Institute for Mathematical Sciences                                                         Publications


Perspective and Direction

IMPRINTS: Issue 1 - May 2003

Louis CHEN, Director, Institute for Mathematical Sciences, NUS

It took ten years and three attempts to finally realize the setting up of the Institute. It was the collective effort of a group of dedicated people in the National University of Singapore (NUS) which brought about this realization. A proposal for the setting up of a mathematical research institute was first submitted to NUS in 1991, revised and re-submitted in 1996, and then re-drafted and submitted again in 1998. In 2000 the Ministry of Education gave its approval and the Institute for Mathematical Sciences (IMS) was formally established on 1 July 2000, with funding from the Ministry and the University.

It is a bold undertaking for a small country like Singapore. IMS will have no permanent in-house researchers other than the Director and Deputy Director. Nor will it support or organize any long-term research projects other than short-term thematic programs. Thus it is legitimate to ask whether the small mathematical community here could sustain the activities at the Institute over a long period of time.

However, there are compelling reasons for there to be a mathematical research institute. Singapore has entered into a new phase of economic development where the creation of knowledge, particularly in science and technology, is paramount for continued economic success. Information technology and the life sciences are two key areas of national importance in Singapore’s road map for economic development.

As a foundation for rational inquiry and an indispensable tool for industry, technology and scientific research, mathematics will have an important role to play in Singapore’s economic development. The country will need state-of-the-art mathematical ideas and techniques to support its research in various disciplines.

An institute like IMS can help fulfill this need. Through its thematic programs, it will bring together mathematicians and scientists, both local and foreign, for research interaction and collaboration and for cross-fertilization and dissemination of ideas. Over time this will help strengthen the mathematical expertise of the local research community and enlarge the group of local scientists involved in the applications of mathematics. The local mathematicians and scientists, together with their visiting foreign counterparts at IMS, will form a microcosm of an extended research community from which many opportunities for creativity will blossom. Hopefully, this extended research community will, in turn, help sustain the activities at the Institute.

Therefore the mission of IMS is to provide an international center of excellence in mathematical research, focusing on fundamental areas in the mathematical sciences and their applications, as well as to promote interest in those fields and in multi-disciplinary research within Singapore and the region. The themes of the Institute's programs, each of which will normally last from one to six months, will be of international interest as well as of local relevance, with the ultimate aim of helping build strengths in niche areas in science and technology in Singapore.

Since its inception, four programs have taken place, each of duration of about six months. These are Coding Theory and Data Integrity (July - December 2001), Post-genome Knowledge Discovery (January - June 2002), Representation Theory of Lie Groups (July 2002 - January 2003) and Advances and Mathematical Issues in Large Scale Simulation (December 2002 - May 2003).

During its first year, the Institute was housed in the NUS Department of Mathematics and was subsequently relocated in June 2001 to the present two renovated colonial houses nos. 3 and 4 at Prince George's Park. It was officially opened by the Minister for Education, Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean, on 17 July 2001 during a workshop of the inaugural program Coding Theory and Data Integrity.

The Institute also had a change of deputy director. Kan Chen, who served as its first Deputy Director from 1 July 2000 to 22 July 2001, relinquished his position to concentrate on his duties as acting head of the Department of Computational Science. He was succeeded by Yeneng Sun of the Department of Mathematics.

The Institute has also joined the International Mathematical Sciences Institutes (IMSI), an international consortium of mathematical research institutes. As a member of IMSI, the Institute hopes to play an active role in contributing to mathematical activities in the international arena.

IMS is now going through another phase of its physical development. A third building consisting of a lecture theater with a seating capacity of more than 80 and four offices for 10 more visitors is under construction. It will be adjacent to house no. 3. With the expected completion of the new building by the end of July 2003, the Institute will have offices for 22 visitors, one lecture theater, one seminar room, one lounge and one reading room. These facilities are much needed for expanded activities planned for the future.

As part of IMS’s continuing development, it is perhaps time to start a newsletter. The newsletter will not only keep the local and international scientific community informed of the activities at the Institute, but also serve to maintain its links with other mathematical sciences institutes. This will add another dimension to the Institute's endeavor to achieve its objectives and fulfill its mission.

(Acknowledgment: I would like to thank my Deputy Director Yeneng Sun for his helpful and penetrating comments on the article.)


Copyright © 2003 Institute for Mathematical Sciences, National University of Singapore.


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