Faculty of Science

Department of Chemistry

10+1 Good Reasons Why You Should Major in
  Chemistry in NUS

1) Faculty Quality

With 38 research-active faculty members, 15 full-time teaching staff, 4 research staff and a large group of adjunct and visiting staff (including one Nobel Laureate!), this is the largest and strongest Chemistry Department in Singapore. All our lecturers, assistant professors, associate professors and professors have PhD degrees, and most have had postdoctoral training at some of the top universities in the world, such as MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, etc. In 2005, our faculty members published 211 peer-reviewed international papers, which is by the far the highest output from any Chemistry unit in Singapore. NUS Chemistry has the tradition of producing award winners. Our faculty members have won the National Youth Award, A*STAR National Science Award, A*STAR/SNAS Young Scientist Award, ASEAN Achievement Award, Humboldt Award, NUS University Outstanding Researcher Award, NUS University Outstanding Educator Award, etc. over the past 25 years. You name it, we have it!

Many of our faculty member serve as editors, editorial board members, and advisory board member of major international journals in their respective fields. This is a clear measure of the international recognition they have garnered.


2) Chemistry Boom

The chemical industry is the 2nd largest manufacturing industry in Singapore, enjoying a staggering 29% growth and an output of US$30.7b in 2004. The biomedical science industry posted a 33.2% growth with an output of US$9.6b in the same year. The "economic money" continues to pour back to build a solid infrastructure for R&D. The "unthinkable" project of creating an island from sea and devoting it to develop the chemical industry has been completed successfully. To date, 72 companies, with a total investment of >US$13b, and a new research institute dedicated to chemical science ("Institute of Chemical & Engineering Sciences (ICES)") are present on the island. Parallel to these is the birth of a science hub named "Biopolis" dedicated to the development of biomedical, chemical and engineering sciences. New research institutes have been formed to target at every major initiative of the science world today, such as nanobiotechnology ("Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (IBN)"), molecular imaging ("Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC)"), molecular medicine ("Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM)"), materials ("Institute of Materials Research & Engineering (IMRE)"), molecular biology ("Institute of Molecular & Cell Biology (IMCB)"), etc. A dedicated chemical synthesis laboratory directed by Prof K.C. Nicolaou (The Scripps Research Institute) was launched on 2 Nov 2005 at the heart of Biopolis. With Chemistry taking a central stage, it is of no surprise that international giants such as Lucite International (UK) has invested US$150m in a new plant on methyl methacrylate, Ciba Specialty Chemicals has injected US$100 for a new antioxidant plant for plastics, GlaxoSmithKline (UK) has pumped in US$37m for research at Biopolis, and Sumitomo Chemicals (Japan) continues to pour investment into the island state.


3) Industrial Placement

The Department of Chemistry offers three major programs - Chemistry (CM), Applied Chemistry (CY) and Food Science & Technology (FST). CY and FST have a built-in industrial placement component whereby students gain first-hand experience in working in the industry. All the top chemical (e.g. GlaxoSmithKline, Rhodia, 3M, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, DuPont, Shell etc.) and food (e.g. Nestle, Kikkoman, etc) companies in Singapore regularly offer placement to our students.


4) Broad-Based Learning

In NUS, students learn in a borderless, no-boundary and barrier-free environment. A typical Chemistry BSc (Honours) student would spend 60% of his or her curriculum time in Chemistry and the rest in other subjects in Science and other faculties in NUS. With NUS being a comprehensive university having full faculties in Medicine, Engineering, Law, Design & Environment, Business etc, all our students have access to modules offered in these faculties. No other university in Singapore offers this flexibility and accessibility. Many Chemistry students therefore take modules on psychology, business, life science, chemical engineering, engineering science, etc., etc. The result is, you can pick whatever courses that fit your interest and match your aspiration and you can develop a broad range of skills to complement your specialist training.


5) Flexible Structure

In NUS Science, you are in a "4-1" BSc (Honours) structure. This means that every bond fide student is admitted into the Honours structure and every student has the privilege to take Level 4 (Honours) courses before they graduate. Yet, students are given the option to exit and graduate with a general BSc degree upon completion of their 3-year, or shorter, program. This structure provides a "living curriculum" that matches the aspiration of every student, and gives our students the "best of all possible worlds".

Our BSc (Honours) graduates are well-positioned to continue with their higher-degree (MSc or PhD) studies anywhere they choose to. Apart from NUS, they are well-sought after at top universities in North America, Australia, and Europe.

Over the years, we have established a worldwide top-class reputation for producing graduates of the highest caliber. When you consider your tertiary education, be sure to think of the brand name behind it!


6) Popular Major

As many as 20-25% of Science students are in the majors offered by Chemistry. This high popularity gives an inherent strength to the Department. Join us and be part of a major force!


7) Career Options

In the period 2000-2005, among the BSc (Honours) graduates from NUS Chemistry, 37% were engaged in graduate study and research, at least 17% in industry and 33% in the public sector. Among our higher-degree graduates, at least 28% have joined the industry. The top three industries that have provided the most jobs for Chemistry graduates are Biomedical (including Pharmaceutical), Chemical and Electronics, which are also the top three value-added industries in Singapore.


8) Value-Add

All NUS Chemistry majors have the chance to participate in two new immersion programs (CHIP, China Immersion Program, and EURIP, Europe Immersion Program). More immersion and exchange programs are being planned e.g. to Australia. These programs are exclusive for chemistry majors in NUS and are on top of an array of international exchange programs offered by NUS. They offer our students an invaluable international outlook and the experience of studying, working and living in a foreign country.


9) Research Strength

In business, scale is translated to strength and dominance. Academia is no difference. With over 50 academic staff, more than 250 graduate students and more than 1,000 undergraduates taking chemistry modules, NUS Chemistry has the unrivalled strength to cover ALL major areas of the chemical sciences, namely (i) Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology; (ii) Molecular Design, Structure & Synthesis; (iii) Analytical Sciences; (iv) Surface Science, Nanomaterials & Catalysis; (v) Computation, Modelling & Spectroscopy. This means that our students are given the full options to pursue in every major area to which chemistry, chemical sciences and chemical technologies are applicable in the knowledge-based economy. They are also given full opportunities to develop their research know-how in all these emerging areas. Singapore may have a relatively short history in scientific research. NUS Chemistry had always been at the forefront of first class research, even from NUS fledgling days, and we continue to make a telling impact at the international stage to this day.


10) Career Confidence

In a anonymous survey conducted among our current class of more than 80 BSc (Honours) students on 14 April 2006, BEFORE the students took their final examination and ca. 3 months before they graduate, 33% of the students responded that they had already secured at least one job or graduate scholarship offer! Another 16% of the graduating class said that they were "very close" in getting an offer. In the same survey, more than half of the students expressed that they were (very or somewhat) confident that they would have a job within 3 months of their graduation. This is the best testimony that Chemistry graduates are in hot demand. NUS Chemistry has produced, amongst its alumni, the likes of Olivia Lum (CEO, Hyflux), Natasha Kwan (Deputy General Manager, OEM Multi-National & Alliance, APAC/GCR & Japan Microsoft), Dr Lan Weiguang (Chairman, Sinomen Technologies), Poon Chew Leng (Deputy Director, Curriculum Planning & Development, Ministry of Education), Angeline Yap (Product Manager (Lower Olefins), Shell Chemicals), etc. WILL YOU BE NEXT?


Bonus 1) Model for Success

Olivia Lum (Founder and Group Chief Executive Office of Hyflux) said "At Hyflux, we employ a number of NUS graduates because we have found them to be well-rounded personalities with globally-oriented minds... More importantly, they work well in different cultural environments and are very adaptable to the fast-changing business environment... The four years of my university life at the NUS Faculty of Science had put me in a very good stead to pursue my passion - in chemistry and in growing Hyflux...Today, NUS has undergone a tremendous transformation, beyond just the physical changes, to become one of the world's most recognized institutions, in both hardware, software and heartware" (NUS feature in Today, Wed 2 May 2007)