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Course Offerings

The Program in Computing for the Arts and Science (PCAS) supports LSA students in learning the computing that they can use in their degree program and future careers. We enable more successful scientists who can use computing for discovery, artists who can work in computational media, and scholars who can understand, critique, and re-design computational systems that are pervasive in our modern world.

PCAS courses support LSA students becoming conversational programmers. Conversational programmers understand the task of software development, know the language and specialty terms of programmers, and can facilitate communication between software developers and other parts of an organization. Our courses broadly engage with three themes - computing for discovery, computing for expression and computing for justice. Our course code is COMPFOR which stands for COMPuting FOR.

COMPFOR 101 The Transistor Disruption: How a Tiny Tool Transforms Society and Science 

This course covers the history and societal impact of a crucial 21st century tool: the field-effect transistor and its computer application. Students will learn the simple ideas that make computers work, how Moore's Law has transformed society and science, and where our digital future might lead.

COMPFOR 111 Computing's Impact on Justice: From Text to the Web

A concept-focused introduction to computational methods for manipulating text, creating algorithms, and using these to generate and analyze Web pages, with a framing around justice and critical computing.

Course page with syllabus and student work examples.


COMPFOR 121 Computing for Creative Expression

An activity-based introduction to computational methods for creative expression around shapes, pictures, text, sounds, interactivity, and blending these as in video games and the Web.

Course page with syllabus and student work examples

COMPFOR 131 Python Programming for the Sciences

This hands-on interactive course introduces students to the Python programming language providing foundational aspects including computational analysis, the structure, organization and manipulation of data, sound coding practices, and visualization of scientific information.

COMPFOR 221 Python Programming for Digital Media

Digital media pervade our individual and social lives. Students in this course learn how text, images, sounds, and videos are encoded in digital representations by writing programs in the Python programming language that create and manipulate these media. They will learn to use Python to build loops and use conditionals to manipulate data in array and list formats.

COMPFOR 302 - Alien Anatomy: How ChatGPT Works

ChatGPT is not designed or built based on how humans work. It is built on a large language model (LLM) which is wholly alien in comparison. Students will learn how large language models (LLMs) are built and will program sentence recognition and generation, chatbots that use the kinds of rules used in ChatGPT “guardrails,” and teach a machine learning system to recognize gestures.   


COMPFOR 303 - Fundamentals of Scientific Computing in R

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to scientific computing using the R programming language. The course is tailored for students in the natural and social sciences with little to no programming experience. By the end of the semester, students will have developed a strong foundational understanding of scientific computing and the ability to program in R, for engagement in an increasingly quantitative world.