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Computer Science and Engineering Ph.D.

Introduction

The Computer Science and Engineering Department offers a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree program. The normative time for the Ph.D. program is five to six years for a full-time student. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program usually receive financial support in the form of a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships, and/or graduate research assistantships.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Each student is required to take 58 credits as follows:

  • 18 credits of core requirements must be met by taking CSE 200 and one course each from three Core Categories: Programming Languages/Theory; Computer Architecture/Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Data Science.
  • 40 credits of regular, 5-credit graduate courses (not 2-credit seminars). Courses that do not count toward the 58-credit requirement include CSE 296, and all courses numbered CSE 280. CSE 297 and/or CSE 299 may be taken more than twice; however, only 10 credits total of CSE 297 and/or CSE 299 will be counted toward the required 58 credits.
  • At most 10 credits can be from courses taught by departments other than CSE. The student must obtain their advisor’s authorization to take a course from outside of Baskin Engineering.
  • Undergraduate courses do not count toward the 58-credit requirement.

English Language Proficiency Requirement

Applicants whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam and submit an official score report with the admission application. For admission purposes, the minimum passing score for the TOEFL exam must be 570 on the paper-based, 230 on the computer-based, or 89 on the Internet-based test. The minimum passing score for the IELTS exam is 7. TOEFL/IELTS waivers for admission purposes may be requested by applicants who have completed a four-year bachelor's degree at an English-speaking institution.

To be considered for teaching assistant support, students must meet the English language requirement for teaching assistants. Students may satisfy this requirements in one of the following ways:

  • Achieving a minimum score of 26 on the spoken portion of the Internet-based TOEFL
  • Achieving an overall score of 7 or higher and a speaking score of 8 or higher on the IELTS
  • Participating in the Graduate Preparation Program (GPP)
  • Passing Languages 210: Oral Communication in the U.S. Classroom: Strategies for International Teaching Assistants

Teaching Requirements

Each student is required to complete at least one quarter of teaching assistantship. This requirement can be met after advancement to candidacy. Certain exceptions may be permitted for those with extensive prior teaching experience or those who are not allowed to be employed due to visa regulations.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination (QE) is made up of multiple components. After completing all required coursework, the student must prepare a written thesis prospectus detailing their proposed dissertation research. This prospectus serves as the basis of the oral qualifying examination, which is a test of the student’s knowledge in advanced technical areas relevant to the dissertation topic. This oral examination consists of a seminar-style talk before an examining committee pre-approved by the graduate division where the student describes the thesis prospectus, followed by questions from the committee on the substance of the talk and the areas of presumed expertise of the student.

After successful completion of the QE exam and the timely submission of the Qualifying Exam Report by the QE committee, the student will nominate a dissertation reading committee (which may differ from the QE exam committee) that must also be approved by the Graduate Division.

To continue in the Ph.D. program, students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year. The first step is identifying and formally nominating the qualifying exam committee. The members of the qualifying exam committee should be decided in collaboration with the student’s faculty advisor and must include the following:

  1. The chair of the committee must be a tenured Senate CSE faculty member who is not the student's advisor.
  2. A Senate CSE faculty member (may be the advisor).
  3. A Senate UCSC faculty member or a recognized expert in the student's research area as judged by the graduate director and Graduate Division dean. (may be the advisor).
  4. The outside member must be a tenured Senate faculty member from a department other than CSE at UCSC or a recognized expert in the student's research area from outside UCSC. The outside member may not be the student's advisor. In the event that the outside member is not from UCSC they must have credentials equivalent to a tenured faculty member as judged by the graduate director and the Graduate Division dean. The outside member's CV must be submitted along with the exam committee nomination form.

A ladder rank faculty (Academic Senate member) holds the title of assistant professor, associate professor, professor, assistant teaching professor, associate teaching professor, or teaching professor. Associate professors, professors, associate teaching professors, and teaching professors have tenure.

Additional members may be added to the committee. Exceptions to the committee requirements above may be granted by the graduate director when appropriate, as long as the committee meets the Graduate Division requirements. In order to formally nominate their proposed QE committee, the student should submit a QE Nomination Form to the CSE department’s graduate advising team at least 30 days in advance. This will be signed by the faculty graduate representative and then sent to the Graduate Division for final approval. It is also recommended that students reach out to their committee with a draft of their paper/presentation in order to incorporate any feedback before the QE exam takes place.

At least two weeks before the QE, the student should submit the title of their prospectus, an abstract, and the location information for their exam using the Advancement/Defense Notification Request Form so that the Advising Office can send out an announcement to the BE community.

In order to pass the qualifying examination, the committee must come to unanimous agreement that the student has passed the exam, and the committee will provide a written report on the qualifying exam. The final step in the advancement process for the student is to identify and formally nominate a dissertation reading committee.

If the student does not pass the qualifying examination, the student may be asked to complete additional coursework, or other research-related work, before retaking the examination. The student may be allowed to retake the qualifying examination once, and the composition of the examining committee will remain the same for the second try. Students who fail the qualifying examination twice may be dismissed from the Ph.D. program, or given the option to exit with a master’s degree.

Students are advanced to candidacy after they have completed the course requirements, passed the qualifying examination, cleared all incompletes from their records, have an appointed dissertation reading committee, and paid the advancement to candidacy fee.

Students who have not advanced to candidacy by the end of their third year (nine quarters) are recommended for academic probation, and are subject to dismissal from the program if they do not advance by the end of their fourth year (12 quarters).

Letter Grade Policy

Letter grading is required for all courses applied toward the Computer Science and Engineering Ph.D. degree with an exception for up to 10 credits of the student’s choice and the following courses: CSE 200, Research and Teaching in Computer Science and Engineering; CSE 297, Independent Study or Research; CSE 299, Thesis Research; and seminar courses (CSE 280 series). With the exception of CSE 200, courses used to satisfy the core requirement must be taken for letter grade. This policy includes courses used for this degree that are sponsored by other departments. To ensure they will receive a letter grade, students should check that they have selected the letter grade option no later than the 15th day of instruction each quarter for each class in which they are enrolled.

Transfer Credit

Up to three courses (15 credits) can be transferred from another institution with approval by the CSE graduate director.

Petitions should be submitted along with the transcript from the other institution or UC Santa Cruz extension. For courses taken at other institutions, copies of the syllabi, exams, and other coursework should accompany the petition. Such petitions are not considered until the completion of at least one quarter at UCSC.

Dissertation

Dissertation

Each student writes a Ph.D. dissertation which must be submitted to the reading committee at least one month prior to the dissertation defense. The members of the Dissertation Reading Committee must include at least three members as follows:

  1. The faculty advisor of the student. This is the chair of the committee.
  2. A Senate Baskin Engineering faculty member who is not the student's advisor. This member must be from CSE at UCSC if the advisor is not from CSE at UCSC.
  3. A Senate UCSC faculty or a recognized expert in the student's research area with credentials equivalent to a Senate UCSC faculty member as judged by the graduate director and Graduate Division dean.

At least half of the committee must be members of the Santa Cruz Division of the Academic Senate.

Additional members may be added to the committee. Students should consult their advisors about the membership of their committee. The committee must be approved by the graduate director. Exceptions to the committee requirements above may be granted by the graduate director when appropriate, as long as the committee meets the Graduate Division requirements.

The dissertation must show the results of in-depth research, be an original contribution of significant knowledge, and include material worthy of publication. Where appropriate, research internships with companies, government laboratories, or elsewhere are recognized (and may be required) as an integral part of the research leading to the dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

At least two weeks before the defense, the student should submit the title of their dissertation, an abstract, and the location information for their exam using the Advancement/Defense Notification Request Form so that the Advising Office can send out an announcement to the BE community. The defense is comprised of a presentation of the candidate’s research results in a public seminar sponsored by the dissertation supervisor. The seminar is followed by a defense of the dissertation to the public and the reading committee. The committee then decides whether the dissertation is acceptable or requires revision. Upon submission of the final dissertation, the committee will sign the cover page. The student must then submit a Docusigned or original, wet-ink signed cover page to the Division of Graduate Studies, as well as an electronic copy of the dissertation to ProQuest. Copies must also be sent to the graduate advisor. Successful completion of the dissertation fulfills the final academic requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Academic Progress

Each year, the faculty reviews the progress of every student. The department expects Ph.D. students to advance to candidacy by the end of the third year (nine quarters), and requires students to advance to candidacy by the end of the fourth year (12 quarters). Ph.D. students who have not advanced to candidacy by the end of their third year (nine quarters) will be recommended for academic probation, and may be subject to dismissal from the program if not advanced to candidacy by the end of their fourth year (12 quarters). Students are expected to complete the degree by the end of the fifth year (15 quarters), and required to do so by the end of the sixth year (18 quarters) in order to maintain good academic standing.

Students without adequate academic preparation may be required to take additional courses. Full-time students are normally expected to complete the degree requirements at the rate of at least two courses per quarter. Full-time CSE students must complete their core requirements within two years and normally must complete all course requirements within three years.

Students who are on part-time status accrue time-to-degree at one-half the rate of full-time students for those quarters during which they are on approved part-time study, unless they have advanced to candidacy. Taking a leave of absence does not count as enrollment, and it does not extend the degree timeline. Doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy accrue time-to-degree at the regular rate, regardless of part-time or full-time status. Taking a leave of absence post-advancement does not “stop the clock” on normative time. Time-to-degree continues to accrue at the normal rate while Ph.D. candidates are on approved leave.

Students receiving two or more unsatisfactory grades (U or letter grade below B-) in Baskin Engineering courses are not making adequate progress and will be recommended for academic probation for the following three quarters of registered enrollment. Students not making adequate progress toward completion of degree requirements (see the Graduate Student Handbook for policy on satisfactory academic progress) may be recommended for academic probation. Students who violate the terms of their academic probation are subject to dismissal from the program.

Should any CSE graduate student fail a Baskin Engineering course while on probation, the CSE Department may request the graduate dean to dismiss the student from the graduate program. If after being removed from probation, the student again fails a Baskin Engineering course, they will return immediately to academic probation.

Graduate students experiencing circumstances or difficulties that impact their academic performance should contact their faculty advisor and the graduate director immediately. Students may appeal their dismissal.

Applying for Graduation

All candidates for a degree must submit an Application for Doctor of Philosophy Degree to the Graduate Advising Office by the date stated in the Academic and Administrative Calendar for the quarter you wish to receive the degree. Failure to declare candidacy by the deadline means that you cannot be considered a candidate until the next term.

A student is required to be registered or on Filing Fee Status, whichever is applicable, during the quarter in which the degree is conferred. Students should consult the department advisor to determine which option fits their situation. For more information about applying for graduation, visit the Baskin Engineering Graduate Studies website.