CS 591 PhD Seminar, Fall 2020


Registration for this seminar is required for all Ph.D. students newly admitted into the Computer Science Department. M.S. students who are considering to apply to our Ph.D. program may also register for the seminar. Ph.D. students must earn a Satisfactory ("S") grade for the seminar or will need to re-take the seminar the following year. Receiving a Satisfactory grade is required before students are allowed to schedule the qualifying exam. All assignments must be satisfactorily completed to receive an "S" grade.

Learning Goals

The goals of the seminar include teaching incoming PhD students about:


All required readings will be available online. The following textbook has been recommended by CS faculty: Surviving your Dissertation by K. Rudestam and R. Newton, Fourth Edition, Sage Publications, 2015. The book was placed on reserve at the Grainger Engineering Library.

Course Credit

1 credit

Time and location

Mondays, 11:00 - 11:50am


Robin Kravets (rhk@illinois.edu)
Viveka Kudaligama (kudaliga@illinois.edu)


Class announcements and discussions will be held via slack. You will be invited to the class slack space. Once you join, please make sure your name is set up correctly. Feel free to use nicknames if that is how you want to be addressed.


Attendance is required and recorded electronically. Arriving more than 5 minutes late to the seminar will be counted as an unexcused absence. Students who receive two or more unexcused absences will receive an Unsatisfactory ("U") grade and will need to re-take the seminar. Excused absences include University-related travel (e.g. to attend an academic conference) and personal illness. Job interviews do not qualify as an excused absence so please schedule them around class time. To seek an excused absence, please email rhk@illinois.edu (and copy kudaliga@illinois.edu) before the start of class or as soon as possible.


You must participate in class discussion. We want discussions to be casual and enjoyable so that each of you feel comfortable offering comments and speaking candidly. We will do our best to moderate the discussion and keep it moving forward. We expect you to be attentive during lecture.


You are not allowed to use extra computing devices during class for any purpose. Please focus on our seminar. If there is any doubt, please read: Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers

A first violation of this policy will result in a warning. A second violation of this policy will result in an Unsatisfactory ('U") grade for the seminar.

Disability Accommodations

To obtain disability-related academic adjustments or auxillary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-1970, or send an e-mail message to disability@illinois.edu. They are glad to assist and so are we.

Online Resources

CS Graduate Program: policies and procedures of the CS graduate program

My.cs.illinois.edu portal: course rosters, assistantships, progress evaluations

Graduate College: fellowships, assistantships, professional development, diversity

Graduate Handbook: rights and responsibilities as a graduate student








Aug 24

Introduction: Earning a PhD

Robin Kravets (DGS)

Complete Slack poll before class

Aug 31

Campus resources for research and well-being

Robin Kravets (DGS)

Complete Slack introduction before class

Sept 7

LABOR DAY - No Class Meeting

No Class Meeting

Social (TBD)

Sept 14

PhD requirements, milestones, and strategies (includes Program of Program of Study forms and strategies for engaging with your faculty committee)

Robin Kravets (DGS) / Viveka Kudaligama

Before class: Read pages 14-25 from the CS Graduate Student Handbook

Read Graduate Student Policies (all of Part II) in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Sept 21 Preparing to talk to Faculty Robin Kravets (DGS) Attend the Faculty/Student Meetup after class

Sep 28

Learning to speak your ideas 

Robin Kravets (DGS)


Oct 5

Area Talks:

Artificial Intelligence

Lana Lazebnik


Oct 12

Area Talks:

Architecture, Compilers, and Parallel Computing

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Josep Torellas
Tandy Warnow


Oct 19

Area Talks:

Computers and Education

Data and Information Systems

Geoffrey Herman
Jimeng Sun


Oct 26

Responsible conduct in research
Responsible conduct when working with people and their data

Robin Kravets (DGS)  

Nov 2

Area Talks:

Interactive Computing

Programming Languages, Formal Methods, and Software Engineering

Alex Kirlik
Darko Marinov


Nov 9

Area Talks:
Scientific Computing
Security and Privacy

Luke Olsen
Ling Ren and Gang Wang


Nov 16

Area Talks:

Systems and Networking
Theory and Algorithms

S&N Faculty Panel
Chandra Chekuri

Program of Study Area due (by end of day)

Nov 23

Fall Break - NO CLASS



Nov 30

Getting from an idea to a dissertation

Robin Kravets (DGS)

Read Chapter 2: Surviving Your Dissertation by Rudestam and Newton  

Dec 7

Career paths and wrap-up

Robin Kravets (DGS)

Complete a one question survey about career paths by December 8 @ 11:59 PM.