the number of times the U. S. government has raised the
debt ceiling since 1962.
the number of times one trillion $10 bills would wrap around
the globe if taped end to end. that amount of money would
still not be enough to pay off the U. S. national debt.
Of the ACM
Communications of the ACM
(CACM for short, not the best
sounding acronym around) is
the ACM’s flagship magazine.
Started in 1957, CACM is
handy for keeping up to date
on current research being
carried out across all topics of
computer science and real-world applications.
CACM has had an illustrious
past with many influential
pieces of work and debates
started within its pages. These
include Hoare’s presentation
of the Quicksort algorithm;
Rivest, Shamir and Adleman’s
description of the first public-key cryptosystem RSA; and
Dijkstra’s famous letter against
the use of GOTO.
In addition to the print
edition, which is released
monthly, there is a fantastic
website ( http://cacm.acm.
org/) that showcases not only
the most recent edition but
all previous CACM articles as
well, readable online as well
as downloadable as a PDF. In
addition, the website lets you
browse for articles by subject,
a handy feature if you want to
focus on a particular topic.
CACM is really essential
reading. Pretty much
guaranteed to contain content
that is interesting to anyone,
it keeps tabs on the latest
in computer science. It is a
valuable asset for us students,
who tend to delve deep into a
particular area of CS and forget
everything that is happening
Of Undergraduates and
Undergraduate research is like a box of chocolates: You never know what kind of project you will get. That being said, there
are still a few things you should know
to get the most out of the experience.
1. Choose an interesting project. What
makes research interesting is working
on a problem that hasn’t been solved yet.
This seems obvious but students are often given projects that only confirm past
results. While an interesting exercise in
theory, this kind of project works best
as a class assignment, as it is not representative of how research is conducted.
Scientists rarely have a back-of-the-book
answer before doing an experiment; instead, they find the answers that end up
in the back of your books.
2. define what the project is really about.
When discussing your project with your
supervisor, insist on documenting a
detailed project description within the
first week. It can become very frustrating if you’re unaware of what the long-term goal is. As a researcher you need
to understand the bigger picture, not
just what the research involves but why
it is being conducted, the direction it is
taking, and why it matters in the first
4. Keep your audience in mind when presenting. Nobody understands those
acronyms you’ve been using all summer. Explain all acronyms and use
them sparingly. Second, if you used
a particular analysis technique, data
set, model, or algorithm over another
know why. Just because it was the only
one available doesn’t cut it (and avoid
saying your supervisor told you so). If
you used it, it was presumably the best
option available given what you are investigating. Third, the path involved in
ans wering a research question is incontestably messy. Presenting your work
in the same order your experiments
happened can be very confusing to a
listener. Instead, present your work in
a logical order, proceeding from a nagging problem to a potential solution or
partial solution. Finally, making your
research sound more complicated
than it is will fool only a very few.
— Daniel Gooch
3. don’t worry about leaving your field. If a
field seemingly unrelated to yours fascinates you and you think there might
be a way to merge both, do not hesitate
to do research in that field. There is
nothing wrong with going “out of your
field.” Good scientists adapt and learn
about the research topics that interest
them and do not treat their major as a
barrier or limiting condition.
5. now is the time to apply. With deadlines for summer research programs
fast approaching, now would be a good
time to start thinking about where you
will apply and with which professor
you are interested in working for. It
always helps to talk to several professors beforehand and visit their labs to
discuss the kinds of research projects
they have available for you to work on
during the summer.
—Robert Aboukhalil is a biologist by
day and an engineer by night. Having
completed his undergraduate degree in
computer engineering, he is now pursuing
a Ph.D. in computational biology at Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is also the
co-founder of Technophilic Magazine,
a technology magazine for students.