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Old 12-25-2011, 07:39 PM   #1
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Hi everyone, I was offered a place in NUS ISE for the year 2013 but is now having doubts about this course after stumbling into some youtube videos about our new university SUTD, which I have pasted below.

Engineering Systems and Design (ESD)

So, after viewing these videos and based on my shallow knowledge about ISE, I started having doubts. (Shallow knowledge as I had missed this year's NUS open house due to my National Service)

From forums and facebook pages, I am getting the idea that ISE is more business-oriented, and putting more focus on the finance and manufacturing sectors. So it seems to me that NUS is pushing its ISE students towards the manufacturing and finance sectors instead of allowing them to explore other sectors, which ISE really encompasses. On the other hand, SUTD does seem to allow its students to explore all the different sectors of Systems engineering and places the manufacturing and finance sectors as only one of the components of their course. Just to admit, I am a science person but I know that I would be narrowing my options in the future if I continue the science 'path', and that is also one of the reasons why I chose to enter ISE in the first place. However, my interests are still inclined towards the sciences and if ISE is what I think it is, I am worried about my motivation towards the course. So, my question would be, (1) is my view about ISE true and (2) what is the difference between the courses (ISE VS ESD)?

I do hope that the comparison between the courses would be mainly about the modules and specialisations and not too much about the age of the 2 universities. With that, I thank anyone that spent time reading through this post and a even bigger thanks to any one willing to answer my questions.

Regards, iamlast
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Old 01-16-2012, 01:53 AM   #2
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Hey, I’ve just came across your post – sorry for the lag reply. I’m in my 2nd year, studying NUS ISE – hope you’re still checking in on this thread!

Personally, I had a very vague impression of what NUS ISE was about when I first entered – so I’m here to talk more about the course, than about the university. Regarding the differences between ISE and ESD (I really don’t know that much about ESD since it hasn’t even begun, but it sure sounds fun!), they’ll lie mainly in the way the courses will be taught, and the various opportunities each university offers, I think.

So I’ll talk about my time in NUS – maybe they might speak to you in a way the website/open houses didn’t. To (present/future) students from ISE/ESD: do feel free to add on to/correct what I have to say –


Industrial and Systems Engineering

From the little I know – most courses in ISE train their students to deal with the interaction of entities at different levels of hierarchy/abstraction. And this manner of reasoning about the world we live in – by moving up and down ladders of abstraction (do we think about the way the lighting in our house is wired up when we turn on a switch? do we think about how our house is wired up as part of a network to the power supply? Or do we think about the balance between the various forms of power supply – solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, etc) – is what, I think, a typical course in systems engineering is supposed to be about.

This approach to reasoning about the world, about systems is not unique to ISE. In fact, most engineering disciplines are about the application of this form of reasoning about specific types of systems – mechanical, electrical, computer, petrochemical, etc. ISE happens to take, as a starting point, the study of industrial models. And I can think of course mates who will bristle up and exclaim that ISE is a lot more than that – the stuff we learn is a lot more applicable to business/finance/economics (than many other engineering courses) simply because of the nature of the systems we study. I’ll only say that the element of profit-making is inherent in the systems we study, but not in the (academic) study of the systems.

Which subject disciplines are ISE likely to involve? Ans: (i) mathematics, (ii) statistics/probability, and (iii) computer science. In case you haven’t found the links –

Academic Flexibility

I’m not sure what you mean by making comparisons between the modules/specializations between ISE and ESD (since you spoke of not “narrowing your options” as one of the reasons you chose ISE/ESD). But I’ll hazard a guess anyway –

If you’re inquiring about the flexibility with which you can pursue a particular topic/subject (if you find yourself enamored by one) –
  • there is a combination of Unrestricted Elective Modules (UEMs), Technical Electives, and General/Breadth requirements you can use to establish breadth/depth in your education
  • summer/exchange modules: offered by partner universities. with very high placement rates (about 1/2 of the students in NUS ISE spend a semester overseas, and I haven't met anyone who had wanted to, but couldn't get a place)
  • graduate-level modules: not for the faint-of-heart.


Holistic Development

But in case you weren’t asking about academic affairs, but about the range of activities (that allow students to "explore other sectors") –
  • Enhancement Programmes - Vacation Internship (VIP), Industrial Attachment (IAP), Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP), Independent Work (IWP), Innovation Programme (IP), etc
  • NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC): to summarise it in a way that doesn't do it justice - where you get to work in a start-up firm while studying part-time
  • Systems Design Project - carried out over a full year, resolving a specific problem/completing a specific project in industry.


Parting Words

I'm afraid I am only able to enumerate the options in NUS - you can inquire about similar initiatives in SUTD. The list of programmes (offered by NUS) mentioned about is not exhaustive (there are lots of other programmes such as the Design-Centric Curriculum, Global Engineering Programme, University Scholars Programme, etc). They are not far-fetched and exclusive - lots and lots of us (ISE peers/seniors) are involved in one or more of the programmes above.

Many of my friends who entered university thought they loved math/the sciences - they really thought they did. After their first year, many realise that (i) the subjects are too dry/challenging, and (ii) there are many more interesting things to do. You might not be one of them (you might really love your jc subjects deeper than most peers) - but you should definitely consider the possibility of your losing interest in subject(s) you thought you've loved, and picking up other interests along the way.

I should add that many of my peers entered university with very grandiose plans of what they intend to achieve (do a double degree + university scholars programme, while going on NOC/SEP, maintaining their scholarship, while graduating early) - and they got burnt from the workload, dropping earlier commitments they've signed themselves up for. On the other hand, it is really easy to begin university/NUS fresh, in just a single degree, and quickly "scale up" in your commitments/workload (opportunities are aplenty) into something much more impressive, if you have the energy and desire to.

I think SUTD sounds promising, and their course in ESD definitely has alot of overlap with NUS ISE. I've looked at the video you mentioned - and NUS ISE graduates are working in the areas/industries that Prof. Graves have mentioned. As to the differences between ISE and ESD - I guess we'll have to wait for the first batches of ESD students to matriculate first :P

Last edited by yeesian; 01-16-2012 at 02:07 AM. Reason: organise the post into clearer subsections
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:40 AM   #3
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Hi, I am a year 4 ISE student at NUS. If you want to follow-up on your questions, you can try to search for the ISE facebook groups and join them...maybe.

ISE isn't a traditional engineering discipline where you build atomic technologies and products from the bottom-up. To put it simply, we are concerned with solving REAL-LIFE problems and making systems work better.

Having said that, ISE is better for solving certain problems than others. Better in quantitative finance, IT, manufacturing, public systems (policy-making, healthcare), logistics.

If you think you are a hardcore "sciency" guy, then there are better courses out there for you, which are related to ISE but more technical (math, CS, stats, econs etc.)
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Old 01-18-2012, 12:01 AM   #4
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Thank you yeesian and Istvan for reading my post. Really appreciate it. I have actually decided to stick with NUS ISE instead of going for SUTD's ESD. I guess I will be seeing you around, yeesian. Sorry Istvan, but good luck for your final year. Istvan, one last question. Is there a specialization that allows you to design a system from scratch?
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