Ph.D. Degree Program
The Department of Computer Science offers advanced coursework and research leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science. Successful Ph.D. candidates must demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of computer science and must deliver an original contribution to the field.
Dr. Weining Zhang
Office: SB 4.01.19
Phone: (210) 458-5557
Email: Weining DOT Zhang AT utsa DOT edu
Contact the UTSA Graduate College for application forms by mail or to apply on-line.
The minimum requirements for admission to the Doctoral degree program in computer science in addition to University-wide graduate admission requirements are as follows:
- a B.A., B.S., or M.S. degree in computer science or a related area;
- the GRE general test -- verbal, math, and analytical sections. The GRE computer science subject test is strongly recommended but not required. When GRE scores are used to determine an admission, applicants will be compared to applicants with similar socioeconomic backgrounds; and
- three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s readiness for doctoral study.
- Admission is competitive. Satisfying the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. An application should also include a resume and a statement of research experience and interest. Applicants will automatically be considered for scholarships, and teaching and research assistantships. To receive full consideration all application materials should be received by February 1 for Fall admission. A complete application includes the application form, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of research experience and interest, the GRE scores and the TOEFL score for those applicants whose native language is not English and they have not graduated from a United States institution.
These guidelines for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in the Department of Computer Science at UTSA describe requirements and procedures that supplement, but do not supersede, the Doctoral Degree Regulations listed in the UTSA Graduate Catalog. Candidates for the degree are required to successfully complete a minimum of 90 semester credit hours of graduate coursework as described in the program of study.
- Core courses (12 semester credit hours):
CS 5363 Programming Languages and Compilers
CS 5513 Computer Architecture
CS 5523 Operating Systems
CS 5633 Analysis of Algorithms
- Electives (18 semester credit hours):
Students must complete at least 18 semester credit hours of additional eligible organized graduate courses in the Department of Computer Science.
- Computer science research (42 semester credit hours minimum):
CS 7123 Research Seminar (6 semester credit hours minimum)
CS 7211-6 Doctoral Research (18 semester credit hours minimum)
CS 7311-6 Doctoral Dissertation (18 semester credit hours minimum)
- Flexible Electives (18 semester credit hours):
Students must complete an additional 18 semester credit hours selected from organized graduate courses, independent study, research seminar, doctoral research and doctoral dissertation. With prior approval of the Graduate Advisor of Record, students may apply a maximum of 6 hours of graduate courses from other disciplines to the degree.
Students may transfer prior graduate study up to 30 semester credit hours from another institution toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee. Each student’s transcript will be evaluated by the Graduate Studies Committee, and credit will be determined on a course-by-course basis to satisfy the requirements of the degree.
The TimelineAn approximate timeline for completing the program is as follows:
- 1st year. Take the 4 core courses: CS 5363, CS 5513, CS 5523, and CS 5633. Complete about 1/2 of the course work by the end of the 1st year. Choose an Advisor by the end of the 1st year
- 2nd year. Pass the qualifying exam at the beginning of the 2nd year (note: the core courses are the subject of the qualifying exam). Take Doctoral Research every semester with your Doctoral Advisor. Complete nearly all of the course work by the end of the 2nd year.
- 3rd year. Write a dissertation proposal. Form a dissertation committee. Successfully defend the dissertation proposal by the end of the 3rd year. Apply for candidacy.
- 4th and any additional years. Write a dissertation. Pass the final oral examination.
To obtain an exception to the requirements, a student must submit a written petition to the Graduate Advisor of Record with any appropriate supporting documentation. The petition will be considered by the Computer Science Graduate Studies Committee. Exceptions will be granted only under extraordinary circumstances.
The Computer Science Graduate Advisor of Record is responsible for the administration of the Computer Science graduate degree programs, including the Ph.D. program and the MS program. The Doctoral Advisor is a computer science faculty who directs the research by the student, with the goal of drafting a dissertation proposal for the dissertation proposal exam and writing a dissertation.
When starting the Ph.D. program, each student is advised by the Graduate Advisor of Record, who should be consulted each semester before the student registers for courses. In a student’s 1st year, the student should choose a faculty to be the student’s Doctoral Advisor, with that consent of the faculty. (It is also possible for a student to have two Doctoral Advisors, who jointly supervise the student.) A Doctoral Advisor must be a member of the Computer Science Graduate Council. The student must choose a Doctoral Advisor after the student has passed the qualifying exam. A student may change Doctoral Advisor by submitting a Change of Advisor form for approval by the Graduate Studies Committee
Students seeking a doctoral degree must be admitted to candidacy. The requirements for admission to candidacy include passing a doctoral qualifying examination and a doctoral dissertation proposal examination. Students should consult the University’s Doctoral Degree Regulations for other requirements
The Doctoral Qualifying Examination is scheduled at the beginning of each fall and spring semester. Full-time doctoral students must take the qualifying examination by the beginning of their third semester. Students who fail their first attempt are allowed to make a second attempt on the next qualifying examination date. No more than two attempts to pass the qualifying examination are permitted.
The qualifying exam is a written exam and consists of sections on the following subjects: Computer Architecture, Analysis of Algorithms, and a subject chosen individually by students between the Operating Systems and the Programming Languages and Compilers. A common syllabus for each of these subjects is maintained by the department. Each section of the exam only consists of questions based on the syllabus. The 3 sections of the exam will be scheduled on 3 consecutive days, approximately 7 to 10 days before the Fall or Spring semester starts. The qualifying exam will be made and graded by a qualifying examination committee. This committee is formed by the Graduate Advisor of Record, in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee, and composed of eight computer science graduate faculty members, two for each subject area of the exam. Each section of the exam of each student is graded by two graders, who independently assign a pass or fail grade to the section they grade. To pass the qualifying exam, a student must receive no more than one fail grade. If a student failed the Qualifying Exam at the first attempt, they are allowed to make a second attempt at the next qualifying exam, in which the student needs only to re-take the section(s) in which they received a fail grade.
After a student has passed the qualifying examination, the student must select a doctoral advisor and register for CS 7211-6 Doctoral Research every semester until the student passes the doctoral dissertation proposal examination.
After a student has passed the qualifying examination and has made progress in doctoral research, the next step is the Doctoral Dissertation Proposal. The student has to form a Dissertation Committee chaired by the student’s doctoral advisor and prepare a written proposal for a dissertation topic. The Dissertation Committee will conduct an oral examination during which the student presents the dissertation proposal. The presentation is followed by a period of questioning based on the dissertation proposal. Unanimous approval of the Dissertation Committee is required to pass the oral examination. No more than two attempts to pass the oral examination will be permitted.
The student should submit the dissertation proposal to the student’s Dissertation Committee at least two weeks prior to the examination. A Program of Study form must also be submitted by the student and be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee at this time. The dissertation proposal should
- present an overview of the background and related work in the field,
- explain the basic idea of the dissertation topic,
- argue why that topic is original, challenging, and important,
- state what kind of results are expected, and present preliminary results, if any, and
- make a plausible argument that these results are obtainable within a reasonable amount of time.
- The student should write the dissertation proposal as soon as they can address the issues described above.
The answers to a set of Frequently Asked Questions to the dissertation proposal examination is here. Note that if after passing the dissertation proposal examination, the student changes a Doctoral Advisor and starts a different research topic under the supervision of the new Doctoral Advisor, the student must pass another dissertation proposal examination on the new research topic.
After a student has passed the doctoral dissertation proposal examination, the student must register for CS 7311-6 Doctoral Dissertation every semester until the student completes the degree.
Dissertation Committee of a student consists of a minimum five faculty members, with the student’s Doctoral Advisor being the chair of the committee. The remaining members of the committee should be selected by the student, in consultation with the student’s Doctoral Advisor. The chair and three of the other members of the committee must be members of the Department of Computer Science. One remaining members should be from outside of the Department of Computer Science. All the members of the Dissertation Committee must be Members or Special Members of the UTSA Graduate Council. A committee member from outside the University can become a Special Member of the Graduate Council with approval by the Computer Science and the UTSA Graduate Council. The composition of the committee must be approval by the Graduate Studies Committee, the College of Sciences, the Graduate School, and the Provost and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
After a student has passed the doctoral dissertation proposal examination, the next steps are writing a dissertation and passing the final oral examination. The final oral examination is administered and evaluated by the student’s Dissertation Committee and covers the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation. The final oral examination consists of an open presentation of the dissertation followed by an oral examination. Unanimous approval of the Dissertation Committee is required to pass the final oral examination. Also, the dissertation must be unanimously approved by the Dissertation Committee.
A student who wants to exit the Ph. D. program may apply to switch to the Master’s Degree program in computer science. The student may apply for a M.S. degree in Computer Science by satisfying all requirements of the M.S. degree. All the graduate courses taken as a doctoral student except Research Seminar, Doctoral Research and Doctoral Dissertation may be counted towards a M.S. degree. The passing of the doctoral qualifying exam and dissertation proposal exam satisfies the comprehensive exam requirement for the M.S. degree.
A student who wants to switch to the Master’s Degree Program must petition for a change in status from “Ph.D. degree seeking” to “M.S. degree seeking”. The petition must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee prior to the deadline for applying for graduation.
A student who is supported by a stipend, a teaching or research assistantship automatically rescinds the financial support and any tuition waiver upon changing status to an M.S. seeking student. A student who applies for the interim M.S. degree after being admitted to Ph.D. candidacy retains the status as a Ph.D. seeking student. A student who has a Ph.D. Stipend automatically rescinds the stipend and any tuition waiver upon changing status to M.S. degree seeking. A student who applies for the M.S. degree after being admitted to Ph. D. candidacy retains status as a Ph.D. seeking student.