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Doctoral Program Requirements

The primary focus of the doctoral program is research, with the philosophy that students learn best by doing - beginning as apprentices and becoming junior colleagues working with faculty on scholarly research projects. All students spend at least half-time effort on directed research, usually full-time after the first two years or so. Students are expected to participate in departmental and laboratory activities full-time on-campus throughout the program, except possibly for summer internships elsewhere. Therefore the department does not normally consider the admission of part-time students.

  • Advisor

    Most students select a research advisor (who will in most cases later become the thesis advisor) during the admissions process prior to formal enrollment, and work closely with him or her on directed research from their first day in the program. A few doctoral students conduct small projects with several different faculty, and then choose a research advisor towards the end of their first or second semester.

  • English Proficiency

    The GSAS policy is specified here and the SEAS policy is specified here.

  • Breadth Requirement

    While the thesis research provides depth, it is also important to ensure breadth across the subfields of Computer Science.  The core consists of five topics, each of which may be satisfied by an examination or a course. A student must also take five elective courses, three of which must be distributed across the three main areas of Computer Science (AI, Systems and Theory). The other two electives may be taken in any area, or from outside Computer Science. Some of the elective requirements may be waived during the studentís first semester on the basis of courses taken previously.

  • Teaching/TAing

    Success as a computer scientist depends not only on the ability to generate and explore new ideas but also on the ability to communicate those ideas effectively. For this reason, students are expected to develop and exercise presentation and teaching skills as part of their education.  All students are required to fulfill two "teaching units", which may involve a combination of TA and instructor positions.

  • Candidacy Exam

    The candidacy oral exam certifies that the student has demonstrated a depth of scholarship in the literature and the methods of the student's chosen area of research, and has demonstrated a facility with the scholarly skills of critical evaluation and verbal expression.

  • Thesis Proposal

    The thesis proposal is a type of contract between the faculty and the student. An accepted thesis proposal indicates that the work proposed by the student, once completed, will be accepted by the faculty as sufficiently innovative and substantial as to be recognized with the award of the degree.

  • Dissertation and defense

    The semester in which the dissertation is distributed to the committee is the last occasion for which the candidate needs to be registered. The Ph.D. dissertation and defense is typically completed during the fifth or sixth year in the program. Some very highly motivated students, particularly in theoretical areas, may finish in less time. Remaining enrolled beyond the sixth year (in GSAS)  requires special approval.  The dissertation formatting requirements are here. Some defense hints can be found here.

Last updated on May 17, 2005


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Last modified: 05/17/05.