Tufts School of Engineering

Emerging Scholars Program

The Computer Science Department is pleased to offer the Emerging Scholars Program, which gives students a unique opportunity to learn about the field of computer science and enrich their experience in introductory-level CS courses. Apply now!

The Emerging Scholars Program…

ESP is a semester-long program with weekly 75-minute workshops that meet on Thursdays or Fridays. In each workshop, a peer leader presents a set of problems from a specific Computer Science field, and the students work as a group to come up with algorithmic solutions and/or analyses of the problems. There is no programming and there are no homework assignments, just the self-contained workshops that demonstrate that Computer Science is a collaborative activity that is focused more on problem solving than on programming. Since there is no work outside of class, attendance at all sessions is mandatory, and participation is required from every student.

The goal of the program is to encourage more students to pursue Computer Science beyond the introductory level and into the major by creating a program that encourages active participation and discussion of Computer Science related topics in a positive, relaxed, and open environment.

Program Schedule

The Spring 2022 Emerging Scholars Program will meet on Thursdays or Fridays beginning February 3. The complete list of dates is:

On each date, the sections will meet at the following times:

Frequently Asked Questions

What will I get out of ESP?

You will get a unique opportunity to develop lasting friendships with highly motivated students in the field. You will also develop skills in core principles like algorithmic thinking and problems solving that will benefit your scholarship. Finally, you should have lots of fun with your peers!

This is the third iteration of the Emerging Scholars Program at Tufts, and it has been modeled on a program at Columbia University. Here are what some students had to say about the program there:

The Emerging Scholars Program was a great asset to the introductory level Computer Science class. It helped me to think outside of just programming and more into developing problem-solving skills. I loved being in a small group because it forced us all to participate and I also loved having a workshop leader that was close in age and encouraged creative thinking.
ESP helped to ignite my interest in Computer Science. Through the varied workshops, I was exposed to interesting people and ideas, realizing the breadth of an entirely fascinating subject in which I had no previous experience. I really looked forward to the workshops because they were very fun. It was extremely rewarding to participate in something in which I not only found academic value but also social and recreational value.
I love being part of ESP because it challenges me to think with a different perspective and then apply it to computer science. What I've learned in the workshops has helped me grasp and understand many topics in my classes.

What topics will we cover?

The problems presented in the Emerging Scholars Program are taken from across the spectrum of Computer Science fields, such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, biometrics, encryption and more. The problems are not extra help for your Computer Science courses; rather, they demonstrate problems that you may see in advanced computer science classes. Although the workshops are led by an undergraduate peer leader, the classroom materials are prepared by PhD students in conjunction with Professor Richard Townsend. We try to select problems that are interesting and challenging, as well as amenable to group collaboration.

For example, social networks present many questions for analysis. How can we represent social relationships in a graph (network)? Once we have a friendship graph, how could we use it to suggest people you might know to users? How do we design algorithms that can work on a graph that keeps getting larger and larger? (For example, Facebook has more than 2.85 billion monthly active users and keeps growing.)

What are the requirements?

The only requirements are attendance and participation. There will be nine workshops (each one is 75 minutes) on Fridays over the course of the semester, and we expect you to participate in group problem solving. There is no homework and no programming.

The weekly workshops are led by an undergraduate student peer leader. This specially selected and trained student will lead sessions designed to solidify your knowledge of Computer Science, but more importantly, to demonstrate that Computer Science is a collaborative activity that involves much more than just programming. In addition, there will be periodic social gatherings in future semesters to meet friends from your program as well as other young students involved in ESP and Computer Science. (These are, of course, voluntary, but we suspect you will have had such a good time at the start that you will come!)

Will I receive academic credit for participating?

Yes, the program will be a one credit course graded pass/fail. Students who are at the credit limit are still welcome to participate, but may not receive credit. Tufts is very strict about the total credit hour limit. Students are not encouraged to drop any courses in favor of credit from ESP.

Who supports the Emerging Scholars Program?

The program is sponsored by the Computer Science department. Professor Richard Townsend and PhD students Sarah Radway and Chas Threlkeld are coordinating the program.

Is there anything else I should know about the Emerging Scholars Program?

This program is not remedial computer science and it is not extra tutoring or office hours. Rather, you will work with other participants and the peer leader to come up with solutions to interesting problems related to computer science and discuss those solutions' pros and cons. Also, there will be no homework and no required preparation for the meetings. All you need to do is show up, participate, and have fun!

How do I apply?

The Emerging Scholars Program will be having its fourth semester at Tufts in Spring 2022, and we will begin accepting applications on the first day of class, January 19.

Spring 2022 Application Deadline: February 6, 11:59pm

Applicants should:

Apply here by February 6, 11:59pm.

How does the application process work?

We will only be selecting 40-50 participants, depending on the number of applications we receive. There are no prerequisites! We do not assume that you have any prior knowledge of Computer Science. We are looking for students who are interested in learning more about the field of computer science but are not quite sure about their major or whether they will take another Computer Science course. Most importantly, we are looking for interesting, outgoing young people who will help make this program a success.

I want to be a peer lead or assist with ESP. How do I apply?

If you are an ESP alum or are just interested in participating contact the ESP Coordinators to ask about the peer leader or workshop assistant positions.

How do I get more information?

Contact the ESP coordinators with any questions or for more information.