By Amresh Gunasingham
WHEN times are bad, it pays to be in school.
Under a new scholarship programme up for grabs, 100 research scholars here will be paid $3,200 monthly - on top of having their school fees paid.
They will also get $12,000 to spend six months at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
And the cherry on the top - they will not be bonded to any institution after completing their studies.
A $48 million government fund announced in January will pay for the full-time scholarships - of which 20 will be given out annually - over the next five years from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre (Smart).
Officially launched a year ago, the new campus will be located in NUS' new University Town, estimated to be completed by June 2011.
The director of the Smart centre, Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, said the bond-free scholarships and generous financial incentives offered would attract top students, both local and from around the world, to study and work in Singapore.
The Graduate Fellowship Programme is open to first-year graduate students and doctoral students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Both Singaporeans and foreigners can apply.
Students will conduct research at the Smart centre and will be given the opportunity to interact with researchers from MIT, NUS and NTU.
They will have a choice between three research programmes currently available at the centre - infectious diseases, environmental sensing and modelling and micromechanics.
Those pursuing degrees in civil, mechanical and biological engineering are expected to apply to the programme, said a Smart centre spokesman. 'But applicants will not be limited to these disciplines.'
The scholarship scheme was one of three programmes announced yesterday by the research centre. Another is the Postdoctoral Research Fellows Programme.
A spokesman said selected candidates would each receive $130,000 in funding annually - $85,000 in salary, $40,000 in research grants, and $5,000 in travel allowances. 'Two outstanding candidates will be selected every year to receive the awards,' she said.
The third programme, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, will bring together 25 undergraduate students from MIT, NUS and NTU annually to do research.
Mr Ooi Boon Hooi, 27, currently a research engineer at Smart, said: 'I have looked at some of the top universities around the world and none can offer me something as attractive.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.