Computer Science & Engineering: The Future of Education

1. In the age of disruption, how have the borders of a computer science degree expanded?

  • This is an exciting time to be a computer scientist or engineer as computing has infiltrated every aspect of modern living– from personal to family, even to work and business – we now thoroughly depend on developments in technology in our day-to-day lives. From a unique specialty to an absolute necessity, digitization has hence made computer science an integral part of contemporary higher education today.
  • This trend will intensify over the coming years as more and more industries are looking to AI and DS to advance their business advantages.
  • Technological disruption due to the rapid advancements made in computing, has led to many innovative and creative developments. Knowledge of computer science will hence not only make a graduate well sought after, it also provides an opportunity for those with creative minds and innovative ideas to easily embark on start-ups, just like what many of our graduates have successfully achieved.

2. What is the potential of every computer science graduate today, and why do you think they are in high demand?

  • New waves in computing enables advances in financial services, business, healthcare, urban sustainability, education, social science as well as science and engineering, leading to an increase in demand for computing courses in recent years. Due to the fast evolving needs in almost all industries, computer science graduates are highly sought to ensure smart operations and efficient service. As such, there will be a constantly increasing demand for computer science graduates in the coming years.
  • With the push to intensify the smart use of technologies from transport, finance, medical care and a graying population we would see an increasing need for computer scientists with multi-disciplinary skill sets that allow them to move rapidly into different domain. Hence it would be an increasing trend for all undergraduates to be exposed to a degree of computer knowledge.

3. Was it a surprise that last year’s batch of computer science graduates emerged as one of the top earners across all faculties? What could have contributed to that?

  • It was no surprise as graduates of NTU’s Business and Computer Science double degree programme have been the top earners in NTU for a number of years, while our Computer Science graduates are the second highest earners in NTU and always well sought after by companies and industry upon graduation. As they say, strong knowledge in technology and business is a “lethal” combination.
  • There is a global trend towards Fintech as the world moves towards cashless transactions and smart investments etc. This is led in Asia by Alibaba and Tencent against the current lead by Paypal. Our students are particularly attractive to the industries because of their up to-date knowledge and skill sets. We prepare them for life-long learning.
  • In addition to maintaining an up-to-date curriculum to meet the industry trend, our courses also emphasize practical hands-on exercises and projects which train our students to acquire knowledge and skills in solving real world problems. As such, companies find that NTU students not only have the strong computing foundation, but also the skills that can be immediately applied upon entering the workforce.

Student Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP), Innovation Lab

  • As part of Talent Development, our ‘Student Entrepreneurship Program (SEP)’, aims to groom future generations of technology leaders and entrepreneurs in Singapore with global perspectives. It is a multifaceted platform where undergraduate and graduate students can further explore their ideas, and acquire leadership and entrepreneurial skills via hands-on experience. The new SCSE Innovation Lab provides a centralized hub to promote entrepreneurship ecosystems where student teams are mentored and encouraged to initiate innovation projects and launch their businesses with industry and government partners. 

4. What are some of the key shifts in the computer science industry in the past five years?

  • With the arrival of highly powerful yet cost effective energy efficient processors, and advancements in computer technologies such as cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT), many ideas that were previously computation intensive and not feasible have now become realizable. This in turn leads to new waves of research  in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, which find usage in many areas such as smart phones, medical diagnostic equipment, autonomous vehicles, intelligent softwares  (chat bot, trading bot) , and in sciences such as astronomy and genetic editing.
  • This would continue to be the powerhouse pushing the demand for computer scientists with such specialist knowledge.

5. Do you agree that computer science knowhow turn obsolete very quickly? Is this a field where graduates have to constantly be in touch with new developments to stay ahead of the curve, and if so, can you share some examples?

  • It is undeniable that computer science evolves at a very fast pace such that graduates will need to be aware of what is coming and update themselves constantly. A good example will be the evolution of program coding languages, where an established one can be rapidly replaced by newer ones. As such, a computer science graduate must have strong foundations that can help them easily adapt to meeting new demands, which is how we train our students in our computing programmes.   
  • The new millennium graduate has to be the one that can learn, unlearn and relearn to fit into a fast changing economy and our degree program and the residential component in NTU prepares them well for these rapid changes.

6. How regularly does the faculty tweak (or overhaul) material to keep up with the evolving technological innovations? What new courses, for example, are in demand, and thus have been offered?

  • In a fasting evolving field such as ours, it is critical that our course contents are updated regularly to adequately prepare our students for the future. Our professors are proficient in constantly adding latest emerging topics in their teaching, and if needed, revise the curriculum to keep the course up to date with the latest industry and research trends. SCSE also conducts major review and update of the programmes curriculum every few years. In the past year, we have added Cyber Security focus areas to our programme. From Aug 2018, new focus areas in artificial intelligence, data science and analytics, high-performance computing and cyber-physical systems are being introduced.

DSAI Programme

  • Given the vast promise of AI, competition for skilled AI developers is fierce. According to the 2017 Global AI Talent White Paper by China tech giant Tencent, the global pool of AI talent is only about 300,000 strong. Meanwhile, demand for AI talent is at least three times higher.
  • Hence starting from Aug 2018, NTU will launch a new undergraduate degree programme- Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, with a small cohort of high-ability students who will have the exclusive opportunity to work alongside engineers and data scientists from corporate labs to solve real world problems. For instance, a collaboration between DSAIR and PayPal will see students immerse themselves in projects revolving around fraud detection and the future of payments.

7. What special exposure can SCSE students look forward to in their course of study? Any real-life problem solving projects or industry exposure?

SCSE has several collaborations with various industries and key companies like BMW, Singtel, Delta, PayPal and AliBaba are just some who have research collaborations with us and set up corporate labs within the school campus to better facilitate their research.
Students also get an opportunity to work with these labs in some of the research projects led by our faculty.

The following are some featured projects:

1. Data Science and AI
A/P Luo Jun: Car-Based Mobile Crowd Sensing
A/P Clement Chia: Context-Aware Exploration of Image Data
Prof Ong: Practiced Based Learning to Build Societal Values into AI and AI Opportunities (Areas of Fintech, Healthcare by DSAIR)

2. E-Commerce/Block Chain
A/P Ng Wee Keong: A Secure, Privacy-Preserving Data Exchange/Computation Platform for the Smart Nation
Prof Lam Kwok Yan: Cybersecurity Protocol and Mechanism for e-Logistics of Dangerous Goods Tracking Using Block Chain

3. Cybersecurity  
A/P Liu Yang: Smart Binary-level Vulnerability Assessment for Cyber-attack Prevention

4. IoT   
A/P Bo An: Energy Harvesting Sensors and User Behaviour Use Cases for Smart Living Solutions

5. Smart Car  
A/P Zhang Jie: BMW Tech Office Singapore - Personal Assist I
A/P Zhang Jie: Stochastic Vehicle Routing