CS6220 - Spring 2017 - Section 2 - Data Mining Techniques


Time: Mondays 6pm - 9pm
Room: Snell Library 035


Jan-Willem van de Meent [personal page]
E-mail: contact
Phone: +1 617 373 7696
Office Hours: WVH 478, Monday 4.00pm - 5.30pm (or by appointment)

Teaching Assistant

Yuan Zhong [personal page]
E-mail: contact
Office Hours: WVH 462 & 466B, Friday 3.00pm - 4.30pm.


Course Overview

This course introduces a range of techniques in data mining and unsupervised machine learning:

  • Frequent itemset & association rule mining
  • Kernel density estimation
  • Dimensionality reduction
  • Cluster analysis
  • Expectation maximization
  • Hidden Markov Models
  • Topic Models
  • Social network analysis
  • Link analysis
  • Recommender systems

This course is designed for MS students in computer science. Lectures will focus on developing a mathematical and algorithmic understanding of the methods commonly employed to solve unsupervised machine learning and data mining problems. Homework problem sets will ask students to implement algorithms and/or work out examples.

Students will also collaborate on a project in which they must complete a data mining task from start to finish, including pre-processing of data, analysis, and visualization of results.


CS 5800 or CS 7800, or consent of instructor. Students without the prerequisites should e-mail a CV and transcripts to the instructor. If these materials are acceptable the student will be asked to complete the self-test prior to admission to the course.

Students are expected to have a good working knowledge of basic linear algebra, probability, statistics, and algorithms. A self-test will be provided in the first lecture to assess background knowledge. Students that have not taken CS 5800 or CS 7800 should e-mail a CV and transcript to the instructor and will then be asked to complete the self-test prior to admission to the course.


This class is not structured to directly follow the outline of a text book. The schedule will list chapters from a number of text books as background reading for each lecture, as well as additional additional materials. Students are expected to read the materials in preparation of each lecture.


  1. [HTF] Trevor Hastie, Robert Tibshirani, and Jerome Friedman, The Elements of Statistical Learning: Data Mining, Inference, and Prediction., Springer 2013. [pdf]

  2. [LRU] Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman, Jeffrey D. Ullman, Mining of Massive Datasets, Cambridge University Press, 2014 [pdf]

  3. [TSK] Pang-Ning Tan, Michael Steinbach, Vipin Kumar, Introduction to Data Mining, 2005. [ch6, ch8]

  4. [Aggarwal] Charu C. Aggarwal, Data Mining, The Textbook, Springer 2015. [pdf]

The HTF and LRU books are freely available from the authors’ websites. The Aggarwal book is available online to Northeastern students.

Additional Materials


The homework in this class will consist of 5 problem sets. Submissions must be made via blackboard by 11.59pm on the due date. Please upload a single ZIP file containing both source code for programming problems as well as PDF files for math problems. Name this zip file:

Please follow the following guidelines:

Math Problems

Please submit math exercises as PDF files (preferably in LaTeX).

Programming Problems

You may use any programming language you like, as long as your submission contains clear instructions on how to compile and run the code.

  • Data File Path: Don’t use absolute path for data files in code. Please add a data folder to your project and refer to it using relative path.

  • 3rd Party Jars: If you are using any 3rd party jar, make sure you attach that to submission.

  • Clarity: When coding up multiple variants of an algorithm, ensure that your code is properly factored into small, readable and clearly commented functions.

The TAs can deduct points for submissions that do not meet these guidelines at their discretion.


The goal of the project is to gain hands-on experience with analysis of a real-life dataset of your choice. You should select a problem and a dataset that can be analyzed using methods covered in class. The project should be conducted in groups of 2-4 people. Each group should work independently, but you are welcome to discuss technical issues on Piazza. Completion of the project will include a project proposal, two milestone project updates, a report, and a review of the project by another team.

Participation and Collaboration

Students are expected to attend lectures and actively participate by asking questions. While students are required to complete homework programming exercises individually, helping fellow students by explaining course material is encouraged. At the end of the semester, students will be able to indicate which of their peers most contributed to their understanding of the material, and bonus points will be awarded based on this feedback.


The final grade for this course will be weighted as follows:

  • Homework: 30%
  • Midterm Exam: 20%
  • Final Exam: 20%
  • Course Project: 30%
  • Participation (Bonus): 10%

Bonus points earned through class participation will be used to adjust the final grade upwards at the discretion of the instructor.


Students will be asked to indicate the amount of time spent on each homework, as well as the project. The will also be able to indicate what they think went well, and what they think did not go well. There will also be an opportunity to provide feedback on the class after the midterm exam.


Note: This schedule is subject to change and will be adjusted as needed throughout the semester.

Day Lectures Homework & Project Reading
09 Jan Introduction & Background Self test out Aggarwal: 1.1-2.3; LRU: 1-2; Murray & Ghahramani Crib Sheet;
CS 229 Notes on Probability & Linear Algebra
16 Jan (no class: Martin Luther King Day) HW1 out
Self test due (Fri)
23 Jan Frequent Item Sets & Association Rules HW2 out
HW1 due (Fri)
TSK: 6.1-6.6
30 Jan Bayesian Regression, Gaussian Processes Teams due (Fri) Rassmussen & Williams: 1,2,4.1-4.2;
06 Feb Kernel Regression (cont), Linear Dimensionality Reduction HW3 out
HW2 due (Fri)
LRU: 11.1-11.3; HTF 14.5; Cunningham & Ghahramani;
van der Maaten & Hinton
13 Feb K-means, Hierarchical Clustering, DBSCAN Abstracts due (Fri) TSK: 8.1-8.4
20 Feb (no class: Presidents Day) HW3 due (Fri)  
27 Feb Evaluating Clustering, Gaussian Mixtures, EM HW4 out
Proposals due (Fri)
Grosse & Srivastava
06 Mar (no class: Spring Break)    
13 Mar Midterm exam (1h10m) Milestone 1 due (Sun)  
20 Mar Topic Models (2h), Project Pitches (1h) HW4 due (Sun) Blei
27 Mar Community Detection Milestone 2 due (Sun) LRU: 10.1-10.3; Fortunato: I-VII
03 Apr Link Analysis, Hidden Markov Models   LRU: 5; HMM notes
10 Apr Recommender Systems Reports due (Sun) Aggarwal: 18.5
17 Apr (no class: Patriots Day) Peer reviews due (Sun)  
24 Apr Exam week starts