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👨‍🏫 Mentor Guide

This page contains all of the information you need to know as a domain mentor. Current mentors and potential future mentors alike will find this useful (students probably won’t!).

If you’ve read this already, you might just be here for Instructions for Administrative Tasks, which are at the bottom of the page.

Table of contents

  1. Pre-Quarter Action Items
  2. Introduction
  3. Program Overview
    1. Domain-Specific Instruction
    2. Methodology-Specific Instruction
  4. Quarter 1 Preparation
    1. Websites
  5. Quarter 1 Logistics
    1. Weekly Discussions
    2. Communication
    3. Office Hours
    4. Assignments
    5. Grading
    6. Computing Resources
  6. Industry Mentors and Liaisons
  7. Instructions for Administrative Tasks
    1. Viewing Students in Your Section

Pre-Quarter Action Items

There are several action items mentioned throughout this page; they are summarized here.

In the Domains and Mentors spreadsheet:

  • Check to see where your section is being held. If you’re teaching an in-person section in SDSC, you were sent the building entrance code on 9/19 by Suraj, and your meeting room will be unlocked. (You can also see the code here.)
  • If you’re teaching a Zoom section, add a link to your section.
  • Add a location and time for your office hours.
  • If you’d like, create a website for your section and link it (more details below).
  • If you’d like, create a Slack/Discord/Campuswire/EdStem group for your section and link it.


  • View the students in your section by following these instructions (instructions). Send them an email right before the start of classes, introducing yourself and sharing any pertinent information. Note: Wait until right before you’re going to send the email before checking the students on your roster, as some students may add or drop your section between now and then.
  • If you’re an industry mentor or liaison, meet with your liaison or mentor before the quarter starts to coordinate your section.

Remember that sections begin the week of September 26th (Week 1). (Friday sections will have to reschedule in Week 7 due to Veterans Day; plans for the week of Thanksgiving will be announced later.)


The capstone program is a two-quarter sequence (Fall 2022 and Winter 2023) in which you, a domain expert, act as a mentor for student projects. You will host a single domain of inquiry, in which 4-10 students are enrolled, and within your domain, students will form project teams of 2-4. This means that ultimately your domain will consist of 1-5 teams, each of which are working on different projects that relate to your domain. We’ve structured the capstone program in this way to ensure that:

  • there are adequate guard-rails for students new to independent work,
  • students have material to follow and learn from when developing their own work, and
  • the scope of projects remain manageable for the time frame and appropriate for the level of the students.

Students were shown the domain topics and descriptions that you provided in advance of the enrollment period and have already enrolled by this point. They are free to change the domain they are enrolled in during Week 1, but space is limited. (To see which students are enrolled in your section, see the Instructions for Administrative Tasks section below.)

Program Overview

As mentioned above, the capstone program spans two quarters. In both quarters, there are two components to the capstone: domain-specific instruction (provided by you) and methodology-specific instruction (provided by Suraj and the DSC 180AB TAs).

1 (Fall 2022)Getting students up to speed in domain by working on a replication projectSoftware development, reproducibility, environment independence
2 (Winter 2023)Working on an original projectProject management, effective communication skills

Domain-Specific Instruction

  • Quarter 1 (Fall 2022) is designed to provide students an opportunity to acquaint themselves with a domain by replicating a known result. This replication project (or similar project in your domain) constitutes their Quarter 1 Project. During Quarter 1, students also form project groups and write/present proposals for their final project, known as the Quarter 2 Project.
  • Quarter 2 (Winter 2023) is when students execute their Quarter 2 Project.

Throughout both quarters, you will hold an hour per week of discussion section. Students are required to attend these synchronous section meetings.

  • In Quarter 1, this hour should be spent answering questions students have on the readings and tasks you provide them with.
  • In Quarter 2, this hour should be spent checking in with students on their projects.

You will also hold one hour per week of office hours throughout both quarters. More details and logistics on all of the above components are provided below.

Methodology-Specific Instruction

The methodology component of the program is designed to equip students with the skills they’ll need to execute their projects. This includes accessing servers, executing long-running jobs, and project management. You can see the full schedule on the homepage of this website.

After Week 1, methodology lectures will largely be delivered asynchronously in the form of lecture notes/videos. The scheduled lecture time (3-3:50PM and 4-4:50PM in Fall 2022) will be used as office hours for the accompanying methodology assignments, of which there are 5 throughout Quarter 1.

The methodology team (instructor + TAs) will hold several weekly office hours. These are designed for students to get help with methodology lectures and assignments, and to ask infrastructure-related questions about their projects.

Quarter 1 Preparation

The most straightforward way to achieve the goals of Quarter 1 is to choose a result or paper in your field around which to structure students’ introduction to the domain. While not strictly necessary, having known results to replicate helps students know they are on the right track. (After they start working on their Quarter 1 Project, they’ll submit proposals for their more independent Quarter 2 Project, which will be within the realm of your domain.)

IMPORTANT To structure student learning, you should prepare a weekly schedule (see examples below). Each week should consist of three parts:

  • A list of 1-3 topics they are working on for the week.
  • Readings and/or tasks for the week. This is typically “read section XX from the paper and replicate their analysis on your data”.
  • A list of 1-3 participation questions they should answer before discussion. These may be conceptual or computational, depending on what is appropriate for the tasks they were given. These may be formulated the week before, given your current understanding of student progress. More details are in the Participation Questions section below.

The outline below follows a reasonable cadence for Quarter 1:

TopicNumber of Weeks
Intro + Data2-3
Possible Extensions2-3
Elevator Pitch for Quarter 2 Project1

We will not “enforce” the above outline; feel free to move at a pace that is appropriate for your domain.


One way to share your weekly schedule, readings, and tasks with your students is through a website. You can see example websites from domains in previous years below. If you’ve never run a domain before, it’s highly recommended to look at these websites to understand what a typical schedule looks like.

The easiest way to create a website of your own is to clone one of the websites above. Many follow Aaron Fraenkel’s site, whose site’s GitHub repository is linked here. Make sure to enable GitHub Pages. Note that it’s not required to create a website; you may choose to share information with students in other ways, like a Google Drive folder.

IMPORTANT If you create some sort of homepage for students, link it in the Domains and Mentors sheet.

Quarter 1 Logistics

Here, you’ll find details on how each relevant component of the capstone works. Each week, you will receive an email from the instructional staff with a brief summary of what students should be working on that week and with any relevant updates (deadlines, changes to the schedule, new action items, etc).

Weekly Discussions

Weekly discussions are not lectures, but rather a time that students can ask clarifying questions about their weekly reading/tasks. You may begin by asking students how they approached the tasks and readings in the weekly schedule. (Another goal of Quarter 1 is to have students learn best practices for communication in your domain, so it’s worthwhile to discuss how the readings were organized, too.)

One piece of advice to encourage participation in discussion is to let students know that orienting oneself in a new area of research is difficult and that it’s totally normal to get lost and misunderstand the material. Students may be quiet because they’re not confident in the work they’ve attempted. Try to reinforce to students that the purpose of discussion is to get feedback and guidance from domain mentors. The weekly schedule tries to facilitate that.

IMPORTANT Discussions begin the week of September 26th – check the Domains and Mentors sheet to see where and when your section is. If you’re running your sections through Zoom, add your Zoom link.

Participation Questions

In addition to the readings and tasks students are asked to complete each week, students must submit answers to participation questions 24 hours in advance of discussion. The questions are due well before discussion in order to allow you to use students’ answers to structure your section, if you wish. We’ve created a “default” set of participation questions, linked here, that should apply to all domains. However, you’re free to devise more specific questions for your domain. You’re encouraged to look at past domain websites for examples of such questions.


You’re encouraged to set up some type of communication channel for the students in your domain, so that they can more easily discuss the readings and tasks with one another under your guidance. Such forums are also useful for fostering a sense of community amongst students in your section.

IMPORTANT If you create a Slack/Discord/Campuswire/EdStem for your section, link it in the Domains and Mentors sheet.

Office Hours

The main purpose of office hours are to provide students with help and guidance on their current work and to provide a meeting time for feedback on submitted work.

You should require that students meet with you in office hours every ~3 weeks in Quarter 1. You should hold at least one hour of regularly scheduled office hours per week. You might do this by specifying a few times that you’ll be immediately available via email/Slack/Zoom to answer student questions. If students are unable to meet your regularly scheduled office hours, you may need to meet with them by appointment.

IMPORTANT Decide how you will hold office hours, and add the details to the Domains and Mentors sheet.


All assignments in the course are generic, designed to work for most domains out-of-the-box. If any of the assignments (other than the methodology assignments) don’t fit with your domain, you can modify it to work for you; let staff and students know of these criteria.

AssignmentDescriptionGroupsDueGraded By
Quarter 1 ProjectStudents replicate a known result or perform some other similar task in your domainIndividualWeek 5 (checkpoint), Week 10 (final submission)Code is graded by methodology staff; report is graded by domain mentors, either on Gradescope or in mandatory office hours (for both the checkpoint and final submission)
Quarter 2 Project ProposalProposal for final projectGroupsWeek 9Domain mentor
Participation Questions (default questions)Weekly questions to keep students engaged with the domain materialIndividualWeekly, 24 hours before discussionMethodology staff (completion only); domain mentors should read to inform how to run discussion
Methodology AssignmentsAssignments that develop students’ software development and project management skills.IndividualBi-weeklyMethodology staff

Note: As of this writing (Sept. 19), the specifications linked in the table above for the Quarter 1 Project and Quarter 2 Project Proposal are not final, but they should suffice for preparation purposes. A salient detail for now, though, is how students are meant to propose their Quarter 2 Projects:

  • Ideally, students formulate their own project closely related to their Quarter 1 Project. Formulating questions is a valuable skill, and hewing close to the Quarter 1 Project will allow students to reuse their code.
  • However, you may approve any project you are comfortable advising as a domain expert. Note that other students in the domain will be required to follow along and peer review their classmates, so a project too far afield may hinder those interactions.
  • Fixing the project ahead of time and requiring students to work on a specific coordinated task in the area is fine. In fact, typically students want such guidance. You should make these expectations clear at the beginning of the course.

Students will submit all work to Gradescope. Whenever you need to grade exposition, you will be informed through a weekly announcement. (Canvas, which this guide once referenced, will not be used at all.)


It is important to provide students with regular feedback on their work to ensure their progress towards a successful Quarter 2 Project. We’ve designed the capstone program to give students frequent feedback with minimal overhead for the mentor and minimal stress for students.

In order to ensure consistent grading across such a diverse array of domains, we will utilize a coarse grading scheme with a clear rubric. This scheme will reflect broad checkpoints that students meet, and should help maintain focus on large, impactful things that students can improve on while reducing grading disagreements.

The grading scheme we will use for individual assignments follows an A/B/C/F scale (without plus/minus), developed by Shannon Ellis:

A (4.0)Accomplishes the task accurately, completely, and clearly. Code is clear, effective, and efficient. Written component is concise, at the appropriate level, and correct. Oral component (when applicable) is effective and within the time limit.
B (3.0)Accomplishes the task well, but lacks some completeness or clarity. Code runs but lacks some aspect of clarity, effectiveness, and or efficiency. Written component is logical and generally correct, but lacks either clarity or accuracy. Oral component (when applicable) is moderately effective and/or slightly outside the time window.
C (2.0)The task is somewhat accomplished, but lacks significantly when it comes to completeness and clarity. Code present but does not accomplish the task up to the standards of a data science graduating senior. Written component lacks substantial clarity/correctness. Oral component (when applicable) significantly lacks effectiveness/clarity.
F (0.0)The task largely remains unaccomplished. Code lacks completeness, structure, and is unclear. Written component lacks required information to understand the work done. Oral component (when applicable) is nonsensical/unclear.

Hopefully, it is “obvious” what grade an assignment should receive. With that said, the focus is not the grade, but rather actionable feedback. Whenever you are responsible for grading something, you will need to enter your letter grades on Gradescope, but you can provide students with feedback either in writing or in office hours.

If any changes are necessary to the above rubric for a particular assignment, we will communicate that to you before it is time to grade.

Final grades will be computed using the grade-points above, using the proportions given in the course components table. Letter grades will be assigned using the standard university cutoffs. At the end of Fall 2022 students will receive a grade in DSC 180A, and at the end of Winter 2023 they will receive a grade in DSC 180B; each course is worth 4 units.

Computing Resources

Alongside personal laptops, students will use the campus ITS DSMLP Cluster. This is a Kubernetes cluster where students can specify their compute resources and a data science environment in which to work.

Later in the first quarter, students will create and use a Dockerfile for deploying their data science environment on the DSMLP cluster.

Unless your project has very specialized computing needs, you likely don’t need to provide your own computing resources for your students.

Industry Mentors and Liaisons

This section is only relevant for industry mentors and liaisons.

If you’re an industry partner running a section, you have been assigned a faculty “liaison” whose job is to act as a “bridge” between you and the students in your section and between you and the methodology staff. See here for the name and contact information for your liaison.

If you’re an industry mentor, you’re responsible for all of the tasks mentioned above – running your discussion meetings, holding office hours, grading, etc. Note that you will have access to Gradescope, the platform on which students will submit their domain-related work and where you are meant to enter grades. Your industry liaison will nonetheless be responsible for ensuring you’re able to provide your students with the feedback they need.

If you’re an industry liaison (i.e. UCSD faculty), your role entails:

  • Attending and supporting discussion meetings.
    • By attending discussion meetings, you’ll be up-to-date on what the students are learning and will gain a sense of what they’re struggling with. If you have a schedule conflict, email Suraj.
  • Holding by-appointment office hours for students in your domain and being available over email/Slack/etc.
    • You’ll want to regularly check in with students and understand their progress in the domain and on their projects. In particular, they may share with you challenges or other information that they’re not comfortable sharing with the industry mentor (for whatever reason), and it’s your job to synthesize and relay this information to the industry mentor.
  • Facilitating the grading of student submissions on Gradescope.
    • Industry mentors will have access to Gradescope, and can access student submissions directly. You should discuss what grades to assign student submissions with the industry mentor. Depending on your arrangement, you may solely be responsible for grading and communicating feedback to students.
    • Once grades are agreed upon, you should enter them on Gradescope.
  • Otherwise ensuring all aspects of the domain are being run (website is updated, students are submitting work, etc.) and supporting both the industry mentor and the students in the section.

IMPORTANT Industry mentors and liaisons should meet at least once before the start of the quarter to clearly outline who is responsible for what.

Instructions for Administrative Tasks

Information on how to perform various tasks is provided below.

Viewing Students in Your Section

Use this sheet. If it hasn’t been updated in a few days, don’t hesistate to remind Suraj. (Given that we’re not using Canvas, this is the easiest solution.)