Getting Started On A Project

Typically you get started with research by doing a project for a class such as cs394n (my graduate class on Neural Networks). It is a good idea to start with something small and manageable, and expand it as you make progress. If you try to take too big a bite in the beginning, you may not get conclusive results, and it is hard to figure out how to continue. You are encouraged to come up with your own ideas for projects, but for cs394n I also have a list of broad topics to suggest. Many of these are offshoots of existing work in the group, and it is indeed good to be familiar with our latest publications. Building on other people's work is always a good idea to get started, because there's already a lot of expertise around and you can hit the ground running.

After your initial success in cs394n, we usually continue the research with a number of cs395 follow-ups. These are independent study courses where the idea is simply to get academic credit for working on research. In the beginning, you usually take one cs395 along with your breadth or depth classes; when you are closer to your proposal, you may take three cs395 classes and concentrate only on research. These classes are pass/fail, and you get a pass if you make reasonable progress. We set up goals in the beginning of the semester and revise them as we go along. If you have never taken a cs395 or cs394n with me before, I ask you to write up a paper on your research at the end of the semester. If you get significant results, we might even turn that paper into a conference submission.

It is perfectly ok to explore different topics while you are doing cs395 courses, and even different advisors. The idea is to get an idea what research is like in this area, and which topics would be fun to turn into a dissertation. There is no particular hurry to decide on a topic during your first two years here. Explore and have fun. After that, you should have a pretty good idea of what you would like to do, and it should not be too hard to narrow it down to a dissertation topic.

Last modified: Sun Sep 25 11:36:04 PDT 2022