Why MCS?

MCS in The Liberal Arts

Mathematics and computation have occupied a central place in the liberal arts curriculum from its earliest history. In recent centuries, the mathematical sciences have been viewed as fundamental to describing the laws of nature – the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics. In the twentieth century, statistics enabled the growth of social science. In the present day, computers are not merely aiding in the observation of societies, but evidently reshaping them. We encourage students to participate actively in these flourishing developments. Displaying keen interest in this discipline, our students have embarked on projects to design robots, launch software start-ups, analyse big data networks, develop data visualisation tools, and philosophise on randomness and chaos.


The MCS major develops skills in analysis and problem-solving, and in the communication of complicated information as we aim for both depth and breadth. Such skills are highly sought-after in the workforce. The annual Careercast U.S. compilation of the top ten occupations features six career opportunities for MCS graduates (2015: Actuary, Mathematician, Statistician, Data Scientist, Software Engineer, Computer Systems Analyst). As preparation, students have honed their skills through summer internships and research attachments, at organisations such as

  • Sound and Music Computing Lab, NUS
  • IT startup, Beijing
  • Video game company, Singapore
  • Big data study at university in Helsinki
  • PCMI/IAS Summer School on mathematics of data
  • Singapore research attachments: cryptography; hypercube colouring; modelling and simulation

Students taking the MCS major have also embarked on study abroad programmes at Beijing, Columbia, Harvard, London, Oxford and Yale; some will proceed to such institutions as graduate students.

Our faculty have expertise in a broad range of fields ranging from theoretical disciplines such as topology, discrete mathematics, harmonic analysis, and machine proof verification, to applied fields including computer vision, human-computer interactions, public health statistics, complex networks, and economic geography and cartography.

  • Assistant Professor Michael Gastner investigated lung cancer cases among males in the state of New York, 1993-1997. (Data from the New York State Department of Health.) Each dot represents 10 cases, randomly placed within the zip-code area of occurrence. His population-density equalizing map reveals that the disease incidence in New York City is no higher than in the rest of the state.
  • Assistant Professor Robby Tan developed an algorithm to improve the quality of degraded images using local contract enhancement based on a physics model of fog. A recent development also shows that the problem can be solved using deep learning techniques.


To major in MCS, a student must complete a pathway that includes nine courses beyond the Common Curriculum and a year-long capstone project.  We offer courses on a variety of topics including number theory, proof, advanced calculus, geometry, programming, algorithms, computer systems, theoretical computer science, operating systems, statistical inference, analysis and visualization of data, machine learning, and statistical computing.  Many pathways are possible, and the MCS faculty will work personally with each student to design a rigorous and coherent programme of study. In addition, we aim to help our students

  • become competent and knowledgeable in a broad range of MCS skills and topics;
  • combine creativity and ingenuity with rigorous arguments and sophisticated reasoning;
  • learn independently, confidently, and inquisitively; and
  • develop into responsible global citizens who are aware of, and can effectively communicate, the impact of advances in MCS science research on society.