Doctoral Degree Program - University of Houston
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Doctoral Degree Program

The PhD degree program in Computer Science provides for a rigorous foundation in theoretical and applied computer science. Students obtain in-depth knowledge by satisfying a breadth course requirement intended to ensure broad knowledge of computer sciences as well as satisfy a depth requirement in the ability to conduct research to advance knowledge and application of Computer Sciences to diverse fields.
Our program places a strong emphasis on research and on graduates making novel contributions to Computer Science in the form of a dissertation and scholarly publications. Students pursuing the PhD degree are trained to become teachers, researchers, and technical leaders in industry, academia, or research labs.

Students will be prepared to be technical problem solvers, competent in the state of the art, and will master a particular aspect of Computer Science. They will be trained to identify and clearly formulate problems, to develop and analyze algorithmic solutions, and to direct research.

Program Requirements

Students who began the PhD program Fall 2017 and after: A student must complete a minimum of 66 credit hours subject to the following restrictions:

  • At least 30 credit hours of approved, regular, or special topics (COSC xx97) courses. At most 6 of these 30 hours may be outside the Department with the approval of the student’s research advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • At least 24 credit hours of Doctoral Research (COSC 8x98).
  • At least 3, but not more than 12 credit hours of dissertation (COSC 8x99), to be taken in the term of anticipated graduation.

*Students who began the PhD program prior to Fall 2017: A student must complete a minimum of 72 credit hours subject to the following restrictions:

  • At least 36 credits of approved, regular, or special topics (xx97) courses. At most 6 of these hours may be outside the Department with the approval of the student’s research advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Between 24 and 30 credits of research hours (8x98) to fulfill the 72 hour degree requirement.
  • At least 6 but not more than 12 credits of dissertation (8x99).

*Note: PhD students who entered prior to Fall 2017 are eligible to move to the new requirements (i.e. less hours) via a general petition. What is the primary difference? The total number of hours has been reduced from 72 hours to 66 hours. The 6 hour reduction comes from the approved, regular, or special topics courses, which was reduced from 36 hours to 30 hours.

Therefore, PhD students who would like to move to the new requirements must 1) not have completed 36 hours of approved, regular, or special topics courses towards the PhD by end of Fall 2017 and 2) entered the PhD prior to Fall 2017. If you are unsure which term you entered, log in to your Student Center via AccessUH, select "academic requirements" in the drop down menu, then click "view report as PDF." Locate "Computer Science, PHD Major" requirement term.

If you meet these requirements, submit a completed general petition to Yvette Elder or Deborah Hernandez in the COSC Graduate Advising Office in PGH 501. In the “explanation of request” section, indicate the following: “I am requesting to move into the Fall 2017 degree requirement term for CMPSCPHD.”

In addition, all PhD students must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Satisfactory completion of the PhD core requirement.
  • Obtain a research advisor (also known as committee chair or co-chair).
  • Satisfactory performance on proposal defense (preliminary examination).
  • Maintain satisfactory progress.
  • Preparation of a written dissertation and satisfactory defense thereof. Details on preparation of a dissertation document can be found on the Defense Guidelines page. 
  • Publication of doctoral research.

Time Limitations

Students who enroll as doctoral candidates must complete their degree requirements within 10 years of the date of first enrollment with a doctoral degree objective. Failure to comply will result in the candidate being ineligible for a doctoral degree.

Doctoral students who fail to complete their dissertation within five years after completion of the comprehensive examination must retake the examination.

Refer to the Time Limitations of Completion of Degree Requirements section of the Graduate Catalog.

Core Completion Period

The “core completion period” begins as soon as the student has accumulated 18 or more hours of credits applicable to a graduate degree (MS or PhD) in Computer Science. These include transferred credits, waived credits, and credits earned at UH. The core completion period applies to PhD students as well as MS students who later pursue the PhD program.

Full-time students must complete the core requirements in at most 2 consecutive long terms after the start of the core completion period. Part-time students (6 hours or less every term) must complete the core requirement in at most 4 consecutive long terms after the start of the core completion period. Failure to complete the core requirements with the required GPA and within the specified timeframe normally results in an MS student not being allowed to continue into the PhD program and a PhD student being dismissed from the PhD program.

Core Requirements

A student satisfies the core requirement by taking a set of 4 or more courses from the two lists below with a GPA of 3.4 or better and no grade less than B. Two courses must be from the Theory list and two from the Systems list.

The Director of Graduate Studies may in exceptional cases waive at most 1 of the 4 courses based on similar courses taken at another university. And (effective March 2018), if a students takes PhD core courses while enrolled as an MS student in the UH Department of Computer Science and is subsequently admitted to the UH Computer Science PhD program, any PhD core courses taken within 5 years prior to the date of the PhD admissions can count towards meeting the PhD core requirement.

 Theory

  • Data Structures and Algorithms (6320)
  • Machine Learning (6342)
  • Numerical Analysis (6364)
  • Theory of Computation (6369)

Systems

  • Database Systems (6340)
  • Operating Systems (6360)
  • Languages and Compilers (6361)
  • Computer Networks (6377)
  • Computer Architecture (6385)

Full-time students must complete the core requirements in at most 2 long semesters after the time limitation period begins. Part-time students (6 hours or less every semester) must complete the core requirement in at most 4 long semesters after the time limitation period begins. Failure to complete the core requirements with the required GPA within the time limitation normally results in an M.S. student not being allowed to continue into the Ph.D. program and a Ph.D. student being removed from the Ph.D. program.

Graduate Colloquium/Research Method Courses

All Ph.D. students are required to take either the Graduate Colloquium course (COSC 6110) or the Research Method course (COSC 6321) within the first two years of enrollment.

Research Advisor

Students are urged to find a research advisor as early as possible. Full-time and part-time students should have a research advisor by the end of the second long term. Student may enroll in doctoral research hours if they have an advisor and have completed the core requirement.

Proposal Defense

A student must pass a proposal defense (also referred as the preliminary examination) administered by the student’s dissertation committee. The dissertation committee consists of the student’s research advisor and at least three (3) other members. At least one member of the committee must be from outside the department and the majority of members must be voting faculty of the Computer Science Department. More details on committee composition can be found in the NSM graduate policies section of the graduate catalog..

The proposal defense is open to the public and should be announced two weeks in advance. The purpose of the proposal defense is to evaluate and give feedback on the dissertation research of the student. The exact content of the examination is at the discretion of the dissertation committee. All faculty members in attendance as well as the committee members may ask the student questions related to the proposal or the student’s preparation for a PhD level research. The committee may have a closed session with the student at the end of the proposal defense. The committee will submit a written report to the Director of Graduate Studies concerning the student’s performance on the proposal defense and assign an overall evaluation of satisfactory (pass) or unsatisfactory (fail). A student in the PhD program becomes a PhD candidate upon a satisfactory proposal defense.

Full-time and part-time students must attempt the proposal defense no later than the end of the third long term after completing the core requirement. The proposal defense cannot be taken before fulfilling the core requirement. The proposal defense must be completed at least six months before dissertation defense.

At the proposal defense, a summary of the student’s academic performance, including the student’s previous degree(s), past work/research experience, GPA, core course performance and duration of study, should be presented to the committee in a closed session.

Details on how to announce the defense can be found on the Dissertation Guidelines page.

Dissertation Defense

A candidate will be required to present her/his dissertation in a public defense. The dissertation committee decides the acceptability of the dissertation. Candidates are expected to publish results of their dissertation research prior to the dissertation defense.

The dissertation defense is open to the University community and the student must inform the department at least two weeks in advance so that it can be publicized. Details on how to announce the defense can be found on the Defense Guidelines page. The dissertation defense should be scheduled at least six months after successful proposal defense.

UH and NSM Academic Policies

Graduate School Academic Policies
College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics Academic Policies

COSC Academic Policies

In addition to the university and college academic policies and scholastic standards outlined in the graduate catalog, students must comply academic policies set forth by the Department of Computer Science.

  • A student must maintain a GPA of 3.00 or better for all deficiencies (if assigned) and all graduate courses taken at the University of Houston.
  • No more than six hours of coursework outside computer science in related fields of science, engineering and business may be counted. All outside coursework must receive approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Satisfactory Progress

Ensuring that the PhD student gains broad knowledge in computer science and develops skills to produce research products is of utmost priority to the department. A student is expected to always maintain satisfactory progress towards these goals. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the student’s research advisor, will monitor and review the academic progress of each student.

To maintain satisfactory academic progress prior to completing the core course requirements, students should:

  • Fulfill the GPA and timing requirements for the core courses.
  • Establish a research advisor by the end of the second long term of entering the PhD program.
  • Attend the required number of department seminars (5 per term).

To maintain satisfactory academic progress after completing the core course requirements, students should participate in educational and research activities under the guidance of the research advisor with a goal to:

  • Produce research products such as publications, presentations, patents and software releases. It is recommended to work towards one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before the dissertation defense.
  • Attempt the proposal defense and receive a “satisfactory” or “pass” grade from the dissertation committee by the end of the third long term after completing the core course requirements.
  • Attend the required number of department seminars (5 per term).

A student who is evaluated as not making satisfactory progress on two consecutive reviews is normally removed from the PhD program.

A decision to remove a student from the PhD program for failure to successfully complete the core requirement within the time limitation or for two consecutive unsatisfactory reviews will be brought to the entire faculty for a vote.

Effective January 2018. In addition, all PhD students, regadlress of year, are expected to attend at least one (1) Computer Science Focus on Research presentation per academic year. PhD students in the third year or after are expected to present their research during at least one (1) Computer Science Focus on Research presentation per academic year.

A student who is evaluated as not making satisfactory progress on two consecutive reviews is normally removed from the Ph.D. program.

A decision to remove a student from the Ph.D. program for failure to successfully complete the core requirement within the time limitation or for two consecutive unsatisfactory reviews will be brought to the entire faculty for a vote.

Annual Review

Effective January 2018.

Every PhD student must complete the formation of a dissertation committee no later than the end of the 2nd year in the program. Each student will be reviewed annually by the dissertation committee during a review meeting; the review is mandatory starting on the 3rd year. It is encouraged but not required to have the external member of the committee attend the review meetings. The review meeting should be integrated to the proposal defense in the year in which the proposal defense takes place, and it is not necessary in the year of the dissertation defense.

After meeting with the student, the dissertation committee will submit a “PhD Student Annual Review – Committee Evaluation Form” to the Director of Graduate Studies.  The evaluation can be satisfactory “S”, unsatisfactory “U”, or needs improvement “NI”. If the student receives a “U” or “NI” grade, the student must be provided with a clear plan to return to a satisfactory status, and reviewed again in the next long semester. A subsequent evaluation of “NI” or “U” can result in removal of the program.

Deadlines: The “PhD Student Annual Review – Self-Evaluation Form” must be submitted by the student before the following deadlines: Fall: October 31 (for students enrolled in the spring), Spring: March 31 (for students enrolled in the fall).

The “PhD Student Annual Review – Committee Evaluation Form” must be submitted by the dissertation committee no later than the end of the Spring or Fall semester.