David Chiu
Associate Professor and Chair
Computer Science
University of Puget Sound
Office: Thompson Hall 390B
Email: dchiu@pugetsound.edu
Ph: (253) 879-2853
David Chiu

Student FAQs

  • I'm waitlisted for your course. Can you let me in?

    I treat these requests on a case-by-case basis. Things I consider include: your position on the wait list, whether there are alternative sections with space, and whether you need my course to graduate. That said, I usually let in all students on a short (1-3) wait-list.

  • What are your office hours?

    I've never found having standard office hours to be very effective. In the past when I've put aside specific time slots, a significant number of students can't come due to their scheduled commitments. For these reasons, I keep an open-door policy. As long as my door is cracked, I'm available. The calendar on my home page gives a rough outline of my day-to-day availability.

    If you'd like to set up a specific time to meet, however, you're welcome to email me.

  • Will you be my advisor?

    Well, "advisor" means different things to different people, so let's clarify.

    • As an academic advisor, I would be officially associated with you in the university system. This gives me access to your transcripts, and it would allow me to view and submit your "alerts." It'd be part of my job to navigate you through our curriculum and to deliver you to a successful graduation. It doesn't necessarily mean that I can, or will, advocate for you (e.g., in the form of providing letters of recommendations).

      To declare your major, you must request a faculty in the program to serve as your primary academic advisor. For this reason, I generally agree if asked to serve. However, there are also circumstances that may prevent me from serving, e.g., if I'm on leave or if my current advising load is too high.

    • As a mentor, I will give non-judgmental advice about current academics, work, life, graduate school/job outlook. We might look over your resume, or do a mock interview, etc. I try to keep you in mind when I learn about opportunities that might be a good fit for you. There is no official method to ask for mentoring. The mentor-mentee relationship usually develops organically.

    • As a research advisor, we collaboratively develop a research project (usually performed over summer) in an area in which I specialize (database systems; distributed/cloud computing). To be successful, you not only need to have the background, but you also need have an interest in my areas of research. If I have a project that is available, and I find that you would be a good fit, I may reach out to you in the Spring to gauge your interest in doing summer research. But just because you don't hear from me doesn't mean you shouldn't reach out to me. It could just be that I'm behind on things, or it could mean that I hadn't really had time to hash out some ideas.

      I'm demanding of my research students, but I'll ensure that you're ready for the work. I will train you so that you have the necessary background in my area. I will also train you on how to "science." Such "sciencing" activities include: how to express problem statements and hypotheses, how to design and run experiments, how to visualize and communicate your results effectively, how to structure a technical paper, and so on. When the results are significant, I will ask you to co-author a paper with me for submission for publication.

  • Can you write me a letter of recommendation?

    This is one of the common questions I get asked. I believe that the impact of a letter begins with the reliability of its writer. I view letter-writing to be a serious responsibility, and I don't write puff pieces simply because I happen to like you. I don't shy away from listing your weaknesses along with your strengths in your work and personality. So, if I don't feel qualified to evaluate you very deeply, I may decline. If I agree, I would tell you any weaknesses I'd list (if any), and let you decide if you want me to proceed.

    Important: Getting an "A" in multiple courses with me doesn't necessarily translate to a strong letter. A good letter encompasses so much more than just performance in courses. Conversely, just because you weren't an "A" student in my class doesn't mean I won't provide you with a very strong letter if you demonstrated certain attitudes and traits that people appreciate, like humility, perseverence, attentiveness to detail, being helpful to others, and so on.

    In short, your grades in isolation don't impress me nor any readers of the letter. "A students" are everywhere, and there's always someone with a better record than you (count on it). So, you need to ask yourself, "What separates you from the rest?" What impresses me in addition to good grades are your attitudes, actions, and how you treat others. Those are the traits I want to focus on, and those are the traits your readers care about. Here are some items you should think about before asking me for a letter of recommendation.

    • "Is David a relevant judge?" Try to gauge how much I'd know about your current strengths and weaknesses for the position to which you are applying. Just because you got a good grade in my CS 1 or CS 2 class doesn't mean I would know anything about your qualfications for graduate school or a job as a software developer.

    • "Have I been a good citizen in the department?" Good grades are not sufficient for me to write you a decent letter. How do you treat people? Are you easy to work with? If you've demonstrated any immaturity, rudeness, or inappropriateness in my classroom or in general, don't bother asking me for a letter.

    • "Am I giving David enough time?" Though it's not always possible, I usually ask that you give me 3+ weeks heads-up. You wouldn't want me to rush a letter out the door. It would be less polished, and I may forget to put down certain facts or interactions with you that could've strengthened the letter. I like to take my time for this reason.

    • "Have I provided David with enough information?" Have you provided me with your current resume or CV? Do you have a description of the position? How about a draft cover letter declaring your interests and qualifications? Until you can provide all these items, you aren't ready to ask for letters!

    • "How long has it been?" If you're an alumna/us, this matters. If it's been multiple years since you graduated, I may not remember enough details about you as a student. I'd likely have to rely on data like grades and GPA, which may no longer represent who you've become. That always leads to a "business-as-usual" (and not very effective) letter. On the other hand, if we were close, i.e., I was your advisor/mentor, or did summer research, then that clearly changes things.

  • Can I list you as a job reference?

    Job references are less involved than having to provide letters. Usually, when I'm listed as a reference, a potential employer calls me for a quick 10-min background check: "Are they a real person at your institution?" "Were they easy to to work with?" "What are their strengths/weaknesses?" I don't have to know you and your work with as much detail than I would if I were asked to provide a letter, but you're still reminded that I'm honest about my evaluations of students, so a lot of the things from the previous question still apply.

  • Can we connect on social media?

    Yes, I'm happy to connect with my students and alumni on LinkedIn. I'm not on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and if you happen to find me on those platforms, it's a fake account.

  • Is there a way for me to connect with other CS students and alumni?

    Yes, there is a CS department group on LinkedIn that you can request to join.

   Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
University of Puget Sound
1500 N. Warner St
Tacoma, WA 98416