I believe research is the best way to learn things.
It is one thing to learn established material,
concepts and skills within a particular discipline.
It is entirely another to learn how to formulate interesting questions,
develop plans for answering those questions,
execute those plans, analize what was learned in the process,
and communicate your findings.
When you conduct research,
you're exploring questions for which you may not be sure answers even exist.
For these and other reasons, research can be daunting but also very exciting and rewarding.
Doing research as an undergraduate is one of the unique opportunities
that you have as a Westmont student.
If you check around, you will find that undergrads at research universities
rarely get to work with faculty members on original research.
To publish a paper with a professor is even more unusual.
Because I value research so highly as a part of your education,
I am willing to invest considerable amounts of my time in working with you.
However, because I am investing considerable time training you in research,
I naturally want you to bear fruit of some kind.
Thus, I expect certain things from you before we begin and as we proceed.
I have created this page as a way of clarifying my expectations.
However, view these as general guidelines and not as hard and fast rules.
Before we begin a research project together:
- You should register for my CS198 Research seminar (when available).
This seminar will give you a taste of the research enterprise
and an understanding of one or more of my ongoing research projects.
Note, that although the majority of research takes place during the summer
(more on that below),
the school-year research seminar will inform your continuing interest
and will provide a basis for me to select the limited number of summer research students.
- You should prepare a proposal describing
what you want to accomplish during your research effort and why.
You might consider working with me
on one of my interests,
but it is also perfectly acceptable for you to propose your own project;
in fact, I encourage you to do so -- even if in the end I do not agree to work with you on it!
- You should make a commitment to follow through on the research --
writing up results, revising, etc.,
even if this means some effort after the semester is over
(i.e., even if you're not getting unit credit for the work).
This is especially important if you will be a co-author on a paper submitted for publication.
During a basic semester research project:
- For a two-unit semester long research project,
you should anticipate meeting with me for one hour every week and spending
six to eight hours per week outside of those meetings on the research.
The actual amount of time you spend will depend on the number of units
for which you register.
- The nature of your work will be varied and unpredictable.
You'll use the library and web at times,
write programs and run experiments at other times,
and certainly write descriptions of work and results.
Naturally, your topic will strongly influence the relative distribution among these activities.
- During our weekly meetings together,
you will present your progress from the past week
and we will establish milestones for the coming week.
Your timeliness and thoroughness in completing these agreed-upon units of work
will serve as the basis for your grade;
but much more importantly,
they will strongly influence the likelihood of the project's success.
- Throughout your work on a research project,
your thinking and behavior should be characterized by exploration.
First, you should explore the space of research questions we are asking.
That is, we may start with one or several overarching questions,
but these are only starting points and guiding themes.
Every question suggests several others and you should be practicing asking those.
You'll also need to explore responses to those questions,
both the ones we ask together and the ones you generate on your own.
In this respect, you need to be willing to try things that may fail;
that is how we learn best.
Finally, through reflection you need to explore what you learned from your responses to the questions.
Do the results lay to rest one or more of the previous questions?
Do the responses suggest yet other questions?
Stir and repeat.
There are times when funding is available
to support student participation in research for ten weeks during the summer.
This support typically takes the form of a stipend
and free housing in the Ocean View apartments.
When such funding is available,
I expect more of a commitment on the part of students receiving such support.
In addition to what is expected before we begin as described above:
- You should agree to complete two semesters of CS198 Research at two-units each;
ideally, the student takes two units during the Spring semester
immediately prior to the paid summer work,
and two more units during the Fall semester immediately following the summer research.
- You should already be thinking about graduate school.
For many students, graduate school is not even on their radar.
At Westmont, we expect that all students will come to see graduate school
as among their options (even if remote);
we hope that many will indeed choose that path.
Of course, in computer science,
even though schools pay PhD students reasonably well,
graduating seniors must consider
the lucrative incentives to immediately start working at an existing company or a startup.
I am happy to discuss these matters with you.
If you are interested in working with me on summer research under the above conditions,
you should submit your proposal and meet with me as early as possible.
The need to register for Spring research units
suggests that you contact me before the end of the calendar year.
If we agree on a project, then you should sign up for research units during the Spring semester.
By the end of Spring Recess,
I will select summer research assistants from among those doing research for credit.
After the summer, you will register for additional units to continue the research
during which time we will describe our findings in a paper to submit for publication.