Frequently Asked Questions (CS Undergraduate Programs)

Who is the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in Computer Science?

Prof. Mark Maloof is the DUS. His office is 325 St. Mary’s Hall. You can find his office hours on his Web page.

How do I declare a CS major?

If you are in the College, you need to fill out the Academic Program Changes form. Once you complete the form, the DUS can sign the form and assign you a departmental advisor. You can then take the form to your advising dean in the College. If you are not in the College, then you will need to transfer to the College to major in computer science.

How do I declare a CS minor?

If you are in the College, NHS, or SFS, you can declare a minor in  computer science by talking to your advising dean. If you are in the  MSB, you must fill out the MSB’s minor declaration form.

What math electives should I take?

The math electives you take depend largely on your interests. It is common for students majoring in computer science to take some combination of courses on calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics, but depending on your interests other courses may be relevant. Probability and statistics are important for a wide variety of areas of computer science, such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, and security. Topics from linear algebra are important for computer graphics, machine learning, and data science. Topics from calculus, especially multivariate calculus, come up in machine learning and neural networks. We mentioned the importance of probability and statistics for the study of algorithms, but depending on your interests, courses in graph theory or combinatorics might also be relevant. As you progress through the curriculum and your interests in computer science develop, we recommend that you consult with your departmental advisor when selecting math electives.

How do I obtain permission to take CS courses outside the department?

You must obtain permission to count CS courses taken outside of the department toward your CS degree requirements. These courses include external electives, summer courses, Consortium courses, and study-abroad courses. We strongly recommend that you obtain permission before enrolling to ensure the courses will count toward your degree requirements.

To approve courses, the DUS consults with faculty teaching comparable courses and with the Undergraduate Committee. This process may take up to one week or longer depending on how busy we all are. Please make sure you account for this process when you start preparing your proposal for the classes you want to take. The department maintains a list of approved and unapproved courses.

  • If a course you want to take is on that list and we have approved it, then the DUS does not need to consult with the faculty to approve it. The DUS can sign the required form.
  • If a course you want to take is not on that list, then the DUS has to consult with the faculty as described. When you seek approval for a course, it is important to find and provide as much information about the course as you can. To seek approval, please use the External CS Course Approval form. You will also need to notify the DUS by e-mail that you have completed the entries for the form. Because of the work required, please limit requests to three courses per institution.

Note that the College has its own criteria for courses for transfer credit. Once you complete an approved course, you need to complete the Evaluation of Transfer Credit form.

Can CS majors take graduate-level courses to fulfill their degree requirements?

Yes. AB and BS students can take graduate-level courses with the permission of the instructor. Graduate-level courses count as major electives. After obtaining permission from an instructor, you need to complete the Registrar’s Add/Drop Form and obtain the instructor’s signature. You must then take the completed form to the Registrar’s Office.

Can CS minors take graduate-level courses to fulfill their degree requirements?

No. The faculty decided that the minor requirements do not adequately prepare students for graduate-level coursework. It may be the case that a minor who has completed their requirements has the preparation to take a graduate-level class, in which case they can take it as a general elective with the instructor’s permission.

How can I get involved in research?

The first step in getting involved in research is to look at faculty member’s Web pages to learn about their research area and projects. Determine what interests you. Once you find someone whose research interests you, visit them during office hours or send them e-mail to schedule an appointment. Looking for their office hours on their Web page before writing them an e-mail asking about their office hours.

Explain that you are interested in their research or in a particular project. Ask them what it might take to help out on a project. You may have the required background to get started, or the professor may ask you to take certain classes, such as theirs, or read some background material. Keep in mind also that a professor may not be able to include additional members into their research groups.

Participation on a research project can take many forms. It can be paid or unpaid. It can be for credit or not for credit. It could be in the pursuit of a senior thesis. However, academic research always has the goal of publishing new methods and research in a peer-reviewed forum, such as a journal or conference proceedings. Participating on a research project can also help you decide whether to pursue advanced study in computer science. Before meeting with professors, it would be good to think about your goals and what you hope to accomplish by conducting research.

The senior thesis offers students the opportunity to pursue a research project and document it by writing a thesis and publicly presenting their work and results. The procedure for completing a senior thesis is detailed in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Students can obtain credit for work on research projects including their senior thesis by arranging for a reading or research tutorial (or independent study). Students interested in pursuing this option should complete a Request for Tutorial form with their faculty mentor. The professor, the department, and the College Dean’s office must approve tutorials. Note that it is not possible to earn credit for a research project while being paid to pursue that research project.

Students who are interested in research should also investigate Davis Research Fellowships and the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (GUROP). Students can participate in GUROP during the academic year. They can also apply for a GUROP Summer Fellowship, which funds students to conduct research with their faculty mentor over the summer. These awards are competitive and require a research proposal, so students should start a research project well in advance of preparing a proposal for a Davis Research Fellowship or a GUROP Summer Fellowship.

Professors may be able to fund undergraduate research projects through grant money. Professors who have funding from the National Science Foundation may have supplements to fund undergraduate research through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

The National Science Foundation also funds REU sites at universities around the United States. REU sites focus on an area of computer science and tackle specific problems. Students apply to individual sites. If they are selected, then they spend the summer at the institution working and living with other students from around the country. These are paid positions that also cover housing.