One side-effect of this course is that it usually creates a pool of knowledge in different niches of the programming languages within NUPRL. As the Abstract explains the course has two goals. This page describes the seminar workings and the process of how to reach this goal.

Process I will present some themes in the first couple of weeks so that students get an idea of what a theme is and how to present it.

During this time, students will pick and prepare their first round of Themes:
  1. Propose two Themes of interest, supported by at least one critical citation.

    Due date: second class meeting.

  2. Set up a brief meeting with the instructor to pick a theme distinct from what all other students have picked.

    Due date: between the second and third class meeting.

  3. Once a theme is approved, students compile a list of up to ten major (but no fewer than three) articles on this theme and submit them as a plain list of references—with links to PDFs—to the instructor. Students should at least read the introductory part of each article so that they can explain its role in the evolution of a theme.

    Students new to the idea of exploring themes should discuss how to go about this step during their first 1-1 meeting with the instructor.

    Due date: fourth class meeting.

  4. Set up a meeting with the instructor to discuss the proposed sequence of articles. This meeting will decide which articles to use.

    Due date: between the fourth and fifth class meeting.

  5. Study the selected papers. Prepare an annotated bibliography of the chosen articles. Prepare a blackboard/whiteboard presentation.

    Due date: the schedule will be set up after the fifth class meeting. In all likelihood, students will be scheduled to present themes as of the seventh class meeting.

The schedule for the second round is subject to enrollment and scheduling constraints. I will publish it as soon as the schedule for the first round firms up.

Presentations Students will deliver a blackboard/whiteboard presentation.


The focus of this seminar is on ideas, not details. A slideshow makes it too easy to include silly proof details, superfluous benchmark measurements, or some random "people counting" tables. This form of copying and pasting material from a paper to a slideshow tool does not demonstrate understanding. Turning it into essential words for a blackboard presentation does.


Many PhD students want to become professors and that job includes teaching. Learning to separate essential ideas from chaff is critical to teaching. Learning to arrange material for a lecture and deliver it "freely" is critical. Learning to adapt a presentation schedule on the fly—go deep, pull back, cut—is something every professor must do during almost every lecture.

Listening Students in the audience will assess the lecture and submit their assessment to the instructor. These assessments will focus on the content and the presentation. I will post a form outline in time for the first presentations. Students will use this outline to articulate their thoughts in writing by the end of the day and submit this text file to the instructor.—This assessment is unrelated to grading.