Applying Ideas

1 Purpose of this Assignment

Different areas of Computer Science use and apply different techniques, including data analysis, math, human subjects studies, and so forth.  As you become a domain expert in a particular sub-field, you will likely also gain expertise in one or more methods that are specific to your domain.  In fact, you may already have developed some skills that are specific to your domain prior to even starting the Ph.D.

Unfortunately, you are also likely less familiar with skills that other subfields of computer science regularly apply but may still be applicable to your domain.  For example, you may be a networking researcher who wishes to run a particular user study or survey, or you may be an HCI researcher whose research may benefit from additional quantitative analysis to determine whether qualitative and quantitative results are consistent.

The purpose of this assignment is to help you gain exposure to skillsets that are regularly applied in another area of computer science but which you might not otherwise know about or become exposed to.

2 Problem

In this assignment, you will teach an assignment to one of your classmates in another area, and you will also learn a new idea from that classmate.  You’ll then aim to find an area in your field where that method could apply.

3 Task

Before class: Select a skill.

  • Choose a skill that’s commonly used in your area.
  • Find a paper that applies the technique.
  • Find (or create!) some tutorial material on the skill.  A URL or pointer to some material that exists is fine, if something suitable already exists.  (a good book on the topic, a Wikipedia article, etc.).  It’s perhaps better if you can bring the material to share to class, so that the classmate that you are working with can have access to the material (perhaps even better if it’s free online, so they can peruse it later, outside of class).  If you can’t find something to your liking, feel free to write your own tutorial!

In class: Exchange skills.

  • You’ll be paired with someone outside of your area.
  • We’ll spend time in class exchanging ideas.

After class: Apply a new skill.

  • Write up (in about one page) an skill you learned about and a problem it could be applied to in your area.  Write about one paragraph explaining the new skill in your own words (this will help ensure that you understand the new skill).  What is the technique?  What is it used for?  When is it applicable?  When is it not applicable?
  • Bonus:  Try applying your new skill to a problem in your area (i.e., execute!).  There’s probably not enough time to do something like an interview-based user study in the timespan of the assignment, but you could attempt a survey, or implement a statistical analysis technique on data that you already have, and so forth.  Try out your new skills!  If you get the chance to do this, please write it up in a paragraph or two, as well.
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