Feb 04, 2023  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog

Computer Science, PhD

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College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  > Department of Computer Science  > Computer Science, PhD

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.

For more information, please visit the Computer Science, PhD program page.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the University  and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  admissions requirements, applicants are evaluated on their previous academic record, GPA, quality of schools from which degrees were obtained, statement of purpose, resume, and three letters of recommendation. GRE scores are optional. An applicant is expected to have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related field. If submitted, verbal, quantitative and analytical writing scores from the GRE are examined separately and are evaluated as one source of information in the total graduate application.

TOEFL or IELTS scores must be provided by applicants who did not earn a prior degree from a US institution or a country where English is the medium of instruction (see list here ). Visit International Students to learn more.

Admission to our graduate program is based on a competitive selection process. Meeting the minimum requirements published does not guarantee admission to our programs. Applicants will not be granted conditional admission.

Applicants can apply directly to the PhD program with a bachelor’s degree. Current UH Computer Science MS students who intend to pursue a UH Computer Science PhD are advised to submit the PhD application early and inform the Graduate Advisor of their intent.

Prerequisites and Deficiencies

Students admitted to the graduate program of the Computer Science department must have taken Calculus I, Calculus II and Linear Algebra before being admitted to the program. In addition, they are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in computer science. Level of proficiency is defined to mean either (a) having successfully passed an equivalent course, as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies, for each subject listed below, (b) complete the corresponding course with a grade of “B-” or better at the University of Houston, or (c) successfully pass a department placement exam in each of the required subjects.

  1. Equivalent Coursework - evaluation of equivalent coursework for each subject listed below will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies at the time of initial advising.
  2. Completion After Admission - upon entering the graduate program, students may remedy deficiencies by taking courses from the list below and securing at least a B- grade. Any course in which a grade of “B-” or better is not made must be repeated the following term. Each course can be taken a maximum of two times to obtain the required grade of “B-” or better.
  3. Department Placement Exam - A student must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a request to take department placement exams(s) least one month prior to the start of the first term. If approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, the exam(s) may be administered within the two weeks prior to the start of the term. The result of the department placement exam(s) will be reported by the first day of the term and included in the student’s academic file.

Courses taken to remedy deficiencies will not be counted in the total number of credit hours required for the graduate degree.

Remediation of deficiencies must be completed (a) within the first two long terms and (b) before a student will be allowed to enroll in the courses which are counted towards their degree. The only exception is the term in which the student will complete the deficiencies. In this situation, a student can enroll in courses required to remedy deficiencies concurrent with enrollment in graduate courses that will be applied towards the degree.

Courses that may be taken to remedy deficiencies in Computer Science:

Degree Requirements

Minimum credit hours required for this degree: 66.0

A student must complete a minimum of 66 credit hours subject to the following restrictions:

  • At least 30 credit hours of COSC graduate-level courses 6320-6397, 7300-7397, with the following exceptions:
    • Can include 1 hour of COSC 6110
    • Can include up to 3 hours of COSC 6398 Special Problems if taken within the first four long terms of the program*
    • Can include up to 6 hours of non-COSC graduate courses*
    • Can include up to 9 hours of transfer graduate coursework following university Transfer Credit policy *

*Requires prior approval from the director of graduate studies via a Graduate & Professional Student Petition

  • At least 24 credit hours of Doctoral Research (COSC 8x98).
  • At least 3, but not more than 12 letter-graded credit hours of dissertation (COSC 8x99), to be taken in the term of anticipated graduation.

In addition, students must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Declare a research advisor (also known as dissertation committee chair)
  2. Satisfactory completion of COSC 6110 or COSC 6321
  3. Satisfactory completion of the Research Competency Evaluation (RCE) Exam.
  4. Satisfactory completion of the Breadth Requirement.
  5. Declare a dissertation committee
  6. Proposal Defense (preliminary examination): written proposal and satisfactory defense thereof.
  7. Dissertation Defense: written dissertation and satisfactory defense thereof.
  8. Satisfactory performance on Annual Reviews
  9. Publication of doctoral research. It is recommended to work towards one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before the dissertation defense.
  10. Attend at least 5 department seminars per term
  11. Maintain satisfactory progress. Failure to meet degree, department, college, and university requirements and policies may be dismissed from the PhD program


Requirement Time Restrictions
Research Advisor By end of first  long term
COSC 6110 or COSC 6321 By end of second long term
RCE Exam By end of third long term
Breadth Requirement By end of second long term after passing the RCE Exam
Dissertation Committee By end fourth long term
Annual Review Each year starting in the third year
Proposal Defense By end of third long term after passing the Breadth requirement
Dissertation Defense May not be in the same term as the Proposal Defense

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.  All courses used towards the degree, including transferred and substituted courses, must not be older than 10 years at the time of graduation. 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.

an the end of the Spring or Fall semester.

1. Research Advisor

Students are urged to find a research advisor as early as possible. Full-time and part-time students must declare a research advisor by the end of the first long term by completing the required form. Student may enroll in doctoral research hours once they have declared a research advisor.

2. Graduate Colloquium/Research Methods

All PhD students are required to pass COSC 6110 - Graduate Colloquium or COSC 6321 - Research Methods in Computer Science by the end of the second long term in the program.

3. Research Competency Evaluation (RCE) Exam

PhD students are expected to spend a substantial amount of time on research starting in the first semester. The RCE requires students to learn and demonstrate specific skills necessary to doing research early in their career. These include the ability to perform a literature review, understand and synthesize research topics, conduct independent and collaborative research to the standards of the chosen discipline, and communicate the findings in a scholarly fashion.

For the RCE exam, the student (in consultation with their research advisor) selects and conducts research on a topic, writes an ACM/IEEE style paper, and presents a talk, to be approved by the student’s RCE committee. A student may submit and present their own submitted or published research for RCE requirements. The RCE committee will evaluate the student with respect to two questions:

  1. Has the student demonstrated scholarship and potential to conduct original research?
  2. Has the student demonstrated the ability to communicate technical content effectively to a general computer science audience?

The RCE exam must be completed by the end of the third long term of the PhD program. It is not necessary to complete all coursework before attempting the RCE exam.

The student will either pass or fail the RCE exam, and this decision, based on a majority vote of the committee, will be communicated to the student immediately after the conclusion of the exam. Once the student passes, they may proceed with the preparation of the dissertation proposal. If failed, the student may request a second attempt. For a second attempt, the RCE committee will assign additional work, which should be completed and presented at the end of the next long term. Students who fail the second attempt will be discontinued from the PhD program.

The student’s RCE committee should comprise of at least 3 Computer Science faculty members (not including the research advisor) and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. At least one committee member should be from outside the student’s research area. The research project topic for the RCE will be selected in consultation with the student’s research advisor. Once the evaluation has taken place, the Chair of the RCE committee will inform the student and the Director of Graduate Studies about the outcome of the exam. Should a student

switch their research advisor after completing the RCE requirement, the student is not required to retake the RCE exam.

Additional details of the RCE exam can be found on the Computer Science website

4. Breadth Requirements

A student satisfies the core requirement by taking a set of three or more courses from the lists below. At least one course must be from the Theory list and one from the Systems list. The remaining course may be from either list. In exceptional cases, the Director of Graduate Studies may transfer or substitute at most two of the three courses based on equivalent courses taken at another university following transfer or course substitution policies. Similarly, any breadth course taken as a MS Computer Science student at UH may count towards the breadth requirement following transfer and course substitution policies. Time limitations apply to transferred and substituted courses.

5. Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must be comprised of a minimum of four members to include three internal members (inclusive of the research advisor who serves as the dissertation committee chair or co-chair) who have their primary faculty appointment within the major department and one approved external member from outside the major department at UH, industry or other academic institution who is acceptable to the department and approved by the college. A faculty member with a joint appointment in the major department is considered as an external member unless he/she chairs the committee. In this case, an additional external member outside the major department is required. After these minimum requirements for committee members are satisfied, additional committee members may be approved, but at least 50% of the committee must be tenured/tenure-track faculty at the University of Houston. Research faculty, instructional faculty and emeritus faculty may serve on dissertation committees, but not chair the committees. However, a research professor may serve as a co-advisor with a tenured/tenure-track faculty. For the purpose of the committee composition, an emeritus faculty is considered as internal non-tenure-track faculty member.

6. Proposal Defense

A student must pass a proposal defense (also referred as the preliminary examination) administered by the student’s dissertation committee. The purpose of the proposal defense is to evaluate and give feedback on the proposed dissertation research of the student.

The student must prepare the dissertation proposal document using the NSM PhD dissertation template and present the proposal to the dissertation committee. The proposal document should include an overview of the proposed work, relevant related work, completed work, and a plan for the work to be completed in the dissertation. The presentation should cover the same topics in the proposal document, and include a listing of coursework completed, publications, and a proposed timeline for key activities to complete in the dissertation. The proposal document should be submitted to the dissertation committee at least two weeks before the proposal defense.

The proposal defense is open to the public and should be announced two weeks in advance. All may ask the student questions related to the proposal or the student’s preparation for doctoral-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 will be informed of the outcome and upon receiving a satisfactory evaluation, the student becomes a PhD candidate.

Details on how to announce the defense can be found on the Computer Science website.

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

Ideal candidates should have one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before the dissertation defense.

7. Dissertation Defense

A PhD candidate will be required to present their dissertation in a public defense. The dissertation defense and the proposal defense may not be scheduled in the

same term. The dissertation committee decides the acceptability of the dissertation. Candidates are expected to publish results of their dissertation research prior to the dissertation defense. Ideal candidates should have one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before 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 Computer Science website .

8. Annual Review

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. 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 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 term. A subsequent evaluation of “NI” or “U” can result in removal of the program.


The PhD Annual Review - Self-Evaluation Form must be submitted by the student before the following deadlines: October 31 (during fall) or May 31 (during spring)

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

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