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Independent Work & Theses

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IW Posters - Adam

Professor Adam Finkelstein reviews a poster presentation.

This web page is one of the major resources for information about the requirements of your thesis or independent research work. Please read it very carefully. It will tell you what your responsibilities and deadlines are. Unlike most courses, no one is going to be bugging you to hand in weekly homework. It is entirely your responsibility to figure out what you need to do, to manage your own time properly through the semester and to do exceptional research. In addition to receiving a grade for the work, every year, prestigious awards will be given to those theses and independent work projects that the CS faculty deem to be the most creative, scholarly, well-written and impactful.

The independent work coordinators (IWCs) are Professors Arvind Narayanan and Adam Finkelstein. The IW coordinator(s) are responsible for overseeing the mechanics of the IW, providing high-level feedback on proposals, posters, etc. The IW coordinators also determine the final grade with input from your advisor and other members of the faculty. Only the IWCs can approve any changes to deadlines, etc., so please do not ask anyone else to grant extensions or allow you to skip required components of the IW. Your research advisor is the person with whom you will most closely work over the course of your research. It is up to you to find your own advisor and mutually agree on a research topic. It is your job to meet all the deadlines for the course -- your research advisor may not even be aware of them. Do not ask your research advisor to grant extensions for the course -- even if they agree, it will not be honored by the IWC.

IW Posters - Jennifer Rexford

Professor Jennifer Rexford reviews a poster presentation.

Colleen Kenny-McGinley, the undergrad coordinator (UGC) serves as the administrative contact for the course, collects forms, and handles many of the logistics. Her office is CS 210, and is where all physical forms are submitted and where sign-ups occur.

To contact the IWC and UGC, please use the address .

To continue reading this guide, use the navigation on the right side of the page.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

I have a great independent work idea that will make me rich and famous. Does the university own it?


According to the University's rules, you own the copyright in the software you write (and your research papers and works), except in circumstances that rarely apply to undergraduates, such as support by federal research grants. Having said that, it is uncommon for "independent work" to be completely independent -- students are advised by a faculty advisor and that advice often helps shape the products developed.  Moreover, the faculty advisor is an employee of Princeton and has different IP obligations to the university than the student.  I think the bottom line is that as far as we know, the university has never claimed ownership of any independent work done by undergrads.  Having said that, this page is an informal guide.  It is not a legal document, is not written by someone who is a lawyer or knows copyright or patent law, and cannot be taken as official university policy.  It should certainly not be taken as sound legal advice.

Can I continue my summer project at Yagoosoft Corp as independent work?


We strongly discourage undergraduates from undertaking independent work that is subject to confidentiality agreements with third parties or other similar restrictions, because it may violate University policy and it might limit the scope or nature of your future research at Princeton and elsewhere. Before entering into any such agreement, you must get an opinion about the intellectual property issues from the General Counsel's office and the Office of Technology Licensing.

I am an AB COS major. Can I use QCB 301 to satisfy the fall semester of my COS JIW?


The project component of QCB 301 can count as one semester of junior independent work for ABs provided that the QCB project has a substantial computational component. In addition to the requirements of QCB 301, you must officially inform the COS independent work coordinator that you are using QCB 301 as part of your COS independent work and you must fill out all the required IW forms, do the COS checkpoints, proposal presentations, and poster presentations required for normal independent work. You must also submit your final QCB write-up as part of your JIW and highlight the parts of the QCB write-up that clearly describe the computational content of your project.

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