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Pursuing an Independent Study with Me

I enjoy working with students to more deeply explore topics within Human-AI Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction, Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, AI Tools for Users, Museum Technology, Information Visualization, and other topics when I have the time! Please read through this document and contact me if you think you have an inspiring idea.


An independent study is a one‐semester, single‐student course that is run by that student but advised by a professor. The professor provides evaluation and guidance but does not structure the course. This means you'll need to create your own syllabus with weekly readings and deliverables to take approximately 13 hours/week. Independent studies may not be on topics covered by existing offerings in the department, even if they are not offered that particular semester.


Talk to me the semester beforehand with your Independent Study pitch to see if I’m going to be available and interested, and if I am, then I'll give you the go ahead to develop a more in-depth syllabus for your proposed course. This is not yet a commitment for either of us. Please note that I am most interested in topics described on the main page, here.

Submit your proposed independent study syllabus at least a month before Add Date so that there will be time for several revisions. Your syllabus needs to be in good shape by Add Date, otherwise I will not approve the Independent Study! I will not let you embark on a project unless I believe that you will succeed.

Proposed Syllabus

An example of a successful Independent Study syllabus can be found here. A sample syllabus for doing Explainable AI research as an independent study is available here, but you should also refer to Research Assistantships with Me. For Winter Study projects, you'll want to aim for less content (Williams' expects 26 hours/week for the ~4 weeks of Winter Study).

In brief, your syllabus should include:

  1. Motivation that ties your proposed topic to a problem that should be solved. Convince the reader to care!
  2. High-level view of the deliverables and associated activities with an estimate of average weekly workload in hours.
  3. A two-sentence overview of the final project.
  4. Schedule of topics and work cover every week. It should be a ~two page description showing me that you've thought about this enough to have a reasonable plan and understand the commitment of your proposed topic/course. This should include:

    • What you will read (and how I'll know that you did the readings)
    • What you will write.
    • What you will code (and what you'll show me to prove that it works)
    • The criteria I should use to evaluate your work (note that I have to make this evaluation based almost exclusively on what you present at a weekly meeting)
  5. Bio: Why do you want to do this project? Any special skills or experience that will help you succeed.

Creating a syllabus is difficult! As a guideline, it takes me about three weeks to produce an initial syllabus for a topic on which I'm already an expert. Devote time to developing a good syllabus, as that will increase the chances of your success.


I will meet with your for at least half an hour each week, on average. Depending on progress and schedules we may meet more or less frequently. You're in charge of the meetings, so come prepared to present your progress and ask questions on anything for which I can help.

I require you to submit all of your code and documents in electronic form so that I can easily archive them at the end of the semester.

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