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CS Undergraduate Research Options

General Information

Undergraduate independent research in Computer Science is done as an Independent Study or as a Senior Thesis (which typically grows out of a prior Independent Study experience). To find out about the research interests of the CS faculty, look at the Faculty Research Guide. For information on particular CS Research Projects, you might want to examine the CS Research Project Pages. You may also want to examine the archival list of undergraduate thesis topics and advisors from prior years. In the Spring, CS thesis and independent study students participate in the university-wide Meeting of the Minds celebration of undergraduate research.

Students looking for summer research opportunities should also check out the National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates program, including the student-oriented REU area list.

Independent Study

The School of Computer Science offers Independent Study courses, which allow motivated students to work on projects under the supervision of a faculty advisor while receiving academic credit. Independent studies are usually one semester in duration and require prior approval from the faculty member and the School of Computer Science. This approval takes the form of an Independent Study Prospectus which must be filed with the CS Undergraduate Office for any independent study project. Prospectus forms can be found here or are available in the CS Undergraduate Office, Gates Center 4115..

The Senior Research Thesis Program

The School of Computer Science offers a Research Thesis option to senior CS undergraduates. The goal of the program is to introduce students to the breadth of tasks involved in independent research, including library work, problem formulation, experimentation, and writing and speaking. In particular, students present a brief midterm progress report each semester, present a public poster session in December, and present an oral summary in the year-end university-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium and submit a written thesis in May. Students work closely with faculty advisors to plan and carry out their projects. Projects span the entire senior year, and students receive 18 units of academic credit each semester. Nine of these 18 can be counted toward CS elective requirements, and nine as free elective credits; hence, for most students, the thesis program replaces two courses per semester.

Juniors majoring or double-majoring in Computer Science may apply for admission to the program, which will be based upon academic record and a project prospectus of no more than three pages. A prospectus must include:
  • The name of your research advisor (an SCS faculty member)
  • A short abstract (two paragraphs, max)
  • A description of the problem to be worked on and its significance
  • A tactical description of your proposed research plan, including:
    • a description of the background reading to be carried out,
    • a description of your research contribution,
    • a description of the expected results of the research, and
    • a reasonably detailed timeline for the thesis work
  • A bibliography of related work (all references belong here)
  • The signature of your research advisor, signifying endorsement of the project and willingness to supervise and evaluate it.

Students who need help finding potential advisors should get in touch with Klaus Sutner. Applications to the program are normally due by the end of the Spring semester of the junior year.



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