Ph.D. Program

Program of Study

The Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science degree is a 32-credit program that requires 12 course credit hours and 20 course credit hours of dissertation and research for completion. This program is an MS Admit Only program and does not allow for Direct Admissions straight from a bachelor’s degree program. Student applications should clearly identify the domain/specialization students want to work on. Working with a major professor and guiding committee, students will select appropriate core, specialization, and elective courses and develop a research program. Preparedness for research work will be measured via examinations, and finally defended before a body of peers in the dissertation defense.

Regardless of the program of study, certain policies apply to all coursework chosen. Please refer to our Graduate Handbook for these additional policies.

A student who wishes to study Graduate Computer Science must have the ability to develop and analyze software for their study. Understanding the interface between computer hardware and software is also required, as is some mathematical fluency. Students must demonstrate their potential for success in the program via strong previous academic work, a competitive GRE score, and demonstrated English proficiency as appropriate. Finally, a student must possess those qualifications and research interests that indicate to the Computer Science and Engineering Graduate Studies Committee that the applicant will be successful in the computer science doctoral program. Additional details for these requirements are provided on the Department of Computer Science and Engineering Graduate Admissions webpage.


There are three examinations held during the course of PhD study, each with their own purpose:

  • The Qualifying Exam demonstrates mastery of the breadth of computer science and preparation for further study. It must be completed before research is started and is generally performed before coursework is concluded.
  • The Preliminary Exam demonstrates mastery of a research area in preparation for determining a topic. It is performed when coursework is concluded and advanced the student to candidacy (Ph.D. research eligibility).
  • The Dissertation Defense is before an audience of peers and is aimed to demonstrate the student's scholarship and contribution. It is the culmination of the student's efforts.

More details concerning the specific timelines, format, and guidelines for each exam is provided on the Department of Computer Science and Engineering Examination Procedure webpage.

Dissertation & Defense

The development and execution of a dissertation is the major milestone of Ph.D. study, and students should work with their dissertation director and guiding committee in tandem to forward their studies. These guidelines supplement, but do not supersede, those provided by the Graduate School; see the Office of the Graduate School guidelines for additional details such as the deadlines, exam process, submission steps, format for the dissertation, and so on.

The primary milestones for the dissertation are as follows:

  1. The student must complete coursework and the Qualifying exam.
  2. The semester before their anticipated Preliminary exam, students should review their Program of Study via CAPP on Banner to ensure all coursework will be completed.
  3. The student must complete the Preliminary exam after coursework is completed. Some dissertation directors combine this and the following step.
  4. After the Preliminary exam, the student proposes their research. The student develops a dissertation proposal following the University's Standard for Preparing Theses and Dissertations, and the Department's format standard (The signature page will list only Committee members.) The proposal must contain:
    • Introduction to the research being proposed.
    • Review of the relevant research in the area.
    • Hypothesis, research goals/questions, research relevancy, proposed research methodology/procedures, and publication plan.
  5. The major professor schedules a research proposal session with the students Graduate Committee. The student will present an oral defense of their proposed research. At this time, the student and his/her Committee may negotiate specific changes in the proposed work. Another proposal session may be required as appropriate. When the proposal is passed, the signed written proposal signature page is kept with the CSE office.
  6. Upon completion of the research, the student submits a draft copy of the dissertation document to each member of his/her Graduate Committee. This draft copy is must be distributed to the committee members at least one week prior to the planned date of the presentation. All suggestions and concerns should be resolved under the direction of the major professor.
  7. When the student is ready to defend the dissertation and be examined, the major professor schedules the presentation and examination. The dissertation presentation is open to all students and faculty. The presentation is followed immediately by an oral examination of the student that is open only to the members of the student's Graduate Committee (and the research director).
  8. Once the student has made all changes to the dissertation document requested by the committee members and the committee members and the Graduate Coordinator have signed the approval page, the student submits a signed copy of the approval page to the departmental office. Approval of the thesis proceeds from the committee, to the Graduate Coordinator of the Department, and thence to the Dean of Engineering. After all approvals are obtained, the student must submit an electronic copy of the dissertation to the Library for final approval.
    The Library provides guidelines for the format of theses. Dr. Ramkumar provides a LaTeX template for those wishing to use it, under the disclaimer that Library guidelines are the primary source of formatting and must be consulted at all times.