Ph.D. Degree

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.

Graduate Advisor of Record

Dr. Dakai Zhu
Office: NPB 3.338 
Phone: (210) 458-7453 
Email: Dakai DOT Zhu AT utsa DOT edu

Admission Requirements

Contact the UTSA Graduate School 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. 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.

Ph.D. Program Guidelines

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 72 semester credit hours of graduate coursework as described in the program of study.

Program of Study

  1. 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

  2. Electives (12 semester credit hours):

    Students must complete at least 12 semester credit hours of additional eligible organized graduate courses in the Department of Computer Science.

  3. Computer science research (48 semester credit hours minimum):

    CS 7123 Research Seminar (3 semester credit hours minimum)
    CS 7211-6 Doctoral Research (18 semester credit hours minimum)
    CS 7311-6 Doctoral Dissertation (9 semester credit hours minimum)

    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.

Transfer of Credit

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 Timeline

The progress of the students in the Ph.D. program is specified on the Milestones Agreement Form of UTSA Doctoral Program in Computer Science. See the form for the expected timeline for students to reach each milestone. Students admitted to the program are required to sign the form and submit it to the Department of Computer Science within the first year of the enrollment into the program.

An approximate timeline for completing the program by a full-time PhD student with a BS degree is as follows:

Each student enrolled in the PhD program will be evaluated annually for their progress in the program in terms of those milestones in the Milestone Agreement Form. The Annual Report Form is required to complete the annual evaluation and to file the progress report to the Graduate School.

Students whose progress in the program are less than satisfactory as compared to the Milestone Agreement will be required to provide an action plan to address the problems that cause the delay of the progress.

Advisors

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

Advancement to Candidacy

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 Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Requirements

To pass the PhD Qualifying Examination in Computer Science, the students must satisfy two requirements.

1. GPA requirement. A GPA of 3.3 or higher in CS 5633 Analysis of Algorithms, CS 5523 Operating Systems and one of the CS 5513 Computer Architecture and CS 5363 Programming Languages and Compilers.

2. QE requirement. A satisfactory performance on a written qualifying examination (QE) on subjects of the Analysis of Algorithms and the Operating Systems.

The Timeline

Full-time doctoral students should meet the GPA and QE requirements before the start of their third long semester in the doctoral program. Part-time doctoral students must (a) meet the GPA requirement by the time they accumulated 18 credit hours of computer science courses at UTSA while enrolled in the doctoral program, and (b) meet the QE requirement prior to taking computer science courses beyond the accumulated 18 credit hours of computer science courses while enrolled in the doctoral program. 

Failure to meet these requirements within the time limits will normally results in a dismissal from the program.

After satisfied both the GPA and the QE requirements, a student must select a doctoral advisor and register for CS 7211-6 Doctoral Research in each subsequent semester until the student passes the doctoral dissertation proposal examination.

Details about the written Qualifying Examinations (QEs)

The QE on each subject consists of a final examination of the corresponding core course and a one-hour extended examination that may include additional topics selected from the QE syllabus for the given subject. The QE syllabus is maintained by the department.

The one-hour extended examinations will be administered in the third week of May and in the first week of January, about two weeks after the conclusion of the finals for the fall and spring semesters. Students who receive transfer credit for CS 5633 (algorithms) or CS 5523 (OS) must take an examination equivalent to the final examination of the courses as well as the one-hour extended examination to pass the QE. This requirement also applies to students who have previously taken these courses at UTSA and whose final examination papers are no longer available. Arrangements will be made to administer the final examinations in conjunction with the extended examinations for these students.

The instructor of the core courses (Algorithms or OS) will make and grade both the final examination and the extended examination. A QE committee consisting of three faculty members appointed by the Department Chair will recommend to the Department Chair the results of the QE (pass or fail) for each student and for each exam taken, based on the grades of the written examinations, the annual Progress Report of the student if available, and a letter from a faculty member who served as an advisor or supervisor of the student. The result of QE will not affect the grades of the corresponding core courses. 

A doctoral student may attempt each subject QE at most twice.

Students in the CS Master's program may elect to take the one-hour extended examination and be evaluated by the Examination Committee using the same standards applied to the doctoral students. Students who pass the QE will earn QE credits valid for four years. A failure to earn a QE credit by an MS student does not reduce the number of attempts allowed when these students enroll subsequently into the CS doctoral program.

Specifics about the GPA Requirement

For students who take the four core courses (CS 5633 Analysis of Algorithms, CS 5523 Operating Systems, CS 5513 Computer Architecture and CS 5363 Programming Languages and Compilers) at UTSA, the most recent course grades obtained will be used to verify the GPA requirements. For students who transfer the courses for credit, the grades (or grades converted to equivalent UTSA grades) indicated in their admission transcripts will be used to verify the GPA requirements.

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

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.

The Dissertation Committee

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.

The Final Oral Examination

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.

Change of Program

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.

 

  • Year One: Complete CS 5523 Operating Systems, CS 5633 Analysis of Algorithms, and 3 credit hours of CS 7123 Research Method, and pass the Qualifying Examinations in the first semester. Select a Doctoral Advisor. Complete another 3 credit hours of CS 7123 Research Method and 6 credit hours of other required courses
  • Year Two: Complete all core courses and register CS 7211-6 Doctoral Research with the Doctoral Advisor every semester. Complete nearly all of the course work by the end of the year.
  • Year Three: Write a dissertation proposal. Form a dissertation committee. Pass the Dissertation Proposal Examination by the end of the year. Apply for candidacy.
  • Year Four and Beyond: Write a dissertation. Pass the Final Oral Examination.
  • 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.

The Dissertation Committee

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.

The Final Oral Examination

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.

Change of Program

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.