MPCS 53001 Databases (Autumn 2022)

Section 1
Instructor(s) Almhana, Rafi (ralmhana)
Location RY 251
Meeting Times Tuesday 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Fulfills Core Systems Elective


Course Description

In this course students will learn database design and development and will build a simple but complete web application powered by a relational database. 

We start by gathering requirements and showing how to model a relational database using an Entity-Relationship Diagram (ERD). Concepts covered include entity sets and relationships, using keys as a unique identifier for each object in an entity set, one-one, many-one, and many-many relationships as well as translational rules from conceptual modeling (ERD) to relational table definitions. We will examine the relational model and functional dependencies along with their application to the methods for improving database design: normal forms and normalization.

After designing and modeling their database, students will learn the universal language of relational databases: SQL (Structured Query Language). We will first introduce relational algebra, the theoretical foundation of SQL and then examine in detail the two main aspects of SQL: data definition language (DDL) and data manipulation language (DML). Concepts covered include subqueries, aggregation, various types of joins, functions, triggers and stored procedures. Finally, we will provide an overview of related topics such as data warehousing, big data, NoSQL and NewSQL databases.

Students will gain significant experience with writing and reading SQL queries and understanding the design and function of relational databases throughout the course in the detailed in-class discussions, online homework, midterm and the real-world individual project.

Course Contents

  • Week 1:
    • Create and design a database

    • Entity-Relationship diagram

  • Week 2:

    • Query

    • Filtering

    • Working with multiple tables

  • Week 3:

    • Grouping and aggregates

    • Subquery

  • Week 4:

    • Transactions

    • Indexes and Constraints

    • Views

    • CRUD operations

  • Week 5:

    • NoSQL

    • Key-value database
    • Redis

    • Web Storage

  • Week 6:

    • Document database

    • MongoDB
  • Week 7:

    • Column-family database
    • Hbase
    • Graph database
    • Neo4J
  • Week 8:

    • SQL Lite
    • Triggers

    • Stored procedures

  • Week 9:

    • Elastic Search


  • Weekly Homework (~20%)

  • Multi-part project (~50%)

  • Midterm (~30%)

Course Prerequisites

Core Programming (completed or concurrently enrolled)

Other Prerequisites

Not approved for CAPP students.

This course requires competency in Unix and Linux. Please plan to attend the MPCS Unix Bootcamp ( or review the UChicago CS Student Resource Guide here:

Overlapping Classes

This class is scheduled at a time that conflicts with these other classes:

  • MPCS 52560-1 -- Applied Financial Technology
  • MPCS 52011-1 -- Introduction to Computer Systems
  • MPCS 51230-1 -- User Interface and User Experience Design

Eligible Programs

Masters Program in Computer Science MS in Molecular Engineering MA in Computational Social Science (Year 1) MA in Computational Social Science (Year 2) Bx/MS in Computer Science (Option 2: Professionally-oriented - CS Majors) Bx/MS in Computer Science (Option 3: Profesionally-oriented - Non-CS Majors) Masters Program in Computer Science (new students)