CS 800: Computer Science Colloquium

George Mason University
Department of Computer Science
Spring 2022
Prof. Hakan Aydin


This course introduces PhD students to research topics in computer science. Students are required to attend colloquia --- including talks by distinguished guest speakers, faculty candidates, and Mason faculty --- and submit written reports. This course provides no credit, but all PhD students are required to enroll in this course for two semesters.


Admission to CS PhD program.


Welcome to a new semester of exciting research seminars! Please read these instructions carefully, to avoid unnecessary confusion and to ensure that you will get a passing grade at the end of the semester.
  1. CS 800 is a required course. The Computer Science Department considers attending research seminars an important part of your doctoral studies, and it thus requires every PhD student to attend research seminars, by enrolling in its colloquium course, CS 800, for two semesters. This course is mandatory for PhD students, but carries zero (0) credit hours.

  2. Required number of seminars. The seminars are in a wide range of subjects, and are usually offered in the middle of the day (the starting time is usually between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm). The frequency is not regular: in some weeks there may be 2 or even 3 offerings, whereas in other weeks there may be no seminars at all. But overall, there should be sufficient offerings to meet the minimum requirement. We have set the number of required seminars for Spring 2022 at eight (8).

  3. Eligible seminars. This is a computer science course, and generally only computer science seminars are eligible. Seminars offered by other departments generally are not acceptable unless they appear in the list of approved seminars, and exceptions should be authorized in advance (send the instructor an e-mail). In general, the eligible seminars will be given by accomplished researchers (CS PhD defenses are eligible). The bottom line is that the seminar is eligible only if it appears in the approved seminar list.

  4. Procedure. During the Spring 2022 semester, we are expecting that some seminars will be organized in-person, while some others will be online (unfortunately we have no way of knowing how many will be online and in-person in advance; because those will be determined by the organizers considering multiple factors, including the university's pandemic-related restrictions at the event time). You have to attend at least eight (online or in-person) seminars during the semester.

    There is a list of attended seminars form that you can download (either in pdf or MS Word format) from the Contents area on the Blackboard. For every seminar you attend and summarize, put the relevant information on the list of attended seminars. At the end of the semester you will have to submit the list of attended seminars form along with all the seminar reports to the instructor.

    On the list of attended seminars form, there is a line for "Organizer's Signature". If the seminar is held in-person, you have to get the organizer's signature on that field at the end of the seminar. That will be your proof of attendence for in-person seminars. IMPORTANT: You have to follow university's safety guidelines during the pandemic when attending in-person seminars. In addition, it is expected that in-person seminars will have additional restructions, such as limiting the number of attendees and requiring RSVPs. Make sure to follow those rules when attending the in-person seminars.

    For online seminars, simply put "Virtual" on the signature field. At the online seminar time, make sure that you connect to the virtual meeting using your full name, including first name and last name (for instance do not use "M. Smith" instead of "Michael Smith"). This is important for us in order to check attendance. Lastly, regardless of whether the talk was online or in-person, you must prepare a report summarizing the talk -- see below for details.

    IMPORTANT: You can include a seminar in your list of attended seminars from and summarize it only if you attend a seminar (almost) in its entirety. If you are late to a seminar due to unforeseen circumstances by more than 10 minutes, you should not include it in your end-of-semester reports. Failure to follow this simple rule will be considered as an Honor Code Violation, and the Honor Code Violation procedures will be initiated without any exception.

  5. Reports. At the end of the semester, in addition to the list of attended seminars, each student must submit brief reports of all eight (8) seminars attended. Each report should be between 400 and 500 words. It should summarize the subject of the seminar in no more than 100 words. The rest (300-400 words) should be personal review: What were the strong and/or weak points of the research and the presentation; how in your opinion it could be applied; how it could be expanded; etc. Reports must be typed and written in a professional style. In order to have a passing grade, you must attend eight seminars in their entirety and also submit reports about all eight at the end of the semester.

    Each report should include the title of the talk, the name of the speaker, the date of the talk, in addition to the summary and personal evaluation/review sections. Keep in mind that the bulk of each report (at least 300-400 words) should be your evaluation; the summary should be limited to 100 words. Submitting a report that violates those requirements will make it invalid; and as a result you may receive an unsatisfactory grade. Before submitting your reports at the end, verify the compliance with these requirements.

  6. Start early. Because of the irregular frequency of seminar offerings, you are strongly encouraged to start attending seminars as early as possible, so that you will not find yourself in shortage of seminars at the end of the semester!

  7. CS Web Site. The CS web site lists upcoming seminars and events at http://cs.gmu.edu/events, which may be consulted for upcoming events. However, recall that the event must appear in the approved seminar list to be eligible for CS 800.

  8. Blackboard site. On the CS 800 Blackboard site you will find additional announcements, the attendance form (in both pdf and MS Word format), and a list of all the seminars that have been approved so far.

  9. Full Semester Schedule. A common question in CS 800 is the list of all the eligible seminars that will be offered after a certain point during the semester. Unfortunately that information is not readily available, even to us. This is because many seminars are organized in ad-hoc fashion and announced by various faculty at GMU 1-2 weeks, and sometimes a few days, prior to the actual seminar (and we cannot even tell the exact number of qualifying seminars that will be offered; but that number will not be less than 10.) Rest assured that we are conveying the information about an upcoming seminar to you through the announcements as soon as it is available. In general, the best way to guarantee that you will have attended at least 8 seminars during the semester is to start attending them early in the semester.

  10. Submission of Deliverables: At the end of semester, you will receive an announcement giving the details on how to submit the seminar reports and the form for the seminars attended during the semester. Even if you complete all the required reports during the semester early, do not attempt to send to the instructor by e-mail or other means at that time: You need to wait till the end of semester and then follow the instructions that will be provided at that time.

  11. Email. We will be sending our messages to the GMU address that you were assigned. It is your responsibility to check this mailbox periodically, and to ensure that mail is not rejected due to exceeded quotas.

You should use this colloquia series to help you choose a research area, or to expand your knowledge in your chosen research area, or simply to keep in touch with recent developments in computer science. You might also learn good presentation techniques. Don't be discouraged if you are not able to understand every detail of a presentation; even experienced researchers are sometimes "lost" in a difficult and unfamiliar subject. Yet, undoubtedly your research experience will be enriched.


  1. A link to the current approved list of seminars can be found in the Blackboard's content area.