Dr. Ligon's FAQ for graduate students.

New graduate student in computer engineering

What classes should I take in the fall for computer systems architecture focus area?
What classes should I take in the spring for computer systems architecture focus area?
What CpSc classes are good to take for computer systems architecture focus area?
How do I get a teaching assistantship or grading assistantship?
How do I get a research assistantship?

Research projects

What are your current research projects?
How do I get involved in one of your research projects?
Can I do a Master's thesis on one of these projects?

TA/GA assignments

When will TA/GA assignments be made?
What do I have to do to get a TA or GA?
What is my priority for getting a TA or GA?
I was recommended for a TA or GA position, does that guarantee the assignment?
I taught a lab last semester - does that mean I'll get one this semester?
I didn't get an assignment on the latest draft, what do I do?
I didn't get an assignment on the final posting, what do I do?



What classes should I take in the fall for computer systems architecture focus area?

New CpE majors with a CSA focus area should take ECE629 (architecture) and ECE852 (software engineering) their first semester. If you have any remedial work required on your acceptance letter try to take that as well. Otherwise, take another course from ECE or your planned minor (such as Computer Science or Math). Some good ECE courses often offered in the Fall are ECE 638 (computer communiations), ECE 854 (robotics), ECE693s5 (compilers). You must take at least 9 hours (3 courses) and need to have 12 hours on your schedule. You can register for 3 hours of 891 (MS thesis research) or you can take a 4th course if you want to get ahead in courses.



What classes should I take in the spring for computer systems architecture focus area?

New CpE majors with a CSA focus area should take either ECE851 (distributed memory archtiecture), ECE842 (shared memory architecture), or ECE873 (parallel algorithms) whichever is offered and ECE845 or ECE848 whichever is offered.



What CpSc classes are good to take for computer systems architecture focus area?

The following CpSc classes may be good choices for CSA focus area majors: CpSc628 (languages), CpSc629 (compilers), CpSc662 (databases), CpSc822 (OS), CpSc823 (OS), CpSc825 (computer comm), CpSc826 (computer comm), CpSc838 (data structures), CpSc862 (databases), CpSc872 (software engineering).



How do I get a teaching assistantship or grading assistantship?

You must see Mimi Qian in Riggs 102 and fill out a preference form for each semester that you want a TA or GA assignment.  You must do this even if you have been offered an assistantship by the department or if you have had a TA or GA before.  If you do not fill out this form you will not be offered an assistantship.



How do I get a research assistantship?

You must talk to professors about their research and work out an RA with the professor who is running a project.  The department does not offer RAs directly to students.  Many professors will require that you prove yourself on a project by working on it for academic credit first.



What are your current research projects?

My current research projects are:



How do I get involved in one of your research projects?

The best thing is to see the PhD student who is responsible for the project (listed above) and find out what is going on in the project and what areas might be good for you to work in.  This might take a little time to figure out.  After that you, the student, and I would meet and discuss the proposed work.  Recommendation from my graduate students is a VERY important part of becoming part of a project team.



Can I do a Master's thesis on one of these projects?

Yes, if we can agree on a suitable thesis topic related to one of the projects that is possible.  Before I will agree to an MS thesis I need to see some of your work, so plan on working on the project for at least a semester before I agree to a thesis.  A thesis is a BIG commitment, so be aware that I will only agree to a thesis with students who are highly motivated and self-directed.  Finally, I require that a student publish at least one paper from their thesis research in order to graduate.



When will TA/GA assignments be made?

TA assignments normally are posted as a draft a few days before classes begin, and become final a few days later.  GA assignments usually get posted a few days after classes begin and become final a few days later.  When the assignments are made they are posted outside of Mimi Qian's office in Riggs 102.  If they are not posted they are not done.  Do not call, email, or come by and ask Dr. Ligon when they will be posted.



What do I have to do to get a TA or GA?

You must see Mimi Qian in Riggs 102 and fill out a preference form for each semester that you want a TA or GA assignment.  You must do this even if you have been offered an assistantship by the department or if you have had a TA or GA before.  If you do not fill out this form you will not be offered an assistantship.



What is my priority for getting a TA or GA?

Students with a TA or GA offer in writing from the department have their assignments made first.  They get first priority and are the only students who are guaranteed an assignment.  Students who are specifically requested by the instructor teaching a lab or class are assign next, if possible.  Next, students who prior experience teaching a lab generally have priority over those who have not, and students whose major and focus area match with the lab generally have priority over those whose do not.

We strive to assign only sections of the same lab to any given student, or baring that, to assign sections of no more than 2 labs to any given student.  Students must have a minimum of 10 hours assigned to get a tuition waiver.  Consequently we assign at least 2 lab sections, and typically do not assign more than two sections unless this is needed to work out schedules or to satisfy other criteria.  Students cannot be assigned to sections that conflict with their schedule, thus sometimes assignment priorities cannot be followed due to scheduling constraints.

Thus, priority for assigning TAs and GAs is not a simple function and cannot be easily determined for any one person but can only be evaluated in the context of the complete set of requests and constraints that are present.  Inquiries beyond this point typically do not satisfy.



I was recommended for a TA or GA position, does that guarantee the assignment?

 No.  The only students who are guaranteed an assignment are those who have an offer in writing from the department, and in that case they are only guaranteed that an assignment will be made, not what that assignment will be.  A student who refuses an assignment forfeits his right to an assignment.



I taught a lab last semester - does that mean I'll get one this semester?

Not neccessarily.  The deparment is only required to pay you at least the amount listed in your offer letter and can require no more than the number of hours listed in your offer letter.  Sometimes better positions may be available and the department may make an assignment that pays more, or that requires fewer hours, but that does not mean you will continue to get that kind of assignment.  The number of labs and the number of TAs and GAs changes every semester so the department must seomtimes hire students that do not have an offer or hire a student for a better position than they are committed to.  If you get one of these assignments, this is your good luck, but we cannot commit to continuing those assignments.



I didn't get an assignment on the latest draft, what do I do?

If you have a written offer of an assignment, see Dr. Ligon.  Otherwise, wait.  The draft assignments are updated at least daily.



I didn't get an assignment on the final posting, what do I do?

If you have a written offer of an assignment, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?  See Dr. Ligon NOW!  Otherwise, we are sorry, but we do not have enough positions for every applicant.