MSE Master of Science in Engineering

The Swiss engineering master's degree

Each module contains 3 ECTS. You choose a total of 10 modules/30 ECTS in the following module categories: 

  • 12-15 ECTS in technical scientific modules (TSM)
    TSM modules teach profile-specific specialist skills and supplement the decentralised specialisation modules.
  • 9-12 ECTS in fundamental theoretical principles modules (FTP)
    FTP modules deal with theoretical fundamentals such as higher mathematics, physics, information theory, chemistry, etc. They will teach more detailed, abstract scientific knowledge and help you to bridge the gap between abstraction and application that is so important for innovation.
  • 6-9 ECTS in context modules (CM)
    CM modules will impart additional skills in areas such as technology management, business administration, communication, project management, patent law, contract law, etc.

In the module description (download pdf) you find the entire language information per module divided into the following categories:

  • instruction
  • documentation
  • examination 
Theoretical Computer Science (FTP_TheoComp)

The aim of this module is to deepen some basic theoretical aspects of computer science. The master students will learn that ...

  • formal languages and automata are essential concepts to describe different types of problems and computations;
  • Computability/decidability are central to explain that for many problems seem to have an intuitive solution, although they can not be solved by algorithms;
  • Complexity deals with the amount of time required to solve a problem, and there are many very practical problems that can not be solved in reasonable time or space.


Good knowledge of programming, algorithms and discrete mathematics.

Learning Objectives

  • The students understand that three different mathematical formalisms (finite state automata, regular grammars, regular expressions) are equivalent and define the set of regular languages. Finite state automata and regular expressions are widely used and will be explained using examples from lexical analysis, modeling of simple state-based systems, telecommunications protocols and program verification.
  • The students realize that programming languages with regular languages can not be fully described. Context-free grammars, on the other hand, are suitable for developing all modern programming languages. Parsing is closely linked to the context-free languages. Using parser generators, students can explain top-down and bottom-up parsing.
  • The students know that many problems are undecidable, i.e. that there are no algorithms to solve them, or rather that not everything is predictable. Such intuitively difficult to understand problems occur e.g. in the case of operating systems (deadlock problem), object-oriented programming languages (subtype decision) or program verification.
  • The students understand that decidable problems are classified according to the resources needed to solve them (time or space) and know the major complexity classes (P, NP, EXP, PSPACE), their differences, and interrelationships (e.g., hierarchy).
  • The students understand the concept of nondeterminism, which plays an essential role in the study of complexity. The complexity class NP (nondeterministic polynomial time) includes a subclass of very practical problems that are not solvable in reasonable time. Cryptology, machine vision, various optimization problems and many other areas are affected by such problems. Students can demonstrate that such problems are indeed unsolvable in reasonable time, and know some ways to circumvent this limitation through approximation techniques.Many problems known as NP-complete are presented and investigated.

Contents of Module

The module is divided into three parts:

  1. Languages and automata (about 36 %)
    1. Alphabets, words, formal languages, grammars
    2. Finite state automata, regular languages/grammars, regular expressions, nondeterminism
    3. Pushdown automata, context-free languages/grammar
    4. Turing machines
  2. Computability/decidability (about 21 %)
    1. Various computation models, Church-Turing thesis
    2. Reduction of a problem to another
    3. Decidable/undecidable problems
    4. Computable/uncomputable functions
  3. Complexity (about 43 %)
    1. Types of complexity (time, space)
    2. Complexity classes, polynomial time complexity, NP, polynomial time reductions, NP-completeness
    3. Approximation methods

Teaching and Learning Methods

  • Frontal teaching
  • Presentation and discussion of theoretical topics
  • Discussion of practical examples to reduce the gap between theory and practice
  • Exercises and self-study of selected topics


Introduction to the Theory of Computation, Michael Sipser, Cengage Learning, 3rd International Edition, 2013.
Reference: (Homepage of author of the book)

Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can't Do, David Harel, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Introduction to automata theory, languages, and computation, J.E. Hopcroft and J.D. Ullman, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA, 1979.

Download full module description