I just returned from my first cluster meeting for PhD program in computer science at Nova Southeastern University. Because it was Labor Day weekend my wife went with me, and we made it a mini Florida vacation. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale on Wed, Sept 27, 2014.

  • Wednesday: Travel day, and check into hotel.
  • Thursday: program orientation, library tour and kickoff reception.
  • Friday: Two class sessions (4-hours each), with a 1.5 hr break for lunch.
  • Saturday: Two class sessions (4-hours each), with a 1.5 hr break for lunch.
  • Sunday: Vacation day with my wife. We checked out the beach at Ft. Lauderdale and had a a canal tour.
  • Monday: (Labor day, USA holiday): Flew back to St. Louis.

I stayed at the closest hotel to the NSU campus, the Holiday Inn Airport. The hotel is a good value. They offer a free breakfast and shuttle to/from the airport. It is nearly a 1.2 mile walk to the campus. The roads are walk-able and have crosswalks. In October I might walk it and shower on campus before class. This would save the rental car expense. I did walk to the university a few times this trip, however, more for exercise. After a 1.2 mile walk, in the hot Florida summer sun, I would not be very popular!

Program Orientation

The program orientation was lead by Dr. Seagull, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at GSCIS. He presented an overview of the program and the school. NSU was founded in 1964, and is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary. There were many different 50th anniversary banners and sings throughout the campus. For my program I must complete the following:

  • 32 credit hours of course work. This will amount to 8 individual four-credit hour courses. I am currently enrolled in my first two. I will need to fly to Ft. Lauderdale twice a semester for these courses.
  • 8 credit hours of directed research. It will be at least a year before I start this part. However, my understanding is that I will work on a research problem with one of the professors. This should help prepare for my own dissertation.
  • 24(or more) dissertation hours.

The faculty is composed of all full-time professors for the doctoral programs. For my first two classes, both instructors are full-time and live in the Florida area and had been with NSU for over a decade.

Artificial Intelligence Class

The artificial intelligence class (CISD 760) is taught by Sumitra Mukherjee and uses the textbook Artificial Intelligence a Modern Approach. For the first class sessions, the professor lectured on path finding, modeling, optimization, and Bayesian inference. We saw neural networks, genetic algorithms, decision trees, Bayesian belief networks and other algorithms.

The professor also covered the assignments for the semester.

  • Assignment 1: Select a peer reviewed paper in your research area of interest.
  • Assignment 2: Complete programs for four AI problems. Path finding, vector optimization, data science/predictive modeling (neural net vs decision tree) and Bayesian inference.
  • Assignment 3: Critique the paper from assignment 1, and write an “idea paper” describing further research you might like to pursue.
  • In-class mid-term at the next cluster meeting.
  • Final examination assignment completed over the last several weeks of the semester.

Most PhD programs have qualifying exams, and NSU’s CS PhD program breaks this requirement over 8 in-class mid-semester examinations. For the AI class, this is accomplished with the mid-term assignment.

I’ve already started the programming assignment and am making use of Python with DEAP, Numpy and scikit-learn. I think this will be a great class. The assignment gives a good chance to try out some of the AI algorithms. The assignments also allow us to start thinking about dissertation topics in AI. I plan to conduct my dissertation research in the field of AI.

Data Base Management Systems Class

The data base management systems class (CISD 750) class is taught by Junping Sun using the textbook Database Systems: The Complete Book (2nd Edition). For the first class sessions, the professor lectured on a variety of topics in database theory. This class is different than your typical “IT SQL” class. This course is really more on the design and implementation of an actual database system. I was familiar with the topics discussed, but I will have quite a bit of studying to do for this class. Both professors seemed very knowledgeable of their respective areas, and very current on the latest research.

The assignments for this course are:

  • Research Proposal.
  • Research Report.
  • In-class mid-term at the next cluster meeting.
  • Final examination assignment completed over the last several weeks of the semester.

We are supposed to select a research topic for this course. KDD (Knowledge Discovery in Databases) is one of the topics. This is the area I plan to research. KDD is what computer science groups, such as the ACM, call Data Science.

So far it looks like a good program. I wanted to enter the world of academic publishing, but could not fit a traditional PhD program into my life. This program will be quite a bit of work. But, so far, the program looks like it will be a good fit for me.

Around the NSU Campus

Here are some pictures that my wife and I took around the NSU campus.

The campus is large, and it took some walking to learn my way around!

Walking to class at NSU

You can see the main entrance to the campus below.

Jeff in front of NSU

This is the Carl DeSantis building at NSU. The Graduate School of Information and Computer Science is located here. I spent most of my time in the building below.

Carl DeSantis Building

Of course, this is Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, I had to stop at the beach!

Jeff at Ft. Lauderdale Beach

Ft. Lauderdale is made up of many interesting canals. My wife and I also took a canal tour.

Ft. Lauderdale Canal Tour