next up previous
Next: Computer Science Course Descriptions Up: Graduate Degree Programs in Previous: Master's Program


Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. requirements were recently redesigned to encourage students to get involved with research early in their studies. Continuation beyond the first two years of the Ph.D. program requires successful completion of the breadth and the research requirements. The Ph.D. requirements consist of six components:

Breadth Requirement.

Students during their first two years in the Ph.D. program must pass a qualifying exam or receive a ``quals pass'' in the designated course in four of the following six subject areas:
Operating Systems (Computer Science 210)
Architecture (Computer Science 220)
Algorithms (Computer Science  230)
Models and Complexity (Computer Science 240)
Numerical Analysis (Computer Science 250)
Artificial Intelligence (Computer Science 270)

The designated course for each subject area is listed in parentheses following each subject area. More advanced courses may be substituted with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. A quals pass in the AI area can also be earned in Computer Science 271. The subject areas must include at least one of the first two areas 1 and 2 and at least one of the next two areas 3 and 4. The qualifying exam in each area is given once a year, typically immediately before the beginning of the semester in which the designated course is offered. The qualifying exams for areas 2, 3, and 6 are offered in late August, and the qualifying exams for areas 1, 4, and 5 are offered in mid-January.

Research Requirement.

Students must complete a two-semester research project under faculty supervision during their first two years in the Ph.D. program. The goal of a research project is to get the Ph.D. student excited about research early in the program and to give faculty feedback on the student's research potential. The project is judged on the student's ability to dissect problems, propose solutions, and analyze critically.

Course requirements.

Ph.D. students must complete at least four 200-level or higher-level regular[*] computer science courses beyond the designated courses for the four subject areas passed in the breadth requirement. At most two of the courses can be outside the department, but only if they pertain directly to computer science or to the Ph.D. program of the student. In addition to the four courses, each student must take two courses in a related, but non-computer science field, not counting any course used to satisfy other requirements. The Director of Graduate Studies should be consulted to determine if the proposed field and courses are considered ``related''. Students must earn at least a G on each course applicable to the program, with a combined average no less than midway between E and G.

Courses can be taken at the University of North Carolina and at North Carolina State University through inter-institutional registration. Such courses require the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies and that the student is registered for an equal number of course units at Duke.

Teaching Experience.

Each student is required to have at least one semester of teaching experience, most commonly in the form of a teaching assistantship.

Preliminary Exam.

Each Ph.D. student must present a public thesis proposal, typically during the third year, accompanied by a 15-30 page document addressing the motivation and goals of the research, the state of the art in the literature, the results already achieved, and the plan for completion. The thesis committee will review the presentation and question the student on the proposed research and the particular area of concentration.

Thesis Defense.

Each Ph.D. student must complete a doctoral dissertation and defend it publicly before the thesis committee. The full dissertation must be delivered to the committee four weeks prior to the defense; minor modifications suggested by the committee can be incorporated after the thesis defense.

Financial Aid

Full-time Ph.D. students are provided tuition and stipend support through fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. Opportunities for assistantships are occasionally available to Master's students.

Applications to the Master's and Ph.D. Programs

Admission to the Department is highly competitive. The admissions process for the Ph.D. program is entirely separate from that of the Master's program. Students may apply to both programs. Potential applicants can request further information or answers to questions by sending email to Detailed information about the Department and its programs is also available electronically via the World Wide Web at

next up previous
Next: Computer Science Course Descriptions Up: Graduate Degree Programs in Previous: Master's Program

Duke Department of Computer Science