CS 251: Syllabus

Syllabus for Spring 2013

Topics and Readings

Learning Goals

  1. Students understand and can write programs to store and manipulate data and measurements.
  2. Students understand and can implement the fundamental concepts of interactive visualization of data.
  3. Students understand and can implement common data transformations and statistical analysis.
  4. Students understand and can make appropriate use of current machine learning techniques for prediction and knowledge discovery.
  5. Students present methods, algorithms, results, and designs in an organized and competently written manner.
  6. Students gain experience working with real data from disciplines outside computer science.


Witten, Frank, and Hall, Data Mining: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques, Morgan Kaufmann, 2011, 3rd Ed.


Weekly Projects 45%
Exams (2) 30%
Final Exam 20%
Class Participation 5%

This course covers the analysis and visualization of scientific data. Topics will include data management, basic statistical analysis, data mining techniques, and the fundamental concepts of machine learning. Students will also learn how to visualize data using 2-D and 3-D graphics, focusing on techniques that highlight patterns and relationships. Course projects will use data from active research projects at Colby.


Attendance and Participation

Nothing is more boring than a course with a professor who drones on and on in a lecture about material that the students don't understand. Although this course does involve lecturing, this course will not be boring. I will not drone and I will do my best to make the material as clear as possible. But for this course to be truly successful, your presence and participation are important. When you have a question, ask it. It is highly probable that one of your classmates has the same question. When I give you an opportunity to share your opinion or your answer, please speak up. I want to hear what you have to say. And, of course, to participate in class you must attend class.


The short homework assignments must be turned in on time. No late short assignments will be accepted because we will refer to their solutions in class. The longer programming assignments must be turned in on time for maximal credit. Late labs (programming assignments) will be accepted, but will be given reduced grades. Programming assignments are graded on a 30 point scale. For each day late, your grade will be reduced by 3 points.


Collaboration on programming assignments is encouraged, but you as an individual are responsible for understanding all the material in the assignment. If you have had a substantative discussion of any programming solution with a classmate, then be sure to cite them in your write-up or comments. If you are unsure of what constitutes "substantative", then ask me or err on the side of caution. You will not be penalized for working together. However, you must not copy answers directly (electronically) from another student. I reserve the right to ask you to verbally explain the reasoning behind any code that you turn in.

Academic Honesty

It is vitally important that you turn in work that is your own. As I said above, you may not copy code from another student. However, there are cases in which you may copy code from the web (we actually recommend you do that for the base Dialog class). In these cases, cite the place you got it from in your comments. Getting solutions for small parts of your programming problem is perfectly reasonable. Your overall design, however, should be yours. We tell you not to copy from friends in the course because they are designing the same (or very similar) software. So, just be honest about where you find code. For one-line solutions (such as the sort you might find on Stack Overflow), use your discretion as to whether or not it is necessary to cite them. I am sure I don't need to talk about dishonesty in a class like this, but I feel compelled to point out that, in addition to the ethical implications of dishonesty, you undermine your ability to learn when you cheat. Please read Colby's Academic Integrity and Honesty Statement.

Late Policy:

The weekly assignments will build upon each other, and each week a solution for the prior week's assignment will be posted so that everyone begins each week with a working code base. Assignments turned in after the solutions have been posted will receive no credit. It is better to hand in a partially working assignment than nothing at all.


WeekTopicsSuggested Reading
  • Introduction, course concept
  • What is data?
  • GUI development in Python
The Web
  • GUI development in Python
  • Coordinate systems and transformations
  • NumPy: working with matrices
Tkinter and Numpy tutorials
  • 2D and 3D viewing pipeline
  • Interactive camera control
  • Visualizing higher dimensions
Lecture notes
  • Charts and histograms
  • Range selection
  • Data characterization
Lecture notes
  • Data distributions
  • Data transformations
  • Linear regression
Handouts, Witten and Frank, chapter 7
  • Principal component analysis [PCA]
  • Noise and variance
  • Exam 1
  • Fundamentals of pattern recognition
  • Concepts of learning and training
  • The No Free Lunch theorem
Witten and Frank, chapters 1-3

Spring Break
  • Overview of machine learning methods
  • Clustering and Distance metrics
  • Naive Bayes
Witten and Frank, chapter 4
  • 1-R and full decision trees
  • Issues in building trees
  • Using Weka
Witten and Frank, chapters 4, 6
  • Artificial Neural Networks
  • Neural Network Variations
  • SNNS
  • Linear regression
  • Linear regression variations
  • Exam 2
Witten and Frank, chapters 4, 6
  • Robust regression
  • Meta-learning: bagging, boosting, randomization
  • Meta-learning continued
Witten and Frank, chapter 8, handouts
  • Cascade classifiers
  • TBD
  • TBD