Master in the USA. Fulbright Graduate Student Program. Part 2

    In the summer, I laid out an article about the practical aspects of applying for a Fulbright scholarship, but now I will talk a little about studying at Purdue University . In this part I will try to describe the requirements for graduation, some courses and everyday moments. I hope that this will help a little to understand for those who are thinking about studying in the USA, what all the same consists in. So if you are interested welcome to cat.

    Purdue university

    Purdue University is a public university in the USA, the city of West Lafayette , Indiana, the main of the six campuses of the Purdue University System. It was founded in 1869. The second largest student in Indiana, and one of the first in the number of international students in the United States. Historically, in good relations with the Fulbright program (the university provides discounts on tuition for the program and eagerly credits the finalists of the Fulbright program), so many scholarship holders study here. Purdue University is one of the largest Fulbright member organizations in the United States.

    Faculty (department) of Computer Science

    Historically one of the top rated and prestigious faculties at Purdue University. Founded in 1962, one of the oldest computer science departments in the United States. According to various ratings, it is included in the TOP-30 faculties of computer sciences in the world ( ShanghaiRanking , US News Education , Best Schools by return of investment , The Guardian ). The most famous (developed) areas in the department are Systems (OS, Networks) and Programming Languages.

    Release requirements

    In US universities, very often there is no strict difference between graduate and postgraduate studies (PhD). In many universities (including Purdue University), masters and graduate students take the same courses and, in fact, there are no particular differences in the first 2-3 semesters. Therefore, often coming to the magistracy, people are then transferred to graduate school. Also, graduate students can at any time (after fulfilling the requirements for master's degree) receive a master’s diploma and finish their studies. You can learn more about release requirements here , but I’ll try to show the big picture.

    To obtain a master's degree, there are 2 ways with and without master's work. There is no time frame, as soon as the requirements are satisfied, get a diploma and have a good trip. I know people who graduated in 3 semesters, I heard about students who completed all the necessary courses in 2 semesters. But this is more likely an exception to the rule, and in addition to zeal, a successful combination of circumstances is also necessary (for all required courses to be able to take), most often it takes 2 years to obtain a master's degree.
    Option without a master's work (10 courses)
    As a rule, the most popular choice among Purdue students. Recently, very few students write master's work. Often this is due to the desire to take as many courses as possible or the lack of a specific project.
    Course Requirements:
    • three required courses (algorithms, OS or Networks, Compilers or Programming Languages)
    • at least 2 more courses from different areas of computer science
    • you can (but not necessarily) take two courses of independent research with teachers

    Option without a master's work (8 courses + master's work)
    Globally, it does not differ much from an option without a master's work, it is just independent study courses, in fact they are replaced by writing the work itself. As I wrote above, I do not yet know more than one student who would be planning to write a master's work.
    Course Requirements:
    • three required courses (algorithms, OS or Networks, Compilers or Programming Languages)
    • at least 2 more courses from different areas of computer science
    • other courses optional


    Studies (PhDs) At Purdue University, this is more like an advanced graduate program than a separate program. As a rule, obtaining PhD takes 5-6 years, in a particularly successful case 4 years. If the graduate student already has a master's degree, then you can reduce the load on courses.
    The main points in the requirements that I would like to draw attention to:
    • two required courses (algorithms and OS), in total 9 courses are needed
    • Qualifying Examination, Part 1 - Four additional exams in four different selected areas. As a rule, this requirement is frightening to many, but according to personal impressions, for passing these exams it’s enough just to prepare for the final exams for the courses taken.
    • Qualifying Examination, Part 2 - Oral exam in the field of research. It consists of a presentation and 20-30 questions on the current state of the selected field (main directions, popular tasks, etc.).
    • Preliminary Examination - A deeper oral exam on a selected dissertation topic. It may be in different variations - presentation, answers to questions, presentation of research ideas.
    • Thesis Defense - actually the defense of the dissertation.

    Education Financing Options

    I am writing this article in the context of receiving a Fulbright scholarship, but at the same time Purdue University offers many other funding opportunities. All options pay for their studies and provide some kind of scholarship (salary in case of assistance). Conventionally, they can be divided into 3 categories:
    • Teaching Assistantship - work as an assistant teacher for a course both in the Department of Computer Science and in other departments. The most popular option is students. In general, in the department of computer science from semester to semester, the problem is to recruit the necessary number of assistants for courses and often take people from other departments. Out of interest, I worked as an assistant in the bachelor's course in operating systems, in principle, the experience is positive. It usually took me 10-15 hours a week.
    • Research Assistantship - work in research laboratories, specific projects or just for a teacher. The voluminous concept, which is difficult to characterize, the set of positions is very different in different areas. The most common option after the student has decided on the leader and topic. Often, the supervisor simply provides a scholarship to his students so that they can focus on research.
    • Fellowship - a variety of scholarships. The Fulbright scholarship is one of many; there are scholarships from the department, the university and simply private foundations.

    Fellowship, as a rule, is the best option, as it does not impose obligations to work and makes it possible to fully concentrate on studying. At the same time, the scholarship may (often indeed) be less than the salary of an assistant. For example, a Fulbright scholarship is $ 1,280, and the average salary of an assistant is $ 1,500 - $ 1,600 (depending on the number of working hours per month based on the formal requirement to work 20 hours a week, pay hourly).
    Also, in funding, there is a difference in the approach to masters and graduate students. Getting a job as an assistant as a master is more difficult, and no one gives guarantees that work will be every semester. At the same time, post-graduate students are guaranteed to work for 4 semesters, then according to the situation (there used to be a guarantee for 4 years, now the rules have changed a bit).

    Completed courses

    Even before receiving a Fulbright scholarship, I was always interested in the differences in studies in different places. I am very impressed with the educational process at Purdue, and it exceeded many of my expectations. Excellent organization of the process, immediately understandable requirements and constantly updated courses (2-3 years according to the rules, each course is supplemented with new materials). I don’t know how the rest of the universities, but KPI (Kiev Polytechnic University) is still where to grow and grow.
    Next, I will describe the courses taken so that you can make an approximate impression of the filling of the courses.
    As a digression, I will say that at Purdue the courses are quite deep and often more theoretical. At the same time, in almost all courses there are more and quite complex projects. My courses:
    • Operating Systems - An in-depth study of operating systems. In Purdue, some time ago, they developed the XINU operating system for this . It is considered one of the most difficult courses, quite extensive practical tasks (task scheduler, interprocess communication) and a very complex final project - a virtual memory manager. All programming in C. For me, the most useful course, helped to greatly improve the programming skill in C. Traditionally, it is considered one of the best courses in Purdue.
    • Algorithms - a standard course of algorithms with a bias in theory. No programming, all tasks are reduced to proving correctness and asymptotic complexity. According to reviews, one of the most unloved courses by students is due to the complexity of tasks and a strict (sometimes very) grading system. The specific topics depend on the professor who leads the course, but usually use the book Algorithm Design as a textbook .
    • Data Mining - an introduction to Data Mining with a review of all the basic and well-known algorithms. Example topics . For me, probably the biggest disappointment, since I did not learn anything significantly new, I definitely expected more in-depth topics. Used by Python and R.
    • Programming Languages - a course on the theoretical aspects of programming languages ​​(type systems, lambda calculus, etc.). In fact, the entire course is built around proving the correctness of programs using Coq and type systems for programming languages. Used book Software Foundations . A very interesting final project is to describe any system of your choice and prove interesting properties. For example, we formalized a simple programming language with thread support and proved the necessary conditions for the absence of deadlocks. A much more theoretical course than the name might seem.
    • Parallel Computing - a course on parallel programming algorithms. There is a lot of theory, the complexity of algorithms and scalability problems (strong and weak scalability) are deeply considered. C and OpenMP / OpenMPI are used as the language as libraries for parallel programming. I liked the course, very interesting material and tasks.
    • Metaprogramming and Program Generation - a theoretical course in introducing various options for the use of metaprogramming . I really liked the structure of the course - every week we read and discussed 1-2 scientific articles related to meteorological programming (who are interested, a list of articles ). Since the course is research-oriented, in the end it was necessary to propose your own project. The idea is not bad, but not very implemented, many who took projects that were too complicated and actually didn’t manage to finish anything.
    • Compilers - excerpts from the theory of compilers. Conventionally, all course material is divided into 2 parts - Frontend (piercing, grammar, etc.) and Backend (code generation and various optimizations). There were also 2 interesting but lengthy GCC modification projects (defining the use of uninitialized local and global variables). Many places in the USA and Purdue also use the book Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools , which is considered a classic on the theory of compilers.

    Accommodation and household moments

    West Lafayette is a typical American campus. The bulk of the population are students, the entire infrastructure is imprisoned for the university. I also noticed that on campuses stricter rules, unlike big cities, in all bars they check the age, more police, etc.

    • Housing

    I wanted to live in an American university dormitory, but at Purdue Masters and graduate students are forbidden. Such a rule exists in many universities, I am not sure of specific reasons. Regarding the cost of housing, usually a room can be rented from $ 350, a studio from $ 500. Housing close to campus is more expensive and generally worse in quality than any other offer. The main disadvantage is a typical annual rental contract in the United States, which forces you to either look for someone for the summer or lose a decent amount of money.

    • Public transport

    After moving from Kiev, the lack of good public transport was probably the biggest problem for me. It seems to be in Purdue, but buses rarely run, often with delays, and on weekends there is almost no public transport. Traveling around the USA, I realized that this is a universal problem except for big cities. Also, intercity transport is of fairly average quality. In general, after a while I realized that it’s quite difficult to do without a car (harder than in Kiev).

    • Insurance and medical care

    The medical care in Purdue is expensive and fairly average quality. At the same time, insurance is required. The Fulbright Scholarship includes basic insurance with a mandatory payment of $ 25 for each visit to the doctor. University insurance costs somewhere between $ 250 - $ 600 per semester depending on scholarship conditions and other factors.

    • Food / Nutrition

    One of the things that surprised me in the USA was the relative cheapness of food, especially in different cafes / canteens on campus. You can have a good lunch for $ 6-7, for $ 12 - a buffet in the university cafeteria. Purdue has very high quality eateries, according to the Princeton Review # 14 in the USA.

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