NUS Computing Professor Abhik Roychoudhury and collaborator win IEEE’s New Directions Award

05 April 2022 — NUS Computing Provost’s Chair Professor Abhik Roychoudhury has won the IEEE Technical Committee of Software Engineering’s New Directions Award for 2022.

The award was given to both NUS Computing Prof Roychoudhury and Professor Cristian Cadar from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, in recognition of their contributions to symbolic execution for test generation and program repair.

The New Directions Award is presented annually to an individual or team who have made substantial contributions to software engineering research or practice, with these contributions moving the field in a new direction. The contributions made must be adopted by many other researchers and other organisations, and result in advancement in the state-of-the-art research and practice. In addition, the contribution by the award recipients must also be measurably superior to existing works and positively influences existing practice.

Profs Roychoudhury and Cadar’s research work in software engineering has focused on software testing and analysis, in particular innovative symbolic program analysis to make testing, debugging, and the repair of software programs more rigorous.

Their work provides a new direction in symbolic program analysis by proposing a new outlook on symbolic execution for patch testing and software program repair. This significantly impacts the way software is being developed and maintained.

In his works, Prof Roychoudhury aims to figure out the human intention behind a buggy program and then rectify it automatically. The human intention is gleaned via symbolic or formal reasoning of informal program artifacts, such as tests.

He added that one challenge is in making such rigorous reasoning effective and scalable, so that the techniques can transition to actual practice.

“I am honoured to win this award in recognition of the decade-long research in program repair that my research team at NUS Computing has conducted,” said Prof Roychoudhury.

Prof Roychoudhury’s future research plans include embarking on a new research programme that will run till 2027. This was after he was recently awarded the Ministry of Education’s Academic Research Funding Tier 3 grant of approximately S$7.1 million.

The grant enables him to further his research on Automated Program Repair (APR), an area that focuses on techniques to automatically fix errors or vulnerabilities in programs. Through this, Prof Roychoudhury hopes to develop technologies to repair security vulnerabilities speedily, and reduce exposure of software systems to vulnerabilities. He also intends to use his research on APR to further programming education.

“We are also developing an intelligent tutoring system for a course on Foundations of Software Engineering, which is currently offered to third-year NUS Computing students,” added Prof Roychoudhury. The tutoring system is developed based on the learning needs and requirements for freshmen, and there are plans for it to be deployed in programming courses for incoming freshmen in the coming years.

The New Direction Award will be presented to Profs Roychoudhury and Cadar at an in-person official award ceremony at the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) 2022 in late May this year, in Pittsburgh, USA.

Assistant Professor Umang Mathur and collaborators win Best Paper Award at ASPLOS 2022

31 March 2022 — NUS Computing Assistant Professor Umang Mathur and his collaborators have won the Best Paper Award at the ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) 2022.

ASPLOS is the premier forum for interdisciplinary systems research, intersecting computer architecture, hardware and emerging technologies, programming languages and compilers, operating systems, and networking. The conference was held in early March this year.

Dr Mathur, along with Assistant Professor Andreas Pavlogiannis and PhD student Hünkar Can Tunç, both from Aarhus University, and Professor Mahesh Viswanathan from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented their paper on A Tree Clock Data Structure For Causal Orderings In Concurrent Executions at the conference.

In the paper, the team presented a new and efficient data structure for tracking causality in concurrent systems.

In a system comprising of multiple concurrent processes such as shared-memory or message passing multi-threaded programs, or even distributed systems, one often needs to track causal relationships between events. Causality is often encoded as a partial ordering on events and is succinctly captured using timestamps.

The traditional method to implement timestamps is to use flat array-like data structures called vector clocks, which provide APIs to update and to compute new timestamps. The vector clock data structure, although very ubiquitous, can be very slow, and hence, a source of severe performance bottleneck in applications where timestamps need to be frequently computed and updated.

“In our work, we propose a new data structure, tree clocks, as an alternative to the traditional vector clock data structure. The insight behind this data structure is that, by tracking only a small amount of additional information about how the timestamp was obtained, one can optimise the performance of timestamp operations,” explained Dr Mathur. “Tree clocks store such additional information in a hierarchical tree-like manner (hence their name) and are, in fact, optimal for the case of the happens-before partial order used in the context of the application of our interest: dynamic data race detection.”

Dr Mathur added that their work made ‘foundational contributions’ to the fundamental use of timestamps, and has the potential to have immediate impact in many application areas such as the analysis of concurrent software and in distributed computing.

“The proposed work is not just empirically promising but is also backed by theoretical guarantees, which, I believe, is a challenging and rare combination,” said Dr Mathur.

Eight exemplary individuals honoured for their contributions to education, research and service at NUS University Awards

The National University of Singapore (NUS) recognised eight outstanding individuals who distinguished themselves with their achievements and contributions in the areas of education, research and service to the University, Singapore and the global community in 2021.

India Education Diary, 22 March 2022

NUS Computing team wins Best Student Paper Award at GRAPP 2022

08 March 2022 – A team comprising a Master’s student and two graduates won the Best Student Paper award at the 17th International Conference on Computer Graphics Theory and Applications (GRAPP 2022), which took place online in February this year. GRAPP is a conference that brings together researchers, engineers and practitioners interested in both theoretical advances and applications of computer graphics.

Master of Science in Computer Science student Tan Yu Wei, Computer Science graduate Chua Yun Zhi Nicholas, and Master of Computing in Computer Science graduate Biette Nathan Jean Emmanuel, along with NUS Computing Senior Lecturer Dr Anand Bhojan, took home the award for their paper on real-time rendering of depth of field effect in games.

In their paper, A Hybrid System for Real-time Rendering of Depth of Field Effect in Games, the team developed a way to improve the cinematic look of real-time applications, such as video games and the metaverse.

One key component of cinematic quality is the depth of field effect in cameras, which makes objects out of focus. Depth of field refers to the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that are in sharp focus in an image. One example of depth of field is the blurring of the background in a close-up shot of a character.

“For the depth of field effect, games usually use a filter to blur the image after it has been generated. This leads to an inaccurate blur especially for out-of-focus objects close to the camera which should appear semi-transparent,” explained Dr Bhojan on behalf of the team.

“To fix this issue, we wanted to use ray tracing to simulate the light propagation around these out-of-focus objects, which can give more accurate semi-transparencies closer to the effect of real-world cameras. With new graphics cards, we can perform ray tracing efficiently and still maintain interactive frame rates for games. Our technique is significant, as it is the very first proposal for a hybrid rendering solution for this issue of semi-transparency,” he said. 

Above: Watch a demo of the team’s technique in action.

“The approach facilitates easy separation of ray tracing and rasterization pipelines, which has the potential to be a key technique in bringing cinematic quality and realism to mobile metaverse devices such as metaverse headsets and glasses,” he explained.

One challenging aspect of the project was to implement the classic technique currently used in games, and improve it with their new ray tracing approach. The team had to integrate the techniques together, and devise ways to fix the many artifacts introduced without incurring too much computation overhead.

Dr Bhojan added that the team is working on improving effects such as motion blur. They also hope to improve graphics on other platforms with their new ray tracing approach.

“We are also looking to cater to interactive 3D media applications on mobile and VR or AR platforms, or the metaverse, which cannot perform ray tracing efficiently. We plan to do so by ray tracing on the cloud instead, and leveraging 5G technology and edge computing to send the data over to the client in real-time,” Dr Bhojan said.

The idea initially began as a simple dissertation by Biette.

“We were overjoyed to learn that we had won the award. The idea came about 3 years ago and we have gone through multiple rounds of improvements since. The award feels like a recognition of our hard work and perseverance,” said Dr Bhojan.

Computing For Voluntary Welfare Organisations honoured with Lions Befrienders’ Award

04 February 2022 - The Computing For Voluntary Welfare Organisations (CVWO) was honoured with the Exemplary Community Partner Award 2021 by the Lions Befrienders Service Association last year. The awards ceremony was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

CVWO is an initiative started by NUS Computing Associate Professor Ben Leong in 2007. Under this programme, undergraduate students build IT systems to support the workflow for various Social Service Agencies (SSAs) in Singapore. In the process, the students involved are exposed to new and real-world learning opportunities outside the classroom.

Some major SSAs that NUS Computing students have worked with include Lions Befrienders, Care Corner, MINDS, Fei Yue Community Services, and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

The Exemplary Community Partner Award from Lions Befrienders is a token of appreciation for community partners that have contributed regularly through service-based or skill-based volunteering, to help the Lions Befrienders to deliver high service standards to its seniors.

“We are grateful to Lions Befrienders for the recognition of our work. We have been supporting Lions Befrienders for more than a decade now, and our system is used daily by more than 100 staff and volunteers,” said Assoc Prof Leong.

NUS Computing students recently completed two projects for Lions Befrienders - one in 2020, and the other in 2021.

A handy, one-stop volunteer app

In 2020, the students worked closely with Lions Befrienders on two tasks. First, they were brought onboard to help the staff centralise the entire volunteer management workflow into one mobile app.

The one-stop LBSA Volunteer App gives Lions Befrienders a more efficient beneficiary and volunteer management system. It is designed to let staff and different volunteers report on the statuses of elderly beneficiaries they visit during befriending sessions. Volunteers may also easily register and join befriending activities via the app, while the staff leverage on the app to quickly organise these sessions, and to keep track of the volunteers and beneficiaries involved.

The one-stop LBSA Volunteer App developed by NUS Computing students for Lions Befrienders in 2020.

Next, the NUS Computing team was also tasked with helping Lions Befrienders integrate all of their core services - such as providing senior activity centres with cluster support for vulnerable seniors - into one existing IT system.

Lions Befrienders already had two services incorporated in the existing system, but three other services still relied on manual modes to track and record data. The team thus had to migrate the manually recorded data to the centralised system.

It was not an easy task, recalled Zhu Hanming, a third-year Computer Science undergraduate who led the student team, as they had to ensure data was not duplicated, or lost in the process.

Nevertheless, it was a rewarding experience for them.

“We fondly remember meeting up often over Zoom with the staff at Lions Befrienders to hear from them and understand their needs, worries and concerns. We also really enjoyed seeing how the staff members were pleasantly surprised when we showed them what we had built for them, as what we had built really helped to improve their day-to-day staff workflows. The entire journey was definitely one that our team enjoyed,” said Zhu on behalf of the team.

Giving the Home Personal Care programme a tech boost

In 2021, another team of students developed yet another a mobile application - the Home Personal Care Mobile App - for Lions Befrienders’ Home Personal Care (HPC) programme.

The HPC programme is a subsidised service by Lions Befrienders for vulnerable seniors who require assistance at home (e.g. caregiving duties or exercise sessions). The app was developed for trained healthcare assistants to log these home visit sessions, and to collect and record payments.

The mobile app is also the first time the students integrated hardware and software for a CVWO project - the app is conveniently linked to a Bluetooth printer which healthcare assistants use to print service records and receipts on the go.

HPC Volunteer App

“It was very heart-warming when the team saw how keen and eager the healthcare assistants were in learning and adopting the technology to improve their workflows. Many of them were excited about the possibilities that the mobile application could bring when it came to streamlining their work processes,” said Sebastian Toh Shi Jian, a third-year Computer Science undergraduate student who led the team of students behind the app.

CVWO maintains the central database supporting the main befriending programme for Lions Befrienders, and both mobile apps built in 2020 and 2021 are fully integrated with this database.

The longstanding partnership between CVWO and Lions Befrienders over the past decade means students have an unprecedented level of understanding of the Lions’ operations, and can provide direct support to the daily operations of the organisation.

“The IT application system the students developed has become an indispensable, mission-critical system at Lions Befrienders. We are now able to offer a ‘competitive advantage’ over other social service agencies,” said Simon Koh, Lions Befrienders’ IT Senior Manager. “It enables Lions Befrienders to register and organise seniors’ data, record attendances and participation across different types of activities efficiently. Without this state-of-the-art information system, the staff at Lions Befrienders would have to manually summarise reports. The use of this IT system has helped to reduce the administrative burden so that our staff can focus on serving our seniors and managing volunteers better.”

Koh added: “It is really a joy to work with these big-hearted students who sacrificed their holidays, and worked so passionately to serve the community.”

Since CVWO’s partnership with Lions Befrienders began in 2009, this is the second time the initiative has been honoured with an award. Previously, CVWO was awarded the “Friend of the Lions Befrienders” Award in 2011.


Learn more about CVWO’s projects here:

Bennett University: Global programme to hone AI, data skills of students

To offer its students holistic and experiential learning on a global platform, Bennett University has collaborated with Corporate Gurukul to offer Global Academic Internship Programme (GAIP) certified by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). With this partnership, the students will experience collaborative learning in artificial intelligence, data analytics, machine learning and deep learning.

The Times of India, 26 January 2022

CNRS, A*STAR and NUS renew agreement for IPAL

27 January 2022 – The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and NUS renewed an agreement on Tuesday to continue its joint research collaboration through the IPAL.

The IPAL is a French-Singaporean International Research Laboratory formed in 1998 through a partnership with CNRS, A*STAR and NUS. It is a lab based in Singapore and has physical sites located at both A*STAR and NUS Computing.

The agreement renewal was signed between Professor Reginald Tan, Executive Director of the Science and Engineering Research Council at A*STAR, Professor Antoine Petit, the CEO of CNRS, and Professor Mohan Kankanhalli, the Dean of NUS Computing and Provost’s Chair Professor of Computer Science. Prof Kankanhalli was also one of the founding co-directors of the lab.

“I hope to see more French researchers coming to our campus, interacting with us and our A*STAR colleagues, and for our NUS colleagues to go over to France,” said Prof Kankanhalli, who also mentioned that he personally benefitted and grew as a researcher from the close interactions he had with his French colleagues.

“I am very confident of future successes of IPAL,” he added.

His Excellency Marc Abensour, the Ambassador of France to Singapore, and three current co-directors of the IPAL - NUS Computing Associate Professor Ooi Wei Tsang, Professor Christophe Jouffrais from CNRS, as well as Dr. Joo Hwee Lim from A*STAR - were also present at the signing ceremony.

Photo of Professor Mohan Kankanhalli, Dean of NUS Computing, Professor Antoine Petit, the CEO of CNRS, and Professor Reginald Tan, Executive Director of the Science and Engineering Research Council at A*STAR, signing the agreement.

The agreement solidifies the renewal of the lab until 2025, and paves the way for more ground-breaking collaborative research, where researchers can work together to harness and integrate knowledge and skills from various disciplines to create better solutions to address complex real-world problems.

NUS Computing has been co-leading IPAL since its inception, creating new collaboration opportunities to augment the various areas of research and enrich the capabilities of NUS faculty and students. Research themes include artificial intelligence, data science, natural language processing, and cybersecurity, among others.

Since it began, the IPAL agreement has been renewed thrice: once in 2011, once in 2015, and now in January 2022.

In the current agreement, more than 10 faculty members across three NUS faculties - the School of Computing, the College of Design and Engineering, and the College of Humanities and Science - are involved in IPAL.

NUS' Internet Celebrity Professor: Ben Leong

Mention Associate Professor Ben Leong, and many NUS students will know who he is - the resident professor who dishes out advice on NUS Whispers, a page which allows users to express their opinions, publish personal confessions, and seek advice anonymously. 

Lianhe Zaobao, 2 January 2022

Protecting data as the new gold

Goh, a former MyRepublic mobile subscriber, was one of nearly 79,400 other customers who had their personal data potentially accessed by hackers when the telco's third-party servers were compromised on Aug 29 this year. He had ported his mobile number to MyRepublic to take advantage of its cheaper rates, but has since ported back to his previous telco after the breach.

Data, including scanned copies of both sides of National Registration Identity Cards (NRICs) were potentially exposed in the MyRepublic breach. The information had been used to verify the identity of customers applying for their mobile services.

The Business Times, 23 November 2021

Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a cybersecurity "threat hunter

Twenty-six-year-old Cherlynn Cha, born and raised in Singapore, thought cybersecurity was "so cool" as a teenager. "The good guys get the bad guys," she said, "or help each other using cool, cutting-edge technology."

Cha attended the National University of Singapore and studied computer science with a focus in cybersecurity, where she learned "the theory behind all of the things we take for granted." She first got a security job in a consulting firm, where she worked in identity and access management, then she worked at a bank, as a security operations center analyst before landing her current job, as a "threat hunter" at ExpressVPN.

Tech Republic, 9 August 2021

Software Engineer Recreates Singapore MRT on a Circuit Board

PCBs are used for any electronic gadget, from your smartphone to industrial equipment such as electric drills. They can also be used by hobbyists who want to build their own electronics projects such as in the case of Arduino.

Singaporean software engineer Chai Jia Xun has recently used a PCB in an interesting manner. He created a palm-sized trinket prototype of the Singapore MRT, including the new Thomson-East Coast MRT line. Chai has been an employee at Silicon Valley for at least three years. As a graduate of the NUS School of Computing, he says that his education wasn't at all related to PCBs. However, his interest in train system maps and PCBs led him to create the prototype. He also revealed that he made the MRT prototype for the sole reason that it looks cool. Chai learned mostly from YouTube and used free software to start making his PCB projects.

Devdiscourse, 4 August 2021

Founders of start-up aim to be as versatile as waffles

Waffles with maple syrup are a welcome breakfast treat, or pair them up with fried chicken for an irresistible savoury dish. The flexibility of the popular food item helped fire up the imagination of two National University of Singapore (NUS) students during their time with the NUS Overseas Colleges programme in Silicon Valley, and spurred them to create a business idea. The founders, Mr Auston Quek, 27, and Mr Zames Chua, 26, started the firm about five months ago, after graduating from NUS last year, following a chat about the idea over lunch - which happened to be waffles and fried chicken.

Called Waffle Technologies, the firm provides point-of-sale services to bricks-and-mortar food and beverage outlets. It aims to provide insights to these businesses by analysing the data from their transactions as well as loyalty and rewards software. So far, the firm has racked up a client base of 42 customers and the two founders manage a team of six.

The Straits Times, 19 July 2021

Future-Ready: How Is Singapore Developing Its Fintech Talent Pool?

As the fintech ecosystem continues to flourish in Singapore, there is a growing need for talent. To prepare for this, the government together with these institutions are working towards creating a strong fintech talent pipeline, equipped with the relevant skills for tomorrow’s workforce. Recognising the gap in the fintech talent pool, these institutions are also forming strategic collaborations to strengthen the talent pipeline with relevant skills through education.

National University of Singapore (NUS) – FinTechSG Programme
On 6 July 2020, the National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Computing launched the NUS FinTechSG Programme. Students will have the opportunity to learn about contemporary issues in the fintech industry, front-end and back-end development, cloud systems, blockchain, algorithmic trading, and the integration of financial domain know-how., 13 July 2021

New NUS centre gives computing students a chance to serve community

A new centre at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is rolling out a raft of special programmes for people with autism, children from low-income homes and social service agencies. The initiatives, which offer NUS Computing students opportunities to take part in community service, are helmed by the Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy, which was launched yesterday at the NUS School of Computing. The centre was set up with a gift of $1.5 million from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, which supports initiatives linked to healthcare and education. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, the guest of honour at the launch, said the push for an inclusive digital society must continue as digital disruptions gain momentum in the future. 

The Straits Times, 30 June 2021

The New Paper, 30 June 2021

CNA, 29 June 2021

Channel 8 News, 29 June 2021

Suria News, 29 June 2021

Mirage News, 29 June 2021

NUS News, 29 June 2021

Couple in S'pore raises S$190,000 to send oxygen concentrators to India for fight against Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis in India has escalated in the past month, with the country reporting several hundred thousand new cases per day and the total number of cases surpassing two million on May 4. Hoping to raise money to support efforts in the fight against Covid-19 in India, one Singapore-based couple started a dollar-for-dollar matching crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than S$192,000 from donors around the world in just 11 days. Singaporean permanent residents (PRs) Prantik Mazumdar and Dipti Kamath told Mothership that they started the fundraiser because of deep concern for their family, friends, colleagues, and loved ones living in India. Prantik has been been living in Singapore for 20 years, coming here initially to complete his Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) School of Computing. He became a PR in 2007. They decided to provide help from the outside by galvanising and mobilising the Indian diaspora, as well as their friends, colleagues, and network in Singapore, through a campaign on local crowdfunding platform Milaap, which was founded in Singapore by two NUS School of Computing alumni, Anoj Viswanathan and Sourabh Sharma.

Mothership, 5 May 2021, 5 May 2021

What does the SolarWinds saga mean for Singapore?

The world first caught wind of a massive breach linked to cyber firm SolarWinds last December. The breach was unique not only in its scale, but also in its method of attack. Hackers targeted the very first stop of the entire cyber line of defense: the cybersecurity software.

One surprising factor was the scale of these attacks, say Abhik Roychoudhury, Provost’s Chair Professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Computer Science, and Liang Zhenkai, who is Associate Professor at the same department.

First, we need to rethink what makes ‘trustworthy’ software, say Roychoudhury and Liang. “Think of this as extra vigilance – why trust software because it comes from a trusted supplier?” they add. The second lesson is to prioritise application security, which means making services that run on individual devices more secure. Every device – be it a mobile phone, laptop or IoT sensor – that connects to an organisation’s central network presents an opportunity for attackers to strike. The bad news is that software for these devices are “most fragile (and poorly written), allowing attackers easy access,” Roychoudhury and Liang note.

GovInsider, 4 May 2021

Sea makes S$50 million gift to advance cutting edge research and education at NUS School of Computing

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Sea Limited (NYSE: SE) (Sea) today announced that Sea has made a corporate gift of S$50 million to NUS to support the advancement of research and education at NUS School of Computing (NUS Computing), one of the world’s leading computing schools. The gift agreement was signed today at NUS Kent Ridge Campus, where Minister for Education Mr Lawrence Wong witnessed the signing as the Guest-of-Honour.

The commitment, which is the largest corporate gift received by NUS to date, will support NUS Computing in its efforts to substantially enhance and develop pivotal areas such as:

  • Cutting-edge research and education in critical, fast-growing areas such as artificial intelligence and data science;
  • Recruitment and development of academic and research talent through scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students, research fellowships, visiting professorships, support for professional development and more; and
  • Strategic initiatives including seed grants for enterprising projects and outreach programmes.

Mr Forrest Li, Sea’s Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer, said, “Sea is fortunate to be deeply rooted in Singapore's world-class ecosystem of tech talent and research, and we are honoured to give back to our community by supporting the next wave of innovation. The talent, ideas, and breakthroughs in key technology areas that will result from this partnership will not only enhance Singapore's already vibrant tech sector, but also create good jobs and cement our nation's reputation as a global hub for technology innovation.”

India Education Diary, 31 March 2021

Berita Harian, 30 March 2021

Tamil Murasu, 30 March 2021

The New Paper, 30 March 2021

KrAsia, 30 March 2021

CNA, 29 March 2021

Channel 5, 29 March 2021 (24:19)

The Straits Times, 29 March 2021

The Business Times, 29 March 2021

Lianhe Zaobao, 29 March 2021

8 World, 29 March 2021

Suria News, 29 March 2021

Vasantham News, 29 March 2021

TechInAsia, 29 March 2021

e27, 29 March 2021

95.8FM, 29 March 2021

Money FM 89.3, 29 March 2021

Warna 94.2FM, 29 March 2021

Hao FM 96.3, 29 March 2021

NUS News, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 tech heroes recognised for racing against the clock to help fight pandemic in S'pore

With new Covid-19 cases spiking into the hundreds daily in May last year, a team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) raced against time to develop a system to help government contact tracers identify close contacts of patients. Despite their relative inexperience in creating such a large-scale system, the team of six current and former NUS students managed to develop a Web application in under three weeks, with help from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The app collated information from various sources to provide contact tracers with an overview of the patient's movements and the people he was in close contact with.

The NUS team's efforts were recognised on Thursday (March 18) at the IT Leader Awards 2021, which was themed Tech Heroes From Crisis to pay tribute to people who made a significant positive impact on the community through technology during the Covid-19 crisis. The awards were organised by the Singapore Computer Society.

The Straits Times, 18 March 2021

Find your 'element' to pick the right course and university

In this second of the AskST series on university education, The Straits Times looks at how to pick the right institution and course of study.

Q: It is good to have a choice of six local universities, but what should my son look out for in making the choice, other than ensuring that the university offers the computing degree course he wants to pursue?

A: Computing is a good course to study, given the rise of Industry 4.0, which refers to a new phase in industrial revolution that focuses heavily on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning and real-time data.

Several public universities offer degree courses in computing. So, how do you pick the right one?

First, look at whether your son is able to meet the cut-off score for computing, as it is highly competitive. 

For the National University of Singapore (NUS), which has Singapore's largest intake of students for computing - with more than 1,400 last year - students generally need four As to enter the course.

Having said that, many students, including those at NUS, are admitted into computing despite falling short of the cut-off score.

Often, they demonstrate their aptitude for and interest in the field through other means, be it in the interview process or through some software they may have created.

NUS provost Ho Teck Hua feels it is important to recognise that developments in computing are rapid. Therefore, his advice is to pick a university where teaching and research in the field are at the cutting edge.

How do you ascertain that? One way is to look at the international rankings according to disciplines.

NUS, for example, was ranked ninth in the world last year for computer science and information systems by Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), where significant weightage is given to research output.

Your son should study the job and salary prospects for computing graduates in the yearly survey results, which were released on Friday last week. 

The Straits Times, 22 February 2021


Disney+ won't allow VPN users to access overseas version of video streaming service

It may not be possible for some Singaporeans to get their fix of The Mandalorian Star Wars TV series by using technological tricks to watch an overseas version of Disney+, such as before the video streaming service launches here officially on Feb 23. The Walt Disney Company told The Straits Times that in line with the Disney+ subscriber agreement, it does not allow users to access Disney+ using a virtual private network - to bypass geographical restrictions - in a territory where the service is not yet live.

 Associate Professor Liang Zhenkai from the National University of Singapore (NUS) said that when a person uses a VPN, Disney cannot directly detect the overseas clients at the network level.

"These undetected IP addresses used by the VPN service are not easily blocked. If Disney gradually recognises the VPN provider's network, they can block it later," said Prof Liang, who is from NUS' Department of Computer Science.

This could happen if, for example, Disney detects a large number of unrelated users sending in requests from the same IP address, which suggests a delegation service like a VPN service is being used. But Prof Liang said that if the Disney+ app is used for streaming, there are other methods to recognise whether the client is from a different country, such as using the app store's region or global positioning system information of a mobile device.

The Straits Times, 16 February 2021