Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

The primary focus in selecting and training candidates for the doctoral program is to ensure breadth of knowledge and to develop the student’s ability to do independent and productive research, synthesis, and design.

The basic objectives of the program are: 1) to ensure skills in the use of the tools of computer science and a broad understanding of the discipline’s basic areas; 2) to ensure a firm foundation in computational mathematics; and 3) to provide opportunities for advanced specialization and creative research in computer science.


    The applicant for the doctoral program in computer science must hold a baccalaureate degree and a master’s degree from accredited institutions in the United States or a recognized institution in another country, with a 3.0/4.0 GPA in each degree. Each application must include a letter of intent describing the applicant’s interests and career objectives, plus three letters of reference. All applicants must also submit Graduate Record General Examination scores. International applicants whose native language is not English must submit, in addition to the above, a minimum TOEFL score of 80 on the internet-based exam, 213 on the computerbased exam, or 550 on the paper exam, with a departmental preference for TOEFL scores of 90, 232, 575 or higher. Non-native English speakers may substitute a minimum score of 6.0 on the IELTS examination for the TOEFL, with a departmental preference for an IELTS score of 6.5. 
    Admission to the doctoral program in computer science is open to degree holders in all branches of science and engineering. Applicants who lack only a few of the computer science undergraduate proficiency courses may be admitted conditionally to the doctoral program, but they will be required to remove those deficiencies by taking prescribed undergraduate courses and obtaining a grade of B or better in each deficiency course. No graduate credit is allowed for courses taken to remove deficiencies. A complete list of the computer science undergraduate deficiency courses is available from the department.

Curriculum Requirements

    A minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the Ph.D. These may include a maximum of 30 credit hours applied from the master’s degree. The following conditions apply:

  • A minimum of 18 research and dissertation hours must be earned, which may include a maximum of six thesis hours applied from a computer science master’s degree. Research and dissertation hours also include a maximum of six hours in research internship.
  • A minimum of 48 credit hours must be earned in course work and independent study, which may include a maximum of 30 graduate course hours with grade of B or better applied from the master’s degree. Course work and independent study hours also include a minimum of 27 graduate computer science hours, of which 21 must be 7000-level or above; a minimum of six graduate mathematics hours, to form part of a minimum core of 42 graduate computer science, mathematics hours, or courses from other disciplines associated with information assurance, which may include independent study; a maximum of 12 hours of 6000-level computer science courses; a maximum of 18 hours of 6000-level courses. All courses outside of computer science must have the approval of the student’s doctoral committee and must be taken for a letter grade.

Language and Residence Requirements

    Because research is a full-time activity and technology changes very rapidly in this field, part-time study for the Ph.D. is not encouraged. Every doctoral student is required to satisfy a one-year, full-time residence (nine hours a semester) in work towards the doctorate. There is no foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. degree in computer science.

Comprehensive Requirements

    Every computer science doctoral student is required to satisfy five of the eight areas of the comprehensive examination as described below. The eight areas are: Algorithms, Database/Programming Languages, Artificial Intelligence, Scientific Computing/ Graphics, Systems, Software Engineering, Information Assurance, and a subject area outside of computer science (with approval of the student’s committee). A student may pass up to four of the required five subject areas by taking courses in the subject area and earning a grade of “A”, or by passing an examination in that subject area. All doctoral students must pass a written examination in the student’s indicated area of research emphasis. If a student passes four areas by examination, then a fifth area is not required. Failure to pass written examination(s) of the comprehensive requirements within the two allowed opportunities will result in dismissal from the program.

Advisory Committee

    No later than eight weeks after passing the comprehensive examination, the student shall secure the agreement of a graduate faculty member to serve as the candidate’s major professor and shall request an advisory committee. (Students who fail to secure a major professor will be dropped from the program.) The members of the advisory committee are selected with the assistance of the candidate’s major professor, the computer science graduate program advisor, and the department chair with the intent that this committee will become the student’s doctoral committee. When appropriate, the advisory committee may suggest alternate graduate faculty members for the doctoral committee. The doctoral committee must consist of at least five graduate faculty members, including at least one member from outside the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. The candidate’s major professor chairs the doctoral committee. The purpose of the advisory committee is to assist the applicant in planning the proposed program of study for the doctoral degree. This includes identifying any deficiencies in the applicant’s graduate record to date, scheduling a research internship, and scheduling the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

     Within one year of passing the comprehensive examination, the student must attempt the qualifying examination, which is administered by the student’s doctoral committee. The student must apply for the examination at least four weeks before it is to be held. At the time of the application, the student must furnish the members of his or her committee with 1) an in-depth written proposal for research in an area of scientific or technological importance and should relate any progress to date, and 2) a written report of a scholarly or research nature that demonstrates the student’s ability to explore the topic in depth. The report should be of at least master’s level quality and may be undertaken as a research course of three credits. A master’s thesis, a properly documented computer project, or the report from a research internship may also be acceptable. The report must be accepted by the committee. 
    The qualifying examination consists of two parts, one written, one oral. The written component, prepared by the members of the doctoral committee, is in the student’s major and, if any, minor field. It could be the analysis of a significant problem in some aspect of the student’s field of specialization. It will also include advanced material in the area in which the student contemplates producing a dissertation. The oral portion consists of the oral defense of the written proposal the student submits; however, the examiners may also ask questions covering the student’s major, minor, and related topics. 
    Following the exam, the chair of the doctoral committee then submits a report to the Dean of the Graduate School, signed by all the members of the student’s committee, indicating whether the student has passed or failed. If the student fails, he or she may, at the discretion of the doctoral committee, repeat the examination within three months. One dissenting vote is permitted to grant a pass to the student on the first attempt at the qualifying exam, but a unanimous vote of approval is required to pass the second attempt. A third attempt at the qualifying examination may either be postponed or not allowed. College of Engineering and Natural Sciences 167

Research Internship

    Each prospective candidate for the doctoral program is strongly urged to participate in a research internship prior to admission to candidacy. The research internship consists of at least three full-time months (or the equivalent) of research participation in an industrial or government research laboratory. The internship does not have to be in the exact area in which the dissertation research is planned, but should be in a closely related area. During the internship, the student enrolls in up to six credits in CS 8981-6, Research Internship. The student should consult his major professor, the members of his committee, and other computer science faculty members for possible opportunities to secure an internship.

Admission to Candidacy

    A doctoral student in good standing and not on probation can apply for candidacy. Admission to candidacy is recommended by the advisory committee upon passing five areas of the computer science comprehensive examination, successful completion of a minimum of 45 acceptable course work credit hours, and passing the qualifying examination.

Doctoral Dissertation

    The doctoral dissertation is the final and the most important component of the series of academic goals which culminate in the awarding of the doctoral degree. The dissertation is to be a work of original research scholarship which represents a patentable invention or material publishable in an archival publication. It should demonstrate the student’s ability to address a significant intellectual problem and arrive at a successful conclusion.

Final Oral Examination

     The final oral examination is a defense of the dissertation and is open to the public. The candidate will prepare and distribute reading copies of the dissertation to each Doctoral Committee member four weeks prior to the oral examination.

Time Limitations

Any doctoral student not completing all degree requirements within four years of passing the qualifying examination will be dropped from the program.