2018FA_EECS_101-0_SEC20 Computer Science: Concepts, Philosophy, and Connections

2018FA_EECS_101-0_SEC20 Computer Science: Concepts, Philosophy, and Connections

From US National Library of Medicine (CS 101 poster: small/large)

CS 101: Computer Science: Concepts, Philosophy, and Connections.

Instructor: Prof. Jason Hartline.
Lectures: Monday and Wednesday, 11-11:50, Tech Auditorium.
Teaching Assistants: Miriam Boon, Mohammad Kavousi, and Fei Zhao.
Sections: Friday, various times.
Office Hours:

  • Mohammad Kavousi: Monday, 5-6pm, Seeley Mudd 3538.
  • Miriam Boon: Tuesday, 2-3pm, Seeley Mudd 3538.
  • Jason Hartline: Wednesday, 10-11am, Seeley Mudd 3015.
  • Fei Zhou: Thursday, 3-4pm, Seeley Mudd 3538.

Online Discussion: on Piazza. (you must use the Canvas menu 'Piazza' to enroll in Piazza)
Mini-essays and Peer Reviews: schedule and grading, instructions and rubricgrade reports.
Projects: assigned and turned in on Canvas.

Course Description

Computation is ubiquitous: DNA contains biological programs and is a part of all lifeforms, the human brain is a powerful computer, and the digital computer has revolutionized most aspects of our society. The primary goal of this course is to explore the whats, whys, and hows of computer science.

CS 101, a conversation (video, click to watch)

The topics covered include the theory of computation (what computers can compute), algorithms for efficient computation (what to tell a computer to compute), programming languages (how to tell a computer what to compute), artificial intelligence (how your computer can do things your brain does), computational biology (how DNA-based biological systems are like programs), computer systems (e.g., how computers work together in networks like the Internet), computer vision and graphics (how computers can gather and convey useful visual information) and human computer interaction (easy, natural ways to get what you need and want from computers).

In this course, students will learn what the computer science major is all about. Coursework will be reading and writing about computer science topics and their impact in the world. (There will be no computer programming in this course.)

This course is a required course in the Computer Science Curriculum and also satisfies the Weinberg Area III (Social and Behavioral Sciences) Distribution. The target audience of this course is freshmen and sophomores; advanced students can satisfy the computer science major's 101 requirement by instead taking an additional breadth course.


Guest Lecturers

This course surveys many topics in computer science and lectures will be given by Northwestern professors who research and teach advanced courses in these topics.


Reading and Media

Reading and media viewing assignments will be taken from popular press and computer science journals. Sources include: The Atlantic, The Economist, WIRED, Communications of the ACM (CACM), TED Talks, XRDS: the ACM student magazine, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Scientific American.  A single pdf with the reading for each week can be downloaded from the pages for each week linked above.

Attendance, Participation, and Grading

Attendance of and participation in lectures and discussion sections is mandatory.  Students are required to bring Turningpoint Clickers to lecture and participate by answering clicker questions during lecture (see note below).  Students who miss an occasional lecture or section can make it up by making substantial contribution to the discussion of course material on Piazza. 

  • Students should contribute to classroom discussions by asking and answering questions and (when asked) providing discussion of lecture topics and reading assignments.
  • Students should participate in discussion sections by being involved in activities during the discussion section and in out-of-section followup work.
  • Students should participate in online discussion on Piazza. Possible online contributions include relating assigned reading and lecture material to current events, culture, and articles in popular media and discussion thereof.

Grades will be weighted as follows: 40% projects, 20% participation, 20% mini-essays, and 20% peer review.  There are no exams.  Mini-essays and peer reviews will not be accepted late.  Except as explicitly noted, Canvas accepts projects up to two days late; late projects turned in before submissions close on Canvas will be deducted 10% of their grade; projects will not be accepted after submissions close.

All EECS 101 students are required to purchase Turning Technologies Clickers (QT or QT2 Device) and subscription license to participate in this course. Students may purchase a QT Device at the Norris Center Bookstore located in The Norris Center on the Evanston campus. Instructions for registering your clicker and purchasing a subscription can be found in the Student Canvas Learning Center, Using Turning Technologies Clickers in Canvas.  To register, use the TuringPoint Registration Module.  Clicker questions are graded as part of participation and are 100% for correct answers and 66% for incorrect answers.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to adhere to Northwestern's policy on academic integrity.  We will be strictly monitoring student work for potential cases of plagiarism.  In a nutshell: all of your written text should be written by you; all specific ideas of prior texts should be explicitly acknowledged with a citation.  See Northwestern's guide to avoiding plagiarism for details.

Course Summary:

Date Details