Fall 2014

Seminar in Computer Science

Listed in: Computer Science, as COSC-450

Formerly listed as: COSC-40

Moodle site: Course


Crystal L. Valentine (Section 01)


The topic changes from year to year. For fall 2014, the topic is "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 is "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.

Fall semester:  Professor Valentine. Spring semester: Professor Rager. Spring semester enrollment limited to 12.

If Overenrolled: The students will be chosen to create a balance between humanities and computer science majors


2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2015