Directed study & special topics

Directed study or directed research allows students to design and carry out an independent project, working one-on-one with a faculty member.

In addition, each semester the Computer Science and Engineering department offers a number of special topic courses taught in subject areas that are specific to the areas of expertise of individual faculty members. For information on special topics courses, please view the CS&E course list by semester

CSCI 5980 - Special Topics in Computer Science 
(1.0 - 3.0 cr [max 9.0 cr]; Prereq-#; may be repeated for cr; fall, spring, offered periodically) 

What is this option?

Lectures and informal discussions on current topics in computer science. Contact the department or the instructor listed for the special topic course for more information.

CSCI 5991/8991 – Independent Study

What is this option?

Independent study is a catch-all that could be used, for example, to look at an existing area in more depth than is covered in existing classes, look at an important topic that isn’t covered in set classes. Independent studies usually don't involve research or an implementation project.

CSCI 5994/8994 – Directed Research

What is this option?

Directed research is for a study that is primarily research. Research in the sense of "cutting edge" research; not in the sense of "I need to do some online research for an essay I need to write for a class." Often this could be joining a research lab of one of our faculty members. Sometimes this could be focused on a student’s idea to research a given area, but it’s more common to connect the experience to a faculty member’s research focus.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I attempt to set these unique experiences up (etc.)?

You should contact faculty members whom you have taken a class with, know well, or are doing research you have a strong interest in. Please note that faculty members are not required to supervise projects, so they might say no. Or they might say yes, but have specific conditions such as you working on an existing project in their research lab. Once you have found a faculty member who is willing to supervise your work you can request a permission number to add the course by requesting a permission number using this online form.

When should I begin contacting faculty to set this up?

This will vary, but it is a good idea to contact faculty in advance of registration to see (i) if they are willing to supervise this, and (ii) if there is any preliminary work you need to do.

What would be the time commitment for these options?

As a general rule, the time commitment should be commensurate with the number of credits (e.g., a 3 credit project would be about 10 hours/week). That being said, due to their nature independent student, research, and advanced projects tend to be more variable than regularly scheduled classes

Can the courses be used as part of my graduate degree?

Yes, but there are restrictions. These can't be used in place of specific requirements (breadth requirements).  MS and MCS students can use up to 3 combined credits of these courses towards their degree, and PhD students can use up to 6 combined credits of these courses towards their degree. Any questions about how these courses can be use towards degree requirements can be discussed with the Graduate Program Coordinators