SCS Undergraduate Research

Independent Study and Honors Undergraduate Research Thesis

SCS Undergraduate Research


Students who complete undergraduate research in the School of Computer Science do so as an independent study or as an honors undergraduate research thesis (which typically grows out of a prior independent study experience). To find out more about SCS faculty research interests and how they might align with your own, visit the SCS Research Portal. You may also want to examine our archival list of undergraduate thesis topics and advisors from previous years to understand the sorts of projects that happen at the undergrad level. In the spring, students present the results of their work at CMU's university-wide Meeting of the Minds celebration of undergraduate research.

If you're looking for summer research opportunities, you should also check out the National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates program, including the student-oriented REU area list.

SCS Honors Undergraduate Research Thesis

Students interested in graduate school are strongly encouraged to participate in the SCS Honors Undergraduate Research Thesis program, which introduces students to the breadth of tasks involved in independent research — including library work, problem formulation, experimentation, analysis, writing and speaking.

Students participating in the Honors Undergraduate Research Thesis program will:

  • Write a survey paper summarizing prior results in their desired area of research.
  • Display and discuss their current progress at a public poster session in December.
  • Present their final results in an oral summary in the year-end university-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium (Meeting of the Minds).
  • Submit a written thesis at the end of their senior year.

Students work closely with faculty advisors to plan and carry out their research. The SCS Honors Undergraduate Research Thesis (07-599) typically spans the entire senior year. Students receive a total of 36 units of academic credit for the thesis work. Up to 18 units can be counted toward SCS elective requirements (9 per semester). For most students, the thesis program requires 18 units of thesis work for both the fall and spring semesters of their senior year, so we advise students in this program to plan their schedules carefully to ensure ample time to perform the required research for the thesis. Students interested in research are urged to consult with their undergraduate advisor and the assistant dean no later than the start of their junior year to plan their workload effectively. Juniors majoring or double-majoring in computer science may apply for acceptance in the SCS senior thesis program, which will be based upon academic record and a project prospectus of no more than three pages. A prospectus must include:

  • The name of your research advisor (an SCS faculty member).
  • A short abstract (two paragraphs, maximum).
  • A description of the problem to be explored and its significance
  • A tactical description of your proposed research plan, including:
    • a description of the background reading to be carried out;
    • a description of your research contribution;
    • a description of the expected results of the research; and
    • a reasonably detailed timeline for the thesis work.
  • A bibliography of related work (all references belong here).
  • The signature of your research advisor, signifying endorsement of the project and willingness to supervise and evaluate it. (Email confirmation is acceptable.)

Students who need help finding potential advisors should contact the associate dean or assistant dean for Undergraduate Education. Program applications are due by the end of the semester before to the start of the thesis. This is typically the end of the junior spring semester, but can be accepted as late as the start of the senior fall semester. Applications should be sent to the assistant dean for Undergraduate Education who will review the applications and register the student for 07-599 once approved.