Sample Curriculum

Because a Ph.D. program is highly individualized, it is inappropriate to sketch out a semester-by-semester, course-by-course program. Instead, we will attempt to describe the major activities of each year’s study for a hypothetical student. Our hypothetical student comes to us with a B.S. in Computer Science and a firm plan to take a Ph.D. Along the way, we will comment on how the program might vary for other categories of students. The following table provides a recommended course scheduling for a PhD. student.

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester
1 CS7400 Intensive PL Elective (area of interest) CS7600 Intensive Sys Elective (area of interest)
2 CS7800 Advanced Alg Elective CS7805 Thy of Comp Elective
3 Elective Thesis or Reading Elective Thesis or Reading
4 Reading Thesis Cont or Reading Reading Thesis Cont or Reading
5-6 Thesis Continuation Thesis Continuation

Year 1:

In the fall and spring, the student takes one intensive core course each semester and one or two courses in his/her area of specialization if such an area has been identified. During this year, the student should be working towards identifying an area of research, as well as a potential faculty advisor. A student with a Master’s degree in Computer Science prior to entrance should consult with his/her mentor regarding core courses. Such a student would normally take courses only as necessary to fill in background gaps and should work towards the completion of the research paper.

Year 2:

During the academic year, the student should continue to take one core course in each semester. At the same time, the student is strongly encouraged to undertake supervised reading and research courses in the proposed area of study. The student may choose to obtain the MS degree provided he/she has completed the MS degree requirements.

Years 3-4:

During this time, the student’s time is devoted almost entirely to research. Continuing the work from Year 2, the student undertakes a series of successively more challenging research problems. The paper requirement is expected to be completed by the end of Year 3, if not earlier. By the end of Year 4, the student isolates a thesis problem and completes the Comprehensive Examination requirement.

Years 5-6:

The student works on the dissertation problem and writes the thesis. By the end of the fifth year, the thesis is at least ready to be written. In theoretical areas, the student should be ready to defend the dissertation at approximately the end of Year 5. In systems areas, the thesis work is more likely to extend to a sixth year.