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- COM SCI 181

## Introduction to Formal Languages and Automata Theory

##### Computer Science department

### Mark Burgin

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#### Tags

- Tolerates Tardiness
- Useful Textbooks
- Appropriately Priced Materials
- Would Take Again
- Engaging Lectures
- Snazzy Dresser
- Participation Matters
- Gives Extra Credit

#### Grades

##### Summer 2016

Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.

##### Summer 2015

Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.

##### Summer 2013

Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.

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#### Reviews

I took CS180 with Professor Burgin. He often speaks slow but this can be a good thing as it becomes relatively easier to follow his lecture on algorithms, one of the harder computer science classes. Lectures consists mainly of proofs for certain algorithms. Asking questions in class is easy and the professor is always willing to answer all your questions. However, the professor does not go over example problems in class, you have to go to discussion for that. The class consists of 3 homeworks, each worth 10%, 1 midterm, 30% and 1 final 40%. The homeworks do not take too much time but it is very hard to score full marks on them as you have to be very thorough in your explanations. Midterm and final are not too hard and are similar to the homeworks. If you are able to do all the homeworks on your own and understand the material in the course, you should do well on the tests. I got an A on this class but I did have to study a lot.

Professor Burgin is a very kind person. His lecture is unclear sometimes, but you can always get his help outside class. His exams are not easy, but you'll get good grade if you really UNDERSTAND the homework. He is always available outside classes and you always can ask for his help. I think he really cares for students.

I took CS181 with Professor Burgin in 2016 summer. Professor Burgin is a really nice person. "I will answer as many questions as you have" is the most frequent sentences said by him. He did explain everything as long as you asked him. He is really knowledgable about the materials taught in CS181, so he can give you some satisfactory answer no matter what questions you have for the course material. Also, he gave students chance to retake the midterm, which was really helpful. He did care about students. We had several requests about the homework deadline and grades issues, and after talking with him, he agreed! Therefore, as long as your request is reasonable and will help you as a student, there is a good chance that he would agree. He has his own style of teaching. It might take a while to get used to it, but after you get used to it, you will gain a lot from his class and love the way he teaches. Also, he gave out a lot of extra points if you pay attention to the lecture, answer the questions asked by him, or spot some mistakes(like a typo) he made in class. Get involved in his class, do the homework, and I am sure you will get a good grade from him!

CS 180:

I took Dr. Burgin's CS 180 class this summer. It was truthfully a terrific experience and I highly recommend taking it with Burgin. He does a very good job of explaining each proof for every algorithm in detail, and if you don't understand any part of a proof it is very easy to approach him during break or office hours. He will spend as much time as necessary to make sure every student understands each part of every algorithm and its proof.

His homeworks are not too difficult, but I would make sure you do them and understand them well. If you do so, you should be able to get a good grade on the tests.

I would highly recommend being in a class with Burgin, as he explains the material thoughtfully, in depth, and understandably. He makes sure his proofs are mathematically precise and at the same time not too formal so as to not waste time. If you take this class I guarantee that by the end, if you put in the work, you will understand the material remarkably well.

I took CS180 with Professor Burgin over the summer. We had only 8 weeks of class (minus one week for finals) to cover what was already dense enough material due to the nature of this class. I struggled a lot during the class, but overall I learned A LOT as well. This is definitely one class you should take if you want to elevate yourself above the 'I know how to code' title - as you will learn how to solve real-world problems.

//Lectures//

Professor Burgin could strike you a bit slow from the beginning. We spent two classes covering the topic of stable matching, which I heard was usually breezed through only as an example of the importance of smart algorithms. However, coming from a math-extensive background, Prof. Burgin used the example to introduce some common notations you'd probably encountered in Math61 (Discrete Structures) so that you don't get lost later on in his lectures. Lectures were not podcasted, and they were not necessarily mandatory but by going to lectures, you'd get a better sense of the focus of the exams. Prof. Burgin loves having people asking questions which is a plus. The lecture material is dense so interrupting the professor anytime you have a question, as you might save your classmates as well.

//Exams//

The midterm and final were difficult. Not that I was surprised since the course itself is difficult. However, the problems are very practical and very useful if you figure out how to solve these types of problems. The homeworks prepare you for the exams though. Not that they are all the same, but if you have worked out the homework on your own, you should be fine on the exams. Prof. Burgin in his lectures and on the exams stressed the importance of proof of correctness and proof of efficiency. This is where you use your knowledge from Math 61 (proof by induction or contradiction) to show that your algorithm is correct. It is a big concept though not to say it is not hard, just requires a lot of practice during the course.

//Homework//

There were 3 homeworks for us, and our TAs asked us to type them instead of handwrite them down. Best way to go about it is to use LATEX, but if you don't get time for that then don't bother. The problems prepare you for the exam so definitely work through them on your own, with your peers, and with the professor during his office hours. Proof of correctness and efficiency are very essential such that if you are lacking either one, you are expecting 10 - 20 points at least marked off from your homework. Great problems though I'd say. They help you think about the application of different algorithms in a practical way.

//Grading System//

There was only A/B/C/F available for this class. No plus/minus. Only consisted of homework, midterm and the final. The TA's would first grade them and hand them to the professor, and the professor would check if the grades were correct. You could always go to the professor if you think you don't deserve the grades you got or you would like to dispute something, Prof. Burgin is very open to discussion. Just be patient and convey your idea slowly and he'll definitely take the time to review your homework/exams.

//Side comments//

1) There were people not satisfied with Prof. Burgin when I took the class because of some topics skipped and the communication was not the best. I have to say though, at times I do feel that it is hard to ask the TA's about anything because they would just shoot right back and said the professor didn't tell them anything. I was still able to email professor about my questions or go to his office hours. However, the responses on Piazza by the TA's were most of the time disappointing as we don't really know what was expected at the beginning.

2) Again, grading was pretty harsh if I haven't said it. 10-20 points could be lost just because your algorithm is not the most efficient one. Some students were pretty riled up and confronted the professor (in a very rude way tbh) but the professor was pretty chill about it. I mean, the workload is so low we only had three homeworks (each with 3 problems only) and around 2 weeks for each homework, there's really nothing he could do to make the grading not that harsh due to detail you know. It's not a class where everyone is expected to get an A.

3) Professor Burgin is a slow yet thoughtful and considerate man. Just by the way he talks you could tell he practices logic. Doesn't make sense? Quick example: On the first day of class, he said to us, "I'd answer every question you have." But as more and more people started going to his office hours to dispute grades, he said "I'd like to change my statement. I'd answer 'any' question you have, not 'every'." Yes, he practices logic that it embodies in his teaching. However, he is also very kind and thoughtful and cares about the growth of his students. Really, if you ask him about his past, he'd spend 3 hours telling you without a pause. He has passion in this field and in teaching, but you just have to be open-minded and adjust yourself to make the most out of this class. When you ask him to look at your algorithm, he really does look at them and work them out in his mind (extremely brilliant as well as he could see right away why your algorithm would not work). He makes himself available to questions and comments, and is the complete opposite of intimidating. So if you are thinking about taking this class with Prof. Burgin, do it. You not only grow a lot from the material, but also take away the patience and problem-solving skills from Prof. Burgin.

I took Professor Burgin's CS 181 during the summer and I have to say he is great, even though there are both pros and cons. He is really knowledgeable into the materials of CS181, so he could explain every single concept with profound explanations. He really concerns about his students, as he would always stay after the lecture to answer all the questions from students. However, the problem for his class is that sometimes his delivery is not clear. In many time his delivery for a concept is not smooth, and students could get lost during the lecture. But he really compensated this problem by being really helpful after the class, especially during the office hour. Like I said, he would answer all the questions. So it's ok if the students get lost or feel uncomfortable during the lecture, because if they don't understand the material, they could always ask Professor Burgin after the class. The exams are fair. as they show how good we comprehend the materials covered the lecture. Some questions may be tricky, and complicated, but Professor Burgin is very lenient to the partial credits. In fact, he would give us a chance to retake the midterm if the midterm didn't go well. The final was very tricky, as it really measures how well we understand the concepts. You have to make sure that you grasp what you get from the lecture, and be flexible to apply them in some situations that you have never seen before. What I appreciate the most from his class is that it really allows me to think logically. You will get many things useful that you help you to think like a programmer.

He was very helpful. If you want to success in his class you must pay attention to the lecture, and if you don't understand a part, ask him during the lecture. He explains concepts in different ways until you understand it.

His office hours are so helpful. If you need help with homework, go to his office hours.

If you do the homework and pay attention to the lecture, you will get good grade in this class.

Take his class, you will not regret it. He is very knowledgeable and knows how to teach. Some students complain that he is boring, but common we are not in stand-up comedy show. It is a class, and his main goal is teaching which he is doing great.

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

Professor Burgin is definitely the WORST professor that I have encountered in UCLA. I took CS180 with him for summer session A. He is simply not qualified to teach this class. His class is heavily mathematically based and does not prepare you for the questions you might have in a future interview. He chose to cover the topics that are less relevant and skipped over a few of the most important topics in algorithm. This is a eight-week class and he spend the first two weeks covering just stable matching. I will let your imagination run wild on how terrible he is. His lecture was such a excruciating pain to sit through. He talks extremely slowly at a speed of one syllable per second. With his monotonic and hypnotizing voice, he is more skilled in putting people to sleep than he is in teaching. Also his grading scheme is absurd. You receive a B if your overall scores fall into the range of 75% to 89 %. That is to say a person who did not turn in one of the three assignments (10% each) can receive the same grade as you. Also, it is extremely hard to get an A in his class since the average on his tests are high 60's and he follows a straight scale with no curve. During one of his OH's, a student who got an 88(the average was around high 60) on his midterm decided to drop the class before the final. Instead of asking the student's incentive to drop the class, Burgin basically complimented himself saying "I will let you drop because I am so caring of my students." WTF he does not give a sh*t. At the end of the day, I learn much more from TA Buxin Zhao than from him. Zhao's discussion was geared towards actual interview questions. He also shared his knowledge on how to get internship and gave valuable career advice. All those helpful tips he gave were considered as distractions by professor Burgin. Burgin even banned him from giving future advice and recommending good interview books so that he could "stay on track". All in all, avoid this professor at all cost. It is a waste of your time and money.

He is really helpful. He explains in full details, and you don't understand it, he will try to explain in other ways, and keep explaining until you understand. Ask him as many question as you come across he will answer all. He is very patient.

Take his class. Attend to lecture. If you want to buy the book for extra help is OK but not necessary. Everything is well explained in lectures. If you pay full attention to lectures and do homework you will get B, and if you are type of people who don't make silly mistakes on tests so you will get A by just attending to lecture and doing homework.

His goal is teach us not torture us. He always suggests the simplest solution.

#### Tags

- Tolerates Tardiness
- Useful Textbooks
- Appropriately Priced Materials
- Would Take Again
- Engaging Lectures
- Snazzy Dresser
- Participation Matters
- Gives Extra Credit

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