COM SCI 181

Introduction to Formal Languages and Automata Theory

1 of 1
Professor Most Helpful Review
1 of 1

PROFESSORS

Mark Burgin Full Profile > 3.0 Overall 2.5 Easiness 2.6 Workload 2.5 Clarity 3.2 Helpfulness
THIS IS A REVIEW FOR BURGIN'S CS 180 Since the official final grade is submitted, I can finally freely write down what I want to say for this guy. ... (Summer Quarter 2016)
Mark Burgin See Full Profile

Overall 3.0 Easiness 2.5 Workload 2.6 Clarity 2.5 Helpfulness 3.2

Most Helpful Review

THIS IS A REVIEW FOR BURGIN'S CS 180

Since the official final grade is submitted, I can finally freely write down what I want to say for this guy.

If you don't want to see this lengthy post, here is the conclusion:
This instructor is horrible. If you can, please avoid him at all cost. At least for his CS 180.

1. Lectures
His lecture is unorganized. He always uses confusing notations to cover algorithms, and he never gives us an example to actually apply those algorithms. A lot of students stopped attending lectures because literally it's a waste of 2 hours. He already skipped a lot of materials (possibly due to time constraints) but he is willing to talk about why Noble prize does not include Math for 20 minutes.

2. Materials covered
He skipped a lot of materials. I have a list of comparison of materials covered.
The second column comes from Majid. The third column is available at math department's website: https://www.math.ucla.edu/ugrad/courses/math/182

Dr. Burgin

1.1, 1.2

2.1, 2.2, 2.4

3.1,3.2, 3.5, 3,6

4.1 (part of)

5.1, 5.4

6.1, 6.4 (part of)

7.1, 7.2, 7.5, 7.7

8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4

Majid

1.1

2.1, 2.2, 2.4

3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 3.6

4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8

5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4

6.1, 6.2, 6,4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.8

7.1, 7.2, 7.5, 7.8, 7.9

8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4

Math Department

1.1, 1.2

2.1, 2.2, 2.4

3.1-3.5

4.1, 4.4, 4.5

5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4

6.1, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6

7.1, 7.2, 7.7, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11

8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4?

As you can see, he skipped so many from greedy algorithms and dynamic programming. He also did not cover very important concepts like DAGs until the last lecture. He probably wouldn't cover that at all if no one complained about it to the cs department.

Every time I ask senior students or full-time staffers about algorithms, they always ask me to practice on greedy and dynamic programming. Majid also covered a lot about greedy algorithms and dynamic programming. It is frustrating to see an instructor skipping most widely used types of algorithms in an "introduction to algorithm" class.

I understand that it is an 8-week class and due to time constraint we are not expected to cover as much as a 10-week class. However, he occupied full two hours for every lecture and he was willing to spend 20 minutes (and did not even finish) talking about why Noble prize does not have Math. I do think covering more materials is more important than telling an anecdote. Also, math 182 only has 3 hours in a week, and Majid only covers 1.5 hours max in each lecture.

If we calculate the time here: 20 lectures in a regular quarter for CS 180; Deduce 1 Holiday and 1 midterm -> 18 lectures. Time = 18 * 1.5 = 27 hours.

Then we covert this to get a feel about summer classes: 27 / 2 = 13.5 lectures. In total, we have 8 * 2 = 16 lectures. There is one lecture for midterm and one lecture for final. Then we have 14 lectures.

13.5 < 14

This is simple math. Time should not be an excuse for skipping that many materials.

Also, it's fine if he actually teaches us how those algorithms that he covered work, but the fact is no one understands what he is doing.

Moreover, I have to thank our TAs for covering important topics that Dr. Burgin skipped and for all the interview advices.

3. Homework
3.1 Coverage
There are three homework sets. There are 3 problems (really easy) in homework 1 to practice chapter 1.1 and 2.4. There are 3 problems (really confusing) in homework 2 to practice 4.1, 3.2, 6.4 respectively. There are 2 problems (one really confusing, one really easy) in homework 3 to practice 6.1, 7.1.

As you can see, we do not have enough exercises and he skipped divide and conquer completely.

3.2 Homework specification
The phrasing of homework is really confusing. I understand that he is not a native English speaker, but at least he should specify key things to do homework, right?

For example, in homework 3, problem 1:
Is it a single simple cycle?
Are the weights nonnegative?

We have to ask him after class since his office hours are right after class. For students who have a class right after CS 180, it's unfortunate. If you have those clarifications, please send us emails or post clarifications on piazza, OK??? The whole class are bewildered and have no idea about what homework questions try to ask.

TAs Office Hours are totally useless since TAs, too, have no idea about what his problems mean.

3.3 Homework grading and hand-back
The homework won't be given back to us. We have to ask him to see our homework score one by one, and correct grading issues if possible (actually there are always grading issues due to miscommunications between Dr. Burgin and TAs). Again, students who have a class right after this one really don't have a way to see homework scores and reasons for points taken off.

He made an announcement on week 7 Wednesday about handing back homework and midterms, but the fact is nothing changed. We still need to line up to see our homework and midterms. In fact, I have never been able to see my homework 1 till now.

3.4 Homework solutions
No homework solution is released. If we didn't know how to do those questions before due date, we still don't know how to do them now. In my humble opinion this is not the right way to help students learn materials.

4. Exams
He posted HW2 on July 16th and asked us to do it to prepare for the midterm on July 20th. However, when we have questions about HW2, he wouldn't answer. I went to both TA Office Hours on July 18th and July 19th. Both of them said they had no idea about how to do those HW questions.

On the midterm, there are two really similar questions to ones in HW2. OK, I guess he didn't want to answer those questions because two of them were on the midterm. After the midterm, we asked him about solutions to the midterm, and he said in class "I won't give you answers since you still have HW2."

I am totally confused. An instructor released a homework for students to prepare for the midterm and did not give students solutions to that homework, and then refused to give students solutions to the midterm because the homework used prepare for the midterm was not due yet.

The grading is also ridiculous. The TA for section 1B, Jae, was in the same room when we took the midterm, and Dr. Burgin said that we did not need to prove any property of DFS / BFS. However, Jae took off 2 points for anyone not proving one property of DFS / BFS. He was there when we took the midterm. I have no idea about why he did that. If I had not chosen to skip my M51A lectures to see my midterm, I would have lost those 2 points for ever. 2 points are a huge difference for a non-curved class like this.

The final consists of 3 problems.

1. Knapsack problem. Note he only covered a less generalized version of knapsack problem: subset sum.
2. Network flow. Really easy problem. Just give a counter example.
3. Greedy with exchange argument. I know how to prove using exchange argument, but Dr. Burgin never covered this in his class and majority of students have no clue about how to use exchange argument.

If anyone sit through any other professor's lecture, he or she will be able to do these three problems correctly. However, if you only attended Dr. Burgin's lectures and never really spend time reading necessary chapters from the book, then good luck on your exams.

This class is a total disaster. I paid for nearly 2000 dollars to learn nothing. I have never seen anything more ridiculous in my two years here at UCLA. If you can, please avoid him at all cost. At least for his CS 180.

Grade distribution:
Here is the result from a piazza poll:

A total of 47 vote(s)
17 (36% of users) A
14 (30% of users) B
11 (23% of users) C
3 (6% of users) D
2 (4% of users) Other

Summer Quarter 2016
Michael Campbell Full Profile > 3.0 Overall 3.0 Easiness 3.0 Workload 3.0 Clarity 3.0 Helpfulness
Okay lecturer, sometimes funny, but didn't know his material very well. Made occasional mistakes in class that took a long while to correct, thus slowed... (Spring Quarter 2017)
Michael Campbell See Full Profile

Overall 3.0 Easiness 3.0 Workload 3.0 Clarity 3.0 Helpfulness 3.0

Most Helpful Review

Okay lecturer, sometimes funny, but didn't know his material very well. Made occasional mistakes in class that took a long while to correct, thus slowed down the pace and didn't finish the syllabus. A patient explainer but repeats himself a lot, could have been more precise, rigorous and less verbose and figurative given the math nature of this course. Homework is not bad, somewhat innovative, medium difficulty, and entirely based on lectures, and exam is guaranteed to be covered in homework, so not much pressure. Midterm was easy but final was really hard (because lecturer didn't like students getting perfect scores) . Overall I didn't walk away feeling I've learned as much as I expected, so I wouldn't recommend it to those who wish for a deeper understanding of automata and computation than just intuition and a few memorized conclusions.

Spring Quarter 2017
AD
AD
Sheila Greibach Full Profile > 2.8 Overall 1.3 Easiness 1.3 Workload 2.3 Clarity 3.8 Helpfulness
She is the worst professor I've had at UCLA. It is clear that at one time, she was a preeminent mind in her field (around 8th week, you do a section on... (Aug. 23, 2009)
Sheila Greibach See Full Profile

Overall 2.8 Easiness 1.3 Workload 1.3 Clarity 2.3 Helpfulness 3.8

Most Helpful Review

She is the worst professor I've had at UCLA.

It is clear that at one time, she was a preeminent mind in her field (around 8th week, you do a section on "Greibach Normal Form"). I would guess that she was at one point a pretty good teacher as well- she at least makes attempts at humor, she seems to understand the material pretty well, and she seemed to at least mildly prefer that we learn something. That being said, she should have retired 10+ years ago.

I sat in the third row, and I couldn't hear a word she said. She somehow managed to mumble in a quiet monotone. We started with 40 people in the class, and by the time I stopped going (around 6th week) there were only 12 students still showing up. Her course reader is a collection of fragmented sentences giving vague psuedocode descriptions of algorithms you've never heard of.

The savior of this course was Brian Taigku, the TA. If you have to take this class, don't bother going to lecture- just go to your discussion section and you'll be fine.

Greibach seems like a nice person, and I have nothing against her personally, but it is clear that she is at UCLA for the sole reason that she is a big name in the field of automata theory. I was surprised her bruinwalk raitings were so high- I suspect that people gave her some leniency because she IS a sweet old woman. Just not a good professor.

Aug. 23, 2009
D. Stott Parker Full Profile > 4.7 Overall 2.1 Easiness 1.6 Workload 3.7 Clarity 4.7 Helpfulness
He was a good professor. While he didn't do much to spruce up the material, it in itself was fairly interesting and kept me interested. He's not the gre... (March 13, 2011)
D. Stott Parker See Full Profile

Overall 4.7 Easiness 2.1 Workload 1.6 Clarity 3.7 Helpfulness 4.7

Most Helpful Review

He was a good professor. While he didn't do much to spruce up the material, it in itself was fairly interesting and kept me interested. He's not the greatest lecturer, and occasionally strays off on tangents, but they are all fairly relevant and do not detract from the class. Exams are manageable, but our homework grader marked everyone down so liberally most people ended up getting around 20% on most of the homeworks. If you went and talked with Parker though he would listen to your arguments and make changes if he felt you had valid points. Parker is fairly accessible and you can tell that he is genuinely concerned about student learning, though he isn't the greatest lecturer.

March 13, 2011
Amit Sahai Full Profile > 3.8 Overall 1.9 Easiness 1.5 Workload 3.4 Clarity 4.8 Helpfulness
Good (April 1, 2012)
Amit Sahai See Full Profile

Overall 3.8 Easiness 1.9 Workload 1.5 Clarity 3.4 Helpfulness 4.8

Most Helpful Review

Good

April 1, 2012
Alexandr Sherstov Full Profile > 4.9 Overall 3.6 Easiness 3.6 Workload 4.8 Clarity 4.7 Helpfulness
My favorite professor at UCLA so far. He does a great job of explaining the material. Although the subject is rather dry, he makes it engaging. The clas... (Fall Quarter 2017)
Alexandr Sherstov See Full Profile

Overall 4.9 Easiness 3.6 Workload 3.6 Clarity 4.8 Helpfulness 4.7

Most Helpful Review

My favorite professor at UCLA so far. He does a great job of explaining the material. Although the subject is rather dry, he makes it engaging. The class is organized very well.

I wish all CS classes were taught this well!

Fall Quarter 2017
AD
AD
1 of 1