Ph.D. in Computer Science

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The doctoral program in computer science provides students with a deep grounding in the fundamental principles and practice of computer science through core and elective coursework. The program also prepares students to conduct novel research that advances the state of the art in the field of computer science.  Students conduct research projects under the direction of a faculty mentor, culminating in the defense of a doctoral dissertation.  Graduates of the program are expected to excel in research, teaching, and the practice of computer science.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have earned a Baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. Students apply through the Graduate School by submitting an application and the following supporting materials:

  • Official transcripts of all previous academic work.
  • Official scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
  • Official scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), if required.
  • Personal Statement of Purpose.
  • A minimum of two letters of recommendation.
  • A CV/resume with evidence of other relevant experience.

Depending on qualifications for study, students may need to complete leveling coursework at the undergraduate level. These courses are not applied towards the degree. Applicants must be able to demonstrate knowledge of programming in a high-level language such as Java or C++, including knowledge of data structures and algorithms. This can be demonstrated by completing CS 2302 Data Structures  with a B or better, or by completing equivalent coursework or certifications as approved by the program committee.  Additional leveling courses may be required as prerequisites for specific graduate courses, or on a case-by-case basis depending on the qualifications of the student.

Degree Requirements

The PhD program requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree, and 36 credit hours of research, seminar, and dissertation courses. Students who enter the program with a relevant Master's degree qualify for reduced coursework, with a minimum of 15 hours of coursework. All courses must be taken at the 5000-level or above, unless specifically approved by the graduate advisor; when possible PhD students should take 6000-level courses. The coursework and research credit requirements are summarized in the following table.

Table 1 summarizes the degree requirements. The descriptions follow.

Table 1: Degree Requirements Summary
Core Courses9
Breadth Courses12
Technical Electives12
Interdisciplinary Electives3
Doctoral Research27
Dissertation6
Doctoral Seminar3
Total Hours72

Core Courses (9 credit hours):

The following three (3) core courses are required for all students and must be completed with a B or better.

CS 6392Graduate Research Methods3
CS 6315Theory of Computation3
CS 6350Advanced Algorithms3
Total Hours9

Breadth Courses (12 credit hours):

To fulfill the breadth requirement, students must complete at least one course from four of the following five areas of computer science.  All courses must be completed with a B or better.

Area 1: Systems
CS 5313Computer Networks3
CS 5340Advanced Operating Systems3
CS 6341Adv Computer Architecture3
Area 2: Security
CS 5352Computer Security3
CS 5375Software Reverse Engineering3
CS 5376Comp. Dec Making & Risk Anal3
CS 5377Cyber-Sec for Critical Op Tech3
Area 3: Software Development
CS 5382Model-Based Software Devlpmnt3
CS 5385Software Requirements Engr3
CS 5386Software Architecture & Design3
CS 5387Software Integration and V&V3
Area 4: Intelligent and Interactive Systems
CS 5314Artificial Intelligence I3
CS 5317Human-Computer Interaction3
CS 6303Logical Foundations of CS3
Area 5: Data Management and Analytics
CS 5342Database Management3
CS 5361Machine Learning3
CS 5362Data Mining3

Technical Electives (12) credit hours:

Students must select at least 12 credit hours of technical elective courses in computer science. These courses should be selected in consultation with the research advisor and graduate program advisor to develop technical depth in the student's specific area of research interest.

Interdisciplinary Elective (3) credit hours:

Students must take at least one graduate-level course outside of the computer science department to develop exposure to interdisciplinary topics that complement the student's area of study.

Doctoral Research (27) credit hours:

Students must take at least 27 hours of doctoral research credits.

Dissertation (6) credit hours:

Students must take a minimum of six (6) hours of dissertation credits.  These credits may only be taken after passing the comprehensive examination (dissertation proposal).

The dissertation must demonstrate competence in scholarly exposition and the ability to do independent research. It should present original investigations at an advanced level on a significant problem in computer science and should provide the basis for a publishable contribution to the research literature in the field. The rules for the dissertation and dissertation defense will follow the guidelines set forth by the Graduate School at UTEP.

Doctoral Seminar (3) credit hours:

Students are expected to actively participate in departmental seminars and other scholarly activities.  During the program, they must complete at least 3 hours of seminar credits.

Students Entering with a Relevant MS Degree

Students entering with a relevant Master's degree must satisfy the core requirements of the PhD program through coursework or transfer credits and must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of technical coursework in the PhD program.  The specific coursework will be determined in consultation with the graduate advisor.

Examinations

Doctoral students must complete a qualifying examination, a comprehensive examination, and a final dissertation defense.  The detailed requirements for each examination can be found on the departmental website.

The qualifying examination is designed to ensure that students are prepared to conduct research at the PhD level.  This includes assessing graduate-level mastery of fundamental concepts in computer science, as well as written and oral communication skills.

The comprehensive examination is a written and oral defense of a dissertation proposal.  This is designed to ensure that the student has identified a relevant research problem, outlined a feasible and sound approach to address the problem/research questions, and acquired sufficient depth of knowledge in the topic area to perform new and significant research. Upon successful

completion of the examination, the chair of the student's dissertation committee will inform the graduate school that the student is ready to begin work on his or her final dissertation, and the student will be admitted to candidacy.

The culmination of the PhD is writing and defending a dissertation.  Students must submit a written dissertation following the guidelines published by the graduate school and defend the dissertation in a public defense before an approved dissertation committee.

Cybersecurity  Certificate

The department also offers a certificate in cyber security that can be obtained in combination with the PhD degree if the student selects the necessary courses as electives.  See the description of the certificate program for the detailed requirements.

Degree Plan

Required Credits: 72

PhD in Computer Science Program
(All courses require a grade of C or better)
Core Courses:9
Core Courses (9) credit hours (B or above is required for the following three (3) courses):
Theory of Computation
Advanced Algorithms
Graduate Research Methods
Breadth Courses (12) credit hours (All courses require a B or better):12
Area 1: Systems
Computer Networks
Advanced Operating Systems
Adv Computer Architecture
Area 2: Security
Computer Security
Software Reverse Engineering
Comp. Dec Making & Risk Anal
Cyber-Sec for Critical Op Tech
Area 3: Software Development
Model-Based Software Devlpmnt
Software Requirements Engr
Software Architecture & Design
Software Integration and V&V
Area 4: Intelligent and Interactive Systems
Artificial Intelligence I
Human-Computer Interaction
Logical Foundations of CS
Area 5: Data Management and Analytics
Database Management
Machine Learning
Data Mining
Technical Electives (12) credit hours:12
Select twelve additional credit hours of technical electives in CS, Courses should be selected in consultation with the research advisor and graduate program advisor.
Computer Networks
Artificial Intelligence I
Human-Computer Interaction
Topics in Language Processing
Parallel & Concurrent Program
Secure Web-Based Systems
Advanced Operating Systems
Advanced Computer Architecture
Database Management
Interval Computations
Computer Security
Topics/Intelligent Computing
Machine Learning
Data Mining
Computer Vision
Topics in Data Science
CS 5370
Software Safety & Risk Anlysis
Spec. & Desgn of Real-Time Sys
Graduate Student Internship
Software Construction
Software Reverse Engineering
Comp. Dec Making & Risk Anal
Cyber-Sec for Critical Op Tech
Topics in Software Engineering
Model-Based Software Devlpmnt
Software Architecture & Design
Software Integration and V&V
Software Project Management
Software Engineering Practicum
Special Topic Computer Science
Individual Studies
Graduate Research
Graduate Projects
Graduate Projects
Master's Thesis
Master's Thesis
Graduate Research
Doctoral Research
Doctoral Research
Logical Foundations of CS
Theory of Computation
Adv Computer Architecture
Advanced Algorithms
Special Topics
Individual Studies
Graduate Research Methods
Doctoral Research
Dissertation
Dissertation
Interdisciplinary Electives (3 credit hours):3
Students must take at least one graduate-level course outside of the computer science department to develop exposure to interdisciplinary topics.
Doctoral Research (27 credit hours):27
Doctoral Research
Doctoral Research
Doctoral Research
Doctoral Research
Dissertation (6 credit hours)6
Dissertation
and Dissertation
Doctoral Seminar (3 credit hours)3
Total Hours72