Algorithms Office Hours

XKCD comic 26
XKCD comic 26

We are a group of PhD students in the theory group of CSAIL working on algorithms. The goal of our Algorithms Office Hours is to improve communication between theory and applications of algorithms. We aim to give helpful advice for solving algorithmic problems that come up in applied research.

Anyone affiliated with MIT can meet with us to discuss research-level questions involving algorithms. If you are interested, please fill out this Google form and we will then contact you to schedule an appointment. We also host live office hours 1-2pm on Thursdays at this zoom link where you can drop by as part of the CSAIL Office Hours Initiative.

Our research interests cover a wide range of topics. We would be happy to talk about algorithmic problems in any of the following areas (and more):

  • Combinatorial algorithms
  • Computational geometry
  • Convex optimization
  • Distributed and multicore algorithms
  • Graph algorithms
  • Numerical linear algebra
  • Statistical algorithms
  • Cryptography


Algorithms Office Hours is organized by Sandeep Silwal.

Our faculty advisor is Piotr Indyk.


What happens when I request an appointment?

Based on your problem description, we decide on two or three members of the theory group with relevant research background. We then schedule a meeting with you so we can learn more about the problem and talk about potential solutions etc.

My problem doesn't really fit your list of areas above. Should I still contact you?

We would still be happy to hear about your algorithmic problem. If we can't help ourselves, we might be able to get you in touch with someone who has the right expertise.

I am not affiliated with MIT. Can I still contact you?

Unfortunately we are focusing on MIT at this point.

What do I owe you for an appointment?

Nothing! The Algorithms Office Hours are entirely free - hopefully we can give you helpful advice. If meeting with us indeed helps your research, you are welcome to acknowledge us, but it is up to you to decide. We don't expect to be co-authors on any papers (unless the discussion explicitly develops into a research collaboration).

Can I come to your office hours to ask questions about my homework?

Unfortunately, no.

I accidentally took the Fourier transform of my cat. What should I do now?

Fortunately you can compute an inverse Fourier transform in O(n log n) time, and there are good software packages to do so.

Thanks to Michael Cohen, Rati Gelashvili, Jerry Li, Cameron Musco, Christopher Musco, John Peebles, Ilya Razenshteyn, Ludwig Schmidt, and Tal Wagner for starting Algorithms Office Hours in 2016.