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Master of Science Program

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This document together with the Graduate School Handbook, current edition, gives the complete statement of the official requirements for the Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering. These requirements and the procedures for obtaining the degree are determined in part by the Graduate School, and in part by the Department. Petitions for exception to these requirements should be channeled through the departmental Graduate Studies Committee.

Students in the M.S. program must be regular students as defined by the Graduate School regulations; special students and students enrolled in Continuing Education are not considered as regular students. In order to qualify for admission as regular students, students must first remove any restrictions placed on their status. Removal of restrictions is regulated by the Graduate School and the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee.

The procedures and requirements described herein are subject to revision. Students should consult materials issued periodically by the Graduate School and the Department, their advisors, or the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee for any changes or interpretation of policy.

Program for the Master of Science Degree in CSE

The program's philosophy is to provide students a broad graduate level education in the fundamentals of Computer Science and Engineering and also provide the opportunity for deeper study in a specialized sub-area of interest to the student. Students work out the details of their program in close consultation with their advisors.

Two options are offered:

  • Thesis Option (Research Track)
  • Non-Thesis Option (Coursework Track)

Program requirements for the Thesis Option and Non-Thesis Option are detailed in this document. The terms "Research Track" and "Thesis Option" are used interchangeably in this document. Similarly, the terms "Coursework Track" and "Non-Thesis Option" are used synonymously.

1 Advisors

Students' degree programs and all courses taken by students must be approved by their academic advisors. Each student admitted to the graduate program in Computer Science and Engineering is assigned a tentative academic advisor. Students should consult their advisors as soon as possible after arriving on campus, and periodically thereafter until, upon developing a specific specialty interest, a permanent advisor is chosen in that specialty area. When a student determines that his/her interests lie in a particular specialty area, he/she should choose a permanent faculty advisor in that area.

This choice should be made as soon as practical, especially for students planning either to undertake thesis research or to enter the Ph.D. program. Students whose specialty interests change should consider changing to an advisor whose field encompasses their new interests. In exceptional cases, members of other departments who hold joint appointments as Graduate Faculty members of this Department may serve as research advisors for students, but in all cases, the student's academic advisor must be a faculty member whose primary faculty appointment is in this Department.

In addition to the above departmental academic and research advising, the Graduate School maintains a counseling office for students.

2 Requirements for the M.S. Degree in Computer Science and Engineering

This section contains a list of requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Students are advised to check the latest edition of the Graduate School Handbook for possible added requirements.

2.1 Credits

The minimum number of cr-hrs required for the M.S. Degree is as follows:

  • Research Track (requires thesis): 30 cr-hrs
  • Coursework Track (no thesis): 33 cr-hrs

Students in either track must satisfy the course requirements listed in Sec. 2.2.

2.2 Degree Program

Each candidate is required to pursue a program of study in courses approved by his/her academic advisor. Students in the thesis track need to complete 20 graded cr-hrs. Students in the non-thesis track need to complete 30 graded cr-hrs, or 24 graded cr-hrs and a masters project, as detailed in Section 2.4. For students in either track, at most 6 cr-hrs from classes taken outside of CSE may count towards these requirements. These classes must be from disciplines closely related to CSE, and need to be approved in advance by the student's advisor.

For meeting the course requirements for both research and coursework track masters programs, letter-graded classes at the 5000-level and above will be considered to be of four types:

  • Graduate Pre-Core: These classes include graduate versions of classes that are either required for the CSE undergrad degree or are in a "pick-list" in the requirements for the CSE undergrad degree. These graduate versions will typically be offered for fewer cr-hrs than the equivalent undergrad courses. The list currently includes CSE 5231, CSE 5232, CSE 5241, CSE 5321, CSE 5331, CSE 5341, CSE 5421, CSE 5431, CSE 5461, CSE 5521, and CSE 5541. Both non-thesis and thesis students are limited to taking at most 6 cr-hrs from this group, to count towards their 20/24/30 graded cr-hr requirements.
  • Graduate Core: This group includes graduate classes (6xxx) on algorithms, computability and unsolvability, programming languages, computer architecture, and operating systems. All students must pass 3 foundational core classes, including algorithms, either computability and unsolvability or programming languages, and either computer architecture or operating systems.
  • Applied Core: The classes currently in this list include (CSE 5242 or CSE5243), CSE 5343, CSE 5441, CSE 5462, (CSE 5522 or CSE5523), and (CSE 5542 or CSE 5544). Notice that only one of the classes in each set of parentheses can count toward the applied core requirement. If the second course within a set of parentheses is taken, it can count for an elective; but both courses within each set of parentheses cannot count as an applied core. Students in the thesis option must take at least one class from this group, and students in the non-thesis option must take at least two classes from this group.
  • All other letter-graded classes offered by the CSE department at the 5000-level or above, or non-CSE graduate courses approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. These classes can be taken, together with the requirements and restrictions on pre-core, graduate core, and applied core, towards meeting the 20/24/30 graded cr-hr requirements.

Students who are able to transfer graduate credit for these classes or who took equivalent courses as undergraduates may substitute other appropriate courses in their program, with the approval of their advisors.

2.3 Thesis

Each student on the Research Track must submit an approved thesis, based on appropriate research experience, in accordance with Departmental and Graduate School regulations. The Master's thesis must be produced under the direction and with the approval of the student's research advisor, who must be a member of the Graduate Faculty. The Graduate School Handbook should be consulted for rules, procedures, and deadlines for preparation and submission of the final approved copy of the thesis.

Each candidate (in either the Research Track or Coursework Track) must also pass a Master's Examination to test his/her knowledge of the course of study pursued. The rules governing the Master's Examination are given in Section 3.

2.4 Project Option

Masters non-thesis students may take 6 S/U cr-hrs over two consecutive semesters to complete a substantial implementation project with a CSE faculty member. A 6-8 page write-up on the features of the software and the design choices made must be completed and approved by the CSE faculty member supervising the project. This write-up should be included with the masters paperwork for the student (please also see details of the masters examination for project option below). These 6 cr-hrs will count towards the 30 graded cr-hr requirements for non-thesis students.

2.5 Residency and Transfer Credit

Satisfactory completion of 24 cr-hrs of graduate credit (Research Track), or 27 cr-hrs of graduate credit (Coursework Track), over a minimum of two semesters at this university, is required. Students who transfer cr-hrs from other departments or other universities in order to qualify for the degree, must submit their Request for Application or Transfer of Credit no later than the second semester of enrollment in the graduate school.

2.6 Academic Standards

A graduate student must maintain at least a B (3.00) average in all graduate credit courses, with no more than one-third of the cr-hrs with grades of C or lower. Students whose performance falls below the above standard are subject to the Graduate School rules which apply to probationary status or dismissal. In addition, a graduate student must maintain at least a B (3.00) average in all courses applied towards the student's CSE degree.

Only courses in which a graduate student has received a C (2.00) or higher may be applied to the student's CSE degree.

2.7 Application to Graduate and Declaration of Examination Forms

Students must submit an "Application to Graduate" form to the department office by second Monday of the semester of expected graduation. For non-thesis option, a Declaration of Examination form with the Chair of the Department's M.S. Comprehensive Examination Committee by the eleventh week of the semester prior to the semester in which the degree is sought. These forms, and instructions for their use, are available in the Department office. Both forms require approval by the student's academic advisor before submission to the Department. Failure to submit these forms on time will usually result in the student not being able to graduate in the semester desired.

No student will be allowed to take the Master's examination until he or she has received graduate credit for at least 16 cr-hrs at this university and reasonably can be expected to complete all of the requirements for the Master's degree in the semester for which the "Application to Graduate" form is filed. Students are expected, however to take the Master's examination by the time they have completed 33 cr-hrs. Any exceptions to this rule must be petitioned to the Graduate Studies Committee.

2.8 Time Limit

The entire work for the Master's degree must be completed within a period of six calendar years.

3 Master's Examination

A Master's Examination is required to test the candidate's knowledge of the courses of study he/she has pursued. Students must have filed an "Application to Graduate" form (Section 2.7) before they can take this examination.

If a student fails to perform satisfactorily on the Master's Examination and desires to take it again in order to get the Master's degree, he/she must enroll the following semester for at least 3 cr-hrs and take the final examination in that semester. Any exceptions to this rule must have the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee. In accordance with Graduate School regulations, no student will be permitted to take this examination a third time.

Sections 3.1 and 3.2 describe the details concerning the format and scheduling of the Master's Examination for students on the Research Track and Coursework Track.

3.1 Research Track (Thesis Option)

The Master's Examination is held after the draft of the thesis is approved. Final thesis approval occurs after the examination. The examination must be oral and may include a written portion, at the option of the examination committee. The chair of the committee is to be the candidate's research advisor, and the committee must include at least one other member of the committee who is a member of the Graduate Faculty with primary appointment in the CSE Department. The Graduate Studies Committee may appoint additional members of the committee if it considers it necessary. The committee chair is responsible for arranging and conducting the examination, which is to be based on the subject matter of the thesis as well as the course of study which the candidate has pursued. The chair of the examining committee is also responsible for certifying the examination results and reporting them to the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School office within the prescribed time set by the Graduate School.

3.2 Coursework Track (Non-Thesis Option)

All candidates on the Coursework Track who do not finish a project must pass a written comprehensive examination composed of examinations in three of the five core areas, specifically, algorithms, either of computability and unsolvability or programming languages, and either of computer architecture or operating systems. Examination in each of the areas is of 120 minute duration, and these examinations are administered over a two day duration.

Student who finish a project (described above), AND have a B average in the three core classes they are required to take, can take a masters examination based on their project. A masters examination based on project requires a committee with at least 2 CSE faculty members. This is an oral examination that should last at least 60 minutes, with time equally divided between the candidate's presentation and questioning from the committee. Students intending to take such an option need to finish a longer project report (at least 10 single spaced pages).

4 Master's Degree on Basis of Ph.D. Candidacy Examination

Ph.D. students who have not previously obtained a Master's degree in Computer Science and Engineering may be recommended for the Master of Science degree after taking their Ph.D.Candidacy Examinations under the following conditions:

  • It is recommended by the student's advisor and the Graduate Studies Committee.
  • The student does not already hold an equivalent master's degree in the same field.
  • Graduation deadlines established by the Graduate School are met.

The Graduate School Handbook is to be consulted for the applicable procedural details.