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Information about the Ph.D. Program

This page provides detailed information regarding the Ph.D. Qualifier System and Research Proficiency Exam at Stony Brook University's Computer Science Department. The information here is intended to be read in conjunction with the Graduate Program Handbook.

  Ph.D. QUALIFIER
  RESEARCH PROFICIENCY EXAM
  RESEARCH ASSESSMENT MEETINGS
  ACADEMIC vs. RESEARCH ADVISERS
  MS STUDENTS GETTING INTO THE Ph.D. PROGRAM

Ph.D. QUALIFIER

The purpose of Ph.D. qualifier is to ensure that the student has acquired an appropriate breadth in major computer science areas relevant to his/her research interest. To meet the qualifier requirement, Ph.D. students must pass a total of five graduate courses with a grade of A- or better, with the following two conditions:

  1. At least 4 courses from the list below, covering at least 3 areas:

    Theory:

    • CSE 512: Machine Learning
    • CSE 540: Theory of Computation
    • CSE 541: Logic in Computer Science
    • CSE 547: Discrete Mathematics
    • CSE 548: Analysis of Algorithms
    • CSE 549: Computational Biology

    Software:

    • CSE 504: Compiler Design
    • CSE 505: Computing with Logic
    • CSE 526: Principles Programming Languages
    • CSE 532: Theory of Database Systems
    • CSE 535: Asynchronous Systems

    Systems:

    • CSE 502: Computer Architecture
    • CSE 506: Operating Systems
    • CSE 508: Network Security
    • CSE 509: Computer System Security
    • CSE 534: Fundamentals of Computer Networks

    Information and Intelligent Systems:

    • CSE 519: Data Science Fundamentals
    • CSE 527: Introduction to Computer Vision
    • CSE 528: Computer Graphics
    • CSE 537: Artificial Intelligence
    • CSE 564: Visualization
    • CSE 628: Natural Language Processing
  2. One non-generic graduate lecture course, more specifically:
    • Any CSE 5xx course except: CSE 500, 522, 523, 524, 587, 590--599.
    • Any course from the set CSE 601--638

All qualifier courses must be completed within two years after joining the program as a full-time Ph.D. student. We recommend students take at least two courses per semester, because many graduate courses are offered only once a year. No course substitutions, exchanges, or pleas for better grades will be accepted.

The above information is on the qualifiers effective Fall 2017. Note that the new system is different from the ones in the earlier editions of the Graduate Student Handbook (Fall 2016 and earlier).

RESEACH PROFICIENCY EXAM

The purpose of the Research Proficiency Examination is to ascertain the student's preparation to undertake a significant original research investigation. The student must pass the RPE within two years after joining the program as a full-time Ph.D. student. The student's research proficiency will be evaluated by an RPE committee consisting of at least three faculty members including the student's research advisor. The student must submit a report, written in the form of a conference paper, which critically evaluates and integrates the current state of research relevant to a chosen problem and presents the student's progress in solving the problem. The student must give an oral presentation open to the department, describing the work, which will be followed by a session where the RPE committee will ask questions.

See the Graduate Program Handbook for more details.

RESEARCH ASSESSMENT MEETINGS

All Ph.D. students who have not yet met qualifier requirements and passed their RPEs, or who do not have an advisor, will be reviewed each semester, in periodic Research Assessment Meetings. This review is conducted by the entire faculty, who votes on the future status of each student. This review is comprehensive, and includes at least the following items (in no particular order):

  • Qualifier courses taken and passed with A- or better.
  • All other courses taken, grades received, and GPAs.
  • Progress in proficiency requirements.
  • Performance as Teaching Assistant.
  • Research productivity: publications, talks, software, systems, etc.
  • Faculty input, especially from advisers.
  • Student´s own input.
  • Cumulative history of the student's progress.

The outcome of the review will be a formal letter given to the student and placed in the student´s folder. A student can be placed in one of two categories:

  • In Good Standing: The student has performed well in the previous semester and may continue in the Ph.D. program for one more semester.
  • Not in Good Standing: The student had not performed sufficiently well in the previous semester. The student may be placed under probation for one more semester, may lose RA/GA/TA funding, may lose an advisor, or may even be dismissed from the program immediately. Being under probation for two consecutive semesters will likely lead to dismissal.

In addition to the outcome, the assessment letter may also make specific recommendations to the student, as to what will be expected of the student in the following semester (e.g., pass 2 more qualifier courses, pass the RPE, etc.).

ACADEMIC vs. RESEARCH ADVISERS

Upon entrance to the program, each student is assigned an academic advisor. Each Ph.D. student should seek a faculty member to serve as a research or dissertation advisor within the first two semesters in the program. The choice may be changed. However, each change of advisor may delay a student´s progress. A research advisor is invaluable when it comes to issues such as financial support and progress through various examinations. Most faculty members have research groups, meetings and seminars by which a new student can become acquainted with the research being conducted in the Department. Please refer to the Graduate Program Handbook for the specific rules on choosing or changing an advisor.

MS STUDENTS GETTING INTO THE Ph.D. PROGRAM

MS students who wish to get into the Ph.D. program may take the same qual courses as Ph.D. students take, and are expected to get a qual passing grade of A- or better in those. MS students are also expected to secure an adviser who will fund them if they get admitted into the Ph.D. program.

However, admission to the Ph.D. program is not automatic: MS students must apply formally through the graduate school. The Graduate Admissions Committee will endeavor to process such special MS-to-PhD requests very quickly. Generally speaking, MS students who passed their Ph.D. qualifying courses and have a strong letter from a funding adviser, will have good chances of getting admitted into the Ph.D. program.