Emerging Scholars Program

The Computer Science Department is pleased to offer the Emerging Scholars Program (COMS 1404), which gives students a unique opportunity to learn about the field of computer science and enrich their experience in introductory-level CS courses. Apply now!

The Emerging Scholars Program...

  • is a once a week, 75 minute discussion section.
  • is all about group problem-solving - in other words, discussing and analyzing problems together.
  • will expose you to a wide variety of fields in Computer Science.
  • is NOT a lecture. Most of the time is spent working together on the board, or discussing problems with your peers.
  • has NO homework, and NO programming.
  • has no prerequisites, except an interest in CS. :)
  • does not directly relate to your CS course. It is not "extra help" or "office hours". It is a separate program that may be taken in parallel with your CS class this semester.
  • wants YOU! Apply below.

ESP is a semester-long program with weekly hour-long workshops that meet on Friday afternoons. In each workshop, a peer leader presents a set of problems from a specific CS field, and the students work as a group to come up with algorithmic solutions and/or analyses of the problems. There is no programming and no homework assignments, just the self-contained workshops that demonstrate that CS is a collaborative activity that is focused more on problem solving than on programming. Since there is no work outside of class, attendance at all sessions is mandatory, and participation is required from every participant.

The goal of the program is to encourage more students to pursue Computer Science beyond the introductory level and into the major, by creating a program that encourages active participation and discussion of CS-related topics in a more positive, relaxed and open environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will I get out of ESP?
What topics will we cover?
What are the requirements?
Will I receive academic credit for participating?
Who supports ESP?
Is there anything else I should know about ESP?
How do I apply?
I want to peer lead/assist with ESP? How do I apply?
How do I get more information?

What will I get out of ESP?

You will get a unique opportunity to develop lasting friendships with highly motivated students in the field. Also, preliminary studies indicate you are likely to do better in the class as well as enjoy it more, as you will gain a better understanding of some of the core principles, like algorithmic thinking and problem solving. Finally, you should have lots of fun with your peers (snacks will be provided)!

Here are what previous participants have said about ESP:

"The Emerging Scholars Program was a great asset to the introductory level Computer Science class. It helped me to think outside of just programming and more into developing problem-solving skills. I loved being in a small group because it forced us all to participate and I also loved having a workshop leader that was close in age and encouraged creative thinking."

"ESP helped to ignite my interest in Computer Science. Through the varied workshops, I was exposed to interesting people and ideas, realizing the breadth of an entirely fascinating subject in which I had no previous experience. I really looked forward to the workshops because they were very fun. It was extremely rewarding to participate in something in which I not only found academic value but also social and recreational value."

"I love being part of ESP because it challenges me to think with a different perspective and then apply it to computer science. What I've learned in the workshops has helped me grasp and understand many topics in my classes."

What topics will we cover?

The problems presented in ESP are taken from across the spectrum of Computer Science fields, such as Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics, Encryption and more. The problems are not "extra help" for your CS course; rather, they demonstrate problems that you will see in advanced computer science classes. Although the workshops are led by an undergraduate peer leader, the classroom materials are prepared by PhD students in conjunction with Professor Adam Cannon. We try to select problems that are interesting and challenging, as well as amenable to group collaboration.

For example, one workshop last semester was about analyzing social networks. How can we represent social relationships as a graph (network)? Once we have a friendship graph, how could we use it to suggest "People you might know" to users? How do we design algorithms that can work on a graph that keeps getting larger and larger? (For example, Facebook has more than 800 million active users, and keeps growing.)

What are the requirements?

The only requirements are attendance and participation. There will be nine workshops (each one is an hour and fifteen minutes long) on Friday afternoons over the course of the semester, and we expect you to participate in group problem solving. There is no homework and no programming.

The weekly workshops are led by an undergraduate student "peer leader". This specially selected and trained student will lead sessions designed to solidify your knowledge of computer science but, more importantly, to demonstrate that computer science is a collaborative activity that involves much more than just programming. In addition, there will be periodic social gatherings in future semesters to meet friends from your program as well as other young students involved in ESP and CS (these are, of course, voluntary, but we suspect you had such a good time at the start that you will come!).

Apply for ESP

ESP is currently in its fourteenth semester during Fall 2014 and we are currently accepting applications! The deadline is 10pm, Tuesday, September 9th, 2014. Applicants should:

  • be a freshman or sophomore in Barnard, CC, SEAS or GS
  • be enrolled in COMS 1004, COMS 1007, or ENGI 1006 in Fall 2014
  • be available for one of the weekly section times. Please mark your preferences when you fill out the application.
The section times are 10:45am-12:00pm, 2:00-3:15pm and 3:15pm-4:30pm on Fridays.

If that sounds like you, and you're interested in applying, please fill out the application HERE.

How does the application process work?

We will only be selecting 20-30 participants, depending on the number of applications we receive. There are no prerequisites! We do not assume that you have any prior knowledge of Computer Science. We are looking for students who are interested in learning more about the field of computer science, but are not quite sure about their major or whether they will take another CS course. Most importantly, we are looking for interesting, outgoing young men and women who will help make this program a success.

Will I receive academic credit for participating?

Yes, you will register for COMS 1404, a one-point class that will be pass/fail.

Who is supporting this effort?

This program is sponsored by the CS Department, along with a grant from the National Center of Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Microsoft Research. ESP is coordinated by Professor Adam Cannon and two PhD students, Laura Willson and Anna Prokofieva.

Is there anything else I should know about the program?

This program is not "remedial computer science" and it is not extra tutoring or office hours. Rather, you will work with other participants and the peer leader to come up with solutions to interesting problems related to computer science, and discuss those solutions' pros and cons. Also, there will be no homework and no required preparation for the meetings; all you need to do is show up, participate, and have fun!

I want to peer lead/assist with ESP? How do I apply?

If you're an ESP alum or just are interested in participating contact Laura Willson or Anna Prokofieva to ask about the peer leader or workshop assistant positions.

How do I get more information?

Contact the ESP coordinators with any questions or for more information.