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 409

  • Research Areas: Programming languages, compilers, computer security.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Can prox cards be scanned from a distance? What are the implications?
    2. Trojan horses in cryptographic protocols.
    3. Automated theorem proving.
    4. Computer game-playing programs.

Prof. Sanjeev Arora, Room 307

  • Research Areas: Uses of randomness in complexity theory and algorithms; Efficient algorithms for finding approximate solutions to NP-hard problems (or proving that they don't exist); Cryptography.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Implement one of recently discovered algorithms for "recycling" random bits, and study how well it does in practice.
    2. 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).
    3. Experimental Algorithms: Implementing and Evaluating Algorithms using existing software packages.
    4. Design and implementation of graph partitioning algorithms (possibly leading to a publication).
    5. Modeling the human brain using random graphs.

Prof. David August, Room 209 ON SABBATICAL 2008-2009 Academic Year

  • Research Areas: Computer Architecture and Compilers.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. New parallel programming models: language and architectural support.
    2. Novel architectural techniques enabled by compiler support (joint compiler-time/run-time optimization, reconfigurable computing, etc.).
    3. Compiler optimization at the data-structure and algorithm level.
    4. Exploit vulnerabilities in subscription digital satellite receivers (TV or Radio), Princeton's digital parking meters (we have one in our possession, already disassembled - it is best not to ask how), and other devices.
    5. Any interesting topic in computer architecture or compiler theory.

Prof. Boaz Barak, Room 405

  • Research Areas: Cryptography, Complexity Theory, Randomness and Computation.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Build a tool to partially automate proving security of cryptographic protocols.
    2. Write a clean exposition of the proof that pseudorandom generators can be constructed from any one way function.
    3. Write a clean exposition of the parallel repetition lemma.
    4. Any other interesting project, especially one involving cryptography or theory.

Prof. David Blei, Room 204

  • Research Areas: machine learning, graphical models, computational statistics, information retrieval, natural language processing.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Explore the potential of using machine learning techniques with the Wikipedia corpus (http://www.wikipedia.com/). Develop algorithms that use both the content of and connections between articles.
    2. Develop algorithms which use both linguistic information (like part of speech tags) and statistical information (like word counts) to determine document similarity.*#
    3. Build a browser for large and unstructured collections of multimedia documents. Develop machine learning tools for automatically organizing and interfacing with such collections.
    4. Any interesting machine learning or computational statistics project. Example research areas are spectral clustering, approximate posterior inference, social network analysis, or time series analysis.

Prof. Moses Charikar, Room 305 ON SABBATICAL 2008-2009 Academic Year

  • 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

  • Research Areas: Computational Geometry, Sublinear Algorithms, Clustering, Discrepancy Theory, Lower Bounds.
  • Independent Research Topics
    1. Experimentation with self-improving algorithms.
    2. Sublinear algorithms.
    3. Personalized web searching.
    4. Clustering algorithms.
    5. Experiment with stunningly fast approximate heaps.

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.

Prof. Perry Cook, Room 408

  • Research Areas: Computer Music; Simulation of Musical Acoustics and Voice; Real-Time Expressive Computer Control, Human-Computer Interfacing.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Expressive Human Voice Synthesis. Look into famous historical (going back very far) voice synthesis projects and techniques. Program up simulations of a couple of them for a web page I'm building. Pick a modern system, and look into new techniques, such as transplanted prosody, to make it sound more "human."
    2. Physically Oriented Library of Interactive Sound Effects. Work on aspects of parametric synthesis of sound effects, like walking, clapping, breaking and bouncing, rubbing, crunching, etc. We're branching out into background sound textures this year, so there's lots of new work to be done.
    3. Work on parts of a new language for real-time audio and media, called ChucK. Add new graphical and controller components to the system.
    4. Machine learning on raw audio/music. Work to develop new techniques and applications for machine "understanding" of audio.

Prof. David Dobkin, Room 411

  • Research Areas: Visualization, pervasive computing, software engineering.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Building applications using Wireless and Handheld devices.
    2. Building tools for managing online photo albums.
    3. Face recognition.
    4. Other Interesting topics.

Dr. Robert Dondero, Room 206

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

Prof. Edward Felten, Room 419

  • Research Areas: Computer security; network software; technology law and policy.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Computer security and privacy.
    2. Digital media distribution.
    3. Copy protection and peer to peer technologies.
    4. Technology and public policy.
    5. Any other interesting or offbeat topic.

Prof. Adam Finkelstein, Room 424

  • Research Areas: computer graphics, animation.
  • 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. Any interesting project in computer graphics.

Dr. Marc E. Fiuczynski, Room 314

  • Research Areas: operating systems, distributed systems, computer networks, programming languages, computer architecture.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Better compiler tools for system software evolution (see c4.cs.princeton.edu).
    2. Operating systems and cluster management projects related to PlanetLab.
    3. Oh... just come see me and we can figure something out that should be fun.

Prof. Michael Freedman, Room 208

  • Research Areas: Distributed systems, security, networking, applied cryptography
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Design/build a performance- and fault-monitoring tool or architecture for distributed systems such as CoralCDN, including distributed logging built around streaming databases, algorithms for the approximation of network-wide properties, distributed real-time transaction tracing, etc.
    2. Help build a new system for currency-based management of peer-to-peer resources, including either client-side software or back-end scalable tuple stores.
    3. Realize cryptographic private information retrieval from databases, especially via useable web services.
    4. Any interesting topic related to distributed or peer-to-peer systems, security, or networking.

Prof. Thomas Funkhouser, Room 422

  • Research Areas: Structural bioinformatics and computer graphics.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Investigate methods for predicting the function of a protein from its 3D structure.
    2. Develop algorithms for aligning and matching 3D shapes.
    3. Build components of a shape-based search engine for 3D models.
    4. Any other projects related to structural bioinformatics or computer graphics.

Dr. Scott Karlin, Room 101A

  • Research Areas: Networked Systems, Operating Systems, Hardware/Software Interfaces
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Hardware/Software gadgets for home automation. For example, media servers or convergence devices that combine Internet, TV, phone, security, and automation.
    2. Programming language support/extension for device driver programmers. For example, most device drivers are written in C; explore/implement ways the language be augmented to support multiple aliases (physical address, kernel virtual address, user virtual address, bus address) for the same memory cell.
    3. Design and implement analysis tools for maintaining large-scale distributed systems such as PlanetLab.

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

Prof. Andrea LaPaugh, Room 304

  • Research Areas: Search and retrieval of information; data mining, particularly clustering; combinatorial algorithms
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Study the current use of graph structure in the exploration of the Web or other social networks, and investigate the potential for new techniques.
    2. Experimentally evaluate the use of preprocessing with spectral clustering algorithms.
    3. Experimentally evaluate how well metrics used to compare two clusterings of a data set actually capture intuitive notions of similarity between clusterings.
    4. Other topics with an information discovery or management aspect, including novel applications using databases or information retrieval.

Prof. Fei-fei Li, Room 211

  • Research Areas: Computer vision, human vision, machine learning. Prof. Li is particularly interested in recognition topics related to the semantic understanding of the visual world, such as object categorization, human action understanding, event recognition, etc.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Computer vision project emphasizing on an interesting application in visual recognition.
    2. Computer vision project emphasizing on an interesting machine learning problem, such as inference techniques or efficient algorithms.
    3. Human psychophysics project that utilizes smart algorithms or ideas from computer vision or machine learning;
    4. Can you think of a particularly interesting application in computer vision? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Prof. Kai Li, Room 321 ON SABBATICAL FALL 2008

  • 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.

Prof. Vivek Pai, Room 322

  • Research Areas: Network/Web servers, operating systems, high-performance applications.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Improve some aspect of CoDeeN, such as implementing ad filtering, analyzing and improving page download times, or develop a distributed log querying system.
    2. Distributed DNS resolution: we have a rough resolver that runs on many nodes, but is not intelligent. Fix it so that it can achieve the same (or better) performance while consuming fewer resources.
    3. Improve our system call performance visualization tool running on DeBox. It works, but is not particularly fast. We'd like to perform on-line performance monitoring and visualization while slowing down applications by only a few percent at most.

Prof. Larry Peterson, Room 219

  • Research Areas: Networked systems, communication protocols, operating systems.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Topics related to planetary-scale network services, overlay networks, and the system infrastucture needed to support them.

Prof. Jennifer Rexford, Room 306

  • Research Areas: Data networks, network measurement, network management, routing protocols, network troubleshooting.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Peer-to-peer system for troubleshooting the Princeton campus network.
    2. Fundamental limits on how well we can measure the Internet topology, or identify the root cause of network problems.
    3. Extensions to today's protocols to make network troubleshooting and engineering easier.
    4. Policy language for operators to configure their networks.
    5. Applying data-mining techniques to network measurement data to detect anomalies.
    6. Analyzing the interaction between overlays and the underlying network routing.
    7. Techniques for scalable Internet routing, including relationships to theoretical work on compact routing.
    8. Secure routing protocols, and verification that packets go the way the routing protocol says they will.

Prof. Szymon Rusinkiewicz, Room 412 ON SABBATICAL 2008-2009 Academic Year

  • Research Areas: computer graphics; acquisition of 3D shape, reflectance, and appearance of real-world objects.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Work on computer vision systems for an autonomous vehicle to be entered in the DARPA Urban Challenge.
    2. Implement a system for generating high-quality panoramic images from low-resolution, low-quality sources (e.g., cell-phone cameras).
    3. Develop enhanced visualization techniques for collections of images of an object or scene under varying lighting.
    4. Implement an efficient ray tracer for huge meshes (hundreds of millions of polygons) based on a compressed hierarchical data structure.
    5. Other projects in computer graphics and vision.

Prof. Robert Schapire, Room 407

  • 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

  • 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. 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 SABBATICAL Spring 2009

  • 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. Kenneth Steiglitz, Room 421

  • Research Areas: auctions, agent-based simulation, soliton computing. Some relevant abstracts and papers can be found at the research link on my home page.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Model systems in which agents model the beliefs of other agents.
    2. Study auctions with mixed-equilibrium bidding strategies.
    3. Can solitons be used for quantum information processing?

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 412

  • Research Areas: Programming languages, type systems, compilers, data processing and security.
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. PADS: a domain-specific research language for specifying data formats and automatically generating tools that and do cool things with the specified format (See here for more info):
      1. How can we improve the PADS toolkit?
      2. Can we automatically generate specialized compression, obfuscation, or encryption tools?
      3. Can we generate tools specialized for particular domains such as computational biologiy? Financial analysis? Physicis? Computer networking?
      4. PADS is currently implemented on top of C and O'Caml. Can we provide PADS for other languages such as Python or Haskell?
      5. Given example data (like the output of "ls -l"), can we automatically learn the format of the data using clever algorithms or machine learning?
      6. Can we design hardware and/or software mechanisms that will tolerate bit flips and other faults caused by cosmic rays?
      7. Can we develop a type system or other software analysis that can determine whether software is fault tolerant?
    2. Any other interesting project that involves type systems, compilers, data processing, fault tolerance, language-based security, aspect-oriented programming, 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. Implement and investigate the empirical behavior of a recent graph algorithm or data structure.
    2. Design and implement computer visualizations of graph algorithms or data structures.
    3. Develop pedagogical tools for the computer science curriculum at Princeton and beyond.
    4. Any interesting ideas involving games of skill and chance.

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. Hillary Coller, Room 140 Lewis Thomas Lab

  • Research Areas: computational approaches to analysis of large-scale genomics data sets
  • Independent Research Topics:
    1. Data integration projects with large scale data sets: gene expression and microRNA expression.
    2. Clustering algorithms and data visualization algorithms to represent patterns of genetic change.
    3. Pattern matching algorithms to define genetic regions that are overrepresented compared with chance.
    4. Pattern matching and data integration algorithms to integrate data generated by the laboratory with publicly available data sets from tumors or microbial species.
    5. Other topics of mutual interest.