Prospective Undergraduate Information FAQ
What is the difference between computer science, and electrical and computer engineering? Can I do both?
Computer science (CS) focuses on software while electrical and computer engineering (ECE) focuses on hardware. The CS and ECE departments overlap and collaborate in the area of computer architecture.
Some differences between the two major include:
- CS majors are required to complete two clusters, while ECE majors are required to complete only one
- ECE majors are required to take physics and chemistry, but CS majors are not.
- The ECE program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org *
*This accreditation has the most impact on students who plan to become a licensed professional engineer, an uncommon career path for computer scientists.
Students are allowed to major in both programs. Students looking to tackle this difficult double degree should have:
- AP credits
- Excellent time-management skills
- Few outside activities that distract from the difficult workload
- The ability to overload, take summer courses, or extend beyond 4 years
Students may also choose to minor in either, while majoring in the other department.
How will my AP computer science work be considered toward my computer science curriculum?
Students who have completed the CEEB Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam with a score of 4 or 5 will receive 4 credits of elective CS coursework.
Please check with your CS advisor during Orientation to be sure of accurate placement in CS courses.
How big are the classes in computer science?
Our major is growing again, but our class sizes have not been adversely impacted. The introductory class, CSC 171, has 120+ students, with smaller lab sections and peer-run study groups with about 10 students.
Each subsequent required class gets smaller, with CSC 172's class size id 80-100 students, CSC 173's size of 60+ students, and core classes with 35-45 students. Advanced elective courses average 10-20 undergraduates.
How many computer science majors are there?
Students need to complete 2 pre-major courses with an average of 2.0 in order to declare either their BS or BA major. We currently graduate about 40-50 majors per year and have no caps on the number of computer science majors.
Do I need a computer in my room? What kind should I get?
Students are not required to have a computer of their own when they come to campus but nearly all do.
Students can access the computer science labs remotely at their convenience, from their dorm room, library or lab using ssh protocols.
It doesn't matter whether the computer is a Mac or a PC, dual boot, notebook, laptop or desktop. The network on campus can accommodate any computer. Each dorm room is wired through ResNet and there is wireless access around campus.
Our department's system is Linux running Fedora. For more specific information about the kind of computer you can purchase with educational discounts, contact UR Computer Sales at 275-8353.
What types of research can students do as undergraduates, and how soon would I be able to do it?
Undergraduates interested in research can work on ongoing projects in:
- Artificial intelligence
- Human-computer interaction
For more information about the research being done in our department see our research overview.
Our research meetings are open to anyone. Students can check the department event calendar to find research meetings that might interest them. Interested students should approach faculty members in their area of interest and ask what level of expertise is required for them to be successful researchers.
For more information, visit our undergraduate research page.
What opportunities are there for me to work (including internships)?
There are plenty of on-campus job opportunities for computer-literate students. Student can work for University IT in the campus computing facility, for ResNet connecting the dorms, in departments doing computation on research, or at Strong Memorial Hospital in a medical application.
Students interested in gaining on-the-job experience during the summer have many options. In previous years, we have had students do summer internships at Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Kodak, NASA, Xerox, Oracle, Intel, FactSet, 1010Data, Sun, Mathworks, Khan Academy, VistaPrint, Brand Networks, and more.
We have also had students do fellowships, REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) or mentorships at MIT, the National Institute of Standards (NIST) and at other colleges around the country. Due to course scheduling we do not have a formal co-op program.
Those seeking employment after graduation or internships can work with the University of Rochester Career and Internship Center, follow leads sent directly to our faculty or staff, or network through our alumni working in well-placed positions throughout the computer industry.
Recent graduates have entertained multiple offers with very competitive salary ranges at large companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Factset Research Systems and Apple.
Do UR students go to grad school, and if so, where?
Our students have been accepted into graduate programs at:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- UC Berkeley
- Johns Hopkins University
- U Chicago
- University of Rochester
- Other top CS graduate schools
Students also have been accepted to medical and law schools to further their studies. In a typical graduating class, about 20% of our students apply and enroll into full time graduate studies upon graduation.
What kind of equipment is used in the department?
Student labs in the computer science department are equipped with workstations running Fedora Linux. There are two instructional labs, one on the sixth floor of the Computer Studies Building (for declared majors only) and the other in Hylan 301.
Students involved in research with faculty have access to a wide variety of high-performance computing clusters and specialized equipment in the Human-Computer Interaction and Machine Vision laboratories.
What can I do to better prepare for the computer science major?
Computer programming requires a lot of practice. If you have the opportunity to program in any language (Java, C, C++, Perl, Python, Ruby, LISP, etc.) it will benefit you. However, our curriculum is designed so that even if you have never had any programming, you will be able to start with the basics and work your way up.
Those students who have considerable coursework and experience in CS will also have opportunities for advancement at a more individual pace. Since student experience varies greatly, your advisor will review your history before recommending your course of study.
What is the 3-2 Program, and could I be a candidate for it?
The 3-2 Program allows students to complete a master’s degree by the end of their fifth year. Students interested in this program would have AP/transfer credits as a freshman that allows them a more advanced standing.
With careful schedule planning in the sophomore year, a student could arrange to complete undergraduate requirements and begin graduate requirements within 4 years, and spend the fifth year taking the remaining graduate course requirements and comprehensive exams.
Please see the graduate coordinator for more information regarding the application process. Letters of recommendation from UR faculty and a minimum GPA will be required.
Is there a student organization for computer science majors?
The Computer Science Undergraduate Council (CSUG) is an active group that does both social and academic events that are well attended by majors and non-majors alike.
The executive board helps organize students for competitive teams, has movie nights and picnics, organizes off-campus outings, organizes volunteer peer tutoring, and acts as a liaison between the department and the student body. Students at any grade level are encouraged to become active in CSUG events.
If you have any further questions regarding the computer science major at the University of Rochester, please contact:
Professor Ted Pawlicki
Undergraduate Program Director