Jul 14, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 [Archived Catalog]

Computer Science Ph.D.

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During the first few semesters, the student focuses on obtaining a breadth of knowledge in computer science. Full-time students must complete all requirements for the core qualifying examination by the end of their third semester. Part-time students may take up to six semesters to complete the core qualifying exam requirements. The timing is measured from the student’s semester of Ph.D. program entry, regardless of whether the student is concurrently enrolled in another degree program. The only exception is that students in the accelerated B.S.-Ph.D. program may begin the timing when they complete 128 credits.

To pass the core qualifying exam, students must:

  • demonstrate competence in the core areas of Algorithms, Software, and Systems at the undergraduate level. A student may demonstrate competence in a variety of ways, including taking a relevant course, taking an examination, or taking a more advanced course. See the Computer Science Web site for more details.
  • meet grading and distribution criteria in five graduate courses, i.e., five courses at the 6000 level. Distribution criteria require three of these courses to be in the student’s primary area and two of these courses to be outside the student’s primary area. Grading criteria require that the student earn 18.5 quality points (with A=4.00, A-=3.67, B+=3.33, and B=3.00) in these five courses. See the Computer Science Web site for more details, including a list of courses available in each area.

The second year is devoted to research exploration and selection of a doctoral committee. By the end of the second year, students must pass a research qualifying exam demonstrating breadth of knowledge in their research area. The research qualifying exam is supervised by three faculty members and may take the form of a survey paper and/or an oral examination.

In the third year, the student develops a detailed understanding of the chosen research area and prepares a research proposal. The student must pass an oral candidacy exam by the end of the third year. The candidacy exam is an oral exam focusing on a thesis proposal and administered by the student’s doctoral committee. The student begins by presenting the thesis proposal and is then questioned by the committee.

In addition to the above requirements, the student must earn a total of 72 credits beyond the bachelor’s level, with at least 36 course credits and at least 24 dissertation research credits. Students entering the program with an M.S. degree must earn a total of 48 credits, with at least 12 course credits and at least 24 dissertation research credits. The limit on independent study credits that may be counted toward the degree is nine for students completing a 72-credit degree and six for students completing a 48-credit degree. Students are expected to attend at least 50% of departmental colloquia during their first two years in the Ph.D. program. All doctoral students are expected to have presented at least one public lecture (such as a conference presentation) on their research prior to their defense.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to conduct novel, high quality, independent research in computer science with tangible contributions to computer science evidenced by publication of the research results in high quality venues
  • identify, investigate, and articulate open research questions within their computer science sub-specialty.
  • demonstrate solid knowledge of computer systems, algorithms and theory, and the application of computer science.

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