Independent Research

Research Assistantship 

A research assistantship is a paid position in which a student is employed by the college to help a faculty member with a research project.

The amount of independent academic work varies greatly from project to project. Some faculty need help with clerical tasks, library research, or simple laboratory work. Others hire students to pursue open-ended projects with more educational goals.

There is no fixed time frame for research assistantships. Students can begin or end at any time. No academic credit is given for research assistantships.

Independent Study Projects

An independent study project involves academic or research work supervised by a faculty member for academic credit. To sign up for an independent project, students should find an advisor and register for CS250, CS250H, CS350 or CS350H.

CS250, CS250H, CS350 and CS350H are available to students who have taken CS230, or others by permission of the faculty advisor. CS250 and CS350 are one-unit classes; CS250H and CS350H are half unit classes. As a guideline, one unit corresponds to roughly 11 hours of work per week of the semester. The faculty advisor determines whether a project should qualify for CS250(H) or CS350(H) based on the background the project requires and the depth of the proposed work. CS250(H) and CS350(H) classes are mandatory credit/no-credit (MCR). See

Finding an advisor is a mutual process in which faculty seek students, sometimes for specific projects, and students seek faculty, sometimes with projects of their own in mind. In a good match, the faculty member has expertise that is relevant to the project and the student and faculty member work well together.

Some kinds of work that are appropriate for independent study projects are:

  • Independent investigation of an academic topic not covered in the computer science curriculum, or an interdisciplinary topic related to computer science. Such a project might use course materials from a class taught elsewhere or readings chosen by the student or advisor.
  • Development of hardware or software tools. Some projects involve tools that are useful for or relevant to the research of a faculty member; others might be for students, other departments, etc.
  • Research on a topic pertaining to computer science, or an interdisciplinary topic related to computer science. Particularly successful research can lead to publication, either as part of the faculty member's research or independently.

Independent projects should produce a product of some kind, for example a final report, a program, or a presentation. The student and advisor should agree as early as possible about the nature of the product. The product is often the primary way the advisor evaluates and grades the project.

An independent project may span several semesters, or a student may pursue multiple independent projects, in which case a student may register for CS250(H) or CS350(H) multiple times. Independent study courses (CS250(H) or CS350(H)) do not count toward the required courses for the major

Ruhlman Conference

Students working on a Senior Thesis or an independent project that spans two semesters are strongly encouraged to present their work at the Ruhlman Conference.

The deadline to declare intention to present is usually at the beginning of December. The deadline for a final title and description of the project is usually in February. The conference itself is usually at the beginning of May.