Independent Work Seminars
The Computer Science Department now offers "Independent Work Seminars," which allow students and a faculty advisor with shared interests to meet as a group and work on related projects.
Background and Motivation
The main motivation for these seminars is to provide a way for students working on similar projects to have more interaction, assistance, and feedback from their peers. Previously, students working on related problems rarely interacted with one another. They each met with their advisors separately, but never heard much about what other students are doing until the poster session at the end of the semester.
The IW seminars bring together groups of students working on related problems. Each student chooses and works on his/her own project, just as in any other IW. The only difference is that meetings occur with faculty and other students in seminar-style once per week at a scheduled time. During the meetings, the students discuss what they are doing, provide feedback to other students, and generate ideas for future work. The seminars provide a great forum for honing small-group presentation and discussion skills that will be essential after graduation. Individual meetings with the faculty advisor can also occur weekly during agreed-upon times throughout the semester.
Within these seminars, it is possible for groups of 2-3 students to work on different parts of the same large-scale project. As an example, a few students might work together on a system for collaborative grading of assignments in MOOCs (massive open online courses) with one student developing the user interface, another designing the algorithms for assigning problems to graders, and a third implementing a system for integrating grader responses in the back-end server. Every student is responsible for writing a paper and making presentations individually, but it might be possible to achieve much more with a collaborative effort than with a set of individual ones (the whole is greater than the sum of parts). In any case, team efforts could be more fun and engaging for the participating students.
What are the Topics for the Independent Work Seminars for Fall 2017?
Who Should Sign-Up for the Independent Work Seminars?
All students who plan to do independent work for the first time should sign up for an IW seminar. Specifically, this includes all AB juniors and all BSE students signed up for COS 397/8 or 497/8 for the first time. Though the seminars are targeted at first-time independent work students, they are open to any COS major who is not working on a senior thesis. The content of the IW seminars includes not only independent work on a project, but also guidance about how to choose projects, evaluate progress, design experiments, collaborate with others, make presentations, and other project management skills. These skills are essential for becoming an effective researcher, and provide great training for working in a company or startup. Thus, the seminars are perfectly suited for students doing their first semester of independent work. If you already have done a previous semester of independent work or want to work on a project outside the scope of the topics offered in any of the IW seminars, then you can make arrangements with a Princeton faculty to advise you one-on-one. To do so, contact the faculty now that you are interested in working with to discuss potential project ideas (probably email is best). If you find a faculty member that agrees to advise you one-on-one, then you can indicate that selection on the IW sign up form by indicating a title, description, and faculty advisor for your project.
How do I Sign-Up for the Independent Work Seminar?
COS students sign up for independent work seminars for Spring 2017 by completing the IW Sign-Up form before April 30, 2017. In response to the first question, you should select "I will be in an independent work seminar next semester." Then, the form will ask you to enter your ranked preferences for every seminar (like you did for the writing seminars during freshman year) and provide a paragraph of text describing your interests in independent work. That information will be used to match you to the best seminar possible, doing everything possible to assign your top choice. You will be notified of your assignment before the next semester starts.