It’s the start of year three, and I visited UoM last Friday to got through my options and choices for what will almost certainly be the most important year of my MSc.

As usual, I need to choose taught modules. I need to get at least two done, but three would wrap up the taught part of the course completely, which would be a great place to be at the end of the year. I’m going for a bit of an AI flourish to finish with “Logic and Applications” to start in September, followed by “Ontology Engineering for the Semantic Web” Starting November, with a gap in March and then potentially “Text Mining” in April.

I also need to choose a final project, which I’ll need to complete over the course of a year, do some original work in the field of Computer Science and produce a dissertation on the order of 60-100 pages. The big question is do I want to put forward a project of my own devising, or take one that has been proposed by the CS School or a company? In order to complete this part of the course (which counts 50% of the final grade), I need to complete a further special module called “Research Skills and Professional Issues” which runs between November and March. It’s a big decision on a piece of work that’ll sink a huge chunk of my time over the next two years, so I’ll be getting in touch with the project organiser to help me evaluate my choices. One way or another though, it needs to start this year to be do-able in the remaining time.

So there’s a lot of stuff to do – and to pay for. I hadn’t thought about it, but this setup essentially means that I’ll be paying for the remainder of the course this year – well, pretty much now – which is just over £3,000. Ouch!

So anyway, whilst all that’s going on, the first module has started – Logic and Applications. This is a new module this year which seems to have at least partially replaced the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning course that I naively attempted back in 2008… having not fully understood the pre-requisites, I crashed and burned hard and ended up dropping it, as a result achieving nothing for the whole first half of my first year.

This time, the course doesn’t have any pre-reqs, but I’ve spent the last couple of months reading up on Propositional Logic, Resolution, Theorem Provers and First Order Logic, and last week implemented a satisfiability checking algorithm called DPLL and an implementation of a logic-based game called Hunt The Wumpus (specifically because there’s great reference material in AIMA to check my approach) to prove to myself that I understood the concepts. As a result, it looks like I’m pretty much covered up to at least week/day three, which is a good thing.

So, Logic and Applications Day 1 – propositional logic, set theory, mathematical proofs and satisfiability went pretty well. It introduced a couple of gaps in my knowledge, more on the mathematics side of things – what is a reflexive-transitive closure and how would I create and use one, for example. Now to get the week one coursework done… after all, the weekly coursework counts 50% of the marks for this module.

As an aside, the Blackboard system that we used in the first SSD&X module hasn’t resurfaced in any other modules so far. In fact, the preferred method for submission based on my experience is…. wait for it… paper. It’s a bit odd, having spent the last ten years passing papers and documents around pretty much exclusively in a digital medium.

I can sort of see why for this module, at least – the mathematical content means that there’s a lot of symbolic stuff going on, and they’re testing the ability to do the maths, not use tools like LaTeX. That said, those tools seem to be essential for anyone working in CS, so maybe you could make the case that all the CS modules should teach and promote their use.

It will present me with a problem, as it always does. There will be a coursework set in the last lecture day to be handed in during reading week, and I’m not taking time off work to get over to Manchester purely to hand in a piece of paper.