Thursday, August 20, 2009

Registering for classes

This past week I have been meeting with various computer science professors in order to decide which classes to sign up for.

The first professor I met with was Michael Heath. I chose him because he works in the field of scientific computing, an area that I have done research and taken courses in in the past and so I might want to have him as my advisor. However he is not teaching any courses this semester. He did however give me a list of courses that I might want to take.

Another professor who I may want to work with is Steven LaValle. His research is in motion-planning algorithms for robots, and has a really cool lab with robots and obstacle courses for the robots to navigate around. I have already read much of the textbook he wrote on the topic. As it turns out, a lot of the problems that need to be solved in order to navigate robots are very similar to the types of problems that are solved in numerical and scientific computing. For example, robot motion planning problems are frequently modeled by specifying a set of parameters that describes a particular configuration of the robot (e.g. the displacement and rotation angles of each of the robot's joints) and then using a sampling method to search through the space of all possible parameters to find a path from the origin to the destination point. This is similar in some ways to numerical optimization problems where the goal is to search through a space of variables in order to find the variable values that optimize an objective function.

Unfortunately, LaValle isn't here this week so I couldn't talk to him. However I did also talk to another professor, Chandra Chekuri, who advised me to take two courses that would be useful in both the scientific computing and robotics fields - Topics in Algorithms and Discrete Mathematics - and also take some seminar courses where I can learn about different research areas. I also met with the director of the graduate program, Roy Campbell, who thought that that plan was a good idea.


Nanette Goodman said...

Sounds great

Dan Mont said...

Sounds really interesting and exciting, too. I'll be really curious to see what research you end up doing.