This course introduces ideas and techniques that are fundamental to computer science. The course emphasizes procedural abstraction, algorithmic methods, and structured design techniques. Students will gain a working knowledge of a block-structured programming language and will use the language to solve a variety of problems illustrating ideas in computer science. A selection of other elementary topics will be presented, for example: the historical development of computers, comparison and evaluation of programming languages, and artificial intelligence. A laboratory section will meet once a week to give students practice with programming constructs. Two class hours and one one-hour laboratory per week.
Restricted to Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 40 students per class (20 per section). Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
A continuation of COSC 111. This course will emphasize more complicated problems and their algorithmic solutions. The object-oriented programming paradigm will be discussed in detail, including data abstraction, inheritance and polymorphism. Other topics will include linked lists and trees and the use of finite-state machines in algorithm design. A laboratory section will meet once a week to give students practice with programming constructs. Two class hours and one one-hour laboratory per week.
Requisite: COSC 111 or consent of the instructor. This course is the appropriate starting point for most students with some prior programming experience. Fall and spring semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
This course will provide an introduction to computer systems, stressing how computers work. Beginning with Boolean logic and the design of combinational and sequential circuits, the course will discuss the design of computer hardware components, microprocessing and the interpretation of machine instructions, assembly languages, and basic machine architecture. The course will also introduce operating systems topics, basic memory management, and topics in network communication. Projects will include the design of digital circuits and the simulation of operating system and network processes.
Requisite: COSC 111 or similar programming experience. Fall semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
This course is the first part of a two-semester sequence examining data structures (ways of organizing data so that it can be used effectively) and algorithms (the methods that can be used to manipulate data). The use of appropriate data structures and algorithms can often dramatically reduce the computational work needed to solve a problem. Topics examined in this course will include proof techniques, run-time analysis, heaps, hash tables, sorting, searching, and divide-and-conquer algorithms. The course will provide advanced programming experience and will emphasize the use of abstraction in program design.
Requisite: COSC 111. Spring semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Not offered
The main purpose of a programming language is to provide a natural way to express algorithms and computational structures. The meaning of “natural” here is controversial and has produced several distinct language paradigms; furthermore the languages themselves have shaped our understanding of the nature of computation and of human thought processes. We will explore some of these paradigms and discuss the major ideas underlying language design. Several languages will be introduced to illustrate ideas developed in the course. Topics will include functional programming, declarative programming, and programming for concurrency and distributed computing. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: COSC 112. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
An introduction to the ideas and techniques that allow computers to perform intelligently. The course will discuss methods of representing knowledge and methods of solving general problems using heuristic search. It will also discuss the design of algorithms that learn and generalize from experience. Other topics will be chosen to reflect the interests of the class and may include: communicating in English, game playing, probabilistic reasoning, planning, vision and speech recognition, computers modeled on neurons, and the possibility and implications of the existence of non-human intelligence. Three class meetings per week. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: COSC 112. Omitted 2016-17.
2016-17: Not offered
Databases underlie many of the applications with which we interact on a daily basis. They form the foundation behind many websites, telecommunications systems, banking systems, and any applications that need to maintain persistent data. This course will explore the design of modern databases for storing structured data. We will discuss the relational data model and relational algebra. Other key topics will include index data structures, views, transactions, and online analytical processing. The course will also consider the design of NoSQL databases and the implications of the CAP theorem.
Requisite: COSC 112 and COSC 201. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
This course will examine the principles and design choices involved in creating the software and hardware systems on which ordinary computer programs rely. It will develop advanced topics in computer processor architecture, cover the design of operating systems and runtime systems, and provide an introduction to programming language compilers. Architectural topics will include pipelines, out-of-order execution, symmetric multithreading, and multi-core cache management. Topics in operating and runtime systems will include virtual memory, file systems, linkers and loaders, virtual machines, memory allocators, and garbage collectors. Projects will involve the implementation of key concepts and structures.
Requisite: COSC 112 and 161. Spring semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Not offered
Computing networks have fundamentally changed the ways in which we use computers. The ubiquity of networks and their broad range of uses have created substantial challenges in the area of computer communication. Not only must data be delivered quickly and reliably from one computer to another, but in many cases that data must also be secure from eavesdroppers. Moreover, the recipient of the information often needs to be sure of the identity of the sender. Encryption can be used to achieve both security and authentication of information. This course will begin with the problem of communicating between two computers, followed by the problem of building generalized networks for an arbitrary number of computers. Networking topics will include layered network structure, signaling methods, error detection and correction, flow control, routing, and protocol design and verification. We will then examine in detail a variety of encryption schemes, how they can be used, and how secure they are. Cryptographic topics will include classical cryptosystems, the data encryption standard, public-key cryptography, key escrow systems, and public policy on encryption. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: COSC 112 or 201. Fall semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
This course continues the exploration of data structures and algorithms that is begun in COSC 201. Topics include balanced search trees, amortized algorithms, graph data structures and algorithms, greedy algorithms, dynamic programming algorithms, NP completeness, and case studies in algorithm design.
Requisite: COSC 112 and 201. Fall semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
This course will explore the algorithms used to create “realistic” three-dimensional computer images. Major topics will include object representations (polygons, curved surfaces, functional models), rendering algorithms (perspective transformations, hidden-surface removal, reflectance and illumination, shadows, texturing), and implementation techniques (scan conversion, ray tracing, radiosity). Students will create images using Pixar's Renderman.
Requisite: COSC 112 or 201 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
This course examines the theory of games in all forms, including traditional non-cooperative simultaneous-play games and their relevance to economics, psychology, and biology; iterated games; combinatorial games such as chess, checkers, and Go; imperfect information games; and stochastic games. The course also considers data structures and algorithms relevant to games, the computational complexity of games, and the use of techniques from artificial intelligence to compute strategies when it is infeasible to compute the optimal strategy. Students will have an opportunity to develop games that incorporate AI and theory.
Requisites: COSC 112 and 201. Fall semester. Professor TBA.
2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
The recent explosion in the volume of data being collected and curated by computer systems is making possible a new understanding of human behavior and other natural phenomena. This dramatic growth is also challenging traditional data storage and manipulation paradigms. In particular, the growth in the collection and storage of so-called “unstructured” data has precipitated the development of new database technologies. Unlike traditional relational data storage, these so-called NoSQL databases are optimized for the storage and analysis of hierarchical or otherwise non-tabular data in what are often distributed layouts. The course will explore this dramatic paradigm shift by examining the inherent limitations of traditional relational databases and how the newer class of databases proposes to address these limitations. Projects will center around experimental comparisons of relational database operations to operations implemented in the Map Reduce paradigm. Offered in alternate years.
Requisites: COSC 112 and 201. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
An introduction to the principles of the design of compilers, which are translators that convert programs from a source language to a target language. Some compilers take programs written in a general-purpose programming language, such as C, and produce equivalent assembly language programs. Other compilers handle specialized languages. For instance, text processors translate input text into low-level printing commands. This course examines techniques and principles that can be applied to the design of any compiler. Formal language theory (concerning regular sets and context-free grammars) is applied to solve the practical problem of analyzing source programs.
Topics include: lexical analysis, syntactic analysis (parsing), semantic analysis, translation, symbol tables, run-time environments, code generation, optimization, and error handling. Each student will design and implement a compiler for a small language. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: COSC 112 and 161. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
This course covers basic mathematical concepts that are essential in computer science, and then uses them to teach the theory of formal languages and machine models of languages. The notion of computability will be introduced in order to discuss undecidable problems. The topics covered include: regular, context-free and context-sensitive languages, finite state automata, Turing machines, decidability, and computational complexity. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: None, although analytical aptitude is essential. Spring semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Not offered
The topic changes from year to year. For fall 2014, the topic was "Computational Biology." This course examines the central computational challenges that have emerged since the publication of the human genome sequence in 2001. The enormous volume of genetic and genomic data collected by biologists has required the development of sophisticated computational techniques to analyze it. This course presents the formulation of these biological data analysis challenges as computational problems. Topics may include: de novo genome sequence assembly, sequence alignment, gene finding and motif discovery, analysis of genome rearrangements, phylogenetic tree reconstruction, and protein folding. The course emphasizes how these problems can be addressed using classical computational problem-solving paradigms, including: greedy techniques, dynamic programming, hidden Markov models, expectation-maximization, and combinatorial algorithms. Assignments will include both problem sets and programming projects.
For spring 2015 the topic was "Digital Text Analysis." Computers allow scholars to examine texts in ways that would be difficult or impossible without them. This course will examine some of the ways that computers are aiding text analysis. We will study both examples of close reading – in which the computer is used to suggest ways to look at the texts – and distant reading – in which the computer analysis is used to draw conclusions without detailed reading of the texts. The course will discuss both applications of computer techniques and the algorithms used in the techniques. Some of the work will involve the digital collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and members of the staff of the library will be involved in the course. The students will do group projects.
Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor TBA.2016-17: Not offered
Computer operating systems are responsible for allowing multiple running programs to share hardware resources. The policies that dictate how those resources are shared determine the system's ability to provide good performance, fair sharing, isolation between programs, and predictable behavior. There are many interacting policy choices that determine these properties, and measuring the effect of each requires careful empirical experimentation and analysis. Research papers will describe and analyze policies that control processor scheduling, memory allocation and caching, disk scheduling and placement, network bandwidth allocation, and power consumption. The policies may be specialized for different types of systems, such as servers and mobile devices. We will design and perform experiments to further evaluate the policies, comparing them and analyzing their behavior. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: COSC 112, 201, and 261. Fall semester. Professor Kaplan.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Fall and spring semesters.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Open to seniors with consent of the Department.
Spring semester. The Department.2016-17: Not offered