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V said on December 30th, 2010 at 2:39 am :

All the best.

I would love to attend Stanford sometime, but am mostly going through the classes and youtube videos for learning. I have been following the vis and nlp group at stanford for all the learning and it has been great so far!


Chris Eiffel said on January 8th, 2011 at 6:46 am :

A couple things
So if the terms are called quarters and each term lasts 3 months then are there two quarters after winter break and one for a summer term?

I found your blog from looking up http://www.endangered-languages.com/. I have an idea that could make a difference in the declining trend of endangered languages. I am trying to contact people with a background in that field.

Also I’m a wordpress guy and I’m just wondering from a usability standpoint, why did you disabled much of the internal navigation on your site? I didn’t realize your graphics above was clickable for the longest time.

Dec 18, 2010 | My first quarter at Stanford

It’s not very often that I write about specific personal experiences much anymore, but I feel like I stand to make an opportunity to share a bit of the last few months as a way to be able to reflect upon these later on in my life. I have pretty much everything from getting into Swarthmore, to the first few days there, to the final retrospective. One of the things I feel is that I

In order to remedy the two, then, here is an effort.

Stanford University, courtesy of Wikipedia commons

To recap, I am in a two year Master’s program in Computer Science at Stanford. I’m pursuing a Human Computer Interaction specialization within that department, one of 10 different kinds available, like Security, Database Systems, and AI. Many of the students I met during the first CS mixer were relatively undecided about what they wanted to pursue, which was fairly surprising. I would venture to say there are about 120 new Master’s students here. Most have spent a year or more working in industry.

Classes began fairly late in the year, as is customary at Stanford, on September 20th. I enrolled in number of classes, trying to gauge what I would be comfortable transitioning into after a year at work. Swarthmore had this policy of “shopping” for classes, which I was familiar with, and it makes it just a bit less stressful to choose what class to take. Graduate students have some flexibility in the number of courses they can take, though Stanford will start charging you if you take more than 10 credits. The current fee is $8930.00, with a $167 fee for health services and $28 for activities.

A typical class is taken for 3 credits, though the interesting thing is that some classes have a range of credits such that you could theoretically take two 3-5 credit classes at 5 credits each. I had 3 3-credit classes in mind, with 1 left over for a seminar or nothing at all. Besides, as an international student, I have a minimum of 8 credits I must take in order to maintain “legal status”.

After two weeks of frantic searching and nervousness I settled on the following classes:

CS147: Human Computer Interaction
This is core course in HCI and as such was a fairly large class. Students in it ranged from undergrads to graduate students, and there were 6 TAs in the class. The class met twice a week for about an hour and had an hour-long “studio” on Fridays in which we would work on, discuss or go over our class projects. The class project was to build a mobile app based on needfinding – what is an app that doesn’t exist yet for which you think there is a genuine need? Teamwork was key here, though because the class was a fairly “basic” class, it meant teams were sometime built with people who saw the class with differing priorities. Regardless, it was fun, and at the end of the class we got to present our app to a panel of judges from the IT community.

CS448B: Data Visualization
I had heard of professor Jeff Heer before coming to Stanford – his name surfaced while I was visiting Atlanta and the CHI conference this past year there, where a Georgia Tech professor revealed to me that Jeff had been one of the candidates for professorship, but that he had opted to go to Stanford instead. Taking that as a cue, I was excited to take his class, and it turned out not to disappoint in the least bit. He and the TA Vadim made the topic very interesting and relevant, and the course really allowed students to maximize whatever they wanted to gain from the material. Along the way I learned the Edward Tufte is almost a god-like figure, that data visualization is still a nascent field with much to explore, and that perhaps, just perhaps, I may find myself more and more involved in this field.

CS224W: Social and Information Network Analysis
This class started with about 200 or so students packed into Hewlett 201, and it quickly whittled down to about 50 or 60. Professor Jure Leskovec could easily be mistaken for a grad student (though he is over 30, I think) and he went through the material really quickly, most certainly because his brain revolves at RPMs exceeding normal intellectual capacity. The material covered topics like how information or influence propagates through networks, how to quantify the elusive “six degrees of freedom”, and how to identify “clusters” of communities within large social networks like Facebook or Twitter. It was a very relevant and “hot topic” class, but I felt Jure made it a little too difficult to approach without feeling like having to dive into the deep end of a pool. In the end I think I’ve come from it with a greater appreciation for the need for mathematical approaches to social networks (if you’re interested, read up on the “power law” phenomenon – fascinating) with the knowledge that there are plenty of tools out there to help with the analysis.

CS547: Human-Computer Interaction Seminar
I almost forgot to include this because it didn’t feel so much as a class as an opportunity to attend an awesome lecture every Friday by someone almost guaranteed to a) be a leader in the field and b) be very interesting to hear. This quarter the people that talked included Jeff Johnson (author of the venerated GUI Bloopers book), Aaron Koblin (data vis GOD *ehem* who did stuff like Wilderness Downtown’s new music video and the Johnny Cash project), Gregory Abowd (Georgia Tech), Leila Takayama (Willow Garage) and all sorts of other amazing people. It’s offered every quarter, so I may very well attend another one.

I feel that because Stanford’s Master’s program is billed as a “pre-professional” terminal program (so that having a Master’s doesn’t necessarily segue well with going into the Ph.D program) the school makes a considerable amount of effort to integrate recruitment into all aspects of the curriculum. The Computer Forum was a big recruitment day that had large and small companies vying for attention on campus, and interviews are always ongoing. Project presentation days became half-presentation to the class and half-presentation to industry recruiters who would silently drop in and browse.

Regardless, it has been a very interesting, albeit rather tough, quarter and I’m looking forward to taking a bit of time to decompress, read, pursue some of my own projects, close some existing projects, and bring a new fresh outlook to the year ahead!

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010 at 7:44 pm, EST under the category of Future Me. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.