Summer 2015 Emails
In part two of our series we're going to go over some of what you need to know about taking classes as a graduate student. It's a pretty easy process, but you must register for classes at some point before the first day of classes and having time to think about it and ask other people doesn't hurt.
If you haven't yet, you should join the Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/237539559779778/). Also, all of these emails are posted here: https://wiki.eecs.umich.edu/cseg/index.php/Info:welcome_emails so if you have missed any just check there.
The defacto resource for fulfilling course requirements is this guide: https://www.cse.umich.edu/eecs/graduate/cse/CSE.Brochure.2015final.pdf. Now, that guide is notoriously hard to parse so hopefully what follows will give you some intuition about what classes you have to take and which you should.
Classes fall into four categories: software, hardware, AI, and theory. Ph.D. students must take at least one class in three of the four areas, and Masters students must take at least one in all of them. Most of the 500-level classes follow a similar pattern: most of the course and lectures center around reading and discussing research papers, and the end focuses on a small-group based open-ended project. The 400-level courses vary from rather intense project based courses to weekly homeworks and a couple exams style courses.
Some classes are worth noting:
427 and 470: These are both major design experience classes for undergrads, and both have substantial projects (~1 month of full-time work) attached to them. If your interests lean towards hardware, it can be very useful to take 470 (427 leans more towards EE), but just know ahead of time that it does require substantial effort.
482: The undergrad OS course is regarded as a very useful course, but sometimes graduate students get tripped up because while the undergrads focus all of their effort on classes, graduate students are often trying to balance research activities. If you have experience with thread- and network-level programming you should be fine.
492: This AI breadth requirement has an, well, interesting history. It is largely regarded as an awful class for graduate students that requires extensive menial labor and provides little benefit (not research paper based, doesn't provide a practical intro to machine learning, and largely goes over old topics). Now, the Fall'15 version is being taught by Kuipers, whose spin on the class is better than par and does incorporate some of his own research that makes the projects more interesting. CSEG has been very actively trying to replace 492 as the AI breadth requirement, and we hope to succeed in getting the department to expand its offerings, but any changes likely wouldn't take effect until Fall'16.
The details surrounding class requirements are different between the Masters program and the Ph.D. program, so degree specific requirements are listed separately.
Hello Incoming CSE Graduate Student!
Welcome to the University of Michigan! We (the student organization for grad students in CSE) are glad you chose to join us in Ann Arbor. To make the transition into the grad program as smooth as possible, we want to provide you with some helpful information about the program, about the department, and about Ann Arbor. Roughly, we plan to send an email once a month covering topics that will be useful to you as an incoming graduate student.
First, you should join the Facebook group for incoming grad students: https://www.facebook.com/groups/237539559779778/ This group is for both incoming and recently added students, so it should be a good place to ask any questions that you have.
An important first concern is where you are going to live in Ann Arbor next year. If you are seeing this email, and do not currently have a place to live for 2015-2016, you should start looking immediately. Ann Arbor is a college town, and most of the rentals revolve around the academic school year. As such, many leases are signed in October for the following September.
Ann Arbor has several main neighborhoods where grad students and undergrads live. We will highlight each by general location, methods to get to the CSE building, and neighborhood style.
- North Campus. Generally the area around the University's North Campus and Plymouth road. Accessible to campus by walking and Ann Arbor bus. Usually a cheaper area to live in, and desirable because it is easy to get to campus. Pretty dead after 10pm, as most restaurants and bars are downtown, although a campus bus runs downtown until around 1:30 AM on weekends. North campus also includes Northwood, which is run by the university and convenient to rent, but generally not regarded as a great place to live. There are also housing options just south of North campus which are closer to downtown.
- Old 4th Ward and Kerrytown. Box formed by Glen, Huron, and Main streets, and the river to the north. Accessible to campus by Michigan blue bus and Ann Arbor bus. Nice neighborhoods, but not cheap. Think $900+/month for a single, $700+/month/person for a two bedroom. Quiet, easy walk to downtown, and not terribly hard to get to CSE. May be a little tricky to find a place this late in the rental cycle, but bedrooms in houses are often available.
- Downtown. William, Liberty, Washington, 5th, 4th, and Main St. area. Ann Arbor bus or drive to campus. Probably the most expensive area in Ann Arbor, roughly $1200+/bedroom/month (but there are cheaper places if you can find them). Best for food and nightlife.
- Geddes. Area just south of Nichols Arboretum. Michigan blue bus or drive to campus. Nice place to live, but more populated with undergrads so likely to be a little louder. Not a far walk to the main central campus bus stop. Pretty easy to get downtown (Ann Arbor isn't that big).
- South. South of South University street. Michigan blue bus or drive to campus. Generally where undergrads live, although the residents tend to get older as you go south (away from campus). Can be tricky to find a nice place to live, as many of the houses are clearly undergrad houses.
- Rest of Ann Arbor. Basically you have to drive to campus. Cheaper and more options, but not great for student life. Not highly recommended, but grad students do live outside of the above areas.
- Ypsilanti. Drive. Cheaper yet, but nobody wants to drive out there, particularly in the winter.
Most grad students do have a car (or get one eventually), but you can get by without one. It's not uncommon for students to arrive without knowing how to drive, and some students spend their whole PhD here without ever getting a car. However, having a car can make it more convenient to get groceries, get to the airport, or get to campus when you are late for a meeting. If you want to visit surrounding areas (such as Detroit) it is pretty much needed.
If you don't get a car, the university buses can take you between north campus and downtown, as well as to a few grocery stores (see more details here: http://pts.umich.edu/transit/). City buses run much less frequently, so keep that in mind when choosing housing. A bike is a good option when the weather is nice, but keep in mind it can snow heavily in the winter.
To help, here are a couple websites that people have had luck with when finding a place to live in Ann Arbor:
Hopefully this will help you get started. If you have any questions we encourage you to post on the Facebook group so as many people as possible can see it and can answer. These emails will also be posted to our wiki (https://wiki.eecs.umich.edu/cseg/index.php/Main_Page) so they can be referenced there. Stay tuned for another email next month about taking classes as a graduate student.
- Brad / CSEG