Jun 23, 2024  
Graduate Catalog 2019-20 
Graduate Catalog 2019-20 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

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The doctoral program is designed to develop computer scientists with research expertise in computer science. Specific areas of emphasis include algorithmic complexity theory; artificial intelligence; bioinformatics, cloud computing; compiler optimization; computational science (biology, chemistry, finance, mathematics/statistics, medicine, physics); computer architecture; computer graphics; computer networking; computer security and privacy; data analytics; data warehousing and mining; distributed and mobile data bases; embedded systems; formal specification and verification; human-computer interaction and visualization; high-performance computing; knowledge-based systems; language and automata theory; mathematical and computer modeling; multimedia databases and systems; neural networks; parallel and distributed algorithms; pattern recognition and image processing; pervasive systems; scientific computing and numerical analysis; simulation; software engineering and web applications.  The program also permits a student to acquire expertise in closely related fields such as computer engineering and mathematics.

Students completing the program are typically well qualified for teaching and research positions with colleges and universities as well as with national and international industries and laboratories.

The doctoral program is designed to allow a full-time student entering with a Master of Science in Computer Science to complete all degree requirements within three years.  However, it is common for students to take longer.

Admission Requirements

A successful applicant to the doctoral program in computer science must satisfy all of the general admission criteria identified in the Graduate Catalog and submit the following documents:

  1. Transcripts of prior higher education.
    1. Applicants should have earned or expect to earn a master’s degree in computer science.  An applicant with a master’s degree in electrical or computer engineering, mathematics or a related field will also be considered.
    2. An outstanding student who has completed a bachelor’s degree and has met all other entrance requirements may also be considered.
  2. Results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test.
  3. Three letters of reference from persons able to assess the student’s qualifications for doctoral-level study and likelihood of success. The department may also directly contact referees after the submission of the reference letters.
  4. A resume that includes a description of academic background and professional experience.
  5. An essay describing the applicant’s academic and professional objectives.
  6. For international students, the TOEFL or equivalent English language examination result.

Financial Assistance

Students accepted into the doctoral program may apply for one of the department’s graduate teaching and research assistantships. In addition, students may apply for one of a limited number of doctoral associateships. Graduate internship opportunities with local industries are also available. Applications for teaching and research assistantships should be sent directly to the Department of Computer Science. The application forms and instructions for financial assistance can be obtained from the department. Information about non-departmental assistantships and fellowships, tuition remission, special assistance for minority graduate students, general research funds, and tuition grants is available from the Graduate College. Information about student loans and other federal, state, and University need-based financial aid programs is available from the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Program Requirements

A successful candidate for the Ph.D. degree in Computer Science is responsible for all the general requirements for a doctoral degree as stated in the Graduate Catalog.  The remainder of this section restates some of the general requirements and includes additional requirements specific to the doctoral program in computer science.

1. Prerequisites

A student having prerequisite requirements as a condition of admission must successfully complete all prerequisites before being considered to have entered the doctoral program.

2. Required credit hours

The Ph.D. in Computer Science requires, beyond the student’s master’s degree, the completion of at least 30 credit hours of graduate course work and 12-24 hours of dissertation credits. This implies a total of at least 72 credit hours of graduate work.

The minimum requirement of the completion of 30 credit hours of course work past the master’s degree is satisfied by: (i) 18 credit hours of regular course work not including independent study, research, seminars and professional field experience; (ii) 3 credit hours of CS 7100 (Independent Research), to be successfully completed by the third semester of enrollment, followed by 3 credit hours of CS 7350 (Graduate Research), to be taken during the first two years of enrollment culminating in an approved research report submitted to the department; and (iii) 6 credit hours of course work that may include regular courses, independent study, research, seminars and professional field experience.


3. Demonstrate competency in two research skills.

Each Ph.D. candidate must obtain departmental approval and demonstrate mastery of two of the following three research skills:

a.  A foreign language other than English, with competency equivalent to a 4000-level course at WMU;
b.  Statistics or probability at the level of MATH 3620 or MATH 3640.
c.  Computer document preparation and library tools.

4. General qualifying examinations

Before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must pass general qualifying examinations in computer science.  Students admitted with a master’s degree must take one qualifying examination no later than the first time offered after completion of 15 credit hours and must take the second examination no later than the first time offered after completion of 30 credit hours.  All students must take all their qualifying examinations no later than the first time offered after completion of 45 credit hours.  A student has one opportunity to repeat the qualifying examination. 

There are six examination topic areas in two categories as follows:

a. Systems:  Computer architecture (CS 6250); Operating systems (CS 6550); Computer Networks (CS 6560); Compiler Optimization (CS 6810)

b. Theory:  Design and analysis of algorithms (CS 6310 or CS 6320); Theory of computation (CS 6800)

The student must select three of the six areas for his or her qualifying examinations, with at least one exam from each category.  The student will have the opportunity to repeat a portion of the qualifying examination once, but may not change the selected areas.  The department will determine what area(s) of the examination, if any, the student must repeat.

The qualifying examination may be satisfied by taking the 6000-level courses of the three selected areas (i.e., three of CS 6250, 6310 or 6320, 6550, 6560, 6800, 6810). To satisfy the qualifying examination requirements, the three selected courses must be passed with at least a “BA” grade.

5. Preliminary Examination

Each doctoral candidate must obtain approval from his or her dissertation committee for a dissertation topic and research plan.  This approval process is called the Preliminary Examination and is structured by each dissertation committee to fit each candidate’s program.  The Preliminary Examination must be completed within one year after passing the qualifying examination and at least one year in advance of the dissertation defense.  A candidate has one opportunity to repeat the Preliminary Examination.

6. Complete and successfully defend a dissertation (12 - 24 credit hours of CS 7300)

A doctoral dissertation, which is the culmination of an original and substantive research effort by the candidate, must be completed and publicly defended.  This study is done under the supervision of a dissertation director and dissertation committee.  A dissertation director is appointed by the department, typically within the candidate’s first two years in the doctoral program and based on the candidate’s interests.

The doctoral dissertation committee is appointed by the Graduate College based on the petition of the candidate and the approval and recommendation of the department chair.  The doctoral dissertation committee is comprised of the dissertation director and at least two other members of the graduate faculty, at least one of whom shall be from outside the department. The committee members facilitate and guide the candidate’s academic and research development.

Before a candidate is awarded the Ph.D. degree, each member of the doctoral dissertation committee must approve the dissertation.  The completed dissertation is presented by the candidate at a public seminar and oral defense.


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