Below are answers to common questions I receive from students (e.g. regarding letters of recommendations, classes, office hours, summer research). If the answer to your question is not listed below, feel free to send me an email.


  • What is one paper you would recommend that I read? Hands down, I would recommend that you read "The Science of Scientific Writing" by G. Gopen and J. Swan

  • What is the URL for our course webpage? mathcs.pugetsound.edu/~alchambers/csXXX where XXX is the course number. For example, "161" or "361" or "431".

  • When are your office hours? If you are currently in my course, please refer to the course syllabus. Otherwise, please send me an email to set up a time to meet.

  • When is the final exam for our course? You can find the final exam time by logging into myPugetSound and looking at your list of enrolled courses.

  • I'm waiting for a response from you...
    Please, please, please don't hesitate to send me a polite reminder. Especially if it is time sensitive. Thank you!

  • How can I get a summer internship if I don't have a lot of CS experience yet? Believe it or not, getting an internship depends more on your persistance (and courage) than your actual CS experience. Good places to start looking are: LoggerJobs, the Career Fair, Google search engine ("computer science undergraduate summer internships"), going to a conference like Grace Hopper or TAPIA. If you still can't find an internship but you live in a city with a lot of tech companies (or could crash with someone over the summer), send emails to local startup companies telling them you'll work for free if they give you something to work on and a desk to work at. (I have had students who used this strategy to get their first CS internship.)

    I recommend having someone look over your resume before you start applying. ACM and W-ACM often hold resume workshops. You can also go to Career Services to get help on your resume. I would also strongly encourage you to meet with a professor in the CS department to have them look over your resume.

    Application deadlines for more presitigious companies (e.g. Google, Facebook) can be as early as October so you should start working on your resume as soon as the school year begins. The spring semester is also a good time to start looking since many other companies have deadlines in February and March.

    Even if you have only taken CS161, you can still get an internship! Google and Microsoft both have internships specifically for college students who have taken only 1 or 2 CS courses. (The Microsoft program requires you to have taken calculus).

  • Will you write me a letter of recommendation for...?
    • Graduate school (PhD): Only if we have done research together! This includes summer research, honors thesis, senior thesis (and possibly your senior capstone project if it was a research project that I advised). Graduate programs want to know that if they accept you, you will be successful. For a PhD. program, this mainly means research skills and academic qualifications. I can only comment on your ability to do research if I have actually done research with you!

    • Graduate school (Masters): Only if we have had significant interactions outside of the classroom. A masters program may not be as interested in your research skills as a PhD program but if all I have to talk about is your performance in 1 or 2 classes, any letter I write will not be very strong. In particular, I need to be able to provide concrete examples of your personal qualities, your accomplishments, your strengths as a computer scientisist (e.g. ability to problem solve, think creatively, take initiative), etc. This requires me to have had significant interactions with you ouside of the classroom.

    • Study abroad: Only if I have had you in at least 2 classes and can speak to your maturity and ability to adjust to new cultures. Study abroad programs are often interested in your academic abilities and how well you will adjust to, and navigate within, a new context. It is important then that I have had you in more than one class (and your performance was strong) and that I can attest to your maturity.

    • Fulbright, Goldwater, etc.: If the fellowship you are applying to is research based (e.g. the Goldwater), then please see "Graduate School (PhD)" above. If the fellowship you are applying to is more broadly based (e.g. the Fulbright funds a number of diverse proposals), then please see "Graduate School (Masters)" above. In particular, I must be able to speak specifically to your qualities and accomplishments (beyond that you answered questions in class and your grades on assignments and exams).

    • Grace Hopper, TAPIA, etc.: The minimum requirement is that I have had you in at least 1 class. Grace Hopper and TAPIA are looking for different qualities in the students they give scholarships to. If you're interested in going to either conference (or a similar conference), send me an email and we will meet to talk about how best to write your application.

    • Other: It depends! Send me an email and we can talk


  • Okay, from the answer above it looks like you could write me a letter. Now what? Great, the next step is to send me an email asking if I would write you a letter of recommendation. If I can, then the more information you provide me, the stronger a letter I can write. At a minimum, I will ask you for:
    • A resume
    • An unofficial transcript
    • For graduate school, a list of the programs you are applying to (institution name and program name) along with deadlines
    • A cheat sheet (in the form of a typed document or an email) stating why you're applying for the particular program (e.g. why study abroad in this country? why do you want to go to Grace Hopper? why this graduate program?), why you think you are a good fit for the program, and any other relevant information (e.g. is there something in particular you want me to mention, are there examples from our interactions over the past few semesters/years that you want to be sure I include, is there something about your background you think is particularly important that I know).