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California State University Stanislaus

CS 4960 - 05: Seminar in Computer Science

Spring 2024

Friday 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm, DBH 114, Dr. Megan Thomas

[Basic Information]        [Calendar/Assignments]        [Topics/Papers]

Welcome to CS 4960, Seminar in Computer Science

Course Description:
Presentation and discussion of selected topics in computer science from current literature.

Course Objectives:

Announcements and Upcoming Events

24 Jan 2024 You might, at this point, feel like college takes forever. Perhaps this news will cheer you up: "Every year spent in school or university improves life expectancy, study says" (The Guardian, 23 Jan 2024).
26 Jan 2024 Welcome to CS 4960!

Basic Information

Textbook: None.

Best way to contact Dr. Thomas:  Email  Please put "CS4960" in the subject line of every email. Email without the "CS4960" might be classified as spam by my email filters. Remember to sign your emails (put your first and last name at the bottom).

Or simply stop by office hours.

Prerequisite: CS 4100, senior standing and consent of the instructor. (This course is for senior Computer Science majors.)

Warning: I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus at any time during the term by announcing them in class and on my web page.

Course Requirements, Assignments

Oral Presentations

  • On your assigned dates deliver twenty to twenty-five minute oral presentations on your assigned topics. (Seminar presentations may be publicly announced and will be open to visitors who may wish to attend.)
    • Important: The talks must be at least twenty minutes. Nineteen minutes and 59 seconds will be an automatic NC.
    • A word-for-word script is not allowed. Students are not allowed to read from a word-for-word paper script, nor read word-for-word off of their slides.
      (A paper outline, containing only mnemonic words and short phrases, is fine.)
    • In the second oral presentation, some of the presentation must explain technical material using the whiteboard/blackboard, without the use of pre-made slides. Work through an example, draw and explain a diagram, etc.
    • Additional information about the oral presentations and accompanying slides will be given in class.


  • Attend all the presentations of the other members of the class, and react to them by asking questions and by writing a short critique which will be collected and given to the presenter.


Assuming you fulfill all the requirements listed above, I will base your grade on three components:
  1. your grade on your first oral presentation,
  2. your grade on your second oral presentation, and
  3. your participation grade.
Each of the components above will get equal weight.

I'll grade your oral presentations based on the thoroughness and depth with which you address your topic as well as the clarity, accuracy and style of your presentation. You'll get a grade between 0 and 100 for each.

You'll get two participation credits for each time you attend a presentation and turn in an acceptable critique sheet. You'll get one participation credit for each time you attend a presentation and turn in an unacceptable critique sheet. I'll compute your number of satisfactory critiques as a percentage of two times the number of credits, and this percentage will be your participation grade. (If you show up late for a presentation and interrupt the speaker, you will receive a half-credit for that day.)

You will receive credit (a grade of "CR") for the course if
  1. you receive a a score of 60 or above in each of the three components, and
  2. your average over the three components is 70% or above.
Otherwise you will receive no credit ("NC").

(The above "course requirements" and "grading" borrow liberally from Dr. John Sarraille and Dr. Melanie Martin's CS 4960 course descriptions, with permission.)

Academic Honesty

The work you do for this course will be your own, unless otherwise specified. You are not to submit other people's (or any machine's) work and represent it as your own. I consider academic honesty to be at the core of the University's activities in education and research. Academic honesty is expected at all times in this course.


  1. "What if I show a video during my presentation?" : As long as copyright laws are properly obeyed (see me if you have a question about how to do that), fine by me. But I will turn off the stopwatch that is keeping track of the length of your talk while the video is playing. So 15 minutes of videos will not shorten your talk requirements by 15 minutes.

Research Topic and Public Speaking Information

News of Interest to CS majors near graduation

"IT jobs in 2023: Look before you leap" (Feb 21, 2023, InfoWorld)

"10 Hardest IT Jobs to Fill" (Mar 1, 2023, InformationWeek)

"Episode 434: Steven Skiena on Preparing for the Data Structures and Algorithm Job Interview" of the Software Engineering Radio podcast. (10 Nov 2020)