially explain why we would choose the art and social science canteen over the engineering canteen for lunch sometimes. The scenery is better.)

But…so what if there’s no girl in the class? We don’t fork out about 10k sing dollar per annum (for international students) for a better mating chance. Besides, we do share modules with other courses as well. If you enroll university in hope of getting a love relationship (possibly due to fact that you are restrain of having such relationship before university stage)…then…my advice is, go to biological science if you are a guy. And get prepared for poor academic performance if love relationship is your primary goal for entering uni.

That’s it for now, will continue next time.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2010 7:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. December 26, 2010 1:36 am

    nice summary there! I’ll post a short blog post about this and link it back to you blog!

  3. January 23, 2011 12:43 am

    Thanks for sharing, it’s good that you help to pain a realistic picture to us who may be enrolling in this course.

  4. Ajay Kumar permalink
    March 8, 2011 3:11 am

    Hello i am ajay kumar from india. I am applying for NUS this year and wanted to know if good high school grades are enough to get in(especially for esp course). Also how much does an iitjee rank count for? I scored 95 in maths, 95 in physics, 87 in chem, 83 in english and 80 in physical edu last year in 12th grade. I also got a jee rank of 7804 and an aieee rank of 6626

  5. March 22, 2011 12:03 am

    Sorry for the late reply. I am not familiar with India’s education system, so I can’t tell much.

    But as a rule of thumb, if your qualification enables you to enter Chemical Engineering, then you shouldn’t have problem entering ESP. ESP entry requirement isn’t that competitive, actually. Probably at the level of Electrical Engineering I think.

  6. May 11, 2012 1:32 am

    Well I just got accepted by ESP and your posts have been most helpful XD
    Just wanna say thank you 😀

  7. May 27, 2012 7:12 pm

    Glad to learn that my post helped a prospective student. I am curious though, in what way was it helpful?

    On a side note, despite the fact that the post is written quite some time ago, I still feel the same way for most of what i have written after i graduated…

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