ESP Biography



BRIAN YU, Harvard undergraduate studying CS and linguistics




Major: Computer Science and Linguistics

College/Employer: Affiliated with Harvard

Year of Graduation: 2019

Picture of Brian Yu

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I'm Brian, a senior at Harvard College living in Winthrop House, studying computer science and linguistics. I'm the head teaching fellow for CS50, Harvard's introductory course in computer science, and CS100, Harvard's course on software engineering in the digital humanities. My research interests focus on the intersection of computation and natural language. I'm also the instructor for Web Programming with Python and JavaScript on edX and at Harvard Extension School, and I'm a news executive and former digital strategist at The Crimson, Harvard College's student newspaper. I've previously worked as a software engineering intern at Palantir, and I've also worked for 3P Speech and the National Speech and Debate Association. I'm interested in computation, language, and education.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


The Science of Language in Splash Spring 19 (Apr. 06, 2019)
How does language work? What makes it special? In this class, we dive into the world of linguistics: the scientific study of language. We’ll look at how children are able to learn language so quickly, how words came to be, how words come together to make meaning, and how we seem to know the rules of language even if we don’t realize what those rules are. The scientific study of language will teach us how we communicate, how we work, and even how we think. And linguistics is becoming more and more applicable in the world of computers: as Google Translate seeks to convert from any language to any other, and Siri and Alexa try to listen to you and understand what you’re asking, understanding language and how it works is becoming more and more important.


How to Win Any Argument in Splash Spring 19 (Apr. 06, 2019)
Ever find yourself in a position where you can't seem to convince other people of your ideas? This class will explore the art of persuasive speaking, to help you convince others that you're right. We'll talk about how construct a compelling argument, how to respond to someone else's (less compelling) argument, how to ask insightful questions, and how to present your ideas in a clear and well-articulated way. And we'll do it all through a group debate over one of the most important and unanswered questions: What is the right thing to do?


How Computers Learn in Splash Spring 19 (Apr. 06, 2019)
Computers can now beat the world’s best chess players and the world’s best Jeopardy players. They can diagnose some diseases more accurately than doctors. They can drive cars. And they can predict what product you should buy next on Amazon, what TV show you should watch next on Netflix, and more. How did computers learn to do all this? In this class, we’ll explore the domains of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We’ll look at strategies we use to teach computers how to teach themselves, and we’ll talk about what lies in the future in this fast-growing world of machine intelligence. No prior computer science experience required!


How to Win Any Argument in Splash Fall 16 (Nov. 05, 2016)
Ever find yourself in a position where you can't seem to convince other people of your ideas? This class will explore the art of persuasive speaking, to help you convince others that you're right*. We'll talk about how construct a compelling argument, how to respond to someone else's (less compelling) argument, how to ask insightful questions, and how to present your ideas in a clear and well-articulated way. And we'll do it all through a group debate over one of the most important and unanswered questions: What is the right thing to do? *Even if you’re not.


Take Your Time, Don't Waste Your Time in Splash Fall 16 (Nov. 05, 2016)
What are we supposed to do with our lives? What makes them meaningful? How should we best use our (relatively short) time on this earth? This course will attempt to explore some of these questions by looking not at philosophers whose lives and existences seem far removed from our own, but from contemporary thinkers who show us that these ideas haven’t ceased to be relevant. Learn what John Green has to say on starting over, J.K. Rowling on the power of imagination, Lin Manuel Miranda on storytelling, and so much more. We can’t promise a perfect answer, but do promise that we’ll all try to get a little closer to understanding how to “take your time, but don’t waste your time. There’s a difference."