In addition, we surveyed former students who took the
course to see whether it influenced their decision to attend
graduate school or not. Of the 37 students, 4 of them ( 10.8%)
have attended or are currently attending graduate school, while
3 more ( 8.1%) tell us they are planning on attending graduate
school in the near future. One student who recently attended
graduate school told us this about the course:
I will say that it [did] a really good job of preparing me
what to expect from a graduate level class. Read a white
paper, discuss it, [dissect] it, and build some software to
demonstrate its concepts. This is how almost all of my
Georgia Tech Classes have been setup.
Another student, who recently defended her master’s thesis,
I think CS490R is a great class to prepare students for
graduate school. The research paper reading process in
that class mirrors what we do when we do research.
The following two quotes are from students who have not
yet attended graduate school, but who are planning on doing
I feel that CS490R made me want to attend grad school.
Prior to taking the class, I don’t recall even considering the
option, but the class gave me some interesting perspectives
that have stuck with me in regards to continuing my
[T]aking CS490R has definitely made [me] want to go to
graduate school. … I am saving up for tuition and taking
time after work every day to study GRE, thanks to CS490R!
Another student, who has not necessarily ruled out graduate
school as an option, discovered through our course that his interests lie outside of data visualization:
I was more interested in seeing things work and move
around then visualization and colors. If I were in grad
school I wouldn’t do it there.
A student who was deterred from going to graduate school
put it this way:
I think it was a good class, especially the one day where you
laid out what a masters or a doctorate will do for you. For
example, a doctorate is only really for if you want to become
a professor or do research. … Also reading those papers, I
realized I did not really want to write one of those papers...
dissertation. As such, they first write a formal proposal for
their project. After completing the implementation, they
write a short paper describing their visualization, and do an
oral presentation to their peers.
In addition to the readings and programming assignments, oth-
er discussion topics in the course relate to the mechanics of
graduate school, such as:
• How to select a thesis advisor
• How to fund your education via teaching and/or research
• The pros and cons of pursuing a master’s degree versus a
• Is it better to publish papers based on your dissertation
before or after you finish graduate school?
Quantitative feedback from students for the course has been
quite positive. Table 2 shows students’ “overall” course rating
on a scale from 0 to 7 from the university’s course evaluation
questionnaire, for each semester we offered the course. The 2nd
column shows how many students were enrolled that semester,
while the 3rd and 4th columns show the average course rating
in our course and the average class rating for the entire college
that semester, respectively.
Figure 6: Screenshot of one student’s final project, an animated
visualization of the various audio frequencies in an MP3 file. As the song
plays, the radii of the individual wedges increase and decrease based on
the intensity of their respective frequencies. This visualization resembles
the polar area chart, first created by Florence Nightingale in the 19th
century [ 7].
Table 2: Student ratings for our course versus the college-wide average.
Semester students Course rating College overall
Winter 2013 9 6. 38 5.96
Fall 2014 13 6. 22 6.09
Fall 2015 11 7 6. 15
Spring 2017 4 6.67 5.99