Cornell CS PhD Student Resources


Hello, and welcome to the Cornell CS Department! This page serves as a collection of information about resources provided by PhD Students for PhD Students, often with support of the department, and of some more general information and links to resources we collected for you. We strongly encourage you to at least browse this page to get an overview of what is available to you and who to go to in case you need something. These things also do not run on their own, and the people running them may graduate or become busy with other stuff etc., so please also consider helping out. In the following, we'll give an overview of the individual resource groups described on this page. You can also jump directly to the more in-depth description pages.

Warning: Things change. This page was made with the goal of creating an up-to-date snapshot of things as of Fall 2015. Everything that made it on here should actually be correct. If not, this site will not be updated accordingly (that is what the CS wiki is for). Rather, consult either the wiki or the appropriate mailing lists or Slack.

The 3 Main Points of This Page

  • There are lots of student volunteers called Czars. They might be able to help you with things you want to do.
  • There is a political representation of grad students in CS called the CSGO. They might also be able to help you.
  • Read your e-mail and join at least the PhD Social Mailing List. Also join the CIS Slack.

The Czarship System

Czars are volunteers who have taken on a specific task to help improve how the department works. If you have not yet, you may hear from some of them very soon. Most Czarships either have to do with organizing a specific event, such as visit day, picnic, colloquium, or student brown bag. Others take care of specific infrastructure, such as the wiki, the espresso machine, the foosball table, or even our office placements. Finally, in order to fill these positions and keep track of them, there is the czar-czar.

You can find more about the Czarship System on this page or on the department's Czars page.

CSGO - The Computer Science Graduate Organization

The CSGO is the body of political representation of all graduate students in the field of computer science. It serves as the interface to talk to the faculty and administration about graduate student concerns, such as requirements, communication policies, etc., and sends representatives to the larger representative bodies, i.e. the Engineering Graduate Students Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. CSGO can also provide funding for student activities and events.

You can find more about the CSGO on this page or on the (future) CSGO website.


This guide is not complete. Neither does it contain all details of the different things mentioned here, it also does not at all contain your practice talk, random rants or suggestions to and planning of seeing movies together. There are loads of different mailing list you either are or can be on, the most important of which are CS-PHD-Students (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) (for announcements, reaches everyone), CS-PHD-Social (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) (opt-in, for getting advice, ranting, and organizing things; join here), CS-PHD-Private (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) (opt-in, like PHD-social, but without faculty and admins; join here). Recently, some functionality of PHD-Social and some specialized mailings lists has shifted over to an IRC-like service called Slack.

More on those mailing lists and how to join them later on this page.

Regular Meetings and Events

CSGO meetings are primarily held every other Monday in Gates G122 at 12:30 PM (as of Spring 2016). Meeting notes can be found here.

There are lots of regularly scheduled things and some special events throughout the year that you should be aware of. Some of them you are more or less formally expected to attend, many of them are quite fun (whether you think the intersection of those two sets is non-empty is up to you). Examples of such events are the CS Colloquium, Brown-Bag Talks (and their student version), the CS Picnic and the department's Holiday Party.

As you may have guessed, you can find a more detailed list and schedule on this page.

Further Resources

In an effort to help you with some of your more immediate concern, this site contains a collection of (hopefully) helpful links for common tasks such as setting up a printer, the VPN, or checking your payslips, etc.

The Czarship System

Czars are volunteers who have taken on a specific task to help improve how the department works. If you have not yet, you may hear from some of them very soon.

Most Czarships either have to do with organizing a specific event or take care of specific infrastructure. You can see a list of all of them below (at the time of writing this guide - the up-to-date list is always at the department's Czars page, but currently features neither photos nor links nor non-job-descriptions). The system heavily depends on students volunteering, so please consider helping out (especially when a call goes out).

The Czars

Board Games

I run department (CIS-wide) board game nights that take place within Gates. This involves reserving rooms, ordering snacks, and playing lots of board games. While these events are often broadcast to more public mailing lists, the "official" board games list is the CS Board Gamers Google group. Everyone is welcome to play, no experience is required.

Brown Bag

Brown Bag is a weekly seminar for students to learn about the research currently going on in the department, and to help faculty find students who might be interested in their work. Each week a faculty member will give a presentation about one or more of their research projects. Students from all areas are encouraged to attend! Food and drink are provided.

With any questions or comments, requests, etc, email Jonathan Shi or Eston Schweickart, or just find us after one of the seminars.


The coke czars run the coke machine in 420 Gates. Our main job is to make sure it keeps running, and keep it stocked. If you ever see a problem with the machine, feel free to contact us!


Colloquium czars help visiting speakers and faculty candidates to set up their presentations for colloquium. If you are interested in helping out, you should contact Xanda (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show), the lead colloquium czar, for information about how to help. The commitment is usually 3:45 PM - 5:30 PM for 3-6 colloquia a semester depending on your availability. The earlier you sign up to do this, the easier it is to meet and impress cool future faculty in your area!


I manage the Czars and Czarships.
You think there is a Czar-like task in the department that would benefit from being a Czarship? Let me know!
You think you could be a Czar for something? Let me know!
You are unable to contact a Czar? Let me know!
You are a Czar and need help or cannot be that Czar anymore? Let me know!
I (or really anyone) sent out an e-mail about looking for someone to fill a Czarship? Please reply!


I help the administration keep track of who sits where and assign new offices in exchange for you having lots of choice in the matter. Once a year, I send out a questionnaire where you can tell me if and what office you would like to move to, and I'll make that happen if there is space (else you will hear from me). I am also the person to talk to if you want to move to another office during the year (but please don't just move all the time).

Often, faculty can arrange for you to get access to a particular room so you can move, but you're making my work a lot easier if you let either Becky or me know that you moved (because otherwise we might think that your new desk is still free).

"Desk" Czar is a misnomer - I only keep track of things on the level of rooms.


Do you know we have an Espresso machine on the third floor? Do you know that it makes much better coffee and produces less waste than Keurig machines?

I, the Espresso Czar, can help you to learn how make your own Espressos, Americanos, Tea, or even Lattes. I am also in charge of keeping the machine clean and ordering the freshest beans.


The foosball czar manages the balls for the foosball table in the third-floor lounge. I also try to keep the foosball table in working condition. If you want to check out foosballs after business hours, visit me in the theory lab.


I run the CS department hockey team, which has been going on for several decades. We host weekly ice hockey times throughout the winter. Let me know if you're interested in playing! No experience or gear required :-)


Hi I'm Geoff. I like food. And clean kitchens. I'm here to make sure that our kitchens are usable areas. Email me (Javascript needed for e-mail address to show) or slack me if the kitchens are missing something. If they get out messy or out-of-hand, I'll send angry emails.


You have already heard from us – we are the mentoring czars! Its our job to connect incoming students with more experienced students to ease the transition to Cornell and transfer valuable experience. If you feel like you don't know what you don't know, talk to your PhD student mentor (we all have one). At least then you'll know what you don't know :). We also organize mentor-mentee events during the year. Let us know if you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding the mentoring program and how student mentorship could improve the new student experience. If Google has taught us anything it's that if YOU have a question then someone else has probably had it before. Learn from their experience (don't be shy) it's what we are here for!


I'm new to the Ph.D program and just became the Milk Czar. This means that I'll be stocking the fridge with milk and ice cream. My favorite ice cream flavors are Vanilla and Rocky Road. If you have any specific requests, please email me (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show), and I'll make sure you get your fix!


I help advertise and announce community service and outreach opportunities for graduate students in the department. This includes running events like workshops for Expanding Your Horizons. Let me know if you know outreach opportunities the CS PhDs should get involved in or want to get involved!


I organize the department picnics for the graduate students in the early Fall and late Spring. The department helps pay for basics like burgers and hot dogs and other items are provided by students "potluck-style." Keep an eye out for the sign up emails. I'm looking for a second czar to help out, so let me know if you're interested in helping!


The Photo Czar takes photographs of incoming PhD students and faculty. The photographs used to be posted on the photo board next to the 4th floor atrium in Upson Hall and made available on-line. We're still trying to figure out where to put them in Gates Hall.


I run PLDG, which is the group meeting for the entire PL group. We meet year-round: during the fall and spring semesters we have talks going over papers in programming languages, while in the summer we generally do a deep dive. It's lots of fun, so you should come to the seminar if you're interested in programming languages!

Programming Contest


I maintain the department Quotes Page, which collects funny and memorable quotes from department members. Anyone can submit quotes, and vote them up or down, but I'm responsible for approving submitted quotes before they're displayed (to prevent spam and abuse). Occasionally I also add new features to the site.

Social Hour

The social hour czar organizes department social events in the department on Friday.

Usually I send out emails to ask people to volunteer and sometimes two people volunteer together. The volunteer should go to Lindsay's office, right beside the elevator on the ground floor and ask for the Wegmans card! We have $225 of budget for the entire event. $15 is already spent on wine and you don't need to purchase wine. For the rest of the budget an $85 and $125 is a good split for alcoholic drinks(not wine) and snacks/non-alcoholic drinks.

Student Brown Bag

[Looking for replacement]

The czar organizes weekly talks by students, usually describing current research, but sometimes also discussing useful research tools such as reference managers. The czar's main duties are getting speakers lined up (this usually involves sending emails and bugging people in person), and ordering food for the seminar (very easy, done using Cornell e-shop). If you want to practice your talk, get feedback on an idea from other students or just want to tell others about some cool thing you learned, let me know and I’ll set you up for a talk. I also might approach you to ask if you could do any of the above at some point to fill some slots.

Systems Lunch

I help to organize the weekly Systems Lunch, along with the systems faculty. This mostly consists of worrying about when the food will arrive and making sure everything is cleaned up at the end.


The TGIF czarship is exactly what it sounds like! Expect e-mails to the PHD social listserv (which I recommend being on) about super awesome happy fun time on Fridays! Feel free to talk to me about other possible Friday fun-time activities (or maybe even other days!) or, you know... just send out an e-mail?

Theory Tea

I run the theory tea, which takes many forms. Of late, it has been merged with the theory seminar, taking the form of student talks given when there is no visiting speaker. To get involved, come to the seminar/tea!

To find out more, go to the theory seminar website (Course Website/Wiki Page) or ask me.

Visit Day

Visit Day Czars organize visit day. This is an intensive task over several weeks, organizing a major multi-day event with quite some freedom but also lots of constraints. The Visit Day Czars for this year have not yet been determined, but are usually first-years advised by the previous year's Visit Day Czars.


[Looking for replacement]

The Computer Science Graduate Organization

The CSGO is the body of political representation of all graduate students in the field of computer science. It serves as the interface to talk to the faculty and administration about graduate student concerns, such as requirements, communication policies, etc., and sends representatives to the larger representative bodies, i.e. the Engineering Graduate Students Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. CSGO can also provide funding for student activities and events.

About the CSGO

An organization called CSGO has existed for quite some time, but has been defunct until this year, when we designed a new Constitution (the old one was lost) and elected an executive board for the summer. The executive board manages the day-to-day affairs of CSGO and also regularly meets with the department chair to discuss grad student concerns. Everyone is welcome to attend the semi-weekly CSGO meetings, usually on Mondays at 12:30 PM.

Join the CSGO Mailing List (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) to receive reminders and minutes about meetings and get notified of any changes, amendments and other activities. CSGO can provide funding for events, talk to the Treasurer for more information. Currently, there is no full website yet, but you will find it at soon.

The Current Executive Board

Andrew K. Hirsch

Xanda Schofield
Vice President of Ithaca PhD Relations

Fabian Muehlboeck

Eston Schweickart

Michael Wilber
Vice President of NYTech PhD Relations


For many questions that you will ask yourself, somebody probably already knows the answer (though hopefully not for all of them, since we are here to do research). Thus, this page contains a number of resources for various common problems, and, more importantly, ways to ask other students for help. Also, spam is a big problem these days. People around here have recognized that and are trying to give you lots of options to choose which things you want to hear about. The flip side is that there are many communication channels you should be aware of so you don't miss something you don't want to miss.


Go and join the Cornell CIS Slack! If you feel old-school, you can also join the IRC channel #cornell-cis on Freenode, which is linked up with parts (but not all) of the CIS Slack. Slack is a good way to find people for small short-term things like lunch, getting ice cream or going to see a movie, to get quick advice, to share fun and/or interesting things you found, and lots of random discussions. These things are sorted into different channels that you can choose to join, so you don't get spammed if you just want to participate in a subset of those things.


Asynchronous communication is also useful. At Cornell, there are loads and loads of mailing lists, some of which you cannot get off of. Most lists are either Cornell E-Lists or on Google Groups. For the former, refer to the E-List HowTo section for how to manage them (in particular, for leaving, you need to send an email to [listname] . When people leave out the "request" part, hilarity ensues).

E-Mail you will get anyway

A lot of e-mails are kind of spammy, but you should definitely check all e-mails that Becky sends out for whether they apply to you. You can get into trouble if you don't. Some people find it also useful to at least scan the headlines of the "Graduate School News" e-mails we get, because those things might also apply to you or might at least be interesting (really important stuff will always come on another channel, too, though).

For communicating with your fellow PHD students, there are several department-managed mailing lists. First, CS-PHD-Students (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) reaches all CS PhD Students (surprise!). For your first two years, there are also the first-years (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) and second-years (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) mailing lists.

E-Mail you have to opt in to get

The department-managed mailing lists are intended for department business (notifying people of department events, soliciting help for visit day, etc.), not for questions for advice, organizing groups or general discussion. That is what CS-PHD-Social (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) is for (join here). Note that some faculty and admins are also on CS-PHD-Social - if for some reason you want to ask or discuss something among PhD students only, there is CS-PHD-Private (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) (join here). Both lists are opt-in, you need to join them on Google Groups to be able to send messages. Not all students are on there, in particular CS-PHD-Private currently seems to have less people and low traffic (which means you can totally join and won't get spammed to much, but might be able to catch important discussions). CS-PHD-Social is still active, but has also seen a decline in traffic as more short-term discussions have moved to Slack.

Besides those more general mailing lists, many seminars, some courses and some social groups have their own mailing lists used to varying degrees. They are mostly used to send out announcements about relevant events, so you should join these if you want to be up-to-date. For example, while department board game nights are often announced to all Gates Hall occupants, the CS Board Gamers Google group may get an announcement even sooner, and for seminars and courses, you probably want to know what to read or at least when there is no seminar. Look for those mailing lists on the respective websites.

A last special mailing list to be mentioned here is the vultures mailing list (JavaScript needed for e-mail address to show) (join here). It serves to notify people interested in leftover food from seminars that such food is currently available. There is a button in the fourth floor kitchen connected to a camera - if pressed, it sends a photo of the food below the camera to the vultures mailing list.

Seminars and (Social) Events

There are lots of regularly scheduled things and some special events throughout the year that you should be aware of. Some of them you are more or less formally expected to attend, many of them are quite fun (whether you think the intersection of those two sets is non-empty is up to you). Below you'll find a list of some of the more frequent things and when they happen. There is a new Google calendar to capture many of the social events.

Regular (weekly-monthly)


--12:00-13:00Brown Bag12:00-13:00Student Brown Bag12:00-13:00CSGO Meeting**12:00-13:00Systems Lunch
--15:45-16:15Colloquium Reception*--15:45-16:15Colloquium Reception12:00-13:00AI Lunch
--16:15-17:30Colloquium*--16:15-17:30Colloquium16:00-17:00Social Hour
--------19:00-CS Board Games**
*Spring only
**Semi-weekly, sometimes on different days


The CS Colloquium is a series of invited talks given by speakers from outside of the department. PhD students are generally expected to attend these (it is also a course - CS 7090 - for which you should register). Usually, there is a reception before the Colloquium (most times in (front of) Gates 416 - "New Visions"). The spring semester typically features lots of hiring talks, often also on Tuesdays. This is where you can get an impression of potential new faculty.

To see upcoming talks, you can look at the current colloquium schedule. Usually, there are also a bunch of e-mail announcements about a week before and at the start of the reception.

Brown-Bag Talks

Brown-Bag talks are brown-bag in name only. Usually, food is actually provided. At the Tuesday brown bag, faculty talk about their current research projects and/or general topics of interest to PhD students (e.g. "How to Give a Research Talk"). At the Wednesday student brown bag, students talk about their current research, or ideas they want to get feedback on, or give practice talks. The format there is very flexible and can be discussed with the Student Brown Bag Czar.

Here are the links to the schedules of the CS Brown Bag (Tuesdays) and the Student Brown Bag (Wednesdays).

Area Seminars

Many research areas have weekly seminars run as courses. These seminars usually provide food in one form or another, particularly Systems Lunch and AI Lunch. If you are working in one of those areas, you should register for the respective seminar course (CS 7xxx). However, you are usually welcome to attend any of these even without registering, and in fact should do so if it sounds interesting to you.

Student-Run Seminars

Some students interested in particular topics or discussion formats have also started inofficial seminars. If you want to do that on your own, all you need is some faculty to back requests for a mailing list and a regular room reservation (and potentially funding for food). Groups organized after this scheme are:
GroupMeeting TimeNotes
Security Discussion GroupTBANow CS7493
Theory TeaTBANow merged with CS 7890
Theory of Programming Languages SeminarTBA 


TGIF (Tell Grads its Friday)

Both a university-wide thing for grad students (and the name of a corresponding event at the Big Red Barn), and the name for whatever CS people do on Friday at 5pm. The latter usually means gaterhing in the Gates Hall Atrium and then deciding on where to go. This might be the Big Red Barn, or some Bar, or skip those and go to have dinner at a Restaurant right ahead (maybe in order to get to see a movie in time). The TGIF Czar is tasked with driving this along, but really anyone can rally people for this purpose. Discussions of where to go may start sometime on Friday afternoons.

Social Hour

A newer institution, Social Hour is a (sometimes semi-)weekly event at 4pm, featuring department-sponsored food and drinks in the Gates Hall Lounge. The Social Hour Czar organizes Volunteers to buy said food and drinks according to their fancy, and so may have more common reception kind of food or more specialized themes. Social Hour starts before TGIF and hence often disrupts the usual TGIF organization; people still form groups to go to bars and restaurants at the end of Social Hour, though.

Special Events

The CS department has several special events spread throughout the year. Besides those, be sure to also check out Ithaca Events and Cornell Events.
CS PicnicEarly SeptemberSpend a weekend afternoon at one of the state parks surrounding Ithaca, with lots of food and other CS people and their friends and family. Organized by the Picnic Czar.
SIGSEGVLate SeptemberA slightly less than serious "conference" about Silly and Egregious Violations of Common Sense.
CS Holiday PartyMid-DecemberUsually around the last day of classes, an evening of good food. Featuring a skit organized by second-year students.
Visit DayEarly/Mid-MarchLots of opportunity to meet potential new colleagues, go to dinner with them, and some big parties. Organized by the Visit Day Czars.
CS PicnicEarly MaySpend a weekend afternoon at one of the state parks surrounding Ithaca, with lots of food and other CS people and their friends and family. Organized by the Picnic Czar.
CS Atrium EventEarly MayMarks the end of the spring semester. Features an award ceremony and - as always :) - food.

Further Resources

Below you'll find some useful links, some of which you may already know, some of which you might not. This list is of course not even remotely complete, so use the appropriate mailing lists and Slack to ask your colleagues. This includes things like travel reimbursement and advances, for which the author of this page found no good sources so far, but which definitely exist.

Useful Websites and Services


  • StudentCenter

    You probably already know this one. It is the most accurate and up-to-date source of relevant information with regards to your formal status in the university other than Becky.

  • StudentEssentials

    Cornell's more global version of this site.

  • Cornell Workday

    View your payslips and get your tax forms. Also, update your bank account information for your salaries to go into, etc.

  • WhoIAm

    Cornell gives you the choice of putting e-mail to your netID address into either CMail (i.e. GMail) or an Exchange account (i.e. Outlook; if you activate it), or forward it to an arbitrary e-mail address you give them. This page is where you configure that. You can also configure how you show up in Cornell's electronic directory here.


Generally, there are two important websites to find out about IT services: the general Cornell IT Services page, and the COE/CIS specific IT Services page.
  • WiFi

    Use eduroam instead of RedRover whenever you can. eduroam is more secure, and as a bonus you automatically get internet at many universities across the world (especially in Europe). Just log on with "[NetID]" as your username and your NetID password. Warning: free Internet usage for students is capped at 100GB. After those 100GB, you'll have to pay for your usage. This does not apply to machines plugged into the CS network (i.e. your desktop, or also your laptop when using a wired connection in Gates), so you should largely be fine.

  • Printing

    If you don't have a printer in your office/lab, you'll generally want a printer whose name starts with an "N" (for nook). In Gates Hall, floors 2-4 have two such printers each. On the third floor, there is an additional big printer/copier in room 329, which is also the office supply room. You can get printing paper from there if your printer is out.

  • VPN

    You can VPN into the Gates Hall CS network by using NetID@en-cs-vpn-acad as your username for the regular Cornell VPN. Note that this VPN does not tunnel web traffic (except to internal Cornell web sites). In order to access online Journals through Cornell from outside the Cornell network, you'll have to use the Passkey bookmarklet.

  • Software Licensing

    Cornell offers lots of productivity software either for free or with large discounts. In particular, you can get a free Microsoft Office 365 license. Cornell CS has additional licenses already purchased for you, such as Matlab (which at least so far has always been pre-installed on the desktops we got from the department), and a DreamSpark premium agreement where you can get basically all Microsoft software except Office for free.

  • Managing CS Websites

    This is both important if you are a TA for a course and need to tend to the course website and if you want to set up your own website. At this point, we want to really recommend having a personal website, and setting it up with your name and (should you not object to the idea in general) photo. Why? Because that way search engines know about you once people are looking for you and your papers.

Transportation & Travel

  • Ithaca Public Transit

    Ithaca's Bus System is pretty good for a town of its size. Don't rely too much on its punctuality, though. Line 10 connects Cornell to Downtown Ithaca and runs every 10 minutes, most other lines run every 30 or 60 minutes. If this is your first year at Cornell, your student ID is an unlimited bus pass. After your first year, you get free rides on Saturdays and Sundays, and on weekdays after 6pm. You can find more on this on the Cornell Transportation Website.

  • Ithaca Carshare

    If you know Zipcar, Ithaca Carshare works pretty similar. Once you are a member, you can reserve cars parked throughout the city for a certain time frame, then go there and use your membership card to unlock and drive it. For the standard plan, Cornell pays the annual fee, so after you pay a $40 registration fee, you have a thing where you can reserve a car for $8/hour (plus ~$.3/mile) should you ever need one. If you want to use the cars more, Cornell also subsidizes the premium plan with a higher annual fee, but lower hourly rates. See the details on the Cornell part of the Ithaca Carshare Website.

  • Corporate Rates for Vehicle Rentals

    You can get cheaper vehicle rentals by using appropriate Cornell travel codes with the rental company. Rental Companies include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. Some of the codes apply for private use.

  • Buses to NYC

    Currently, there are two main choices: the Cornell-run Campus-to-Campus bus, and Shortline. Shortline is a lot cheaper than the Campus-to-Campus bus (~$55 vs. $90 for a one-way ticket), but also takes longer and many people have somewhat adventurous stories to tell about their experiences with Shortline. Greyhound also serves Ithaca; fares seem to be similar to Shortline. Recently, a new bus service called Big Red Bullet was announced, aiming to provide service similar to the Campus-to-Campus bus at cheaper prices. Apparently this should start in September, and you'll probably hear everyone talking about it when it actually becomes reality.