FAQ for 18-849

Updated for Fall 2010

18-849 Dependable Embedded Systems is an advanced graduate course. As such, it is primarily designed for students who are currently enrolled in a thesis-option PhD program. Its primary goal is to teach you how to read research papers with a critical eye (and, by extension, gain other skills useful for PhD students). In some cases, exceptional students with graduate standing who are applying or may in the future apply to a thesis-option degree program at CMU or elsewhere can also benefit from this course.

The course concentrates on the following skills:

The course is sized for approximately 12 hours of effort per week for a typical graduate student with some previous exposure to reading scholarly papers. These are crucial skills and the papers cover crucial required knowledge for graduate students in the area of dependable systems. You are expected to put in the time required to do all assignments regardless of how long that might take. If this is your first year in the US as a non-native speaker, expect to spend integer multiples of this time until your reading skills get up to speed -- these papers are not easy to read in many cases even for native speakers. While most students report 12 hours per week on average after about a month of skills ramp-up period, we expect you to put in the hours it takes no matter how long that might be.

Course requirements:

You Must Read And Understand The Papers:

We expect you to really read and understand all the papers. Not just skim them. Read them. Understand them. Discuss them intelligently. If this is your goal, you will find this course engaging, rewarding, and extremely useful in your career. Don't waste your time and ours if you are just trying to slide through for an "easy" grade -- it won't happen here.

Undergraduate students:

This course is primarily intended for students with graduate standing. It is a PhD-level course, not an entry-level MS course. Students with undergraduate standing will only be considered if they have an "A" in 18-649 or 18-749 or other related 600+ level course, and will be admitted space-available in the Fall, after graduate students have been accommodated. If you are an undergraduate please sign up for the wait list, come to the first class meeting, and we will sort your situation the first week of classes; don't expect an answer before then because we need flexibility in handling first-semester graduate students who don't sign up until August. Please note that department policy is that pre-requisites are never waived for students with undergraduate standing. We expect to follow that policy in this course.

Entrance Exam for Fall 2010:

If you aren't up to speed on the pre-req material, you'll be completely lost from the very first week in this course. In most cases the way I give permission is by having you pass an entrance examination based on material from 18-649. If you have taken 18-649 and earned an 85% or better on the third exam and received an A in the course, you are exempt from the pre-test. If you have previously published a paper at DSN or a related dependability conference, or taken a dependability course elsewhere, we can discuss your background before deciding if the test is required. All other students, including those entering from other universities, must take the pre-test and get an 80% or better for admission to this course. The point of this pre-test is not to exclude potential students; the point is to make sure everyone has exposure to the pre-req knowledge for the course. The test is a straightforward multiple choice test, and we'll give you an example test to look at at the first class meeting.

The test will be short answer and multiple choice. The emphasis will be on main concepts. Hint: look for "red ink" on the on-line lecture notes for 18-649. If you are concerned about passing this test and have been admitted to the PhD, program please contact me for guidance. We want everyone who is serious about taking this course to get in; we just don't want students to be lost due to lack of background.

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