UgradResearchTopics

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Suggested Undergraduate Research Topics

Links to many research areas in the department may be found here while links to projects may be found here.

Prof. Andrew Appel, Room 219

  • Research Areas: Formal methods, programming languages, compilers, computer security.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Automated theorem proving (suggestion: take COS 441 first).
    2. Trustworthiness of voting machines and/or internet voting.
    3. Computer game-playing programs.

Prof. Sanjeev Arora, Room 307

  • Computational complexity; Probabilistically Checkable Proofs (PCPs); Efficient algorithms for finding approximate solutions to NP-hard problems (or proving that they don't exist); provable bounds for machine learning.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Show that finding approximate solutions to NP-complete problems is also NP-complete (i.e., come up with NP-completeness reductions a la COS 487).
    2. Experimental Algorithms: Implementing and Evaluating Algorithms using existing software packages.
    3. Studying/designing provable algorithms for machine learning and implementions using packages like scipy and MATLAB.
    4. Any topic in theoretical computer science.

===Prof. David August, Room 209

  • Research Areas: Computer Architecture and Compilers.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Any interesting topic in computer architecture or compilers.

Prof. Mark Braverman, Room 411

  • Research Areas: computational complexity, algorithms, applied probability, computability over the real numbers, game theory and mechanism design, information theory, applications of machine learning in healthcare and medicine.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Topics in computational and communication complexity.
    2. Applications of information theory in complexity theory.
    3. Algorithms for problems under real-life assumptions.
    4. Game theory, network effects, and mechanism design.
    5. Computation involving dynamical systems, fractals, and cellular automata.
    6. Game theory applied to problems in healthcare.


Prof. Moses Charikar, Room 305 ---- On Leave Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: Design and analysis of algorithms, particularly approximation algorithms, on-line algorithms and efficient algorithms for dealing with large volumes of data.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Reconstructing evolutionary trees from biological data.
    2. Algorithms for clustering data - theory as well as impementation.
    3. Investigating the gap of mathematical programming relaxations for optimization problems. (This requires a strong math background).
    4. Any other topic in advanced algorithms or discrete mathematics.

Prof. Bernard Chazelle, Room 404 ---- On Leave Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: Natural Algorithms, Computational Geometry, Sublinear Algorithms.
  • Independent Research Topics
    1. Natural algorithms (flocking, swarming, social networks, etc).
    2. Sublinear algorithms
    3. Self-improving algorithms
    4. Markov data structures

Prof. Douglas Clark, Room 309

  • Research Areas: Computer architecture and organization; architecturally-focused performance analysis.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Diagnose, repair, and possibly redesign the user interface of my father's 30-year-old Turing Machine. Requires digital logic design skills, plus some mechanical engineering, or perhaps a partner.
    2. Cycles Per Instruction (CPI) is a great performance measure but is hard to estimate without a highly detailed simulation of the hardware. Simple analytic models of CPI can be very wrong for certain programs and certain processors. Using good simulators and/or a real machine, show how bad such models can be.
    3. Other topics, depending on student interest.

Dr. Robert Dondero, Room 206

  • Research Areas: Software engineering; software engineering education.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Develop or evaluate tools to facilitate student learning in undergraduate computer science courses at Princeton, and beyond.
    2. In particular, can code critiquing tools help students learn about software quality?

Prof. Zeev Dvir, Room 405

  • Research Areas: Research Areas: computational complexity, pseudo-randomness, coding theory and discrete mathematics.
  • Independent Research: I have various research problems related to Pseudorandomness, Coding theory, Complexity and Discrete mathematics - all of which require strong mathematical background

Dr. Christiane Fellbaum, Room 412

  • Research Areas: theoretical and computational linguistics, word sense disambiguation, lexical resource construction, English and multilingual WordNet(s), ontology
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Anything having to do with natural language--come and see me with/for ideas suitable to your background and interests.
    2. In the past, students have worked on extensions and interfaces for WordNet (English and WN in other languages),
    3. applications of WordNet(s), including:
      1. Foreign language tutoring systems,
      2. Spelling correction software,
      3. Word-finding/suggestion software for ordinary users and people with memory problems,
    4. Machine Translation (on the word level)
    5. Sentiment and Opinion detection

Prof. Edward Felten, 302 Sherrerd Hall

  • Research Areas: Computer security and privacy; Internet software; technology law and policy.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Technology for open government.
    2. Computer security and privacy.
    3. Digital media distribution.
    4. Copy protection and peer to peer technologies.
    5. Electronic voting.
    6. Technology, society and public policy.
    7. Any other interesting or offbeat topic.

Prof. Adam Finkelstein, Room 424

  • Research Areas: computer graphics, animation.
  • Ideas for independent Research Topics:
    1. Computer-generated drawings from 3D models.
    2. Tools for making visual art using computer graphics.
    3. New methods for computer animation.
    4. Techniques for medical visualization.
    5. Experiments where the data is collected via the internet.
    6. Any interesting project in computer graphics.

Prof. Michael Freedman, Room 308 ---- On Leave Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: Distributed systems, security, networking
  • Independent Research Topics:

Projects related to streaming data analysis, datacenter systems and networks, untrusted cloud storage and applications. Please see my group website at http://sns.cs.princeton.edu/ for current research projects.

Prof. Thomas Funkhouser, Room 422

  • Research Areas: Computer Graphics, Computer Vision.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Develop methods for 3D scanning of interior environments.
    2. Investigate methods for recognizing objects in 3D scans.
    3. Develop components of a system to reconstruct 3D models of cities from scannned data.
    4. Help build systems for creating new 3D models using a large repository of existing models.
    5. Any other projects related to computer graphics or shape analysis.


Dr. Ananda Gunawardena ("Guna"), Room 208

  • Research Areas: Educational Technology, Pen-based computing
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Research and develop analytics and pedagogical models for classroom salon (http://classroomsalon.org), a social annotation platform used for collaborative learning.
    2. Research and develop usable and scalable pen-based applications with particular emphasis on sketch recognition with domain specific information.

Prof. Brian Kernighan, Room 311

  • Research Areas: application-specific languages, document preparation, user interfaces, software tools, programming methodology
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Application-oriented languages, scripting languages.
    2. Tools; user interfaces; web services.
    3. AMPL and optimization.
    4. Joint work with other departments.
    5. For a list of less than half-baked ideas Look Here

Dr. Shiva Kintali, Room 312

  • Research Areas: Computational Complexity, Graph Theory and Combinatorial Optimization.
  • Prerequisites: Reasonable mathematical maturity, knowledge of algorithm design and analysis.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Topics related to Graceful Tree Conjecture, graph reconstruction conjecture, graph coloring and Pfaffians.
    2. Topics related to Graph Isomorphism, Isomorphism of bounded treewidth graphs, approximating treewidth of special classes of graphs.
    3. Topics related to expander graphs, space-efficient computation and the L vs NL problem.
    4. Topics related to directed versions of treewidth (Eg: directed treewidth, D-width, DAG-width, Kelly-Width).
    5. Topics related to metric embedding and flow-cut gaps.
    6. Topics related to Speech synthesis, Semi-supervised learning, Collaborative filtering and Recommendation algorithms.

Prof. Andrea LaPaugh, Room 304

  • Research Areas: Search and retrieval of information; data mining, particularly clustering; combinatorial algorithms
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Investigating new characterizations of the graph structure of the Web or other social networks.
    2. Experimental evaluations of clustering algorithms.
    3. Data analysis within social networks.
    4. Other topics with an information discovery or management aspect, including novel applications using databases or information retrieval.

Prof. Kai Li, Room 321

  • Research Areas: Parallel architectures and systems; distributed systems; operating systems.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Design, implement and evaluate practical methods for image and audio similarity searches.
    2. Seamless shared visualization on large-scale displays.
    3. Simulation studies of asymmetric heterogeneous chip multiprocessor architecture.


Dr. Xiaoyan Li, Room 410

  • Research areas: Information retrieval, novelty detection, question answering and text mining
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Explore new statistical retrieval models.
    2. Passage retrieval models and relevance feedback models.
    3. Evaluating existing document clustering techniques.
    4. Explore fast and efficient document clustering approach.
    5. Any interesting project related to information retrieval and text mining.

Prof. Margaret Martonosi, Room 204

  • Research Areas: Computer architectures and the hardware/software interface, mobile networks, and technology for developing regions.

Possible research topics include:

  • Green Data Centers
  • Mobile Computing
  • Cell phone applications and programming models
  • Energy-efficient computer architecture
  • Experiment with software development and research on the OpenXC platform (http://openxcplatform.com/). This platform provides an API to an automobile's data and can be used by Android apps to access vehicle data. Emulators are available so you don't need Open XC hardware (or a car!) to get started, but some cool research and software seems possible through this.

Or email (mrm@princeton.edu) and pitch an idea roughly in this space!


Dr. Christopher Moretti, Room 206

  • Research areas: Distributed systems, high-throughput computing, computer science/engineering education
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Expansion, improvement, and evaluation of open-source distributed computing software.
    2. Applications of distributed computing for "big science" (e.g. biometrics, data mining, bioinformatics)
    3. Software and best practices for computer science education and study, especially Princeton's 126/217/226 sequence or MOOCs development
    4. Sports analytics and/or crowd-sourced computing

Dr. Arvind Narayanan 308 Sherrerd Hall

Research areas: broadly, privacy and security. Especially online tracking and Bitcoin.

Some topics and questions I'm interested in:

1. What can be inferred about people based on publicly available online data?

If someone really wanted to find out personal things about you online, how far could they get? Let's investigate this by writing a bot which, given an identity (say, an email address), collects and aggregates information from various sites about that person. Ideally, it should be able to automatically figure out which information is current and which is out of date, reconcile conflicts, make new inferences based on multiple pieces of data, and hook into the "deep web" — pages that are not directly visible on web searches.

2. Reverse engineering the Web to expose poor security and privacy

Web companies track us online and compile extensive databases of our personal information. The personal behavioral profiles created through tracking are used for targeted advertising, price discrimination, targeted political emails, and various other practices that make people uncomfortable. I have an ongoing long-term project to automatically reverse engineer web trackers to determine what information companies have collected about you and what they are using it for. There are many interesting sub-projects to work on.

3. Various Bitcoin-related projects

Can we make a more secure Bitcoin wallet? Just how anonymous are Bitcoin users? Can we create an "early-warning system" that connects to a large number of P2P Bitcoin nodes and looks for signs of possible attacks on the security or stability of the system?

4. A streamlined privacy-alert system

Dozens of articles come out every month informing privacy-conscious users that they need to change some setting, install a tool, or otherwise take some action to protect their privacy. In particular, companies often release new features with permissive defaults and an opt-out setting. It seems that online privacy requires eternal vigilance.

Can we build a streamlined privacy-alert system that largely automates online privacy vigilance?

5. Classify and rank research blogs, set up aggregators

I run the Theory of Computing blog aggregator which is read by a significant fraction of the theory research community. It's a very efficient way to stay on top of the research conversation. I'd like to set one up on every research subtopic (and there are hundreds), but it is time-consuming.

But this can be automated! Here's how: 1. collect URLs of research blogs by programmatically exploring the web 2. use machine learning to group them into topics, and rank them by authority within topics 3. set up aggregators on each topic. This is a challenging project involving machine learning, large datasets and web programming, but potentially highly impactful.

Prof. Vivek Pai, Room 322 ---- On Leave Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: Network/Web servers, operating systems, high-performance applications.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Tiny devices, such as the Raspberry Pi, are getting more capable and rivaling servers of yesteryear. Can they be used to build low-cost infrastructure?
    2. Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) are commonly used to deliver Web content, but no standard monitoring system exists to easily gauge their relative performance. Can you build one that reasonably compares different CDNs?
    3. What kind of memory patterns do scientific applications exhibit? Are they a good match for systems like SSDAlloc?

Dr. Iasonas Petras, Room 215

  • Research Areas: Information Based Complexity, Numerical Analysis, Quantum Computation.
  • Prerequisites: Reasonable mathematical maturity. In case of a project related to Quantum Computation a certain familiarity with quantum mechanics is required (related courses: ELE 396/PHY 208).
  • Possible research topics include:

1. Quantum algorithms and circuits:

  • i. Design or simulation quantum circuits implementing quantum algorithms.
  • ii. Design of quantum algorithms solving continuous problems (such as Eigenvalue problems for Partial Differential Equations).

2. Information Based Complexity:

  • i. Necessary and sufficient conditions for tractability of Linear and Linear Tensor Product Problems in various settings (for example worst case or average case).
  • ii. Necessary and sufficient conditions for tractability of Linear and Linear Tensor Product Problems under new tractability and error criteria.

3. Topics in Scientific Computation

  • i. Randomness, Pseudorandomness, MC and QMC methods and their applications (Finance, etc)

Prof. Jennifer Rexford, Room 306 ---- On Leave Spring 2015

  • Research areas: networking, software-defined networks, network management
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Enterprise and data-center networking solutions built on Software Defined Networking (SDN). For example, middleboxes like firewalls, NATs, intrusion detection systems, and load balancers, routing techniques that equalize latency between gaming or financial-services clients, adaptive measurement of network traffic, networking in challenged environments (e.g., developing regions, emergency situations, etc.).
    2. Research on better programming abstractions for SDN, including using or improving our Python-based Pyretic (http://www.frenetic-lang.org/pyretic/) platform. Projects could combine computer networking with other areas like programming languages, network optimization, algorithms, and distributed systems.
    3. Any interesting project in computer networking.

Prof. Szymon Rusinkiewicz, Room 406 ---- On Leave Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: computer graphics; acquisition of 3D shape, reflectance, and appearance of real-world objects; novel methods for physical fabrication of objects with particular shape/appearance.
  • Independent Research Topics (updated fall, 2011):
    1. Construct an efficient and easy-to-use 3-D scanning system for large collections of fragments of archaeological artifacts.
    2. Investigate algorithms for computing and visualizing differences between ancient coins struck from similar, but slightly different, dies.
    3. Develop a system combining body-mounted cameras and/or Kinect with tactile or auditory feedback to help blind people avoid obstacles.
    4. Use computer-controlled milling machines to fabricate bas-reliefs, using substrates of heterogeneous materials.
    5. Adapt a MakerBot or other hobbyist-grade manufacturing device to use multiple materials.
    6. Implement (and perform the appropriate theoretical sampling/aliasing analysis for) a rendering system that explicitly accounts for the red/green/blue sub-pixels of LCD displays.
    7. Other projects in computer graphics and vision, or technologies for documenting and studying cultural heritage objects.

Prof. Robert Schapire, Room 407 - On Leave Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

  • Research Areas: Machine learning
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Implement and run experiments on assorted machine learning algorithms.
    2. Apply machine learning algorithms to specific tasks.
    3. Any other interesting project related to machine learning.

Prof. Robert Sedgewick, Room 319 - On Leave Spring 2014

  • Research Areas: Scientific analysis of algorithms, Analytic combinatorics
  • Independent Research Topics:

Professor Sedgewick is willing to advise any student who comes up with an idea for independent work from his books, papers, courses, or in his current areas of active research. Send mail or stop by to discuss possible topics if you are interested.


Prof. Sebastian Seung, Room 408 and PNI 153

  • Research Areas: computational neuroscience, connectomics, "deep learning" neural networks, social computing, crowdsourcing, citizen science
  • Independent Research Topics:
  1. Gamification of neuroscience, e.g. EyeWire
  2. Hierarchical segmentation and object detection in biological images
  3. Crowdsourcing of computer science problems
  4. Neural network theories of visual computation in the retina

Prof. Jaswinder Pal Singh, Room 423

  • Research Areas: Parallel computing systems and applications: parallel applications and their implications for software and architectural design; system software and programming environments for multiprocessors. Special interest in applications of computing in computational biology, especially protein structure determination and simulating the immune system.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Work with a team to build new types of "persistent search" or alerting/notifcation services that can be exposed to and used by real users. Could involve indexing and matching methods, end-user interfaces, data sourcing and interpretation, or building new information services.
    2. Implement and study novel methods for topic-specific or vertical information discovery and search, as well as for high-quality persistent search.
    3. Study and develop methods to infer insights from data in different application areas.
    4. Design and implement a parallel application. Possible areas include graphics, compression, biology, among many others. Analyze performance bottlenecks using existing tools, and compare programming models/languages.
    5. Develop and implement algorithms for selected problems in computational biology, especially simulating the immune system or analyzing immunological data.

Prof. Mona Singh, Room 420 - On Leave Spring 2014

  • Research Areas: computational molecular biology, as well as its interface with machine learning and algorithms.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Whole and cross-genome methods for predicting protein function and protein-protein interactions.
    2. Analysis and prediction of biological networks.
    3. Computational methods for inferring specific aspects of protein structure from protein sequence data.
    4. Any other interesting project in computational molecular biology.

Prof. Robert Tarjan, Room 324

  • Research Areas: Data structures; graph algorithms; combinatorial optimization; computational complexity; computational geometry; parallel algorithms.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Implement one or more data structures or combinatorial algorithms to provide insight into their empirical behavior.
    2. Design and/or analyze various data structures and combinatorial algorithms.

Prof. Olga Troyanskaya, Room 320

  • Research Areas: Bioinformatics; analysis of large-scale biological data sets (genomics, gene expression, proteomics, biological networks); algorithms for integration of data from multiple data sources; visualization of biological data; machine learning methods in bioinformatics.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Implement and evaluate one or more gene expression analysis algorithm.
    2. Develop algorithms for assessment of performance of genomic analysis methods.
    3. Develop, implement, and evaluate visualization tools for heterogeneous biological data.

Prof. David Walker, Room 211

  • Research Areas: Programming languages, type systems, compilers, domain-specific languages, software-defined networking and security.

Independent Research Topics: Any other interesting project that involves humanitarian hacking, functional programming, domain-specific programming languages, type systems, compilers, software-defined networking, fault tolerance, language-based security, theorem proving, logic or logical frameworks.

Dr. Kevin Wayne, Room 207

  • Research Areas: design, analysis, and implementation of algorithms; data structures; combinatorial optimization; graphs and networks.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Design and implement computer visualizations of algorithms or data structures.
    2. Develop pedagogical tools or programming assignments for the computer science curriculum at Princeton and beyond.
    3. Develop assessment infrastructure and assessments for MOOCs.

Opportunities outside the department

We encourage students to look in to doing interdisciplinary computer science research and to work with professors in departments other than computer science. However, every CS independent work project must have a strong computer science element (even if it has other scientific or artistic elements as well.) To do a project with an advisor outside of computer science you must have permission of the department. This can be accomplished by having a second co-advisor within the computer science department or by contacting the independent work supervisor about the project and having he or she sign the independent work proposal form.

Here is a list of professors outside the computer science department who are eager to work with computer science undergraduates.

Prof. Mung Chiang, B238, E Quad. chiangm@princeton.edu

  • Professor of Electrical Engineering, Associate Faculty of Computer Science

Director of the EDGE Lab

  • Research Interests:
    1. Networking
    2. Wireless
    3. Network Economics
    4. Social Networks
  • Check out the new Princeton EDGE Lab,:

[http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S30/91/87E56/index.xmlsection=featured

  • Undergrad Research Topics:
  • We have a few openings for undergrad researchers in the Princeton EDGE Lab in 2011-2012
    1. TUBE,: Time dependent pricing for wireless data plans (with user trials in US and international operators).
    2. QAVA: Quota aware video adaptation (with a user trial in Princeton).
    3. Online social network influence maximization
    4. Intelligent processing of product ratings on Amazon
    5. Location based match making
    6. Energy efficient cloud computing (joint work with Google)
    7. Traffic management in cloud computing (joint work with HP)
    8. Satellite capacity overlay network on LTE 4G (joint work with SES)
    9. Cellular/Femto/WiFi network interaction (joint work with Intel, AT&T, and Verizon)
    10. Fairness evaluation tool (joint work with Telcordia)

Prof. Sharad Malik, Engineering Quad, Room B224

  • Research Areas:
    1. Design of reliable hardware systems
    2. Verifying complex software and hardware systems


Prof. Prateek Mittal, Engineering Quadrangle, pmittal@princeton.edu

  • Research Areas:
    1. Internet security and privacy
    2. Social Networks
    3. Privacy technologies, anonymous communication
    4. Network Science
  • Ideas for Independent Research Topics:
    1. Internet security and privacy: The insecurity of Internet protocols and services threatens the safety of our critical network infrastructure and billions of end users. How can we defend end users as well as our critical network infrastructure from attacks?
    2. Trustworthy social systems: Online social networks (OSNs) such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have revolutionized the way our society communicates. How can we leverage social connections between users to design the next generation of communication systems?
    3. Privacy Technologies: Privacy on the Internet is eroding rapidly, with businesses and governments mining sensitive user information. How can we protect the privacy of our online communications? The Tor project (https://www.torproject.org/) is a potential application of interest.

Prof. Ken Norman, Room 3-N-18 Green Hall

Potential research topics

  • Methods for decoding cognitive state information from neuroimaging data (fMRI and EEG)
  • Neural network simulations of learning and memory

Janet Vertesi, Sociology Dept, Wallace Hall 122

  • Research areas: Sociology of Technology; Human-Computer Interaction (qualitative); Informatics and Information Science; Computer-Supported Cooperative Work; Ubiquitous and Urban Computing.
  • About this research: Human-Computer Interaction is an exciting and expanding community of computer scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, and critical theorists who examine computing "in the wild" and are dramatically changing our sense of the possibilities of human technological experience. My research takes place at the intersection of sociology and computer science, and uses qualitative methods to build new software and hardware tools supporting a wider range of technological experiences. To learn more, visit my website: http://janet.vertesi.com
  • Independent Research topics:
  • 1. Seeking a student to help build an Evernote plug-in to support group qualitative research. Must be ready to engage with not only technical specifications but also to think about critical theory, feminist theory, and ethnographic sensibilities.
  • 2. Got an idea for a project on computing in the developing world? or urban infrastructures? Or mixed-reality gaming? Let me know. I'm always looking out for interesting way to use qualitative research methods to better understand how users "in the wild" appropriate technologies into their daily lives, and using those insights to inform the design of new technological systems and possibilities.

Prof. David Wentzlaff, Engineering Quadrangle, Room 228

  • Research Areas: Computer Architecture, Parallel Computing, Cloud

Computing, Operating Systems, Sustainable Computing.

  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Instrument Princeton's Green (HPCRC) data center
    2. Investigate power utilization on an processor core implemented in an FPGA
    3. Dismantle and document all of the components in modern electronics. Invent new ways to build computers that can be recycled easier.
    4. Other topics in parallel computer architecture or operating systems
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