When presented with a problem from a scientific domain, a Computer Scientist goes through a set of steps in order to provide a solution for the problem. These steps include: (1) understanding the problem; (2) formulating the problem mathematically; (3) designing an algorithm; (4) implementing the algorithm; and (5) solving the original scientific problem. This course will train students in how to employ algorithmic thinking by following these five steps to solve real-world problems.
Understanding the problem entails holding conversations with domain experts to understand the parameters of the problem, what data they can provide to the computer program, what answers they expect, etc. Formulating the problem mathematically is basically the step of turning the problem from an English description to a mathematical description that is amenable to further computational analyses.
While the course emphasizes implementing the algorithms and solving the original problems that gave rise to the need for these algorithms in the first place, much of the course will be devoted to the third step, namely, algorithm design. Here, the course will introduce students to different algorithm design strategies, as well as mathematical tools for reasoning about the correctness and efficiency of algorithms.