Course Overview

This is a graduate course in the theory and practice of operating system design and implementation. We will discuss a wide variety of advanced technical concepts found in the field of operating systems, including (often somewhat older) seminal papers and more recent (hot and emerging) topics. Such topics will include memory management, storage and file systems, concurrency, virtualization, distributed systems, and mobile/embedded systems. The course focuses on advanced topics in operating systems and it is assumed that students have already taken a rigorous undergraduate course in operating systems. The course also emphasizes essential skills for a new researcher, including literature research, reading, analyzing, and discussing research papers, communicating research ideas, etc. The course also includes a semester-long project in the area of systems. The prerequisites for this course are graduate standing or consent of the instructor, an undergraduate class in operating systems (e.g., CSE30341 at Notre Dame), and proficiency in a systems programming language such as C, C++, or Java.

The goals for each student in this course are:
  • Describe and evaluate advanced concepts in operating systems design and implementation (using course readings and evaluated in midterm and final).
  • Compare and contrast competing architectures and implementations of operating system components (using class discussions, evaluated in midterm and final).
  • Describe important historical developments in operating systems in terms of architectural philosophies, influental personalities, and well-known systems (using readings and discussions, evaluated in midterm, final, annotated bibliography, draft paper, and final paper).
  • Design and evaluate a small piece of operating systems research with some guidance (project milestones).
  • Effectively communicate research results, both orally and in writing (class discussions, progress reports, draft and final paper, final presentation).

The course does not use a textbook; instead, students will read a selection of research papers. Each class period will involve lecture and discussion on the papers assigned for that day. Every student must be prepared to discuss the papers assigned each class period.

Course Structure:

In Fall 2020, the course will deviate from the usual format due to the effects of the current pandemic; specifically, students will have multiple options:

  • In-Person (Synchronous) Lectures: The course always followed a flipped approach, where students read 1-3 papers in preparation for each lecture and the lecture is then used to discuss certain relevant aspects and details of these papers. Healthy students on campus will follow this traditional approach.

  • Live Zoom (Synchronous) Lectures: For anyone off-campus or otherwise unable to attend class (e.g., quarantine), the lecture will be live-streamed and students via Zoom will participate in the lectures and discussions as if they were in the classroom.

  • Asynchronous Lectures: For anyone off-campus in a different time zone, there is also the option to watch the recording of a lecture. In this case, to ensure that students and instructor will have an opportunity to interact, students must join one office hour per lecture on average to discuss the paper assignments, ask questions, etc. These interactions may be in small groups or individual if preferred. Typically, students should expect to spend 10-20 minutes per office hour call.

Course Information:

  • Instructor: Christian Poellabauer
  • - Office hours: Wed 10-11am, Thu 12-1pm (via Zoom)
  • - Office: 323B Cushing Hall
  • - Email:

  • Class location: McCourtney Hall B01
  • Lecture times: Tuesday/Thursday 9.35 - 10.50AM
  • Zoom Link

Health and Safety Protocols:

Students must comply with all University health and safety protocols, including:
  • - Face masks that completely cover the nose and mouth will be worn by all students and instructors;
  • - Physical distancing will be maintained in all instructional spaces;
  • - Students will sit in assigned seats throughout the semester, which will be documented by faculty for purposes of any needed contact tracing; and
  • - Protocols for staged entry to and exit from classrooms and instructional spaces will be followed.
  • Consequently, compliance with these protocols is an expectation for everyone enrolled in this course. If a student refuses to comply with the University’s health and safety protocols, the student must leave the classroom and will earn an unexcused absence for the class period and any associated assignments/assessments for the day.

Health Checks and Attendance:

Every morning, members of the Notre Dame Community will be asked to complete a daily health check and submit their information via the Return to Campus Advisor application. The health check application will indicate one of the following:
  • - Student is cleared for class and should attend class in person; or
  • - Student is advised to stay home to monitor symptoms and should participate in class virtually and complete all assignments and assessments; or
  • - Student must consult a healthcare provider and should contact University Health Services (UHS) for an assessment. In the meantime, the student should participate in class virtually and complete all assignments and assessments. Depending on the medical assessment, UHS will follow the University’s standard protocol for obtaining an excused absence for medical reasons.