WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department
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Graduate Regulations

MS Requirements | PhD Requirements | PhD Flowchart | TA-RA Guidelines

This Document

This document is a supplement to information contained in the Graduate Catalog. These two documents together specify the regulations of the Computer Science Graduate Program. In addition, the guidelines describe how these regulations are generally carried out. It is the student's responsibility to become familiar with and follow these regulations.

A student should discuss any questions with his/her academic advisor. Each student is assigned an academic advisor at the time s/he is enrolled into the graduate program. Students have the option of changing their academic advisor with the agreement of the new advisor and coordination with the department's Graduate Secretary.

Exceptions to the rules of the graduate program are expected to be made only in unusual circumstances. Students should first discuss their concerns with their advisor to determine if a petition is appropriate. The student can then submit a written petition addressed to the Computer Science Department Graduate Committee. The written petition should be delivered to the department's graduate secretary. The petition should preferably include a written endorsement from the academic advisor, although this is not a strict requirement.

Admission Requirements and Procedures

General admission requirements and procedures are given at the department's Admissions & Financial Aid Page

It is possible to register for graduate courses without formal admission to the graduate program. However, non-admitted students may only have credit for a maximum of two computer science courses count towards a graduate degree. This credit can then be applied towards a degree once the student is admitted. Registration for thesis credits is only permitted for students who have been admitted into the program with regular status.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test is required for admission, unless you have a degree from WPI, or are a current WPI undergraduate. The WPI Computer Science Department recommends the GRE Computer Science Subject Test for all MS and PhD applicants.

Transfer of Courses into the Graduate Program

Students may transfer credit from another institution's graduate program as specified in the Graduate Catalog. At most 9 credits of transfer will be approved. A student wishing to receive transfer credits must first obtain approval from his/her academic advisor and then file a formal petition with the Department Graduate Committee. Each course to be transferred must not have been used toward any other completed degree and must be documented with an official transcript, a complete catalog description, and a list of textbooks used.

Requirements for the Master of Science Program

All students in the Master of Science program are required to complete 33 semester credit hours as outlined in the Graduate Catalog. Note that the CS Department's requirement extends WPI's requirement of "a minimum of 30 credit hours". In their first semester, all admitted students must complete a Plan of Study form and submit it to the Graduate Secretary.

The "bridge" courses CS 501 and CS 507 cannot be counted towards the required credits for an MS or a PhD degree in Computer Science. This rule applies only to students admitted after April 10, 2001. Students admitted prior to this date will be allowed to include CS501 and CS 507 credits towards their degree, regardless of when they take these courses. A student admitted to a graduate degree program in Computer Science starting in Fall 2001, or later, may petition the CS department to have CS 501 or CS 507 counted towards their degree, as long as those courses were taken prior to the Fall 2001 semester.

CS students enrolled in the master's degree program may not count IDG 501 (Seminar in College Teaching) towards the 33 credits required for a CS master's degree.

Students may select a Coursework option or Thesis option for completion of their degree requirements. The thesis option provides the opportunity to study one area of Computer Science in depth, collaborating closely with a Computer Science faculty member.

Typically strong students with a solid Computer Science background benefit most from a thesis. Students with a weaker background may need to take enough courses to build up a solid Computer Science background, and may benefit from the coursework option.

The CS Department and WPI provide funding for full-time graduate study towards an MS degree in the form of:

A recipient of this funding is required to pursue the thesis option.

Every MS student must complete the MS Breadth Requirement, regardless of which option they have selected.

Coursework Option

The coursework option is described in the Graduate Catalog.

Directed Research credits (CS598) can count towards the coursework option, but MS Thesis credits (CS599) cannot. If thesis credits are self-contained and have a discernible outcome, such as a report or a completed software project, then, with advisor approval, they can be converted to directed research credits.

Thesis Option

The thesis option is described in the Graduate Catalog.

The principal component of this option is a thesis consisting of a research or development project, consisting of at least 9 thesis credits, which must be completed and presented to the department's faculty. However, only 9 of the thesis credits may be applied towards the degree requirements.

There are four stages toward the completion of a thesis.

  1. Exploratory: Students should consider possible thesis topics by discussing them with Computer Science faculty members. Students are encouraged to attend the department's research group meetings and colloquia in order to familiarize themselves with faculty research interests. In addition they should contact faculty directly to discuss possible thesis topics. At this stage, a student is not officially committed to the thesis option.
  2. Proposal: With the guidance and approval of a thesis advisor . a full-time Computer Science faculty member, or a faculty member who has a Collaborative Appointment with the Computer Science Department . the student submits a thesis proposal to the Department for acceptance.

    Upon acceptance of the proposal, the Department will 1) appoint the thesis advisor as the student's official academic advisor.   (Web: The Process for Handling WPI CS MS Thesis Proposals) and 2) choose a thesis Reader. The thesis advisor, reader and any co-advisor are all considered to be thesis examiners. In general, the examiners remain the same throughout the student's registration as a thesis student.

    A thesis proposal must be accepted by the Department before the student is able to receive grades for more than three thesis credits. Failure to submit a satisfactory proposal in time for such acceptance may result in a grade of F being assigned to the existing thesis credits.

    Proposals will only be considered at regularly scheduled CS Department meetings. These are scheduled at regular times during the academic year. Proposals must be submitted at least one week prior to a department meeting to allow faculty members time to read the proposal. It is recommended that MS thesis proposals be no more than five pages in length.
  3. Presentation to Faculty: A formal presentation of the thesis must be made by the student to the faculty and students of the Department, and any other interested members of the WPI community. The presentation describes, in a general but accurate way, the entire scope of the thesis, and serves to communicate the results of the thesis to the department.

    Presentations are scheduled by the Computer Science Department Graduate Committee only after all the examiners have certified that enough work has been completed. Examiners normally will not make such certification unless enough written work has been submitted to enable them to be sure that the entire content of the thesis is known. Usually this requirement means that a rough draft must have been completed.
  4. Final Approval: All examiners must approve the form and content of the final version of the thesis. For a Master's thesis the title page is signed by the Advisor(s), the Reader, and by the Department Head.

    This is a Computer Science Department extension to WPI's Regulations for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. It must conform to the WPI Regulations for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. When it has been approved, you must submit your thesis electronically.

    A thesis must be approved within four years of the proposal acceptance. If the student is not able to finish within this four-year period, then the student must petition the Graduate Committee and a new proposal may be required.

The thesis advisor is the only examiner who assigns a grade for the thesis credits. The reader's role is meant to be purely that of an examiner, assuring the quality of the thesis work. Generally the student does not turn to a reader for advice unless the reader has offered such help.

In the event of a disagreement between the examiners, an additional examiner will be required and his/her opinion will be binding. This additional examiner will be the Department Chairman, or if he/she is already involved, a member of the Department chosen by the Computer Science Graduate Committee.

Students can find relevant deadlines in the current Graduate Catalog. In particular, the examiners must be given reasonable time to examine any written work submitted to them. This requirement means that the student must allow at least 10 days for each examiner to review any submitted written material. During the summer and holidays, the examiners may require more time.

Due to campus-wide rules the student is required to be continuously registered with the university each academic semester while working on the thesis.

Departmental Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program

The following provides Computer Science Department-specific details of the four PhD requirements that the student must satisfactorily complete:

It is the responsibility of the student's advisor to ensure that completion of each PhD requirement is recorded in the student's academic file.

Admission to the PhD degree

  1. Admission procedures for students not currently enrolled in the Computer Science graduate program at WPI are described in the Graduate Catalog.

    Applicants who are accepted into the PhD program with a Bachelor's degree only (PhD-90) are required to complete a minimum of 90 credits in the PhD program, at least 30 for the MS component and at least 60 for the PhD component.

    Applicants who are accepted into the PhD Program with a Master's degree (PhD-60) are only required to complete 60 credits in the PhD program. For acceptance into the PhD-60 program the applicant's previous Master's degree must be judged by the Department to be relevant for our PhD program. Once accepted into the PhD-60 program a student cannot transfer to the Computer Science MS program.

    PhD-90 students must complete a CS MS degree as the first step towards the PhD. However, the PhD breadth requirement is more demanding than the MS breadth requirement. Consequently, those students should satisfy the PhD breadth requirement instead while obtaining the MS degree. All other requirements for the MS degree remain the same.

    The "bridge" courses CS 501 and CS 507 cannot be counted towards the required credits for an MS or a PhD degree in Computer Science. This rule applies only to students admitted after April 10, 2001. Students admitted prior to this date will be allowed to include CS501 and CS507 credits towards their degree, regardless of when they take these courses. A student admitted to a graduate degree program in Computer Science starting in Fall 2001, or later, may petition the CS department to have CS501 or CS507 counted towards their degree, as long as those courses were taken prior to the Fall 2001 semester.

    The Computer Science Department recommends that CS PhD students take IDG 501 (Seminar in College Teaching).

  2. WPI Computer Science MS students in good standing may apply to the PhD program (PhD-60) by submitting:
    1. a new graduate application form (for the PhD);
    2. at least one new recommendation from a WPI Computer Science faculty member, using the standard graduate admissions recommendation form;
    3. a revised Statement of Purpose; and
    4. a current transcript.

These should all be submitted to Graduate Admissions. This may be done before or after satisfying the Qualifying Requirements.

Qualifying Requirements

The Qualifying Requirements consist of a Breadth Requirement and a Research Qualifying Requirement, each of which the student must successfully complete before being allowed to continue in the PhD program. Once both portions are passed, the student becomes a "PhD Candidate". Any student admitted into the Computer Science graduate program at WPI may attempt this requirement.

Breadth Requirement

The PhD Breadth Requirement is intended to be a measure of a student's breadth of knowledge in the field.

Research Qualifying Requirement

The Research portion of the Qualifying Requirements tests the student's ability to conduct research. Only one attempt may be made to satisfy this requirement. This requirement must be completed no later than one year after completing the breadth (PhD Bins) requirement. The research qualifier may precede completion of the breadth requirement. The student must satisfy one of the two research qualifying options listed below. The student may pass, fail, or be required to do additional work before passing this requirement.

  1. The student registers for three credits of Directed Research (CS598) with at least one faculty advisor. Before the directed research begins the student must notify the department, through the graduate secretary, that it is part of the Qualifying Requirements. The student should also identify the general area of the work. The graduate committee will then appoint a co-advisor for the directed research. The primary and appointed advisors will evaluate the student's work at the end of the semester to determine if the student has shown sufficient research potential to become a PhD Candidate. The student will typically submit a written report.
  2. The student uses a research paper to satisfy the Research Qualifying Requirement, with the support of a faculty advisor. The research paper must satisfy all of the following conditions:
    1. The research described in the paper must have been conducted while the student was at WPI.
    2. The student must be one of the authors of the paper and must have contributed substantially to the ideas and research in the paper.
    3. The paper must have been submitted to a selective peer-reviewed Computer Science venue (e.g., conference or journal).
    Once the paper has been written, the student and the faculty advisor must notify the department, through the graduate secretary, that the student wishes to use the paper to satisfy the Research Qualifying Requirement. The student must provide a copy of the paper. The graduate committee will then appoint a second faculty member. The primary and appointed advisors will verify that the research paper satisfies all of the requirements above and that the paper provides evidence of sufficient research potential for the student to become a PhD candidate. Both advisors should attest also to the quality of the venue and the appropriateness of the paper for submission to that venue.

As part of this requirement, and under either option above, the student must deliver a presentation about the research to the department (e.g., in a research seminar). The student must notify the department, through the graduate secretary, of the time and place of this presentation at least one week in advance.

Dissertation Committee

Upon successful completion of the PhD qualifying requirements, the student, with the help of his/her research advisor, forms a Dissertation Committee. The committee consists of the research advisor and three additional members, at least one of whom must be from outside the WPI CS Department. The recommendation is for the outside committee member to be a well-known researcher in the same research area, but from another university or from industry.

Comprehensive Examination (The Depth Exam)

The Comprehensive Examination is designed to test the student's depth of knowledge in three areas of computer science. The Comprehensive Examination and the Dissertation Proposal can be completed in either order. However, the time between passing the examination and acceptance of the proposal should be less than six months.

The areas selected for the Comprehensive Examination must be acceptable to both the student and the committee, and may be suggested by the student. At least one of the areas should be related to the student's dissertation research. However, some attempt should be made to include an area outside the research, to ensure some breadth as well as depth.

(Web: Additional Comprehensive Examination Information: For Students and Advisors).

The examination is administered by the student's Dissertation Committee. The student's Dissertation Committee (or its designees) prepares questions for the student, who then has three weeks to prepare written answers. The answers are returned to the committee, which conducts an oral examination of the student based on the questions. The committee may pass the student, fail the student, or require additional work before reconsidering the result. Students may re-take the Comprehensive Examination at most once. The time frame for re-taking the Comprehensive Examination is determined by the Dissertation Committee.

Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal is a written document describing the student's proposed work. The Dissertation Proposal should be sufficiently detailed to convince the Dissertation Committee of the student's understanding of the problem domain along with the significance of the proposed work.

To complete this requirement the student makes a public presentation of the proposal immediately followed by private questioning from the Dissertation Committee, which then determines the outcome of the proposal. The committee may accept the proposal, reject the proposal and recommend pursuit of a different topic, or require the student do additional work before reconsidering the proposal. The time frame for the student to do required additional work on the Dissertation Proposal is determined by the Dissertation Committee.

Dissertation Defense

With the approval of the Dissertation Committee, the student schedules a Dissertation Defense. This defense is open to the public and is immediately followed by private questioning from the Dissertation Committee, which then determines the outcome of the Defense. The committee may accept, reject, or require additional work of the student before reconsidering the dissertation. The time frame for the student to do required additional work on the Dissertation is determined by the Dissertation Committee.

All examiners must approve the form and content of the final version of the dissertation. It must conform to the WPI Regulations for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. For a Doctoral dissertation the title page is signed by the Advisor(s), all members of the Dissertation Committee, and by the Department Head. This is a Computer Science Department requirement. When it has been approved, the dissertation must be submitted electronically.

PhD Coursework and Research

Sixty credits beyond the MS are required for the PhD program.

Twenty seven or more coursework credits are required. Coursework consists of a graduate course (excluding CS598 or CS699), independent study (using the IS/G form available from the registrar), or an approved transfer course. One graduate course (3 credits) in Mathematics is required.

Thirty or more credits of research are required. Research credits consist of CS598 (Directed Research) or CS699 (PhD Dissertation). Although all credits from CS598 and CS699 may be used towards the 30 credits, students should register for CS598 prior to candidacy and for CS699 when a candidate.

The Computer Science Department recommends that CS PhD students take IDG 501 (Seminar in College Teaching).

Flowchart for PhD Students

 

Guidelines for Teaching and Research Assistants

Duties

Teaching Assistant (TA) activities involve grading assignments and exams, running conferences and help sessions, helping the instructor in the preparation of course material, holding office hours, and any other activity that the instructor believes will help in teaching and administering the course.

Research Assistant (RA) activities involve software design/development, surveying literature, writing technical documents, and any other activity that the faculty researcher believes will help in performing the research.

All graduate students, especially those supported, are expected to attend the department's colloquia.

It is expected that TA/RA work will average 20 hours per week. Conflicts between TA/RA duties and academic responsibilities (e.g., exams or project deadlines) should be negotiated with the instructor of the course to which the student is assigned, or the faculty researcher. Problems that arise between the student and the faculty member which cannot be resolved should be taken to the

TA contracts are made with a duration of one academic year, with subsequent years of support based on the student's ability to effectively carry out his/her duties. MS students who demonstrate good performance in both their TA duties as well as their academic studies are able to receive departmental support for up to four semesters. Students will be notified if, at any time, it is believed that they are not adequately performing their duties. Students will have one term to resolve the problems or justify the behavior.

RA contracts vary with the duration of the grant and may include some support during the summer. Continuation of support is also dependent on the student effectively performing his/her duties.

Academic Standards

As defined in the Graduate Catalog, supported students must maintain at least a 3.0 CQPA for the duration of their support. Failure to meet this standard is grounds for loss of that support. TAs or RAs having academic difficulty should discuss the problem with their academic advisor as soon as possible.

Availability

TA/RA employment normally runs from August 15 to May 15 (9 months), and every TA/RA is expected to be on campus during this time period, except during scheduled WPI vacations. TAs are expected to be available for help with any appropriate work such as preparing course material for the next term. The RA employment period and duties may vary depending on the terms of the grant that is providing funding.

To assure adequate availability, the assistantship contract prohibits students from seeking any additional employment during the academic year, and failure to abide by this rule is grounds for the department to withdraw support. Under extenuating circumstances permission to obtain additional employment may be granted by the department head.

Trips or other absences of any significant duration should be approved by the instructor/researcher under whom the student is working and by the Computer Science Graduate Committee in the case of TAs.

Academic Program

Full-time Graduate students in the MS program who are funded by the CS Department or WPI with a Research Assistantship (RA), Teaching Assistantship (TA), or a Fellowship, are required to select the thesis option.

If evidence exists that a student is not working towards the thesis option while being supported then the department may take steps to have his/her support removed.

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webmaster@cs.wpi.edu / Sun Apr 8 23:22:34 2012