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Ph.D. Program in Computer Science

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program are expected to acquire a broad knowledge in all areas of computer science, and an overall perspective of the field, its structure, and its problems. They are expected to study at least one subfield in considerable depth, and to make substantial contributions to that subfield through creative research and serious scholarship.

Students should be able to advance the basic understanding of information processes, and to contribute to the creation and consolidation of knowledge in computer science. In addition, they should be able to see and understand new problems between different areas within computer science as well as between computer science and other fields, to find imaginative solutions for them, and to carry them through.


4.1 Requirements for Admission to the Ph.D. Program

The minimal requirements for admission of a student with a baccalaureate are identical with the requirements for admission to our MS program. See section 3.1 of this brochure. However, for students who indicate their intention of pursuing a doctoral degree program, the Admissions Committee seeks a substantially higher undergraduate GPA, substantially higher GRE scores, and outstanding letters of recommendation.


4.2 Financial Aid

See section 3.2 of this brochure.


4.3 Course Load

See section 3.3 of this brochure.


4.4 Study Plans for Ph.D.

Upon entering the Ph.D. program, each student will be assigned an academic advisor, and with the help of the advisor will choose a study plan (which can be brought up to date when necessary). According to university regulations, Ph.D. students are required to take 48 credits of courses and independent study, plus 24 credits of thesis research (701-702). There is considerable flexibility in the choice of a study plan. However, in choosing their courses, students should keep in mind the detailed course requirements established by the Department of Computer Science (discussed below) that they must satisfy within the set of courses they take for the Ph.D. degree. In order to be considered a full-time student by the University, a student has to take at least 9 credits per semester. A TA-ship or GA-ship counts for 6 credits towards this full time status.

Each student must have an academic advisor, who is a DCS faculty member. This need not be the same person that will become their research advisor. Generally, the research advisor must be a DCS faculty member. Note that the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science includes several individuals who have principal appointments in other departments (e.g., Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Mathematics, and Psychology). These individuals are referred to as "courtesy'' members of the Department of Computer Science. A courtesy member of the department may be chosen as a research advisor only with the approval of the Graduate Committee, if petitioned by the student and supported by the student's academic advisor. Students who are doing research with a courtesy member of the department must engage in regular discussions about that work with their academic advisor.

The Department sponsors colloquia and seminars where workers in the field are invited to present their research. Attendance at the Colloquium is strongly recommended for all Ph.D. students.

The department recommends that a student take at least one course outside the Department of Computer Science. Such a decision should be made in consultation with the student's academic advisor. Some possible courses, and relevant related departments are described in sections 8 and 6.3.


4.5 Doctoral Requirements

In addition to the 48 credits of courses and independent study, and the 24 credits of thesis research (701-702), students wishing to obtain a Ph.D. degree in CS must successfully complete

  1. the breadth requirement
  2. the depth requirement
  3. the dissertation requirement


4.5.1 The Breadth Requirement

Students must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of some diverse areas of computer science.

Students must take two courses from each of the following two categories:



  1. 509 (Introduction To The Foundations Of Computer Science)
  2. 510 (Numerical Analysis)
  3. 513 (Design And Analysis Of Data Structures And Algorithms I)
  4. 514 (Design And Analysis Of Data Structures And Algorithms II)
  5. 521 (Linear Programming)
  6. 522 (Network And Combinatorial Optimization Algorithms)
  7. 527 (Computer Methods For Partial Differential Equations)
  8. 529 (Computational Geometry)
  9. 538 (Complexity Of Computation)
  10. 540 (Combinatorial Methods In Complexity Theory)
  11. 596 (Topics In The Foundation Of Computer Science)


  1. 505 (Computer Structures)
  2. 507 (Advanced Computer Architecture)
  3. 515 (Programming Languages And Compilers I)
  4. 516 (Programming Languages And Compilers II)
  5. 519 (Operating System Theory)
  6. 520 (Introduction To Artificial Intelligence)
  7. 523 (Computer Graphics)
  8. 530 (Knowledge-Based Systems)
  9. 532 (Logical Foundations Of Knowledge Representation)
  10. 533 (Natural Language Processing)
  11. 534 (Image Understanding)
  12. 535 (Pattern Recognition: Theory And Applications)
  13. 536 (Machine Learning)
  14. 541 (Database Systems)
  15. 545 (Distributed Systems)
  16. 546 (Computer Systems Security)
  17. 547 (Secure Computing, Applied To Electronic Commerce)
  18. 552 (Computer Networks)
  19. 553 (Design Of Internet Services)
  20. 583 (Topics In Software Design)
  21. 598 (Topics In Artificial Intelligence)

Courses with transfer credits cannot be used to satisfy the breadth requirements. Note that this classification of courses is not set in concrete. The Graduate Committee may add and remove courses from this list, or change the placement of a course in this partition, as it deems necessary (for example, to respond to changes in course content or scheduling, or to incorporate new course offerings). Such changes will be posted here. For the current list of graduate courses, please visit web site .

In order to satisfy the breadth requirement, students must complete these courses with a grade-point average of 3.5 across the courses that they present to satisfy the requirement. (It is not permitted to repeat a course to obtain a higher grade.)

The breadth requirement must be completed by the end of the 5th semester.

4.5.2 The Depth Requirement

(a) Independent Study: By the end of the 4th semester, the student must have completed an independent study research project. This is intended to start the student toward the path of selecting a research advisor and a research topic.

(b) Qualifying Exam: By the end of the 6th semester, the student must have formed an examination committee consisting of at least 3 DCS faculty members. The examination committee is chaired by the student's research advisor, and should also contain the student's academic advisor, in case these are not the same person. These three CS faculty members will meet with the student to discuss and decide on a syllabus of topics for the examination. There will also be a fourth member of the examination committee, assigned by the Graduate Director. The fourth member will be someone whose research area is not close to the topic of the student's research; this person will participate in the oral examination, but will not assign additional examination topics to the student. Their role is to ensure that the student can explain their answers to a non-expert and can show their understanding of the broader research context.

The student will write an article (which may consist of original research, but may also be a critical survey, etc.) and make a public presentation attended at least by the examination committee. The public presentation must be advertised to the entire department at least one week prior to the presentation. Part of the talk should outline promising research directions. At the end of the talk, the committee will examine the student in closed session (with only the committee, the student, and other DCS faculty present), and then announce the outcome of the depth examination. The committee's decision will be based on the written article, the public presentation, and on oral examination material as determined by the committee in prior discussion with the student. This is an in-depth examination, whereby the committee determines if the student has sufficient preparation to evaluate current research in the field and formulate credible approaches to carry out original research.

If a student fails this examination, then the student may try again within the next two semesters. A student is allowed at most two attempts to satisfy the depth requirement.

(c) Courses. In addition, doctoral students are required to complete at least two CS courses (or seminars) beyond the breadth requirement and two courses that either CS or on the list of addition courses from other departments found in section 6.3. (The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) requires that students register for 24 research credits (while working on their dissertations) and 48 other credits; there is no restriction imposed by the School of Graduate Studies on these 48 credits, other than that they must be taken for a grade (not pass/fail) and for graduate credit.)

4.5.3 The Dissertation Requirement

A Ph.D. student should devote at least one year to research (24 credits of 701-702, under the constraints listed above). During this time the student should pursue, under faculty supervision, an original investigation of one or more problems in an area of concentration in computer science, and present the results in a thesis.

Current research by the graduate faculty is expected to stimulate doctoral research. While progressing through course work, and especially at the seminar level, the student will concentrate more and more on a research area and work more and more closely with the faculty members involved in that area. Those areas and the faculty associated with them are outlined in section 5.

Having identified an area of research, the student should find a member of the graduate faculty who is interested in that area and who is willing to be the student's thesis advisor. Only a full member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science can be the thesis advisors. Work on the thesis research should then be carried out under the direction of that supervisor. A student should find a research advisor by the end of the fourth, preferably by the end of the second semester. Students who have a research advisor may have better chances to receive a TA-ship or GA-ship after their second year.

Within six months of the successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student and a full member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science must declare to the Graduate Committee that the student is doing research under the guidance of that professor as advisor. If there are circumstances that prevent such an agreement between a professor and the student, the student should consult with the Graduate Director. If the Ph.D. thesis advisor is to be a courtesy member of the department (as defined above), the student must have a second advisor who is a regular member of the department and the student must keep the second advisor well-informed about his/her research progress; in this case, both advisors must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

The student will do research under the direction of an advisor, who must be a full (rather than associate) member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science, write a dissertation about that work, have the thesis read by a committee of at least four and defend the work in an oral presentation to the committee and all who are interested. (The Graduate Committee will announce this dissertation defense.) The student's advisor will propose a committee to the Graduate Committee and the DCS Graduate Director for approval. The thesis committee, chaired by the advisor, will include at least two other (full or associate) members of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science and one additional person referred to as the "outside member". This outside member

  1. must be neither a full nor an associate member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science,
  2. should be from outside the university whenever possible,
  3. is expected to be a recognized authority on the subject of the dissertation.

The outside member is included in the committee in order to provide an objective and impartial evaluation of the student's work; in particular, this goal precludes anybody with a substantial involvement in the development of the dissertation from being appointed as the outside member. (For instance, co-authors of parts of the student's dissertation are barred from being appointed as outside members.) Once the committee has been formed, the outside member is expected to participate in giving the student the assistance and feedback required by the rules of School of Graduate Studies.

The thesis must be approved by the four-member committee. The formal approval is not given until after the student has given an oral presentation of the thesis before the committee and other members of the department and has answered to their satisfaction any questions they may ask.

4.5.5 Summary of the Requirements

A summary of the Ph.D. requirements, along with the expected timeline is given in the table below:

Expected Progress in the Ph.D. Program


Breadth Requirement          

Depth Requirement

Research and Dissertation


Take two courses from each of category A and B

Complete an independent study by the end of 4th semester (3 credits)

Work on completing the 12 credits for CS courses satisfying the depth requirement

Student is expected to find a research area and a research advisor preferably by 2nd semester and no later than the 4th semester





Expected complete breadth requirement by the 5th semester










Finish 48 credits of course work covering the breadth and depth requirements and including at least 3 credits of independent study.

Finish 24 research credits

During the course of the Ph.D. studies, the students are expected to register for 72 credits, distributed as follows:

  1. 12 credits for course satisfying the breadth requirement. These courses must be taken at Rutgers, and the student should earn an average GPA of 3.5 for the requirement to be fulfilled.
  2. 12 credits for CS courses satisfying the depth requirement, i.e., CS courses.
  3. 24 credits of research. Research credits (701, 702) can only be taken after satisfying the depth requirement.
  4. 3 credits of independent study (to be fulfilled by the end of the fourth semester).
  5. The remaining 21 credits must be taken among other graduate-level courses and/or undergraduate courses that can be taken for graduate credit, or additional independent study.

In addition, to obtain a Ph.D. degree, the grade for these courses and any surplus courses which the student may have taken must average B or better. (To satisfy the breadth requirement, students must have a GPA of 3.5 over the courses counting for the requirement as mentioned above.) Students can be separated from the program if they receive more than one F or more than 4 grades below B. A student cannot graduate if the transcript contains more than two incompletes of either kind (For regulations concerning incompletes, see section 3.6.).


4.6 Thesis format

The School of Graduate Studies has this to say about the Dissertation Format: As a general rule, the School of Graduate Studies requires that Ph.D. dissertations be extended studies that go well beyond the scope of individual scholarly articles. They are expected to present a broad review of relevant literature and theory, to study extensively the problem posed and to place the results in a large intellectual/research context. On occasion, when recommended by the student's committee and the graduate degree program, exceptions to this policy may be granted by the Dean. Such exceptions may occur when it is proposed to substitute two to four less extended, original studies on closely related problems. Such a dissertation must be presented as a single document, must have a common general introduction and literature review, must have appropriate connecting matter and must have a general conclusion relating the results of the separate studies.

NOTE! The preparation of the final form of the thesis is entirely the student's responsibility. Neither secretaries nor faculty should be asked to do or arrange for typing or to do any of the various errands necessary for the submission of the final copy of the thesis and the assorted forms that accompany it. To become acquainted with the correct format that the thesis should have, please visit the School of Graduate Studies website: Thesis and Dissertation Style Guide (


4.7 Master Degree En Route to Doctorate Degree

The School of Graduate Studies of Rutgers University allows PhD students to acquire a Masters degree en route to achieving their doctorate degree. There are two possible MS degrees that can be pursued.

a)  A Master of Philosophy (M. Phil.) degree is available for Computer Science doctoral students on the basis of the guidelines set forth by the School of Graduate Studies. A main difference between the requirements for a Ph.D. degree and a Master of Philosophy is that a thesis based on original research is not required for the latter. Nevertheless, a prospective student does need a thesis, similar to a Master's thesis. It must be written under the direction of a member of the Computer Science graduate faculty and approved by two additional members of the graduate faculty. An important rule is that all requirements for the M. Phil. must be completed within four years of the student's first registration. An  interested student should read the section on Master of Philosophy in the "Degree Requirements" section of the Bulletin of the School of Graduate Studies for the exact conditions. To receive the M. Phil. in Computer Science, a student must achieve comprehensive mastery of the field and a deep knowledge in one of its areas, and should have a broad working experience with software design and with advanced computer applications.

b) Master of Science: The School of Graduate Studies allows PhD students to pursue the Master of Science degree while working on their doctorates. In the Computer Science department this can be formally initiated ONLY AFTER the student has passed the qualifying exam requirement and begun their PhD  thesis research. The coursework used towards the breadth and depth requirements of the PhD program can be used to simultaneously satisfy the conditions needed to obtain the Master of Science degree.

For students that decide to leave the graduate program before completing their PhD degrees, but want to be awarded an MS degree in recognition of having already satisfied the course requirements and performing original research: the Computer Science department will allow this, but only under the thesis option and requirements for the M.S. degree.


4.8 Scholastic Standing

The Department conducts an annual review (known as Purple Thursday) of all DCS Graduate Students. Students will be asked to provide their academic advisor/oral examination chairperson/thesis director (whichever is most appropriate) with a summary of their progress, achievements and difficulties in the preceding calendar year for the use of the faculty in this review. The advisor will report to the student, in writing, the suggestions resulting from the Purple Thursday review. As of 2006 this will be done through the paperless system. If the student does not follow the provided suggestions in a satisfactory fashion, the student may be terminated. Students who are in the PhD program for longer than 7 years will be subject to additional rules from the School of Graduate Studies regarding their satisfactory progress toward the PhD requirements.


4.9 Transfer of Credits

We allow up to 12 credits of previous courses that have been taken within the past 5 years, which do not count for fulfilling the A and B course requirement, but which "match" a course of similar content that is available at Rutgers.

Evaluation of transfer credits is deferred until the student has successfully passed his/her Qualifying Exam. When the time comes to apply for credit transfer, the student should obtain the appropriate forms in Room 377.

4.10 "In-house'' Residence for Ph.D.

An important objective of the Department of Computer Science, of particular significance to the Ph.D. student, is the creation and maintenance of a community involved in research and scholarship. The important role that this community plays in the student's education makes it essential that the student not only benefit from the academic community, but also contribute to it. The residence requirement is intended to help insure the existence of such an academic community.

To fulfill the residence requirement a student must be in full-time attendance for no less than one academic year of two consecutive terms (excluding the summer session), during which time the student must spend `adequate time' within the department. `Adequate time' with the department is normally satisfied by attendance at colloquia, presentation of talks, interaction with students and faculty outside of class, involvement in the department's research, and participation in other functions of the academic community within the department. Satisfaction of the `adequate time' requirement must be certified by the student's advisor.

In rare cases it may be possible to fulfill the objective of the residence regulation without fulfilling all its details. To qualify for such an exception, students, with the help of their advisor, must prepare an alternate plan to meet the objective of the residence requirement. The plan must be submitted to the Graduate Committee. The fulfillment of the approved plan must be certified by the student's advisor.


4.11 Ph.D.'s Granted