By Boleslaw Szymanski, Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor of Computer Science

Last year, my Frontiers of Network Science class became 9 years old. The class offers an introduction to network science and current research in the field. It took me so long to perfect my formula for teaching it!

Since the class is open to both graduate and undergraduate students, I wanted to find ways to demonstrate how research can be exciting, how satisfying it can be to share novel ideas with others, and how to focus on learning as a goal rather than a grade.

To immerse students directly in network science, they each select one great paper from the field and use it to prepare a project by applying the methodology to a more limited population. For instance, if a paper focuses on the entire United States, a student could limit it to the state of New York for the project. Then, we discuss the results.

Last year, 36 students completed their presentations and reports with passion! Several students even reported Frontiers of Network Science as their favorite class last semester.

“This class turned out to be much more interesting and applicable than I had ever expected,” said Jack Bartley ’23. “I am excited to be able to apply what I learned on user interaction data.”

Students also found that the class was beneficial for either advancing their studies or their professional skills. “I believe that this experience has equipped me with essential skills,” said Yuxiao Li ’23.

William Allen ’23, who will begin working full time this spring before pursuing a master’s degree with an emphasis on network science in the fall, found the class particularly helpful. “The topics discussed in this class are directly applicable to my job and my future area of research,” he said.

It is a pleasure to teach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where there is great science to discuss and students who are ready and eager to learn. I certainly look forward to continuing to teach this class and to seeing the projects of my future students!