Fundamentals of Computer Science 1 (CS151 2003S)

Responses to Questions and Comments from Introductory Survey

I do my best to update this document after receiving your notes. I don't always succeed.


Where are you from?

I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. At age one, we went to the Netherlands and lived there two years. I remember almost nothing from that time. I lived in Newton until I went to college in Chicago (at the University of Chicago). I spent about eleven years in Chicago.

What are your hobbies and interests?

For much of my life, I collected music (vinyl, CDs, etc.). These days, I seem to have less time for music.

I suppose that's because of my primary interests: my kids, William, Jonathan, and Daniel.

I also like playing cards and strategy games.

What character from anything (literature, film, mythology, reality shows, etc.) do you identify with most?

Hmmm ... possibly Winnie the Pooh. Rotound. Generally happy. Often perplexed.


Why are you teaching computer science at Grinnell?

For about as long as I can remember (i.e., since high school or so), I've been planning to teach at the college level. I like computer science, primariiy because I like the formalized problem solving and that my work has clear applications. I like Grinnell because I like the small classes, the emphasis on learning for the sake of learning, and because of its resources.

Would you rather be doing something else?

Not that I can think of. I'd like a little more time with my kids, but that's about it.

What keeps you interested and impassioned to pursue a career involving staring at computers?

Um ... the main emphasis of my career is helping students learn. I find it rewarding when I see my students learn. I also find still find it rewarding when I convince the computer to do something new.

Have you ever considered a computer science profession outside of teaching?

Not really. I consult from time-to-time and write software that other people use, but I really love teaching.

The Course

In this course will we get to a level in which the programs we write will actually be useful? If not, at what level is this done?

Yes, you will certainly be able to write useful programs after this course. By the time you finish the class, you'll be able to write programs that analyze data (numeric and textual), generate Web pages dynamically, and even generate images. You will even write some useful programs in the course. If there are particular programs you'd like to think about writing, please let me know.

Are the Homework Assignments Graded on Seriousness

You are likely to gain a modicum of extra credit if you make me laugh.


How do you think I can apply what I will learn in this class to teaching mathematics and my other education interests?

Well, we certainly talk a lot about educational techniques in the course. I expect that as you teach students, you will need to help them think carefully about the algorithms they develop and use. Since we focus on care in algorithm design, I expect the care we emphasize in this class will carry over into your own teaching.

Why would you think no one would read your answers to the survey?

Whoops. Didn't realize that I had a self-deprecating comment about it. My experience is that students ask a lot of questions that are on there, which suggests that few read it.

I'm worried that CS profs aren't paid enough. What should I do?

Don't worry. We're quite well compensated. Stop sucking up.

Is it possible for a first-year student to do research in computer science during the summer? Because from what I have seen so far it seems like an interesting field and I think I would like to do something in computer science outside of class, and since I will be here during the summer, I figured that if I can get the opportunity, I should seize it.

That depends. Because there are so few women in computer science, I try to reserve a few slots (usually three) on my research team for first-year women.

If there were few applications from upper-level students, there would also be room for first-year men. However, right now, the ratio of applicants to likely positions is at least three to one.

If vegetarians eat vegatables, what do humanitarians eat?

Um ... If con is the opposite of pro, what is congress?

Could you tell me what the greatest achievement in CS has been in the last ten years?

Since it's phrased like that, I'd say No, I can't tell you. If you phrase it as What, in your opinion, has been the greatest achievement in CS in the last ten year? I'd probably say the growth of computing as a mechanism for communication. Is that really CS? Probably not, but who cares? Other cool things: Software to analyze the genetic code; large scale information retrieval algorithms (like the one Google uses); Biological computing.

Some Previous Versions

You may also want to look at my responses to the current survey and my responses to questions from past semesters:

CSC152 99F, CSC152 2000S, CSC151 2000F, and CSC152 2000F.



Wednesday, 10 January 2000 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Tuesday, 7 January 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Monday, 3 February 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky,