Graduate Initiation Seminar

Overview of the Course

This required two-credit course is designed to help guide entering Ph.D. students through the challenging transition into the graduate program in Computer Science. Topics range broadly across issues of research and scholarship. We will cover as many of these as possible:
The course will not cover details of program requirements and milestones, nor will the class provide academic advice specific to individual students in the class. For these please consult the Graduate Student Handbook and your academic advisor, respectively.

Course Format

Weekly meetings will be led by the instructors, frequently accompanied by other faculty members and senior (or former) Ph.D. students, who will discuss their experiences. Although most weeks will consist of a lecture portion, especially on the more technical topics, there will be ample time for discussion during each class. We will meet once a week for 50 minutes. We will often expect you to have read something in advance to prepare for class discussion. We will assign the readings as needed.

Grading and Assignments

Letter grades will be assigned. It is possible to fail this course, in which case you will be asked to re-sit the class at a future date. 

Grades will be based on completion of both written and reading assignments for the class, active participation in class, and attendance.

All students must attend all lectures, and any absences will be duly noted. If you cannot attend these lectures you must provide compelling reasons for your absence. NOTE: As part of our endeavor to meet the Office of Research Compliance and RCREAC minimum standards, the instructors will monitor class attendance.

There are four main assignments for this class, as listed below:

1. Personal Academic Website (due: 2/13). In this assignment you will create a personal academic website which will be linked here. Instructions on adding yourself to cs-people.bu.edu are here. The site should be professional and should serve as a platform for presenting your research work and contributions. Examples from previous cohorts are also linked on the page for potential guidance.

2. Written Review (due: 3/27). In this assignment you will read a paper chosen in concert with an advising faculty member, and generate a conference-style review. Using a review form from a top conference or journal, the review will assess the paper's suitability for publication and offer constructive feedback intended to help the authors improve the paper. A post mortem discussion of the reviews will be conducted in class.

3. Technical Paper (due: final day of classes). In this assignment you will write a technical report on a topic that either (a) you are currently pursuing with  your advisor, (b) is relevant to your already chosen research area (if you have one), or (c) represents an overview of the current state of the art for a specific area. You should write your paper in a style similar to that in peer-reviewed conferences and journals (limited to 8 pages, 10-point font, double column, single-line spaced, according to IEEE/ACM standard formatting rules). The first page of your paper should include a carefully chosen title, followed by your name and contact information, and then an abstract that captures the salient points of the paper. In the remaining space on the first page, you should start with an "Introduction" section, that motivates your research topic and describes the significant contributions of the paper. Ensuing sections should be chosen as necessary, to describe the details of the research topic, key observations and results, related work, and conclusions and future work. You are also required to include a list of references to related work at the end of your paper.

NOTE: For the technical paper, it is insufficient to submit a piece of already-written work that you have conducted with your advisor. Moreover, to ensure comparable effort by all members of the class, you are required to write a paper that is single-author, thereby demonstrating your own writing skills.

4. Presentation (during class). For this part of the course requirement, each student will form a team to present a particular topic. The size of each presentation group will depend on the number of students in the class, but you should expect to work with at least one partner for a given presentation. The instructors reserve the right to choose partners, although students are encouraged to establish teams with which they feel comfortable. Each team is expected to identify a topic, or set of preferential topics, they are willing to discuss in class. We will then assign responsibilities for each team to produce a powerpoint (or equivalent) set of slides. Each team member should demonstrate similar effort in preparation and presentation of slides. A good presentation will engage the audience, so be prepared to ask questions of the class, rather than merely dictate a few basic items on your slides.

The course has a web site where assigned and recommended readings will appear: