Computer Science Doctoral Program

The computer science Ph.D. program at Stevens allows outstanding students who want to change the face of computer science to work with world-class faculty in high-impact research. Upon enrollment in the program, students study full time, receive full financial support as teaching or research assistants or fellows, and start conducting research immediately, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, on topics that broadly span cutting-edge research areas, such as AI and Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics, Computer Security and Cryptography, Computer Vision, Programming Languages and Software Systems. After completion of the program, Ph.D. graduates go on to join the world experts in their particular area of specialization, choosing to pursue a variety of career paths, from faculty in academia to software engineers at giant companies, research scientists at industry or government laboratories and agencies, as well as data scientists at finance companies and hedge funds.

Degree Requirements

To successfully complete the computer science Ph.D. program, incoming enrolled students (by default in the "Ph.D. Enrollee" status) should fulfill a number of requirements, generally comprised of the following:

  • Advancement to "Ph.D. Student" status, by satisfying a certain breadth course requirement
  • Advancement to "Ph.D. Candidate" status, by satisfying a qualifying examination; and
  • Submission of a doctoral dissertation, by satisfying a thesis proposal defense and thesis defense.

In addition, the Ph.D. degree requires that Ph.D. candidates have also:

  • Completed the Doctoral Signature Credit Seminar (PRV 961) before their thesis proposal; and
  • Earned 84 credits (graduate credits, beyond the bachelor’s degree) during their entire studies in the Ph.D. program.

These requirements are in addition to Institute-wide requirements that apply to all doctoral students, as listed in the doctoral student handbook and catalog.

(Note: Students who entered the Ph.D. program before February 28th, 2018 can find previous versions of the program requirements here.)

Transferred Graduate Credits

Students who enter the Ph.D. program and already possess a master’s (M.Sc.) degree in computer science, or related area, are advised to apply for recognition of their degree during their first semester in the program. Requests for recognition of prior M.Sc. degrees go through the Ph.D. program chair and a review committee, specifically assigned for this purpose.

Upon recognition of your M.Sc. degree, you will gain 30 graduate course credits toward your doctoral degree and the Ph.D. Student status, thus automatically satisfying the breadth requirement.

If you have other existing graduate credits or experience in this area of study, please contact the Office of Graduate Academics ([email protected]) to discuss opportunities to include it in the curriculum.

Graduate Credit Requirement

As discussed above, students who enter the Ph.D. program and already possess a M.Sc. degree in computer science, or related area, may be granted up to 30 credits towards their Ph.D. degree.

Accordingly, earning the 84, in total, required credits may be fulfilled by a combination of the following: enrollment in classroom courses, enrollment in courses for guided research participation (typically, by earning up to 6 credits via CS801 and a number of research credits via CS960), or having a prior M.Sc. degree approved to count for up to 30 credits. The division of a student’s efforts between classroom courses and research-participation courses will vary from case to case; this is a decision that should be made by the student in consultation with, and with the approval of, the student’s advisor.

Although there is no minimum number of classroom courses for the Ph.D. degree, research credits earned via CS-960 are subject to the following Institute-wide restrictions of usage:

Status Maximum Number of Research Credits (CS-960)
Ph.D. Enrollee (before becoming a Ph.D. student) 6
Ph.D. Student (before becoming Ph.D. candidate) 18
Ph.D. Candidate No limit

For additional information about courses, please review the academic catalog.

The preliminary requirements for the doctorate are regarded not as ends in themselves, but rather as preparation for the dissertation in which the student demonstrates ability.

Breadth Requirement

To satisfy the breadth requirement, students enrolled in the Ph.D. program must successfully complete a qualified set of three elected courses by the end of the first year of studies in the Ph.D. program. Successful completion refers to earning a grade of A- or better in each of the three elected courses, and qualified set refers to any set of three courses selected from the following list of doctoral-level courses that covers both thematic course categories. Upon completion of this requirement, enrollees in the Ph.D. program become Ph.D. candidates.

Currently, courses should be selected among the following:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

  • CS-532 3D Computer Vision
  • CS-541 Artificial Intelligence
  • CS-558 Computer Vision
  • CS-559 Machine Learning: Fundamentals and Applications
  • CS-560 Statistical Machine Learning
  • CS-582 Causal Inference
  • CS-583 Deep Learning
  • CS-584 Natural Language Processing

Systems and Languages

  • CS-510 Principles of Programming Languages
  • CS-516 Compiler Design
  • CS-522 Mobile Systems and Applications
  • CS-549 Distributed Systems and Cloud Computing
  • CS-576 Systems Security
  • CS-577 Reverse Engineering and Application Analysis
  • CS-579 Foundations of Cryptography
  • CS-609 Data Management and Exploration on the Web
  • CS-643 Formal Verification of Software
  • CS-655 Forensic Analysis
  • CS-676 Advanced Topics in Systems Security
  • CS-677 Parallel Programming for Many-core Processors
  • CS-696 Database Security

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying exam consists of two parts: one oral and one written. The exam must be completed no later than one year after attaining the status of Ph.D. student, though it is recommended that students attempt it earlier. Upon qualification, Ph.D. students become Ph.D. candidates.

Oral Part

The oral part of the qualifying exam is an oral examination on a syllabus consisting of research papers prepared jointly by the student and a committee that includes the advisor and two tenure-track faculty members. The goal is to establish a scholarship in an area of research. The oral examination consists of a presentation, followed by open-door questions from the audience and committee and closed-door questions from the committee. The committee can pass, fail or request re-examination (either written or oral).

Written Part

The written part of the qualifying exam consists of earning a grade of B+ or better in CS 601 “Algorithmic Complexity,” which is offered in two versions each academic year: First, as a standalone exam each January, or as a regular doctoral-level course each Spring. Students must successfully pass written part of the qualifying exam with at most two attempts and are highly encouraged to take the exam during their first year of studies in the Ph.D. program.

Thesis Proposal and Advisory Committee

Students must write and present a thesis proposal, where they lay out an intended course of research for their dissertation. The proposal should contain an explanation of the problem and why it is important, a sketch of the proposed solution and background information that serves to indicate that the problem is unsolved and what prior or related approaches to this or similar problems have already been investigated. The written proposal must be distributed and read by a thesis advisory committee, comprising the persons that are expected to form the student’s dissertation defense committee. The presentation of the thesis proposal is open to the public and it is followed by open-door questions from the audience and committee and closed-door questions from the committee. The committee can pass, fail or request additional material from the student. The thesis proposal document must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the presentation date. The presentation of the thesis proposal must be announced by email (on the CS-faculty and CS-PHD-students lists) at least one week in advance.

Doctoral Dissertation Defense

The department follows the Stevens-wide procedures for the dissertation defense, including committee composition. The defense must be announced at least two weeks in advance on the cs-faculty and cs-phd-students mailing lists; this is in addition to the required Stevens-wide announcement originating with the Registrar's office. At least one manuscript based on dissertation work must be published in peer-reviewed conference proceedings or journals, at the time of the dissertation defense and the thesis document must be in the hands of the committee at least six weeks in advance. For more information please refer to the online catalog. The committee can ask major or minor revisions, or fail the student. If major revisions are requested, at least a month of time is required for the student to make the changes and submit an updated dissertation. The amount of time given to the student to make revisions will not exceed 9 months unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Timeline Summary

The following summarizes the major milestones in the CS PhD program.

  • Admission to Ph.D. program: every enrollee is assigned an advisor;
  • Attainment of status of Ph.D. student:
    • Students with recognized MS degree (during their 1st semester in the program);
    • Completion of breadth requirement (by the end of 1st year in the program);
  • Attainment of status of Ph.D. candidate: Completion of the qualifying exam (1 year after attaining the status of Ph.D. student, earlier recommended);
  • Completion of Doctoral Signature Credit Seminar (PRV 961);
  • Formation of the thesis advisory committee and submission and defense of their thesis proposal (as mandated by Institute-wide regulations);
  • Submission and defense of their thesis (as mandated by Institute-wide regulations).