VCU Bulletins

Computer science track

Arodz, Dr. Tom
Department of Computer Science, School of Engineering
tarodz@vcu.edu
(804) 827-3989

Admission requirements summary

Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Indicate specialization: computer science
Degree:

Ph.D.
Semester(s)
of entry:

Fall




Spring
Deadline
dates:

Jun 1
(Feb 1 for
financial
assistance)

Nov 15
Test
requirements:

GRE

TOEFL for international students

Students with an M.S. degree in a field closely related to computer science, such as mathematics, physics, engineering or bioinformatics, can be accepted into the Ph.D. program. However, only outstanding students (preferably with a B.S. degree in computer science) can be admitted into the direct B.S. to Ph.D. program.

Typical program of study - M.S. to Ph.D. in Engineering

  credits
Theory, systems and applied computer science 12
Directed research – ENGR 697 18
Total (minimum) 30

A minimum of three years of study, including research, is necessary to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. A period of residence of at least three consecutive semesters is required. Residency is defined as registration for at least nine credits per semester. A time limit of seven calendar years, beginning at the time of first registration, is placed on work to be credited toward the Ph.D.

Curriculum

There are three components of each Ph.D. in Engineering track.

Concentration (track-specific) component. This component allows the student to pursue a series of courses that focus on a specific field of engineering and serve as the student’s primary engineering discipline.

Track electives component. This component allows the student to take courses in either engineering or science with approval of the student’s adviser.

Directed research component. This component emphasizes research directed toward completion of degree requirements under the direction of an adviser and advisory committee.

Degree requirements 

A minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, including research credits, is generally required for the Ph.D. in Engineering. Students holding the master’s degree must complete a minimum of six semester credits in concentration course work and 21 semester credits in dissertation research. The student’s adviser must approve all course work. Ph.D. students must take a minimum of 30 semester credits (including research) beyond the master’s degree. No elective courses may be used for both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. At least half of the credits required in the student’s program must be those designated as exclusively for graduate students, that is those at the 600 level or above.

Admission requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to graduate programs in the Graduate School and the School of Engineering, applicants to the computer science track must have a B.S. and master’s degree in engineering, computer science or a closely related discipline.

Acceptance of an applicant is based upon the recommendation of the Admissions Committee with approval of the program chair and the associate dean for graduate studies.

Registration 

Students may begin a course of study in either the fall or spring semesters for the engineering graduate programs, although a start in the fall semester is preferred.

Comprehensive examinations 

In order to advance to doctoral candidacy, the student must pass both written and oral comprehensive examinations. The written examination(s) focuses on the subject matter deemed critical as a foundation in the program. The examination(s) is largely based on material covered in required course work and its application to theoretical and practical problems. The oral examination, which follows successful completion of the written examination(s), is administered to assess the ability of the student to integrate information and display an appropriate mastery of problem-solving capabilities. Graduate students may not take the comprehensive exam if their overall GPA is less than 3.0. Students must also have a GPA of at least 3.0 for courses within the program in order to take the comprehensive exam. For further details, see the graduate program director or the program chair.

Admission to candidacy 

Before admission to candidacy for the doctorate, students must have: (1) completed required course work, (2) successfully completed the comprehensive examinations and (3) fulfilled all additional departmental requirements. A student may seek admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree without first completing the research and thesis portion of the Master of Science degree.

Dissertation research

The student must conduct a substantial original investigation under the supervision of the permanent adviser and prepare a dissertation reporting the results of this research and analyzing its significance in relation to existing scientific knowledge.

When the dissertation has been completed, copies in accepted form and style are submitted to the members of the advisory committee. The committee members decide upon the acceptability of the candidate’s dissertation. A favorable unanimous vote is required to approve the dissertation and all examiners are required to vote.

If the advisory committee accepts the dissertation for defense, the candidate appears before them for a final oral examination. This examination is open to all members of the faculty. The final oral examination will be limited to the subject of the candidate’s dissertation and related matters. A favorable vote of the candidate’s advisory committee and no more than one negative vote shall be required for passing the final oral examination. All committee members must vote. There shall be an announcement of the candidate’s name, department and title of dissertation, together with the day, place and hour of the final oral examination at least 10 working days in advance.

Foundational areas for computer science graduate studies:

Foundational areas
Courses
   
Theory CMSC 501 Advanced Algorithms
  CMSC 526 Theory of Programming Languages
  CMSC 620/CISS 624 Applied Cryptography
  CMSC 621 Theory of Computation
   
Systems CMSC 502 Parallel Algorithms
  CMSC 608 Advanced Database
  CMSC 622 Network and Operating Systems Security
   
Applied computer science CMSC/CISS 609 Advanced Artificial Intelligence
  CMSC 630 Applied Signal and Image Analysis
  CMSC 635 Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
  CMSC 678 Statistical Learning and Fuzzy Logic Algorithms

Ph.D. in Engineering – computer science track program requirements:

A student may choose to pursue a Ph.D. under the guidance of a computer science graduate faculty member. Interdisciplinary programs of study that involve computer science and another discipline are encouraged; however, a core of computer science courses is required. Courses not labeled CMSC must show relevance to the student’s program of study and must be submitted for approval by the computer science Graduate Committee through the student’s adviser.

For students with M.S. in Computer Science

Students will have to satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Take a minimum of 12 credit hours of didactic course work at the graduate level and 18 credit hours of directed research for a minimum of 30 credit hours including:
    • A minimum of four courses that should satisfy the following:
      1. At least two courses at the 600 level or greater
      2. At least one course from each of the following two foundation areas: theory and systems.
  2. Take and pass a written comprehensive exam (maximum of two attempts are allowed)
    • The written comprehensive examination will cover knowledge in three areas, and in order to pass students must score a minimum of 75 percent in each area.
      1. The exam must include material based on CMSC 501 from the theory area and on at least one course from the systems area.
      2. The third is the area of specialization based on courses to be decided by the dissertation adviser.
    • Students are allowed to take the comprehensives based on courses they may not have taken at VCU, however, they have to satisfy the course requirements as mentioned above.
    • Students can contact the lead professor for any area and obtain a list of topics that will be covered in the exam.
    • The exam will be conducted a minimum of once a year and will be organized by the graduate director, with prior approval of the exam questions by the Graduate Committee.
    • A student who fails one area of the required three comprehensive exam areas must retake the exam in the failed area. The department will organize and schedule a special comprehensive exam for such students. A student who fails two or more exam areas must retake the entire comprehensive exam at the regularly scheduled comprehensive exam in the following year.
  3. Write and defend a dissertation proposal (oral comprehensive exam) on an original research topic.
  4. Write and publicly defend the Ph.D. dissertation.
    • Since the Ph.D. is awarded for completion of work on an original research problem, peer-reviewed evidence of the quality of this work, in terms of at least one accepted journal paper or published high-quality conference paper (publications should be in a student’s research area), must be approved by the dissertation committee and the Graduate Committee before the final dissertation defense can be scheduled. Specific publication requirements are available at the computer science department website as well as in the School of Engineering graduate handbook.

For students with a B.S. degree or students without an M.S. in Computer Science

  1. Students admitted into the Ph.D. program with a B.S. degree must satisfy the following:
    1. Take a minimum of 60 credit hours of course work, including:
      • A minimum of 30 didactic credits, including
        1. At least two courses from each of the three foundation areas; CMSC 501 must be one of these courses
        2. At least 15 credits at the 600 level or greater
      • In addition, a student admitted to this program may need to take other undergraduate computer science courses in order to prepare for the required graduate-level courses. The choice of these courses will be left to the discretion of the student’s adviser.
      • A minimum of 18 credits of directed research is required.
    2. Satisfy the criteria B through D as defined above
  2. Students admitted into the Ph.D. program without an M.S. in Computer Science must satisfy the following:
    1. Take a minimum of 18 credit hours of course work at the graduate level and 18 credit hours of directed research for a minimum of 36 credit hours including:
      • A minimum of two courses from each of the following two foundation areas: theory and systems; CMSC 501 must be one of these courses
      • At least nine credits at the 600 level or greater
      • In addition, a student admitted to this program may need to take other undergraduate computer science courses in order to prepare for the required graduate-level courses. The choice of these courses will be left to the discretion of the student’s adviser.
    2. Satisfy the criteria B through D as defined above