I'm starting my masters in CS soon, and I have to decide on a general research topic.

In my undergraduate studies, I've enjoyed courses regarding data structures and algorithms the most. I'm also an avid competitor in competitive programming events, which involve a fair chunk of algorithms.

I've talked to multiple professors in my university who research classical algorithms (mostly graph algorithms), and by the papers they let me read, it seems like most current research in the field is slight improvements of bounds for existing algorithms.

Is this indeed the case? The results I've seen in papers so far don't motivate me to do research in the field too much, but maybe I'm getting the wrong impression since DSA was my favorite subject in my undergraduate studies.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Its far harder to be sure. The quasi-polynomial graph isomorphism result was a recent major breakthrough. Prime testing was relatively recently resolved as deterministically polynomial. Papers are still published regularly on novel implementations of data structures for current hardware for performance. A particularly exciting field IMO is data structures for GPUs. Bounding volume hierarchies have seen recent engineering efforts for GPUs and are used in state of the art rendering pipelines. Parallel prng is even quite recent. I'd check out DSA for GPUs if I were you personally. $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ You can have a look at the papers from top conferences of the field, e.g., check out papers from recent FOCS, STOC, ICALP, ESA and others. $\endgroup$
    – Juho
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:28

1 Answer 1


Introductory courses, in most areas, don't focus on cutting-edge research. Instead, they teach you the basics. This doesn't mean that there is no cutting-edge research being done.

Once BFS and DFS have been developed, there is no need to develop them again. In that sense, you are right that currently we're in a different situation than the pioneers of computer science. But this doesn't mean that there aren't any interesting questions to think about.

Algorithms and data structures is a huge topic, whose scope ranges from the more practical (e.g., applications of Bloom filters to networking and SAT solvers) to the more theoretical (e.g., fast matrix multiplication algorithms and approximation algorithms). I suggest talking to local faculty who specializes in the area, to get a better perspective on what research is being done, and whether you find it interesting.


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