Doctoral Program (graduate/doctorate)

Doctoral Program

The objective of the Ph.D. program in Computer Science is to educate outstanding scholars for careere as computer science researchers. The goal is to produce graduates on par with any of the best Computer Science departments in the country.

The Ph.D. program allows outstanding students who want to change the face of computer science to work with world-class faculty in cutting-edge research. All Ph.D. students must have research interests in the areas supported by current faculty. All Ph.D. students must study full time and receive full financial support. Students start their research immediately with a faculty advisor. The major research interests of the faculty in the department are:

  • Computer Security: privacy-preserving data mining, wireless network security, cryptography, phishing, botnets, and language-based security including information flow control.
  • Computer Vision, Visualization, and Graphics: 3D shape from images, differential geometry methods, organizing unorganized point clouds, dynamic scene analysis, shape analysis and indexing.
  • Software Engineering: high assurance, formal methods, trustworthy computing, software engineering education.

Learn more by browsing the web pages of the faculty and research labs.

The quality of research in the Computer Science Department is demonstrated by the faculty's publication and funding record. Faculty consult and collaborate with companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Google, Verizon, Alcatel Lucent, Daimler-Chrysler, and top industry laboratories and academic departments throughout the world.

Some of the most successful companies of the last fifty years grew out of student computer science research. Although one might think that the state of information technology is maturing, if anything the original problems are only increasing in scale as IT is deployed in ever more diverse ways. The Internet itself, a product of DARPA and NSF research, has become the focus of great concern, as it introduces new threats at the same time that it becomes ever more indispensable to modern life. All of this demonstrates the ever-growing need for research that addresses these problems. A Ph.D. in Computer Science distinguishes its holder as an individual of rare ability and authority, whether that individual is continuing from undergraduate study into research, or returning from working in business or government in order to chart his/her own career path.

The CS faculty strongly encourages visitors to browse their web pages and view their research interests and accomplishments. They are conducting world-class research in security, programming languages, graphics and vision, software engineering and computer networks. They publish in the top journals and conferences of their fields, with funding from the most competitive funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation. They regularly collaborate with colleagues in the greater New York City area. For example, they are involved in running the semi-annual NYC Metro-Area Security and Privacy Day, a research meeting that began at Stevens. They also regularly consult with leading companies as well as top industry labs and academic departments throughout the world.

The department is committed to involving candidates in research very early on in their careers. Accepted students are guaranteed financial support and immediately teamed with a faculty advisor with whom they should begin research. Their progress will be reviewed by the entire department at the end of each semester. They will regularly be exposed to research talks and meetings, and they will be expected to give talks to inform others of their research activity. This marks the department's commitment to getting candidates involved early and vigorously in the exciting and challenging field of computer science research.

Full Time Study

Making progress on cutting-edge subjects in a fast-moving field like computer science requires full-time study. It is nearly impossible to do work that is important, timely, and novel at the pace afforded by part-time effort---either one's result will be "scooped" or conditions will change within the field, rendering the work no longer current. Accordingly, Ph.D. students will be admitted only for full-time on-campus study. The department is committed to providing support (tuition and stipend) for all full-time doctoral candidates. Such support may be in the form of a Research Fellowship, a research assistantship, or a teaching assistantship. Students are also encouraged to apply for outside scholarships. For more information about requirements, visit the Office of Graduate Academics.

Advised Study

Each doctoral student must at all times have a single advisor who is a tenured or tenure-track Stevens faculty member. The relationship between advisor and student is not merely an administrative one. Starting early in his/her career, the student will work on research projects to be determined by the advisor and student. Through this day-to-day interaction the student will learn the form and content of high quality research. The student's advisor will also guide the student through the program; e.g., advising on such matters as which courses to take, when to attempt the qualifying exam, what dissertation topic to pursue, etc.

Advisor-advisee relationship. The department aims to admit only students whose background and interests match those of the faculty. Each admitted student will be assigned an advisor whose expertise is well-matched to the student. It is hoped that most students will remain with their initial advisors throughout their career, performing research with him/her. However, the advisor-advisee relationship is a voluntary one. If either the student or the faculty member becomes dissatisfied with the relationship, then the student must seek another advisor among the faculty. A student can change advisors at any time provided that the student's new advisor is willing to accept the student.

Qualifying Exam

Each student must pass the qualifying exam early in his/her career. The exam has two purposes: to certify that the student is broadly educated in key areas of computer science and to demonstrate that the student has become acquainted with the process of performing original research.

Accordingly, the qualifying exam has two parts, written and oral. The written portion of the qualifying exam tests the student's knowledge of fundamental computer science at an elementary level, akin to that which is achieved in a Bachelor's program. The written exam tests three subjects: algorithms, programming languages, and operating systems. A student must pass all three subjects in order to pass the written exam. The exam is offered near the end of Fall and Spring semesters, timed so that grades are available at the progress review meeting.

A student may take the written exam at most twice. Any subjects passed the first time need not be taken the second time. The written exam should be taken during the student's first 2 semesters in the program. The written exam must be completely passed during the student's first 4 semesters in the program.

The purpose of the oral portion of the qualifying exam is for the student to demonstrate promise in doing independent original research. The student will perform some work as specified by and under the supervision of his/her advisor. Ideally, this work would consist of the actual production of publishable research results; however, depending on circumstances, it may be more appropriate for the student to perform some type of pre-research work. The student will write a report detailing his/her effort and accomplishments. The student will give a public, announced talk detailing his/her effort and accomplishments. The paper will be read, and the talk will be attended by the student's advisor and two other pre-selected regular Stevens faculty members. These three faculty will decide whether the student has passed the oral exam. In style, the report and the talk must be similar to research presentations given by experienced researchers. If either the report or the talk is judged to be inadequate in either content or presentation, this fact will be taken into account during the faculty's evaluation of the student that semester. The student may be terminated, placed on probation, required to prepare a new report or talk, perform further research, or undertake some other remedial action(s).

The oral qualifier must be announced at least one week in advance on the cs-faculty and cs-phd-students mailing lists. The document must be in the hands of the faculty members at least one week in advance.

The oral qualifying exam must be passed no more than 12 months after passage of the written qualifying exam, or by the end of student's 5th semester in the program, whichever is earlier.

Thesis Proposal

To demonstrate that he/she is ready to undertake dissertation research, the student must write and present a thesis proposal. The written document must describe the proposed research so that an appropriately informed computer scientist---although not necessarily someone who is an expert in the topic---can understand the proposal. The written 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. After writing the document, the student must make a public presentation of the proposed work. The document must be read---and the presentation should be attended---by the persons who are expected to form the student's dissertation defense committee. The presentation must allow reasonable time for appropriate questions by any person in attendance. After the presentation, the dissertation committee will decide whether the student's proposal indicates that he/she is ready to do the proposed work successfully.

The proposal must be announced at least one week in advance, on the cs-faculty and cs-phd-students mailing lists. The proposal document must be in the hands of the committee at least two weeks in advance.

If the proposal is judged to be inadequate in either content or presentation, this fact will be taken into account during the faculty's evaluation of the student that semester. The student may be terminated, placed on probation, required to prepare a new talk, perform further research, or undertake some other remedial action(s).

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 as well as a Stevens-wide announcement originating with the Registrar's office. The thesis document must be in the hands of the committee at least four weeks in advance. For more information please refer to the online catalog.

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Admission Requirements

Admission into the Graduate Certificate or Master's Degree programs requires an undergraduate degree in Engineering, or in a related discipline, with a grade point average of "B" or better from an accredited college or university.

Required Documentation

All applicants must submit the following documents to be considered for admission:

  • Completed online application for admission
  • Official college transcripts from all colleges attended
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • GRE scores*
  • Application fee

Optional Documents:

  • Resume/CV

* Starting Fall 2014 GRE scores required for all applicants applying into a full-time graduate program in the School of Engineering and Sciences. (Code #2819) All scores are only valid for five years prior to the application term. GRE required for all PhD applicants.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

TOEFL/IELTS - International students (Code #2819).  For English language proficiency requirements please click here.

Approximately two weeks following receipt of the above material, you will receive a decision letter from the Office of Graduate Admissions. If accepted you will receive an acceptance letter outlining the program to which you were accepted, as well as your assigned Academic Advisor's contact information.

For questions related to program requirements please check with the Office of Graduate Admissions at [email protected].

For more details on deadlines and how to apply please visit the Office of Graduate Admissions website at