Notes on UROPs and HYPs
Last updated on:
Tue Mar 6 12:01:01 GMT-8 2007
This was written during my first year at SoC, and the first time I
had to review UROPs and HYPs. I have made some observations about
this process that I think might be useful for students. Your comments
and constructive criticism are welcome. N.B. - These are my
personal comments and observations and should not be construed as any
official position by NUS or SoC.
During that year (Semester II, 2003), the grading process took
the form of a poster session. Students were given 30 minutes to
discuss with two examiners. Students prepared an A1-sized poster of
their work and answered questions about their work. Demonstrations
were carried out as necessary. Grading works such that a student's
project supervisor did not have any direct influence on the project
grading; rather, the advisor was free to offer assessments to the
examiners, but the assessment did not need to be taken into account.
You may also want to review some notes on how to begin to do
research as part of your HYP and UROP.
If you want do a project related to the Web or eventually
working for Google, you might consider working with me and my
group or WING. If you're
thinking of doing your HYP with me, please read how
I select and rank candidate students at the bottom of this page.
- Notes about doing your HYP in the course of the year.
- Demonstrate initiative. One thing that looks
particularly good to examiners is to hear from their supervisors that
the HYP/UROP student was independent and motivated to do work. Less
supervision from your project advisor means that you are capable of
taking the problem and running with it. Over the course of your
project, you should demonstrate to your advisor that you can do many
things on your own and take the initiative to find background reading,
appropriate techniques and datasets.
- Evaluate properly. If there are accepted ways of
evaluating your work, make sure you use them. If there are other
results in the literature that are comparable, re-print them. If
there are other results that aren't compatible, list them and explain
why they aren't comparable.
- Balance your workload throughout your year. Try not to
tail off after doing a lot of work at the beginning, and don't try to
rush to finish things at the end of the semester towards the
presentation. Many projects require adequate background knowledge to
do properly. In many cases you'll need to spend a sizeable portion of
time to acquire that knowledge. The summer before the official start
of the project is a particularly good time to get this base covered
and to start working on the project.
Also try to balance your workload per semester. Many
students like to load their remaining modules in Semester 1 and leave
Semester II mostly for the HYP. This may sound like a great idea, but
in many fields it is not particularly good, as research conference
deadlines are usually at the end of Semester 1. Converting your
research into a research paper submission (and possible acceptance) in
the problem area looks remarkably good to both HYP grades as well as
graduate schools and recruiters.
- Learn software to support your HYP. There are also a
number of things you'll typically have to deal with in project work.
If you haven't already, learn how to use CVS/subversion to deal with
code revisions and backup. I advise my students to use a Unix working
environment and also to learn LaTeX for formatting and writing their
- Notes about the thesis and thesis writing.
- The thesis itself is a document that is limited in size. The
more succinct your thesis the more likely your reader will actually
examine it. If it's not main material, you can always move it to an
appendix. That shows that you know how to prioritize and save your
(Updated: Mar 07) I still hear from
who are anxious that their thesis is not "long enough".
There is a difference between having too little material to present
versus structuring and editing your thesis to be
succinct. Bottom line: gobs and gobs of unedited text
isn't going to do any favors to you or help your evaluator. Make sure
you save time to edit your work.
- Get your papers proofread. The thesis may actually be read by your
committee members. It's embarassing to have your scientific
contributions that your modules have had obscured by poor English or
incorrect grammatical use. Yes, your evaluators will try to be
objective and not take these factors into consideration (past the
marks allocated for it). But there's really not much excuse for
having your thesis not spell checked and read by others first.
Let me put it this way: would you want to bug your friends for help
(and possibly an in-kind review of their thesis) rather than have a
disgruntled professor do it for you?
- In general, examiners don't have time to review your code. But you
still want to let them know about the time and complexity of the
coding task that you were assigned to do. Give them a good idea of
the overhead you've incurred or the time that you've consumed in
creating your demo or workable code. This goes with both code (in
KLoCs for example) as well as for prototypes, initial approaches tried
that may not have made it into the final project/implementation.
- Tell the examiner about the competing work. There's anyways prior
relevant literature and work. My advice is to start taking notes on
the papers you read right at the outset of your project. You need to
cite competing approaches and to properly evaluate the work against
- Your examiners will be assessing your projects, but they may be
unfamiliar with the area, and may not know what is considered new and
novel and what is considered dry and done. You need to differentiate
and distinguish your work from others. After reading the abstract,
introduction and conclusion of your thesis, the examiner should know
at a high-level what the 3 to 5 contributions you've made.
- Notes about the presentation session. From what I
understand it used to be an actual presentation of work.
poster session, certain things have changed and are still changing,
but these are some observations I have noted during this last HYP
- You have to check out Dr. Terence Sim's observations on
technical presentation. If you have time, watch the webcast
also (only for people in NUS)
Go to a HYP/UROP poster presentation session, especially when other
students are defending their thesis. Note what makes a good demo or
poster session. Note how questions can be diplomatically answered and
how they can be concise. An answer to a question does not necessarily
have to be very long. If you're not sure you understand the question,
instead of asking to repeat the question, you can try to paraphase it
back to the examiner to see wehther you've understood it correctly.
- Accurately gauge the level of expertise an examiner has in your
project. If your evaluator hasn't read the thesis before seeing you,
then you have a chance to give that 15-minute spiel that you have
prepared. However, if she's read the thesis in detail or asks you one
or two questions early on that demonstrates she understands it well,
you may want to move quicker or jump directly to answering questions.
- There are some nice ways to structure your poster for
presentation. You can look at past pictures of HYPs or
UROPs to see how they've structured their posters.
There are also some excellent guidelines for creating
posters from the web.
- (updated Mar '07) A demo is sometimes a double-edge
sword. It may be nice to show results visually or
demonstrate that you have a working solution but it also
significantly detracts from time that your examiners can
be asking you more pointed questions about your
projects. If you do demo, make sure that it is not
gratuitous. Conversely, don't worry if you don't have a
demo; in most cases, a demo is not a suitable
How I decide which students to take for projects
Certain projects that I offer often have multiple students coming
to inquire about them. How do I (and possibly others) decide which to
choose? Here are some criteria:
- Your availability: This is a primary concern for me. Are you
going to be around during the summer? Are you planning to go overseas
for a semester? How much coursework do you have left to do in the
final year? The more time you have available to HYP, the higher the
likelihood you can do something substantial. Certain project require
a substantial time commitment in terms of learning the necessary
- Previous research work: If you are part of the USP or special
programme, or have done a UROP, you'll be more experienced with how to
do research. Coming up with a suitably structured problem and
hypotheses is difficult, writing a thesis for the first time is
difficult; so the more experience you have here the easier it will be
- Requisite knowledge: For certain projects, you will be required
to know some prerequisite knowledge. Practically all my projects
require familiarity with CS 3243 Foundations of Artificial
- Initiative and personality: This I can only determine in the
interviews. It's a two way street: you'll want to interview with
various potential supervisors to see whom you feel most comfortable
- CAP: This doesn't tell me about your research ability but it
helps me ascertain how much time you need to spend on coursework. The
higher, the less time I will have to worry about your coursework, and
thus the more availability you'll have for project work (see point #1)
Min-Yen Kan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Created on: Mon Apr 21 18:25:47 2003
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