Degree Requirements

  1. Ph.D. students are required to maintain continuous registration until the degree is conferred and to fulfill a minimum residence requirement of one year (24 credit hours), including two semesters of continuous full-time residence at UB.
  2. Ph.D. degree requires 72 hours of graduate credit. Your precise program of study for the required 72 hours should be worked out by you with your faculty advisor, and will normally include the course work associated with the Ph.D. Qualifying Process together with a number of other CSE courses and seminars described below. Your precise program of study must have the approval of your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  3. The Ph.D. Qualifying Process consists of three parts:
    1. Take the following courses:
      • CSE531 Analysis of Algorithms
      • CSE596 Introduction to the Theory of Computation
      Take four courses from the following, at least one course from each area:
      • AI
        • CSE563 Knowledge Representation
        • CSE567 Computational Lingustics
        • CSE572 Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence
        • CSE573 Introduction to Computer Vision and Image Processing
        • CSE574 Introduction to Machine Learning
        • CSE5xx Introduction to Pattern Recognition (currently CSE655, to be renamed as a 500-level course).
      • Software System
        • CSE505 Fundamentals of Programming Languages
        • CSE521 Introduction to Operating Systems
        • CSE562 Database Systems
        • CSE580 Introduction to Computer Graphics
      • Hardware System
        • CSE589 Modern Networking Concepts
        • CSE590 Computer Architecture
        • CSE552 VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) Testing OR CSE597 Introduction to VLSI Electronics
          Note: If you choose to take two courses in Hardware Systems, only one of CSE552 and CSE597 can be used to satisfy the core course requirements.
      Get at least B average in the six courses above.
    2. Take one 600-level course in the area that you have selected for your dissertation research, and get at least B+.
    3. Submitting and defending a Dissertation Proposal.
    The parts (a) and (b) of the Qualifying Process are the core course requirements of the Qualifying Process and must be completed within the first two years of study. Once you have completed the core course requirements, you should file the ``CSE Ph.D. Qualifying Process Verification Form'' (see Appendix).
  4. Take at least another CSE 600-level course with grade at least B and at least one CSE seminar.
  5. Submitting and defending Dissertation.

Transferring Credits

The Graduate School requires that at least 36 credits must be taken at UB, and must be unique to the Ph.D. degree. Thus, up to 36 credits of graduate work at another institution can be transferred, if approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Only those relevant graduate courses completed with grades of B or better are eligible for consideration as transfer credit. You must petition the GAC to obtain approval for any transfer credits. If you transfer a course that is the equivalent of a CSE core course, you may not take the equivalent core course here.

To transfer courses, you need to complete a "Transfer Credit Form" (available outside 232 Bell), attach the transcript, the syllabus of the course being transferred and other relevant information, and submit them to the Director of the GAC for approval.

Note: the Graduate School also requires that at least 36 credits are unique to the Ph.D. degree. For example, if you have obtained a CSE M.S. degree, you may use all 30 M.S. credits for your CSE Ph.D. degree. However, you are allowed to transfer only 6 credits from another institution in this case.

Waiving Requirements

If you have already taken a course similar to a required core course, you may apply to the GAC for a waiver of that core course. See waiving for details.

Independent Study

You may also receive credit for independent study under a faculty member (CSE700). No later than the end of the 2nd week of the semester in which you are registering for independent study, you must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval a one-page description that is approved (signed) by the faculty member directing the independent study. The one-page description should outline the work that you will perform for your independent study. (Cf. Independent Study; see Appendix.)

Grade Requirements

In the program submitted for graduation, you must have at least 72 graduate credits in right combination of courses. No Ds or Fs are allowed in the 72 credit hours you use for the Ph.D degree. The "U" grade indicates failure and cannot be counted towards the required 72 credits.

Supervised-research and thesis-guidance credit hours are counted towards the 72 hours for the Ph.D degree. These are graded as S/U. Seminars are normally graded as S/U. An S/U grade will not affect your GPA.

Exclusive of ``S'' grades, courses to be submitted for candidacy must average ``B'' or better.

UB Graduate School requires that no more than 25% of the required credits in a student's graduate program (excluding courses taken as thesis and project research) shall be graded on an S/U basis.

Internship Option

You may choose the ``Internship Option'' for your Ph.D. degree program. If a student chooses this option, you are required to complete one semester of Internship and register for CSE598 (Internship). One credit for CSE598 can be counted towards the Ph.D. degree.



If at any time your GPA slips below 3.0 or you are not otherwise making satisfactory progress toward the degree (as determined at the semesterly review of all graduate students by the faculty), you will be put on probation. (See Probation for details).

Major Professor

Earning a Ph.D. is largely an apprenticeship activity. The most important person to you as a Ph.D. student is your major professor (research supervisor/advisor). Only members of the Graduate Faculty of the University (i.e., marked by `*' in the list of faculty, above) who are either tenured or tenure-track faculty of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering or Research or Adjunct faculty members of the department are eligible to supervise Ph.D. dissertations (i.e., to be major professors). Each one of these people is eager to supervise Ph.D. students, but you must take the first step. If a graduate student wishes to work with a member of the Graduate Faculty of the University who does not satisfy the above criteria, the student may petition the GAC; permission is gained by majority vote of the GAC.

As soon as possible---but before the end of your second academic year in residence (see below)---you should decide whom you would like to be your major professor, approach that person, and begin to discuss possible research topics. You might approach several possible advisors and discuss possible research areas with each one. The potential advisor may ask you to do additional study and/or small projects to see if you, the topic, and the potential advisor are mutually compatible. The final decision is mutual---both you and your advisor are entering on a relationship that will last throughout your career.

The Department is not responsible for assigning you an advisor, nor does it guarantee that you will be successful in finding one. Nevertheless, coming to an agreement with a major professor is a necessary step to earning the Ph.D. You must have a major professor before you can choose the rest of your dissertation committee, write a dissertation proposal, or write a dissertation.

Once you settle on a major professor, the two of you must officially notify the Department using the Major Professor Form, which you both sign (see Appendix). This must be done before the end of your second academic year in residence.

Do not feel trapped! If you later decide to change major professors, that is possible. First, however, discuss the situation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Changing major professors will probably delay the completion of your Ph.D.

Dissertation Committee

After passing the core course requirements and coming to an agreement with a major professor, you must assemble a Ph.D. Committee consisting of the major professor as chair, and at least two additional members. Every Ph.D. Dissertation Committee must contain at least two tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the Department. These additional members must be chosen with the advice and consent of the major professor, and they have the right to accept or refuse membership on the committee.

Admission to Candidacy

You officially become a Ph.D. candidate when your Application to Candidacy (ATC) is approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, the Divisional Committee of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Graduate School. The ATC must be typewritten. According to the instructions on the form, it should be filed ``after six semesters of full-time enrollment for students seeking a doctorate.'' However, you may file it earlier, as long as: you have already met the residency requirement of ``two semesters of continuous full-time residence''; you know the general area in which you will do a dissertation; you can tentatively list courses that you will use to satisfy the 72 credit hours required for the Ph.D.; and you have a dissertation committee, including major professor, willing to sign the form. Other information required on the form can be projected and tentative. If you later change the list of courses, your major professor, or your committee, then you must file a petition with the Graduate School. You should file the Application to Candidacy form as soon as possible. (See schedule.)

If you received, or are in the process of receiving, a graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) from any other department at UB, you must submit a copy of all Applications to Candidacy for those degrees, together with any amendments, before your Application to Candidacy for a degree in Computer Science can be approved.

Dissertation Proposal

Before starting work on a dissertation, you must write a dissertation proposal including the following:

Such proposals are normally from five to ten double-spaced typewritten pages long. This proposal must be approved by your committee and will be circulated to the Department faculty for comments. In general, a dissertation proposal might include the following information:

It is suggested that, where possible, the dissertation proposal be in the same format as a typical NSF grant proposal. (For information on this format, see the NSF document, ``Grants for Research and Education in Science and Engineering,'' available from your advisor.)

Approximately two weeks after circulating the dissertation proposal to all CSE faculty members, you will give an oral presentation of the dissertation proposal. The time and location of the oral presentation must be announced to all CSE faculty members.

After the oral presentation, the dissertation committee members indicate their approval of the proposal on ``Dissertation Proposal Form'' (available outside 232 Bell). The members of the Graduate Faculty of the Department have one week to express their opinions. If the dissertation committee unanimously approves the proposal, and no more than one other faculty member casts a negative vote, the proposal is approved. Otherwise the proposal is rejected, but you and your advisor have two ways of changing the outcome: (1) If you revise the proposal so that all members of the committee approve it, and at least all but one of the other negatively voting faculty members change their votes, then the revised proposal is approved. (2) Your advisor may bring the matter to a meeting of the Graduate Faculty of the Department (called for the purpose, if necessary): If, after appropriate discussion, a majority of the faculty present and voting approve the proposal, it is approved; otherwise, it is rejected, and you must either resign from the Department or go through the entire proposal process again.

Your dissertation proposal should be approved by the Department as soon as possible. You must have an approved dissertation proposal before the end of your fourth year. Failure to do so may result in your being dropped from the doctoral program. You may petition the GAC for an extension if you think there are bona fide reasons for requiring more time.

A copy of your dissertation proposal must be given to the Graduate Secretary (currently, Ms. Maryann Petrillo) and will be kept in your file.


The Graduate School requires one unbound copy of every doctoral dissertation. The Department requires an on-line copy for the Departmental Technical Report series (see Technical Reports for on-line submission instruction), as well as bound copies for each member of the candidate's dissertation committee. Each copy of a doctoral dissertation must include an abstract not longer than 600 words.

Doctoral dissertations are microfilmed. The doctoral candidate will be required to pay the fee for microfilming.

Since doctoral dissertations (as well as master's projects and theses) require the joint effort of you and your major professor (if not also other members of the faculty), you should make no arrangements for publication without consulting your major professor. The microfilming of Ph.D. dissertations (required by the Graduate School) and their publication in the departmental Technical Report series do not preclude later publication by other methods.

The Graduate School will accept any self-consistent format that follows the conventions of a recognized discipline. (See ``Graduate School Policies and Procedures: A Manual for Graduate Students and Advisers'' for current requirements.) However, uniformity is required in the following details:

Dissertation Defense

You must defend your dissertation orally in public when it is complete. The Department will not schedule the defense of a dissertation until at least one year after the acceptance of the dissertation proposal. However, a student who completes a dissertation unusually quickly may petition the GAC to allow the defense less than a year after the proposal.

Outside Reader

  • NEW
    As of 7 November 2006, neither the Graduate School, SEAS, nor CSE require an outside reader for Ph.D. dissertations. Individual faculty and students may, at their discretion, invite appropriate external readers to comment on dissertations.


    Students in the Ph.D. program must adhere to the following schedule:

    The definition of `end' of an academic year or semester for these and similar purposes is: the last day of exams of that year or semester. Petitions for extensions should be sent to GAC (or, in the case of University deadlines, to the Graduate School).

    It is departmental policy that students may be funded only through their first 6 years. This applies to support as an RA, TA, GA, or holder of a University fellowship. Decisions concerning students beyond their 6th year will be made on an individual basis in consultation with their major professors.

    It is a UB policy that Ph.D. students may be given tuition scholarship only through their first 4 years. (Currently, exceptions are made for the 5th year, but this may change). Hence it is possible that a student is supported as a TA, RA or GA, but must pay tuition after four years of study at UB. Thus, a student should complete all Ph.D. degree requirements (except the dissertation), at least 70 required credits, and file the Application to Candidacy within the first four years of study. After this, the student can register for only one credit hour per semester while maintaining full-time status. You need to file the graduate school ``Certification of Full-Time Status'' for this purpose.

    These rules apply equally to all students, whether enrolled as full-time or as part-time students. A leave of absence has the effect of stopping the clock. You need to file the graduate school ``Graduate Student Petition Form'' for this purpose. However, leaves will be approved for legitimate purposes only. Leaves will not be approved for students who intend to continue work toward the Ph.D. while on that leave.

    It is our intent that each student graduates with the Ph.D. within six years, and the faculty will work with you in this endeavor.

    Note: You may find it odd that the Application to Candidacy should be submitted by the end of the 3rd year in residence, while the dissertation proposal must be approved before the end of the 4th academic year in residence. Note, though, that the Application to Candidacy ``should'' but need not be submitted by the end of the 3rd year, while the dissertation proposal ``must'' be approved before the end of the 4th. The wording about the Application to Candidacy form comes from the Graduate School, not the Department. In fact, the Application to Candidacy only needs to be submitted a specified time before the graduation date. But the earlier it is submitted, the earlier one can register for only one credit as a full-time student, which is something the Graduate School wants to encourage. In general, the Application to Candidacy should be submitted once you know all the information it requests, such as committee members and title of dissertation. But you can submit it earlier, with information that is not necessarily as accurate as it will be when you are really ready to graduate. In that case, you then have to file an amendment to the Application to Candidacy. (See Admission to Candidacy.)

    Documents and Degree Forms


    There are departmental forms to be completed and approved by appropriate signatures for each of the Ph.D. requirements. These forms are available from the departmental Graduate Secretary. Below is a list of the forms required. All must be appropriately dated and signed as indicated on them. All require the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies.

    Degree Forms

    You are responsible for filing all necessary forms with the Graduate School for obtaining your degree, including the Application to Candidacy (ATC) Form. You must be registered during the semester in which you expect to receive your degree.

    You should attach to the ATC the description of any seminars and independent studies you are offering toward the 72 hours for the Ph.D. (including any hours previously approved by GAC). Computer science and engineering graduate credits from another university will normally be approved pro forma for Ph.D. credits subject to the Graduate School limitation of at most 36 non-UB credits.

    If you received, or are in the process of receiving, a graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) from any other department at UB, you must submit a copy of all Applications to Candidacy for those degrees, together with any amendments, before your Application to Candidacy for a degree in Computer Science can be approved.

    The M Form is submitted to the Graduate School, by Graduate Secretary, to certify that the dissertation was satisfactorily defended and that all requirements for the degree have been satisfied. This form must be signed by the major professor, the committee members, and by the Chair of the Department or Director of Graduate Studies. You may submit the form before presenting the two copies of the dissertation to the Graduate School.

    For a summary of these Graduate School forms and deadlines, see Appendix.