CS290: PhD Grad Cohort Research Seminar / Fall 2021 - Spring 2022

Course Overview

CS290 is a discussion-based seminar designed for entering Computer Science Ph.D. students. The goals of the course are three-fold:

  1. to introduce students to research around the CS area,
  2. skills building, and
  3. cohort building.

We will lead sessions on skill building (e.g. paper reading, presentation), soft skill building (e.g. managing advising relationships, supporting your peers), and academic culture (e.g. mental health in academia, power dynamics in scientific communities), as well as research and professional oriented discussions with a broad mixture of CS faculty members. We will also “visit” and discuss one or two CS colloquia.

This is a full-year, 4-unit course, meeting once a week in each of the fall and the spring. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year to receive credit.

Please come prepared having done the readings/assignments listed on the schedule prior to class.

Course Policy

Attendance: Class attendance and participation is mandatory. If, due to extenuating circumstances, you need to miss class, please contact the course staff ahead of time.

Grading: The course is letter-graded based on your attendance, pre-class work, and participation. When there is pre-class work, this will be graded based on completion. We will be expecting attendance each week, and more than 1-2 absences, unless excused, may affect your final grade in the course.

Office Hours:

In addition to these regularly held office hours, additional office hours with any member of the course staff can be made by appointment.

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging: It is the mission of the teaching staff that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. We aim to create a learning environment that is inclusive and respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions for how to better our classroom community are always encouraged and appreciated.

Since a large part of this course requires students to work in groups, in alignment with our teaching mission, we ask that students explicitly reflect on and implement practices for building teams that are diverse along many axes. The teaching staff is happy to help you brainstorm how to create an inclusive and productive working culture for your team.


There are a number of people we would like to acknowledge for helpful discussions and insights throughout the development of this offering of the course: Barbara Grosz, David Brooks, Finale Doshi-Velez, Isaac Lage, Krzysztof Gajos, Lillian Pentecost, Margo Seltzer, Sam Hsia, Udit Gupta, Weiwei Pan, Zana Buçinca

This course draws on: Justine Sherry's seminar "Reading on Research", Weiwei Pan's seminar "Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership in Tech", Yaniv Yacoby's workshop "How to make the most out of your PhD"