Ph.D. Program in Computer Science

About The Program

Students of exceptional ability as demonstrated in previous course work are encouraged to pursue a doctor of philosophy degree; individuals with substantial experience in industrial research and development may also apply to the doctoral program. The current research programs of the department include artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and cloud computing, computer security, privacy, computer networking, sensor networks, parallel computation, distributed computing, mobile computing, software engineering, databases, knowledge-based systems, visualization, computational theory, and computer science education. The department also encourages interdisciplinary work with other departments at Tech and offers specialization in other areas through the New Mexico Cooperative Ph.D. Program in Computer Science (which includes Tech, the University of New Mexico, and New Mexico State University) and in cooperation with researchers at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

As computer science is a diverse and rapidly changing discipline, the program of study of a Ph.D. student will depend on the area of specialization and on prior experience and education. All Ph.D. students will be required to demonstrate master’s-level knowledge of the core areas of computer science, as well as a thorough understanding of the intended area of specialization. The core areas include programming languages, algorithms, systems, and computational theory. In addition, all Ph.D. students are required to take 3 credit hours of CSE 585 (Graduate Seminar). The specific course requirements are determined with the consultation and approval of the student’s advisory committee and the chair of the department.

To earn a Ph.D. degree, students must complete at least 60 post-baccalaureate credit hours. This includes at least 24 credit hours of dissertation research and at least 9 credit hours of coursework including CSE 585.

Before the degree is approved and granted, at least one paper on the subject matter from the dissertation must be accepted for publication to a reputable journal or conference proceedings acceptable to the doctoral committee of the student.

Coursework Before Candidacy Exam

  1. CSE 585 (Graduate Seminar, 3 credit hours): students must take this and pass it with a grade of “B” or higher, unless taken before at NMT. It is recommended that they should take this in their first semester as Ph.D. student.
  2. Complete at least four courses from the CS core areas (12 credit hours). For each of these four courses, students must either take the class at NMT and pass it with a grade of “B” or higher, or pass the corresponding Competency Exam. Competency exams are to be offered yearly, typically one week before the start of the semester when the corresponding course is offered:
    • CSE 524 (Advanced Programming Languages) and CSE 544 (Advanced Algorithms)
    • One of {CSE 525 (Advanced Operating Systems), CSE 553 (Advanced Networking)}
    • One of {CSE 546 (Theory Of Computation), CSE 528 (Formal Methods of Software Engineering)}
  1. Complete the required minimum credit hours as follows:
    • For students with MS in CS or closely related area: 6 credit hours of CSE graduate courses.
    • For students without MS in CS or closely related area: 21 credit hours, detailed as follows:
      • 15 credit hours of CSE graduate courses
      • 6 credit hours of 300-level or higher courses (CSE or related/needed areas)

All students who are financially supported by the department must finish the above requirements within their first four semesters (from the time of joining the Ph.D program); otherwise, their financial support is subject to termination without further notice.

Candidacy Exam

In order to advance to Ph.D. candidacy, the student must pass a candidacy examination (Ph.D. proposal defense) in his/her specific area of specialization. The student’s advisory committee will conduct the proposal defense.


The doctoral dissertation demonstrates the candidate’s capacity for independent research. The student may register for dissertation hours only after successfully completing the candidacy exam. A minimum of 24 credit hours must be devoted to the dissertation. The student is encouraged to explore the various current research projects in his or her field of interest before choosing dissertation subject. The dissertation must be defended before the Tech faculty under the supervision of the student’s advisory committee. Manuscript requirements are in the catalog. An external examiner will be included on the defense committee. The candidate must be registered during the semester in which the completed dissertation is submitted to the Graduate Office. Doctoral candidates are required to present at least one departmental or general seminar on the dissertation during their tenure as a graduate student.