Graduate Programs

PhD Program Requirements

The PhD students are required to complete:

Breadth Requirement

Breadth courses are divided into three groups as follows:

AI and HCI

CSC 446: Machine Learning (Required)

Choose one:

  • CSC 412: Human-Computer Interaction
  • CSC 444: Logical Foundations of Artificial Intelligence
  • CSC 447: Natural Language Processing
  • CSC 448: Statistical Speech and Language Processing
  • CSC 449: Machine Vision

Systems

CSC 456: Operating Systems (Required)

Choose one:

  • CSC 453: Dynamic Languages and Software Design
  • CSC 454: Programming Language Design and Implementation
  • CSC 455: Software Analysis and Improvement
  • CSC 457: Computer Networks
  • CSC 458: Parallel and Distributed Systems
  • CSC 451: Advanced Computer Architecture

Theory

CSC 484: Advanced Algorithms (Required)
CSC 486: Computational Complexity (Required)

These breadth courses must be taken in the first or second year of graduate study. At least one course in each group must be taken in the first year. Students have the flexibility to complete all of the breadth requirements during their first year, or take fewer courses in order to allow time for research.

PhD students are expected to earn a B or better in all breadth courses. Students who have already taken a course that is equivalent to a breadth courses may petition to substitute an advanced course in the same area.

Some students may be required to take undergraduate courses so that they have the necessary foundational knowledge to complete the breadth courses. This modified course schedule should be created with your advisor and requires faculty approval.

Qualifying Requirements

In addition to the breadth requirements, PhD students will qualify for a research area. All research areas require writing and defending an area paper during the second year of graduate study.

A master’s degree is offered to those PhD-program students passing the area paper with an appropriate level of performance or, in special cases, passing an alternative comprehensive examination given by two or more faculty members appointed by the chair.

Area specific requirements are as follows:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Qualifying Requirements

AI Dissertation and Exam—The student should form a committee of three or more AI faculty members before the area paper is due, and schedule a time and date for the exam so that all committee members can attend.

The paper should include a survey of a research topic and initial original research.

The defense begins with the student providing a 20 minute overview of the area paper, followed by an hour of intensive questioning by faculty members.

Questions from faculty members will include:

  • General questions about AI
  • Questions covering content learned in AI breadth courses taken by the student
  • Questions about the area paper

Students are responsible for preparing themselves these questions.

AI Course Requirements—By the end of the fourth year, the student must complete at least two of the following:

  • CSC courses numbered 400 or higher that are in AI or HCI
  • BCS 505: Perception and Motor Systems
  • BCS 512: Computational Methods in Cognitive Science

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Qualifying Requirements

HCI Dissertation—The area paper may be a survey of a research topic, original research, or a combination of both.

Following a public presentation of the paper, the student will answer questions from the committee about the paper and about any topic in HCI that is broadly relevant to the research topic.

HCI Course Requirements—By the end of the fourth year, the student must complete three additional courses as follows:

  • At least one in experimental design and analysis
    • STT 422: Design of Experiments
    • BCS 510: General Linear Approaches to Data Analysis I
    • CSP 519: Data Analysis: General Linear Applications
  • Two of the following:

Systems Qualifying Requirements

Systems Dissertation and Defense—The area paper should be original MS level research and a survey of related research topics.

Following a public presentation of the paper, the student will answer questions from the committee about the area paper and the papers listed in the systems area reading list, which includes subjects in:

  • Computer architecture
  • Programming languages and systems
  • Operating systems
  • Parallel and distributed systems

Systems Course Requirements—By the end of the fourth year, the student must complete at least two more courses numbered 400 or higher that are in systems areas.

Theory Qualifying Requirements

Theory Dissertation and Defense—The area paper and defense process is organized as follows:

  • The student submits an area paper reflecting research ability.
  • Approximately two weeks before oral exam, the student is given a set of “take home” papers.
  • Approximately three hours before the oral exam, the student is given a written set of “morning questions.”
  • The area defense consists of a two hour oral exam, covering the area paper, take home paper, morning questions, and other area-related questions.

Theory Course Requirements—By the end of the fourth year, the student must complete one additional course:

  • CSC 487: Advanced Modes of Computation

A more detailed written description of the logistics of this process is available from the graduate coordinator or any theory faculty member.

PhD Proposal

See PhD Thesis Proposal.