Mia Minnes


EBU2b (CSE) 4206

Computer Science and Engineering
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0404

Brief Bio

I am an Assistant Teaching Professor (LPSOE) in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. I am interested in theory of computation, algorithms, problem solving, building community and cohorts, and writing in the discipline. Prior to joining CSE in Summer 2014, I was an SE Warschawski Visiting Assistant Professor in the Mathematics Department here at UCSD. Before that, I was a CLE Moore Instructor at MIT. I earned my PhD in Mathematics at Cornell University in 2008, co-advised by Anil Nerode and Bakhadyr Khoussainov. I earned Master's degrees in Computer Science (2006) and Mathematics (2006) from Cornell and Bachelor's degrees in Mathematics and Engineering (2003) and Philosophy (2003) from Queen's University. My research has spanned automatic structures, computable model theory, algorithmic randomness, scholarship of teaching and learning, and CS Education. I have taught many different courses in mathematics and computer science, ranging from large-lecture introductory freshman courses to senior undergraduate and graduate seminars.   (CV, publication list, and list of invited talks and seminars available on request.)

Grants and Awards

  • CDIIP Grant (2017-2018), PI
  • AVC Academic Advising Innovation Grant (2015-2017), PI
  • NSF Grant DUE-1451521 (2014-2016), co-PI
  • Jacobs School of Engineering Teacher of the Year - by student ballot (2013-2014)
  • NSF Grant DMS-1060351 (2010-2014), PI
  • NSF Grant DMS-0901005 (2009-2010), PI


Computing Paths

ComputingPaths Several departments across campus are collaborating to offer resources and advising for students interested in career paths related to computing. Video interviews with current students, alumni, faculty, and advisers are available on ComputingPaths and there is an active Facebook group and Twitter feed with related announcements and news. Supported by an Advising Innovation grant from the Vice Chancellor-Student Affairs and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of Undergraduate Education.

My role: PI (2015-present); website

Podcast Highlights

Podcast Highlights A CDIIP-funded project to mine, edit, and refine effective snippets and worked examples from course podcasts. The resulting annotated video clips will be available for future instructors of these courses to use in flipped offerings, and will also be available for students to self-study.

My role: PI (2017-present); Website TBA


Podcast Highlights

An NSF-funded research project to emulate the community and academic support of small classes within a large lecture setting.

My role: co-PI (2014-2017); SIGCSE 2017 publication

Summer Internship Symposium

CSE 197 offers an opportunity for students to identify and deepen the connections between their UCSD coursework and real world problems presented in off-campus internships. This companion course accompanies full-time Computer Science based internships and can be used towards a CSE major. Students reflect on the growth of their professional, problem-solving, and technical skills over the internship. As the culmination of CSE197, students prepare a poster highlighting a key achievement of their internship (technical, educational, or professional). These posters are presented at the Summer Internship Symposium early in the Fall Quarter. All CSE majors are invited to the symposium, along with alumni and representatives from faculty, the Jacobs school, and industry.

My role: Founder and CSE197 and CSE191 Faculty Sponsor (2014-present); Class websites

Coursera MOOC: Intermediate Java Software Engineering Specialization

In this four-course (plus a capstone project) sequence, we cover intermediate topics in software development, including object-oriented programming, data structures, algorithms and analysis, and testing, along with soft skills and technical communication. We launched the first course September 15, 2015.

My role: Co-creator and co-instructor; Specialization page on Coursera


The Center for Advancing Multi-disciplinary Scholarship for Excellence in Education is a university-wide community focussed on undergraduate education. With regular bi-weekly meetings, special visitors, and dedicated workgroups, we form cross-campus connections and work on projects that build on our shared experiences and multiple perspectives.

My role: Member of the Steering Committee (2015-present); Website


This student organization connects students interested in Computer Science for social activities, professional development, tech talks, networking opportunities, and outreach.

My role: Community faculty advisor (2017-present); Website


I've been honored to participate in numerous outreach projects promoting CS and STEM specifically to students from underrepresented groups and underserved communities. Recent activities include:

CSE Women in Computing

Activities: Girls' Day Out keynote speaker (2015, 2016, 2017), Faculty Office Hour panelist (2016, 2017)

Jacobs School of Engineering IDEA Center

Activities: TritonPREP Faculty lunch (2017), SPACES Admit Day Panel (2015)

Girls' Angle (Website)

Girls' Angle is a club whose mission is to "foster and nurture girls' interest in mathematics and empower them to be able to tackle any field no matter the level of mathematical sophistication". Club members meet for regular problem solving meets, where they are mentored by undergraduate math majors, graduate students, and postdocs. The Women in Mathematics Video Series is intended for a wider audience. Each video explains of pieces of math accessible to students in middle and high school.

Activities: Advisory board member (2008-present), club mentor (2008-2009), video contributor (2011)

NCWiT (Website)

The National Center for Women and Information Technology provides resources and support for educators seeking to broaden representation of women in CS. UCSD CSE received a grant from NCWiT to study enrollment patterns of women in our undergraduate programs and to implement initiatives for recruiting and retention. I served on the committee for this project.

Society for Women Engineers

Activities: MIT WiSE High School Outreach, Academic program speaker (2009)

Archived projects

Summer Academy for Incoming Transfer Students (Website)

Summer Academy serves incoming transfer students entering UC San Diego in the Fall quarter typcially from a community college. It is a five-week program where students take gateway courses for their major that are not typically offered at community colleges. The Academy also includes advising and other activities to help students smoothly transition to UC San Diego.

My role: Mentor training and CSE Seminar lead (2016)

SPIS: Summer Program for Incoming Students (Website)

SPIS (pronounced "spice") gives students college-level exposure to computer science, emphasizing problem-solving, communication skills, and mathematical modeling. It is a 5-week residential summer program on the UC San Diego campus for students accepted into CSE majors as well as for other UCSD admitted students who want to explore computer science as a career option. Students in the program interact with a wide range of CSE faculty and learn about computer science and engineering research. They also have opportunities to connect with engineers from the computer industry. SPIS provides an excellent student experience with individual meetings with faculty, tutoring from experienced CSE undergraduate students, collaborations with fellow students, individual advising to smooth the transition to UCSD, and living on campus.

My role: SPIS Faculty (2013-2016)

Communication (Website)

MathDL Mathematical Communication is a developing collection of resources for engaging students in writing and speaking about mathematics, whether for the purpose of learning mathematics or of learning to communicate as mathematicians. This site originated in the MIT Department of Mathematics, which offers about ten communication-intensive courses, many of which are led by a different instructor each semester. The department created a website to engage and support this community of instructors and to facilitate the archiving of course materials and the gleaning of “good practices” for these courses. In 2010 the NSF awarded an NSDL grant to make the site public, and it is now hosted by the Mathematical Association of America as part of MathDL.

My role: Site concept and design, contributor.


Introduction to Discrete Mathematics   UCSD CSE20   Description

Course website (Fa17)   Course website (Wi17)   Course website (Sp16)   Course website (Wi16)
Also taught: Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

Mathematics for Algorithm and Systems Analysis   UCSD CSE21   Description

Course website (Fa15)
Also taught: Fall 2013

Theory of Computability   UCSD CSE105   Description

Course website (Sp17)   Course website (Fa16)   Course website (Sp14)

Seminar: Advanced topics in computability   UCSD CSE 198

Course website (Fa17): Models of Computation   Course website (Sp17): Kolmogorov Complexity

Internship companion classes   UCSD CSE 191, CSE 197

Course websites

Teaching Methods in Computer Science   UCSD CSE599   Description

Course website (Fa16)   Course website (Fa15)

Elementary Mathematical Logic   UCSD Math 160A-B   Description

160A website   160B website

Introduction to Computability and Undecidability   MIT 18.511   Description

Course website

Undergraduate Seminar in Logic - Kolmogorov Complexity   MIT 18.504   Description

Course website

Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning   UCSD Math 109  Description

Course website (Sp11)   Course website (Wi14)

Abstract Algebra I   UCSD Math 100A   Description

Course website

Modern Algebra I   UCSD Math 103   Description

103A website 103B website

Discrete Math & Graph Theory   UCSD Math 154  Description

Course website

Calculus   UCSD Math 10A, MIT 18.01A/18.02A, Cornell Math 111  Description

Math 10A website  18.01A website  Cornell website (Blackboard)

Introduction to Differential Equations   UCSD Math 20D  Description

Course website

Research Advising

For CS research opportunities, check out Conquer with information on summer research opportunities and advice (both general and practical) on graduate school in CS. For opportunities in CS after advanced graduate education, see these videos.

  • Undergraduate research (CSE 198) with Marjan Salamati-Pour, Xinghua (Jerry) Zhou, Emily Chou, Jonathan Perapalanunt, and Abhishek Kumar (Winter 2017)
    Educational data mining of Podcast and Piazza data.

  • Mentor Khoa Tran Regents' Scholars Research Initiative (Fall 2016)
    Khoa explored finite-state machines and algorithmic problem solving using Picobot.

  • Undergraduate research (CSE 199) with Jordan Yoshihara (Winter 2015)
    Jordan is running a case study on ALEKS, an educational technology tool, and is exploring the use of technology in K-12 education.

  • Undergraduate research (CSE 199) with Shuyu Mao (Winter 2015)
    Shuyu is learning about and implementing pieces of natural language processing.

  • Mentor Matthew Kleinsmith through California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) Science Program (Summer 2014)
    One of UCSD's Academic Enrichment Programs, CAMP is federally funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the purpose of increasing the diversity of student participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors.
    Matthew worked on a research project on transducers (input-output automata) and models of computation for functions.

  • Reading Course (Math 199) with Artem Mavrin (Spring 2012)
    Artem worked through the first several chapters of Kunen's updated Set Theory book.

  • Reading Course (Math 199) with David Marcus (Winter - Spring 2012)
    David worked through notes on Algebra and Logic covering the syntactic and semantic Lindenbaum algebras.

  • UROP with Maria Monks (Spring 2010)
    Maria studied finite automaton presentable groups. In particular, she looked at a generalization of Thurston automatic groups (finitely generated groups whose Cayley graphs are recognisable by finite automata) using asynchronous automata. Her results can be found on the arXiv.

  • UROP with Steven Ji (Spring 2009, Fall 2009)
    Steven studied finite automaton presentations of the rational numbers. He has results about the ubiquity of presentations that can be extracted from the lexicographic ordering.

  • UROP with Anna Loparev (Fall 2008)
    Anna learned about finite automaton presentable sets of strings and sets of trees. She provided connections between the definitions of labelled trees and finite automata on strings. Throughout, cardinality questions came up and Anna became more familiar with arguments involving countable and uncountable sets.

If you would like to request a reference letter

Writing a strong recommendation letter takes thought and time. At least one month before the deadline, send me an email or set up a meeting with me to discuss the letter, and provide the following information:

  • What are you applying for? Is it a specific program / scholarship or a suite of similar applications (graduate programs / REUs / conference funding sources)?
  • Why are you applying? In particular, if you need to submit any application materials (personal statement, letter of intent, etc.) send me copies of these. Early drafts are fine, but I need to know what you've written so that my letter can complement and reinforce your submission.
  • Why do you want me to write the letter? In what context(s) have I seen your work?
    If you were a student in a class I taught, include the class and the quarter as well as the letter grade you received. Also include any work you did beyond the usual classwork: did you complete extra credit questions? attend office hours regularly? contribute to Piazza discussions?
    If you tutored or TAed for me, again indicate the class and the quarter and remind me of any special roles you played (extra review sessions? test-driving exams? writing up homework solutions?).
  • What would you like me to highlight? Are there specific attributes or skills that are being sought for in the application that I can speak to? Have you been involved in extracurricular activities that are applicable to the application and you'd like me to include? Were there challenges or obstacles that you overcame to reach this stage in your career that could make your application stand out (or explain any blips in your transcript)?
I also need a complete list of URLs / links / email addresses for the reference letter. For applications that request snail-mailed letters, a stamped and addressed envelope is appreciated.

Information for prospective TAs / tutors

Image: xkcd.com

I am always happy to work with motivated, responsible, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable tutors and TAs. If you are interested in one of the courses I am teaching, I encourage you to apply to work with me.

To apply, use the centralized CSE ASES application system linked here (for tutors) and here (for TAs). Filling out this information carefully is the best way to convince me that you are serious about working on the course and have the necessary attributes, passion, and time to help make the course a success.

  1. Fill in all the demographic information accurately. In particular, if you prefer to use a name other than your legal name, do mention it.
  2. Indicate any other employment you might pursue for the relevant quarter.
  3. For prospective tutors, answer Q11 "Why do you want to be a Reader/Tutor?" as specifically and meaningfully as possible. I've read so many applications where the answer boils down to "tutors have helped me in the past and I like to help people". That sentiment is great, but it doesn't tell me why you're the right person for the job or what makes you stand out. What specifically are you looking forward to accomplishing as a tutor? What are your strengths as a tutor? (For example: one-on-one problem solving with students? grading efficiently and giving great feedback? etc.) Also, talk about why the class I'm teaching is of particular interest to you. If you're applying to tutor for one of multiple classes, include at least one specific reason for each class.
  4. In Q13 "Please enter any comments or describe any special circumstances...", you must include any potential conflicts you will have with the class. For example, if you are planning to take a class whose lecture times exactly overlap the lecture (or its discussions) for the class you're applying to TA/tutor for, you may still be able to do the job but you must let me know ahead of time.
  5. If you have previous tutoring / TAing experience, you might include your own reflections about what went well and what you want to work on as you continue to work as a tutor / TA. Also, consider quoting specific feedback you received from students and/or the instructor that mention any specific strengths you have as a tutor / TA.
  6. For TA applicants, I watch the sample teaching video carefully. It can help an application stand out, so put some extra effort it. Make sure it is representative of the clarity of your exposition, your organizational skills, and your enthusiasm.

When are my office hours?

My office hour schedule varies from quarter to quarter, depending on my teaching schedule and other factors. In Fall 2017, I will typically be available in my office Mondays 1pm-2pm and Fridays 10am-11am but please check my current class' Google calendar (the website is linked above) to confirm.