Degree requirements in the Ph.D. program in Computer Science.

Last major revision: Oct 6, 2008.
Previous major revision: August 23, 2004.

This document describes the requirements for obtaining a doctorate from the Computer Science Department at the University of Chicago for students entering in the fall of 2004 or later. Those students who entered the program prior to this date should consult the appropriate previous versions of this document.

If you are looking for the Master's Program, you are reading the wrong page.

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If, after having studied this document, you have questions regarding the Ph. D. requirements, please send email to



The Ph.D. program proceeds in three phases (follow the links for more details):
Phase 1: Complete a master's degree within the Ph.D. program.
Phase 2: Gain admission to candidacy.
Phase 3: Write and defend a dissertation.

During the first phase, students take courses, write a master's paper, and take an oral master's exam. In the second phase, students work independently to identify specific research questions of interest, master the relevant literature, and take an oral candidacy exam. And during the third phase, students do independent research and write and defend a dissertation. Throughout the process students document successful research in research publications as well as in their doctoral dissertations.

Computational Mathematics track

Students interested in Computational Mathematics can follow a separate track in the master's degree within the PhD program requirements. See the description of Phase 1 for an explanation of how the CM track differs from the standard track.

Program personnel

Todd Dupont is the Director of Graduate Studies.

Margaret Jaffey is the program administrator (student support representative).

Advisors and Committees

Every graduate student must have an advisor who is responsible for monitoring his or her academic progress. The selection of an advisor and the relationship between the advisor and the advisee are critical during the entire process. The Department assigns each student entering the program a temporary advisor who serves only until the student has become affiliated with a thesis advisor.

By the end of the first year, the student must have a thesis advisor. The thesis advisor directs the student in the preparation of the Master's Paper, guides the student's doctoral research, and chairs the Examination Committee at the Master's Exam, the Candidacy Exam, and the Doctoral Thesis Defense.

The student/advisor relationship is a central aspect of the graduate program. To maintain the effectiveness of this relationship, requires the ongoing consent of both parties -- either party can withdraw from the relationship by notifying the Director of Graduate Studies. It is not uncommon for students to change advisors and research areas after finishing their Master's Degree. Students who are having difficulty finding an advisor should seek the help of the Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Chair.

While advisors will monitor their students' progress, it is ultimately the students' responsibility to ensure that they meet each of the requirements of the program.

In addition to an advisor, each graduate student will also have an Examination Committee consisting of at least three members, including the student's thesis advisor. The committee must be acceptable to both the student and the advisor, and at least half of the members of the committee must be members of the departmental faculty. Students should form this committee once they have identified an advisor and a master's paper topic. As with the student/advisor relationship, membership in the Examination Committee requires the ongoing consent of the student and the committee member.

The Graduate Committee shall be notified of all changes in advisor or Examination Committee status.

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Faculty Reviews

The Graduate Committee will meet to evaluate our students' progress at least once a quarter. Evaluations will be based on input from a student's advisor, members of the student's evaluation committee, and course instructors, as appropriate. Every student will be evaluated at least once a year on the following schedule: students in their fifth year and beyond will be evaluated in the autumn; third and fourth year students will be evaluated in the winter; and first and second year students will be evaluated in the spring. Students who are struggling will be evaluateed more frequently.

Following the Graduate Committee's evaluation, each student will receive a letter indicating whether the student is making satisfactory progress. Students who are not making satisfactory progress will be given clear instructions on what must be accomplished to remain in the program. Students who are unable to raise their performance to a satisfactory level within a reasonable amount of time will be asked to leave the program.

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University Requirements

In addition to the departmental requirements, every graduate student must fulfill the University requirements for the appropriate degree (Master's or Ph. D.), including residency requirements, proper degree registration, payment of fines, etc. The University prints these rules each quarter in the Time Schedule, and makes them available in the Student Manual of University Policies and Regulations.

All dissertations must meet certain formating standards and be filed with the University dissertation office. The University publishes requirements for the formatting and acceptance of the Ph.D. dissertation. For additional information contact the dissertation office.

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Transfer Students

Students transferring from a different graduate program may petition the Graduate Committee for having some of the above requirements fulfilled by work done at the previous institution.

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Record Keeping and Final Approval

The department has a new on-line system (internal only) for recording students' progress through the program. Currently, this system will allow students to record their progress towards a Master's degree.

The department requires students to file a variety of forms designed to help the faculty track and record the progress of students through the remainder of the program. Specifically, the Department has the following forms:

  1. Advisor and Thesis Committee Change
  2. Candidacy (Oral) Exam
  3. Doctorate Approval

The Advisor and Thesis Committtee form should be submitted when students change advisors or the membership of their committees. The remaining forms should be submitted after the relevant exam.

These forms must be completed and signed by the Director of Graduate Studies and then given to the program adminstrator. While the department will make every effort to ensure the accuracy of student records, it is highly recommended that students keep a copy of each form they turn in to the program adminstrator.

In order to receive a degree in a certain quarter, the student must submit an Application for Degree when registering for that quarter. After meeting all the requirements for a degree (Master's Degree or Ph. D.), a student should obtain the appropriate university form ( "Report of Final Examination ...") from the program adminstrator, complete it, and have it signed by the Department Chair. Students should bring copies of the relevant departmental forms when obtaining the Department Chair's signature. For the Ph. D., the university's thesis requirements must also be met. The student must then submit the required material to the university by the appropriate date, normally the Wednesday three weeks before the convocation at which the student expects the degree (that is, the 8th week of the term).

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Exceptions to the Requirements

Exceptions to these requirements will be made only in the most extenuating of circumstances. Students planning to petition for an exception should first consult their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Minor exceptions require approval of the Graduate Committee. Major exceptions require approval of the entire faculty. No exceptions can be made to the University requirements.

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