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Graduate Bulletin Homepage |College of Computing & Information | Computer Science Doctoral Degree Program

Doctoral Program in Computer Science

Program Leading to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The purpose of the program is to prepare the student for a career as a productive research scholar in computer science. The program is intended for students with career interests in universities, industrial research and development, or government research agencies.

The program is designed to develop the student's ability to recognize and formulate significant research problems, to express them using appropriate abstract models, to apply theoretical and/or experimental techniques for their solution, and to transmit the results to the scientific community. The program develops a broad understanding of computer science, a deep understanding of the major field of interest, mastery of the research methods appropriate for this major field, and the versatility to enter new fields as they emerge.

The program of study and research requires at least three academic years of full-time study and research or the equivalent over a longer period beyond the baccalaureate and, typically, may involve four years.

Requirements for Admission

An applicant must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. A bachelor's degree in computer science or mathematics is desirable, but not necessary. Deficiencies in computer science or mathematics, as determined by the departmental faculty, must be made up during the first year of graduate study. Applicants are ordinarily admitted in the fall semester but those with unusually good qualifications may be admitted at any time. Applicants are required to submit scores for the verbal, quantitative, and analytic portions of the Graduate Record Examination. The submission of an Advanced Test score in computer science or mathematics is encouraged.

Program of Study and Research

(60 credits, minimum)

  1. The course of study for each student is planned with a departmental advisor who considers the student's previous preparation, area of specialization, and professional objectives. The student must complete a minimum of 60 credits of graduate courses (which may include seminars, independent study, and research) and at least one additional year of research leading to an acceptable dissertation. These credits must include:
    1. Core Computer Science (14 credits): CSI 500, CSI 503, CSI 509, and CSI 518. A 3.0 average must be attained in these four courses. Full-time students are expected to complete these courses in the first year, or as soon as possible if undergraduate deficiencies are being made up;
    2. Computer Science breadth: At least 9 credits from departmentally approved areas of specialization including at least 3 credits from systems, 3 credits from theory, and 3 credits from applications;
    3. A minor of at least 9 credits in approved courses offered by other departments. The minor may be waived or reduced in scope for students with an advanced degree in a suitable field.
  2. Each student must complete a programming project of significant scope. This requirement can be satisfied by programming involved in dissertation research, by any project-oriented course numbered CSI 68X, or by programming involved in master's thesis research.
  3. After completing their first year of study, all doctoral students are expected to participate routinely in research seminars.


The student must submit an acceptable dissertation which represents a significant and original research contribution to computer science.

The student must select a dissertation advisor who is willing to assume primary responsibility for supervising the student's research. The dissertation topic is selected in consultation with the student's dissertation advisor, and then a dissertation committee for the student is formed. The committee will decide on review procedures, such as design reviews or oral presentations, appropriate to the topic.

Departmental Examinations

  1. A proficiency examination in Discrete Mathematics is given at the beginning of the first semester of graduate study. Doctoral students who fail this exam are required to pass a departmentally approved remedial program.
  2. The student must pass a written preliminary examination consisting of two parts. The two parts need not be taken during the same semester. The preliminary examination would typically be completed by the end of the second year of graduate study.
    1. The first part is a comprehensive examination based on the core computer science subjects. This part of the examination should be taken as soon as possible after completing the computer science core courses, and may be waived for students with an advanced degree in computer science.
    2. The second part is an analytic examination that tests analytic ability and knowledge of formal models relevant to computer science. All full-time doctoral students are required to take the comprehensive exam by the end of their third semester of study. They are also required to take the analytic exam by the end of their fourth semester of study.
  3. All full-time doctoral students are required to take the comprehensive exam by the end of their third semester of study. They are also required to take the analytic exam by the end of their fourth semester of study.
  4. The student must pass an oral doctoral qualifying examination in the field of the student's research interest. This examination should be completed before the student begins work on the dissertation, and should be completed no later than the sixth semester of graduate study.
  5. The final examination is an oral defense of the dissertation.

Research Tool Requirement

The student must demonstrate proficiency in a research skill appropriate to the student's field of research. Examples of approved research skills include a foreign language (French, German, or Russian), mathematical logic, queueing models, statistics, and electronics.

Full Time Study in Residence

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose, a student will enroll in full-time study (12 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily, except as indicated here:

  1. Students authorized to register for work on a dissertation may meet this 12 credit per session requirement by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 8 earned course credits and registering for work on the dissertation for load credits that will bring the total to 12 credits for each of two sessions.
  2. Graduate assistants holding a full assistantship may meet the residency requirement by completing one academic year in such a position, including the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 15 registered credits during the year plus satisfactory completion of assigned duties.

Admission to Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

  1. Achievement of a satisfactory record in course and seminar study;
  2. Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement;
  3. Completion of the University residence requirements;
  4. Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination.

Last updated on 11/5/2008