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Toward Better Research: Cross-Threads Nick Feamster, Alex Gray, Charles Isbell College of Computing Georgia Tech.

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Presentation on theme: "Toward Better Research: Cross-Threads Nick Feamster, Alex Gray, Charles Isbell College of Computing Georgia Tech."— Presentation transcript:

1 Toward Better Research: Cross-Threads Nick Feamster, Alex Gray, Charles Isbell College of Computing Georgia Tech

2 Goals Impact: Encouraging world-class, cross-disciplinary research with real-world impact (e.g., Web science, computational biology, tech for developing regions) Success: Making our students confidently excel against their competition with their papers, proposals, fellowship applications, job talks, contacts Alumni: Creating a coherent, bond-building, and loyal- alumni-producing Ph.D. experience

3 Challenges Broad range of disciplines, degrees, etc. –How to take advantage of this breadth to build a coherent experience that also encourages world- class, cross-disciplinary research? Breadth in degree programs –How to design a sequence/curriculum that is coherent with existing degree programs, areas, etc.? Out of scope: Various practical constraints (e.g., matching)

4 Graduate Threads Basic idea: Students must gain deep expertise in two topics Thread: A coherent sequence of at least two Ph.D.-level courses –Example: Graduate Intro to Machine Learning, Advanced Machine Learning –One can be outside CoC, e.g., Biology, Math, LCC

5 First-year Sequence Basic idea: The CoC core represents an expanded notion of computing Most CS programs: Theory and Systems required (thus core), plus a selection of other courses Ours: Two Wide-Ranging Courses with Technical Content –Fall: Abstract Computing (Algorithms / data structures / theory; machine learning / data mining, AI / search, HPC, simulation, graphics, …) –Spring: Concrete Computing (Systems / networks; architecture / compilers, software, databases, HCI, learning technologies, …)

6 CS 7001 We have developed a first-of-its-kind Introduction to the CS Ph.D. course –Positive reviews from students, input from faculty We hope the course forms the cornerstone of the Ph.D. program, which strongly encourages –Cross-disciplinary thinking –Broader impact Syllabus available at: (also have paper copies)

7 Anticipated Benefits Encourages cross-disciplinary, outward-looking research –Creates conditions for breeding cross-disciplinary research –First real interdisciplinary research education; model for others –Expanded notion of computing Encourages world-class, high-impact research –Inspiring –Higher expectations –Deep, research-style thinking –Better research skills and output quality –More seminars and activity Loyal and successful alumni –Fun, and unity among students –Involvement of influential people

8 Qualifying Exams Basic idea: cross-disciplinary; deep thinking; consistent standard Committee must have one faculty member from each of the two threads chosen –Oral exam (year 2): present research done –Area exam (year 3+): present answer to research question in your area devised jointly by committee 4 weeks before –No fuzzy written exam; instead, get As in thread courses Other requirements: student review committee (C.V.s, fellowships, etc.), give public seminar

9 Thesis Proposal and Defense Basic idea: higher quality by more judicious faculty attention No oral proposal; 10-page written only: easier to reject than an oral presentation Proposal takes place earlier (e.g., by 3 rd year) Dedicated time for thesis defenses and other all-faculty talks (like faculty candidate talks), e.g. Fridays 8-9 a.m., with food: more pressure to go beyond mediocrity


11 What Makes Great Research(ers)? Good Ideas! –Recognizing: Developing research taste –Generating: Coming up with new ideas (not magic!) –Critiquing: Critically evaluating research –Communicating: Presenting research to the world The syllabus includes four major assignments, one for each of these elements

12 Recognizing Good Ideas Assignment 1: Students read top conference proceedings from their research area –Select two good papers –Defend their choices Course lectures include elements to help students to start developing this taste –Impact, risk, blazing new directions, etc.

13 Generating Good Ideas Cross-disciplinary assignment –Read summaries of papers from Assignment 1 –Propose an idea that combines ideas from some other area with your own area Course includes lectures on idea generation, problem selection, and cross-disciplinary work Benefits: Working at the gap –Students encouraged to think across boundaries. –Students meet students from outside their area

14 Communicating Good Ideas Assignment: Give a presentation to the class based on a term-long research project with ones current research advisor End-of-term mini-conference Work is coupled with students RA projects –Ensures that students dont blow off their first term –Option perform this with an additional professor Course includes lectures on giving talks and writing papers

15 Critiquing Ideas Assignment: Write a review of other students writeups of Assignment 2 (cross-disciplinary ideas) Course includes lectures on how to read and review papers Benefits: Students learn –Critical evaluation –Subtleties of the review process

16 Teaching Research Goal: Instill in students the skills needed to succeed in a top-tier Ph.D. program –Elements of great research –Elements of great researchers Method: Design a syllabus around main skills and concepts (lectures and assignments) Underlying Theme: Cross-Disciplinary Thinking

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