COMP_SCI 397, 497: Selected Topics in Computer Networks



Recommended: CS 340 or equivalent networking course


The course will cover a broad range of topics including congestion control, routing, analysis and design of network protocols (both wired and wireless), data centers, analysis and performance of content distribution networks, network security, vulnerability, and defenses, net neutrality, and online social networks.


Students will form teams of two or three; each team will tackle a well-defined research project during the quarter. A list of suggested project topics will be provided. All projects are subjected to approval by the instructor. The project component will include a short written project proposal, a short mid-term project report, a final project presentation, and a final project report. Each component adds some significant element to the paper, and the overall project grade will be based on the quality of each component of your work.

The above project components are due by email to the instructor by the end of the given day of the respective week. 

  1. Week 1: Project presentations by group leaders
  1. Week 2: Form groups of 2 or 3, choose a topic for your project, and meet with the project leader.
  1. Week 3: Write an introduction describing the problem and how you plan to approach it (what will you actually do?). Include motivation (why does the problem matter?) and related work (what have others already done about it?). 2 pages total.
  1. Week 6: Midterm presentation. Update your paper to include your preliminary results. 5 pages total.
  1. Week 11: Presentations by all groups.
  1. Week 12: Turn in your completed paper. 10 pages total. You should incorporate the comments received during the presentation.

Each team will have a weekly meeting with project leaders. Grading

  1. Paper reviews (15%), presentations (20%) and debating in the class (15%): 50%
  1. Projects 50% (Project proposal: 5%; Midterm report: 5%; weekly report and meeting: 10%; project presentation: 10%; final project report: 20%)
  1. Research idea report (optional, 3 pages): 10%

PREREQUISITES: Recommended: CS 340 or equivalent networking course 

Classes, Textbook, and other readings 

There will be no textbook for this class. A key part of the class will be to review and discuss networking research papers. Students must read the assigned papers and submit paper reviews before each lecture. Two teams of students will be chosen to debate and lead the discussion. One team will be designated the offense and the other the defense. In class, the defense team will present first. For 30 minutes the team will discuss the work as if it were their own. 

  1. The team should present the work and make a compelling case why the contribution is significant. This will include the context of the contribution, prior work, and in cases where papers are previously published, how the work has influenced the research community or industry's directions (impact). If the paper is very recent, the defense should present arguments for the potential impact. Coming up with potential future work can show how the paper opens doors to new
  1. The presentation should go well beyond a paper "summary". The defense should not critique the work other than to try to pre-empt attacks from the offense (e.g., by explicitly limiting the scope of the contribution).
  1. The defense should also try to look up related work to support their case (CiteSeer is a good place to start looking.)

After the defense presentation, the offense team will state their case for 20 minutes. 

  1. This team should critique the work, and make a case for missing links, unaddressed issues, lack of impact, inappropriateness of the problem formulation,
  1. The more insightful and less obvious the criticisms the better.
  1. While the offense should prepare remarks in advance, they should also react to the points made by the defense.
  1. The offense should also try to look up related work to support their case.

Next, the defense and offense will be allowed follow up arguments, and finally, the class will question either side either for clarifications or to add to the discussions and controversy and make their own points on either side. The presentations should be written in Powerpoint format and will be posted on the course web page after each class. 

Writing and Submitting Reviews 

All students must read the assigned papers and write reviews for the papers before each lecture. Email the reviews to the instructor ( prior to each lecture and the reviews will be posted on the course web page. Periodically, the instructor will evaluate a random subset of the reviews and provide feedback and grades to students. 

Please send one review in plain text per email in the body of the email message. 

A review should summarize the paper sufficiently to demonstrate your understanding, should point out the paper's contributions, strengths as well as weaknesses. Think in terms of what makes good research? What qualities make a good paper? What are the potential future impacts of the work? Note that there is no right or wrong answer to these questions. A review's quality will mainly depend on its thoughtfulness. Restating the abstract/conclusion of the paper will not earn a top grade. Reviews are roughly half-page and should cover all of the following aspects: 

  1. What is the main result of the paper? (One or two sentence summary)
  1. What strengths do you see in this paper? (Your review needs have at least one or two positive things to say)
  1. What are some key limitations, unproven assumptions, or methodological problems with the work?
  1. How could the work be improved?
  1. What is its relevance today, or what future work does it suggest?


Course web site: TBA.

Check it out regularly for schedule changes and other course-related announcements.

Group Email: TBA

COURSE COORDINATOR: Aleksandar Kuzmanovic