General Information


Geoffrey Towell
259 Park Science Building
gtowell at brynmawr dot edu


Lecture 9:55 -- 11:15 T, Th Park 336
Lab 11:25 -- 12:45Th Park 230
Office Hours M 10-11, T, 11-12, F 10-12. Also by appointment
No office hours on 2/3
Park 259
Zoom Meeting code:
232 840 6920.
Password: given in class
Course Description This course examines the applications of algorithms to the accomplishments of various programming tasks. The focus will be on understanding of problem-solving methods, along with the construction of algorithms, rather than emphasizing formal proving methodologies. Some of the algorithms we will study/implement include: searching, sorting, search engine indexing, Page Rank, pattern recognition: nearest neighbor, decision trees, neural nets, graph algorithms, error correcting codes, data compression, digital signatures, database algorithms, cryptographic hash functions, etc. Additionally, we will learn how to measure program performance, programming pitfalls, code optimization, advanced programming structures, etc. Prerequisites: CS151 and CS231 (Junior/Senior standing in the major preferred). This is a Writing Intensive (WI) course.

Computer Lab Park 230 & 231 Instructions for using the lab computers
Remote accessible lab computer status


Make It Clear
by P Winston

Algorithms Unlocked
by T. Cormen

Nine Algorithms that Changed the Future
by J MacCormick
Total cost for paperback on Amazon ~ $60

Important Dates


There will be assignments every week. Assignments will be due at the beginning of class -- typically on Tuesday.

Assignments will be late and not accepted 5 minutes after the beginning of class


Labs will be the basis of assignments. I do not require attendance in lab. However, it will certainly be easier to do the assignments if you get a good start in lab.


Much of this course will be student led discussion. So a schedule with lecture notes is not terribly relevant.

Schedule This is a key document. It shows all of the readings; has links to all of the labs, and shows who is presenting on which days -- about what.

Below are powerpoint slides, if/when appropriate.
  1. Jan 17 -- Introduction
    Lecture notes
  2. Jan 19 -- More algorithmic thoughts -- graphs
    Lecture notes
  3. Jan 24 -- Lab 1 recap, Presentations
    Lecture notes
  4. Jan 26 -- HW 1, Presentations, algorithms
    Lecture notes
    A sample document from latex for font and page size reference
  5. Jan 31 -- Student presentation on Lab 2
  6. Feb 2 -- Student presentation on Sorting
    Common issues in Lab 2 reports
  7. Feb 7 -- Student presentation on Lab 3
    Optimizing mergesort ... with code!
  8. Feb 28: Hashing
    My slides
  9. March 2: Graph basics
    My slidesHandout
  10. March 21: Clustering basics
    My slides
    From the distance data in the slides:Single Link dendrogram Complete Link dendrogram These are plausibly correct. If you believe I have made a mistake, you might be right.
  11. April 4: Crypto Hash
    My slides
  12. April 13: Compression and Huffman Compression
    My slides
  13. April 18: LZW Compression lab
    My slides
  14. April 20: Huffman Compression and greedy algorithms
    My slides

Course Policies


Attendance and active participation are expected in every class. Participation includes asking questions, contributing answers, proposing ideas, and providing constructive comments.

Please stay in touch with me, particularly if you feel stuck on a topic or assignment and can't figure out how to proceed. Often a quick e-mail, or face-to-face conference can reveal solutions to problems and generate renewed creative and scholarly energy. It is essential that you begin assignments early.


Grades will be awarded based on the number of points earned and according to the percentage breakdowns shown.
Labs & written work 35%
Presentations 35%
Class Participation 20%
Attendance 10%

Incomplete grades will be given only for verifiable medical illness or other such dire circumstances. Incomplete grades must be approved through the Dean's office.

ALL work submitted for grading should be entirely YOUR OWN. Sharing of programs, code snippets, etc. is not permitted under ANY circumstances. That said, I encourage you to discuss assignments at an algorithmic level with other students. That is, talk about the problem, and general approaches to problems. Do not share or discuss actual code.


Learning Accommodations

Students requesting accommodations in this course because of the impact of disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester with a verification letter. Students not yet approved to receive accommodations should also contact Deb Alder, Coordinator of Accessibility Services, at 610-526-7351 in Guild Hall, as soon as possible, to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations. Early contact will help avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

This class may be recorded.

Creating a Welcoming Environment

All members of the Instruction Staff are dedicated to the cause of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of computing, and to supporting the wellness and mental health of our students.

Diversity and Inclusion

It is essential that all members of the course community – the instructor, TAs, and students – work together to create a supportive, inclusive environment that welcomes all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. All participants in this course deserve to and should expect to be treated with respect by other members of the community. Class meetings, lab sessions, office hours, and group working time should be spaces where everyone feels welcome and included. In order to foster a welcoming environment, students of this course are expected to: exercise consideration and respect in their speech and actions; attempt collaboration and consideration, including listening to opposing perspectives and authentically and respectfully raising concerns, before conflict; refrain from demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech.


Additionally, your mental health and wellness are of utmost importance to the course Instruction Staff, if not the College as a whole. All members of the instruction staff will be happy to chat or just to listen if you need someone to talk to, even if it’s not specifically about this course. If you or someone you know is in distress and urgently needs to speak with someone, please do not hesitate to contact BMC Counseling Services: 610-526-7360 (610-526-7778 nights and weekends). If you are uncomfortable reaching out to Counseling Services, any member of the Instruction Staff will be happy to contact them on your behalf. We understand that student life can be extremely difficult, both mentally and emotionally. If you are living with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other conditions that may affect you this semester, you are encouraged to discuss these with the Instructor. Although the details are up to you to disclose, the Instruction Staff will do their best to support and accommodate you in order to ensure that you can succeed this course while staying healthy.

Created on January 2023. Subject to constant revision.