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New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering    
  Nov 18, 2017
2013-2014 Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletin (with addenda) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Computer Science, Ph.D.

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Requirements for PhD in Computer Science

Entrance Requirements

The preliminary requirements for admission to the program include the following:

  1. A Bachelor’s degree in science, engineering or management from an accredited school and a superior academic record, or
  2. A Master’s degree or one year of graduate work in an analytically based area and a superior academic record. Applicants must submit GRE general exam scores, at least two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and all  relevant academic records, in addition to the completed application form.

The PhD program consists of four parts:

  1. Courses
  2. Qualifying exams
  3. Dissertation Proposal
  4. Dissertation

Core Electives and Credits Requirements

A minimum of 75 credits of graduate work is required beyond the BS degree, including at least 21 credits of dissertation. A Master of Science in Computer Science degree may be transferred in as 30 credits without taking individual courses into consideration. Other graduate course work may be transferred in on an individual-course basis. This transfer includes courses taken for degrees other than a Master of Science in Computer Science.

Students must take at least two courses in each of the following three areas. In the theory area, one of these two courses must be Theory of Computation (CS-GY 6753 ), unless an equivalent course has been taken. In selecting these courses, students should not choose courses that overlap substantially with previous courses at the School of Engineering or elsewhere.


The CSE faculty may modify these area course offerings from time to time. Certain selected topics courses may be used to fulfill these requirements, with prior written permission from the CSE Department.

Students must receive at least a grade of B in each of the six courses; further, the gradepoint average over these six courses must be at least a 3.5. Full-time students must complete these course requirements by the end of their second year.

Additionally, for each of the courses Computer Architecture I (CS-GY 6133 ), Operating Systems I (CS-GY 6233 ), Design and Analysis of Algorithms I (CS-GY 6033 ), Programming Languages (CS-GY 6373 ), the following rule applies: The student must take the course unless it was taken as an equivalent course (at either the graduate or undergraduate level) with a grade of B or higher; if the student took an equivalent course and received a B grade or higher, he or she is not be permitted to take the course at the Institute as part of this PhD program without special permission.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam assesses the student’s knowledge of computer science and ability to perform dissertation-level research. The student’s evaluation is based on two components: a research exam and course work.

Research Exam

After entering the PhD program, each student works on a research project directed by a research adviser. By the end of the second year, the student must take a research exam based on this work. The research exam is tailored to the student’s research and has the following three parts:

  1. Written report
  2. Oral presentation
  3. Answering of questions posed by the research exam committee

The written report must be submitted to the research-exam committee at least one week before the oral presentation. The oral presentation is open to the public. Following the presentation, the student answers questions posed by the research-exam committee.

The research exam assesses the student’s ability to do dissertation-level research. The exact format of the report and presentation may vary depending upon the student’s focus area and previous research accomplishments. The student must have the format approved by his/her research adviser. If students have their research results by the time of the research exam, then they should focus their report and presentation on those results and discuss related work and ideas for future research. If students have not yet obtained research results or have only preliminary results, their report and presentation should consist of a survey of related work, a discussion of ideas pursued so far, and ideas for future research.

Students may schedule research exams during two time periods in the year; a range of dates near the end of the Fall and Spring semesters will be announced in advance by the graduate director. To take the research exam, a student, in consultation with his/her research adviser, must form (at least one month before the exam) a research exam committee comprising three faculty members—one is the research adviser and, at most, two are from outside the department or from outside the Institute.

Course Component

The student’s overall course performance is evaluated as part of the qualifying exam. Special emphasis is placed on performance in PhD core courses. Students taking the research exam in their third semester must complete at least four PhD core courses by the end of the third semester for their course performance to be evaluated at the end of the third semester. Otherwise, their evaluation is delayed until the end of the fourth semester, by which time they must have taken all six PhD core courses.

Evaluation of the student’s course performance usually is based on a review of the student’s transcript and possible consultation with course instructors. However, in special cases, students may be subject to additional evaluation and/or additional written exams in some core course areas.

Evaluation of Performance on the Qualifying Exam

The overall decision on whether a student passes or fails the qualifying exam is determined at a meeting of the CSE faculty, which examines the research-exam result and evaluates the student’s course performance. The faculty may issue a grade of pass, fail or conditionalpass. The faculty may use the grade of conditional pass to impose additional specific and time-restricted requirements on the student. Such a grade is converted to a pass or a fail, depending on whether the student meets these requirements.

Students who do fail the qualifying exam on the first attempt may retake it once. The second attempt must be made by the end of the student’s fifth semester. Students who do not pass the qualifying exam on their second attempt are dismissed from the PhD program.


A student may take thesis credits only after passing the qualifying exam. Students entering the PhD program with a master’s degree in CS are urged to take the research exam and at least four of the required PhD core courses by the end of the third semester. In this way, the student has the potential to pass the qualifying exam by the end of the third semester and to begin taking thesis credits in the fourth semester.


The last, and most substantial, aspect of the PhD program is the dissertation. The dissertation must embody a significant original research contribution and must be written in accepted scholarly style. The research should be conducted in close consultation with the student’s adviser. It is strongly recommended that at least one paper on the research be submitted to a refereed archival journal or refereed conference. When the adviser feels that the student has obtained sufficiently significant research results and has written an acceptable dissertation, a public dissertation defense is scheduled. The defense includes the candidate’s oral presentation and questions from the dissertation committee.

Additional requirements for the PhD dissertation are available from the office of the Associate Provost of Research and PhD Programs.

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