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Ph.D. Degree Program

Overview

The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students for a career in research. As such, it requires considerable self-directed study and independent research. The Ph.D. program is individually tailored to each student, requiring close cooperation between the student and his or her research adviser. Students are expected to identify their area of research during the first year of study, obtaining a faculty adviser who will agree to supervise the dissertation research. (The adviser may or may not be the acting adviser assigned to the student when initially admitted to the program.)

Detailed Admission Requirements

Admission to the Ph.D. program in Computer Science and Engineering is normally open only to those students possessing an M.S. in Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering, or Computer Engineering. Students with no previous graduate degree can be considered for direct admission into the Ph.D. program (bypassing the M.S.) if they have exceptional baccalaureate records.

  1. GRE test scores. Applicants must submit scores for the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
  2. Three letters of recommendation. The applicant must submit three letters of recommendation supporting the application. A strong letter should speak to your specific strengths and experiences.
  3. A personal statement, describing the applicant’s aspirations for graduate study and relevant biographical background.

A successful Ph.D. application must address the ability to carry out independent study and self-directed research. This should be meaningfully addressed in the personal letter; at least one of the required letters of recommendation should speak to these skills.

For further details, including limits on course and credit transfer, the Ph.D. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog.

Admission of UCONN Master’s students. Students in the M.S. program in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Connecticut who plan on applying for the Ph.D. program are strongly advised to complete a Plan A Master’s program: the thesis can provide direct evidence of preparedness for independent study and research activity.

Admission of students with Master’s degrees in other areas. Students with a master’s degree in an area other than Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering, or Computer Engineering should initially apply for admission to the M.S. program. Transfer to the Ph.D. program can take place as soon as the student demonstrates the ability to carry out Ph.D. level work in Computer Science and Engineering. In any case, it may not be necessary to complete the formal requirements for an M.S. degree in Computer Science and Engineering.

Detailed Program Requirements

Each Ph.D. program is unique. It must, however, conform to the Graduate School requirements that it represent a minimum of two years of full-time study beyond the M.S. The Ph.D. program requires completion of the following major milestones:

  • Coursework and Plan of Study Submission: The program requires roughly two years of coursework beyond the M.S., spanning several breadth areas in computer science; the program has an additional English proficiency requirement. (See below for further discussion.)
  • Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal and Oral Presentation: Once a research topic has been approved by the student’s adviser, an initial investigation of the relevant literature in the area is undertaken to establish necessary background and to precisely identify the focus of research project. The initial investigation of the relevant literature in the area will culminate in the preparation of a dissertation proposal, a written discussion of relevant background and a definition of the thesis work. The proposal is presented during an oral presentation and exam; on approval, the student may begin dissertation research. (See below for further discussion.)
  • Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense: The Ph.D. dissertation is comprised of a detailed scholarly exposition of completed research and background. Ultimately, the thesis work is presented in a defense open to the public. (See below for further discussion.)
  • Ph.D. Publication Requirement: All doctoral students are required to publish at least 3 articles in full-length refereed conference venues prior to completion. (See below for further discussion.)

See the Ph.D. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog for an authoritative description of the Graduate School’s official requirements.

Time to completion. Under normal conditions it is expected that full-time Ph.D. students complete the work for the Ph.D. within four years of study.

Adviser & Committee Selection. Ph.D. students must associate themselves with a faculty adviser in consultation with whom they will select an advisory committee. The advisory committee consists of three faculty members chaired by the adviser. The advisory committee is responsible for reviewing the student’s plan of study (see below) and evaluating thesis work.

Coursework and Plan of Study Submission

Coursework requirements for the Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering depend on whether the student has an existing M.S. degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Computer Science and Engineering.

Course requirements for students without an existing M.S. (in CS, CE, or CSE):

  • At least 36 credits of graduate level courses, excluding thesis research credits;
  • At most 12 credits, in total, of CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE5099 (Ind. study), and CSE5600 (Design lab.);
  • At most 3 credits of CSE5097 (Seminar);
  • Satisfaction of the Ph.D. breadth requirements;
  • At least 18 credits of CSE graduate courses other than CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE5099 (Ind. study), and CSE5600 (Design lab.);
  • At least 15 credits of GRAD6950 (Dissertation research).

Course requirements for students with an existing M.S. (in CS, CE, or CSE):

  • At least 24 credits of graduate level courses, excluding thesis research credits;
  • At most 9 credits, in total, of CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE5099 (Ind. study), and CSE5600 (Design lab.);
  • At most 3 credits of CSE5097 (Seminar);
  • Satisfaction of the Ph.D. breadth requirements;
  • At least 12 credits of CSE graduate courses other than CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE5099 (Ind. study), and CSE5600 (Design lab.);
  • At least 15 credits of GRAD6950 (Dissertation Research).

The Ph.D. Breadth Requirement. The breadth requirement demands that Ph.D. students satisfy three content areas. The courses associated with each area are enumerated on the forms page.

The English proficiency requirement (native English speakers exempt). The program requires evidence of English competency at CEFR level B2 or successful completion of a UCAELI Evening English Course (EEC). The requirement can be met in several ways:

  • Native English speakers are exempt.
  • Evidence of level B2 CEFR English competency (TOEFL Speaking score ≥ 23, IELTS speaking score ≥ 7.0, or official UCAELI assessment via interview) satisfies the requirement.
  • Successful completion of a UCAELI EEC Course satisfies the requirement.

The plan of study. Ph.D. students must file an official plan of study form, signed by their adviser and committee. For further details, see the Ph.D. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog. The official plan of study form can be found with the other forms.

Ph.D. Publication Requirement

All CSE Ph.D. students are required to publish (or have accepted for publication), prior to their dissertation defense, a minimum of 3 conference level papers, where each paper is classified as a peer reviewed full conference article, i.e., submitted and reviewed as a full paper and not as an abstract. Major advisers have the authority to establish a higher threshold of publications for his/her students. Ph.D. candidates must make all publications available (with full citations) in electronic form on the web and (prior to the defense) and hard-copy form (at the defense).

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal and Oral Presentation

The Ph.D. dissertation must make a significant contribution to the computer science discipline. The selection of a dissertation topic and an adviser to supervise the research effort is a critical part of the Ph.D. program. A general area of research is usually selected during the first year of Ph.D. study and an agreement is obtained from a faculty member to serve as the major adviser. After selection of a research area has been approved, an initial investigation of the relevant literature in the area is undertaken to establish necessary background information and to define the exact problem to be studied. This initial investigation may also include a preliminary experiment to prove the feasibility of any experimental program that will be included in the research effort.

The initial investigation of the relevant literature in the area will culminate in the preparation of a dissertation proposal. Submission of the proposal to the committee is followed by an oral presentation and exam. This oral presentation and examination serves two purposes: evaluation of the proposal and the general examination for the degree. As such the oral exam must be attended by (i.) all members of the student’s advisory committee, (ii.) at least five faculty in total, (iii.) and at least two area experts who are not on the committee (these may be CSE faculty). Acceptance of this proposal by the student’s advisory committee must be obtained before the student begins the proposed research effort. For further details, see the Ph.D. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog.

Ph.D. Dissertation and Oral Defense

The Ph.D. dissertation must make a significant contribution to the computer science discipline. Dissertation research usually involves a substantial theoretical contribution verified by an experimental test of the validity and applicability of the theoretical results. Purely theoretical or mostly experimental research efforts are also acceptable provided they make a significant contribution to the understanding of a given area of computer science research.

Submission of the dissertation to the committee is followed by an oral defense. For further details, see the Ph.D. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog.

Part-Time Study

The Ph.D. program supports part-time study. To accommodate students with full-time employment, the department typically offers at least one CSE graduate course in the late afternoon (starting at 3:30) or early evening on a twice weekly basis. In semesters where that does not occur, students may be able to take independent studies (CSE5099) after consultation with their advisers.