Graduate Policy Manual: Information for Enrolled Students

Contents

1. Introduction

This document contains information about degree requirements and other concerns of graduate study in the Computer Science Department, and is addressed to the graduate student. Graduate education in the department is managed by an Associate Chair (i.e., Director) and Assistant Director (i.e., Coordinator). References to the “Graduate Office” refer to these roles collectively. 

Information about campus-wide graduate study requirements, policies, and deadlines is available from the UMCP Graduate School and the Graduate Catalog.

Detailed information on registration and coursework requirements for our programs can be found here.

2. Ph.D. Degree Requirements

2.1 Ph.D. Advising

Every PhD student has a faculty advisor. You should meet with your advisor at least once each semester to discuss your progress.

When you enter the PhD graduate program, the department assigns you an initial advisor, but as your research interests become clearer you may want to switch advisors. Normally, when you begin your PhD research, your advisor should be the person with whom you are doing that work.

If you accept a research assistantship with a professor and that person is not already your advisor, then he/she becomes your new advisor. If you switch advisors, you must let the Computer Science Graduate Office know.

2.2 Grad Review

Every April, the Grad Review Committee reviews the progress of graduate students in the program. Findings are discussed at a faculty meeting. Students who are not making adequate progress will be contacted by their advisor or the Grad Director. Areas of concern include low grades in coursework, being in or beyond the fifth semester without completing qualifying coursework, nearing or passing the four-year mark without advancing to candidacy, and failing to defend within three years of advancing to candidacy.

In certain cases, a student who needs more time can apply to the Graduate School for an extension. Extension requests must include a timeline and plan of action and be accompanied by letters of support from the advisor and Grad Director.

2.3 Pre-candidacy Requirements

The program is a two-stage program. In the first “pre-candidacy” stage, students build their background knowledge in Computer Science (“breadth”), and knowledge in the specific subarea of their research (“depth”), working with an advisor from our graduate faculty, with whom they conduct research. Together, the two stages of the program should take approximately five to six years to complete. This time period is subject to time limitations imposed by the Graduate School.

While students can take as many courses as they need to build the background they need to be experts in their sub-field, and in computer science as a whole, the minimum requirements to display mastery, and advance to candidacy, are: 

  1. Complete at least six MS/PhD Qualifying Courses at the 600–800 level
  2. Receive at least four A's (A or A+) and two B's or above in Qualifying Courses to show mastery
  3. These Qualifying Courses must cover at least four areas 

In addition, students must

  1. take the PhD seminar course “How to Conduct Great Research” (CMSC800); 
  2. build their knowledge via two additional “Elective” graduate (600-800 level) courses, which can be outside the department and which need not have the “qualifying” designation. These must be completed with a grade of B or higher.

Courses are provided the Qualifying Course designation by the graduate office. For a course to receive a qualifying designation, the grade must be based at least in part on exams (a minimum of 35%), and receive field committee and Graduate Office approval. 

Students with previous graduate preparation can waive up to three courses, but cannot waive the mastery requirement (the 4 A’s in qualifying courses). 

For a further details on coursework requirements, waivers, and a list of courses, see here. 

2.4 Preliminary Examination and Advancing to Candidacy

Once the course requirements are completed, the next step is the PhD Preliminary Examination. This is an oral examination to review and appraise your proposed dissertation research (described in a proposal document), to test how well you have prepared for the research, and to discover whether or not you understand the subject matter sufficiently well to carry out the proposed research. The proposal document must be deemed satisfactory by your advisor, and at a minimum it should describe your proposed research, survey relevant literature, propose a timeline, and include reading lists for three areas of knowledge related to the proposal.

The preliminary examination committee consists of the following people, at least two of whom are faculty members with their primary appointment in Computer Science:

  1. Your dissertation advisor, who is the committee chair.
  2. A departmental representative, who is from outside your research area and may be suggested by your advisor. The ultimate choice of the representative is made by the department.
  3. At least one additional faculty member, chosen by you and your advisor.

Advancement to candidacy requires the following forms:

At least two weeks before the day you intend to take the exam, submit the oral exam scheduling form and give your proposal to each member of the examination committee. A draft announcement and the other two forms will then be sent to you and your adviser. 

External committee members: Requests to add external committee members (those from outside UMD or who are not members of the graduate faculty) must be made at least three weeks before the exam date (i.e., one week before the oral exam scheduling form is due). Requests must include a brief justification, a list of the other members of the committee, and the proposed external committee member's CV.

The Examination

At least one week before the exam, the department distributes a notice of the examination, inviting all members of the department to attend as non-voting participants. The examination committee chair may invite additional non-voting participants. Unless otherwise specified here or waived by the department, rules for attendance at the examination and remote participation follow the Graduate School's rules for the oral exam. 

The examination is oral, and is normally about two hours long and consists of three parts:

  1. Your presentation of the dissertation proposal (about 30-45 minutes).
  2. Questions and discussion of the proposal (about 30 minutes).
  3. An examination based on the related areas of knowledge (about 30 minutes, and normally restricted to material in the reading lists).

During this exam, you are expected to demonstrate a level of competence that is attainable in approximately one year of study beyond completion of the course-based qualifying sequence.

After the exam, the committee asks you to leave the room while they make their decision. The committee may decide that you have passed or failed the exam, or they may defer the decision. The distinction between failure and deferred decision is based on the committee's evaluation of your probability of success. Your dissertation advisor reports this decision to the department. If the committee defers the decision, your dissertation advisor's report to the department specifies how they intend to resolve the decision.

The committee member appointed by the department is responsible for making sure that the examination conforms to the guidelines given above.

If you pass the preliminary examination, you are eligible to be “advanced to candidacy”. Send a completed copy of the application for admission to candidacy with your advisor's signature to Tom Hurst (thurst [-at-] umd [dot] edu). The Graduate Director then signs the form and forwards it to the Graduate School. 

2.5 Candidacy and Dissertation Defense

Research as a Candidate

After passing the PhD Preliminary Exam and advancing to candidacy, students are registered by the Graduate School for CMSC 899: Doctoral Dissertation Research (six credits) each fall and spring semester until they graduate. This requirement cannot be waived. 

Your PhD research should represent an original contribution to the field of computer science. To describe and document your research, you must write a dissertation under the guidance of your advisor. The required format is available from UMCP Graduate School.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must consist of at least five members, including your advisor. All must be regular, adjunct, or special members of the UMCP Graduate Faculty. At least three must be Regular Members of the Graduate Faculty, and at least two must be Regular Members of the CS faculty (i.e., non-affiliate members). One committee member, the Dean's Representative, must be a tenured Regular Member of the Graduate Faculty from a department other than Computer Science. (In the case that your dissertation committee's chair is an affiliate faculty member, the Dean's Representative may instead be appointed from the Computer Science department.) All Regular (tenure-track and above) professors in the Computer Science Department are Regular Members of the Graduate Faculty. 

One or more members of the committee may be distinguished scholars from other institutions or appointed as research faculty on this campus. Requests for external committee members should include a brief justification, a list of other members of the committee, and the proposed external committee member's CV. Requests should be made at least two weeks before the scheduling form is due. Currently the grad school asks to receive the scheduling form at least six weeks in advance of the exam. For further information about nominating faculty for dissertation committees and due dates for the nomination form, see the Graduate Faculty Policy.

To request creation of the dissertation committee, send a signed copy of the Nomination of Dissertation Committee form to Tom Hurst (thurst [-at-] umd [dot] edu) by that semester’s stated deadline.. You must do this by about the third week of the semester in which you expect to complete the requirements for your degree. If committee membership changes, another nomination form must be filed to revise the committee. Committees remain approved, even if the nomination/approval occurs in a semester other than the one in which you defend.

Dissertation Defense

Once your advisor is satisfied with your dissertation, you must schedule your dissertation defense. To do this, you must submit the oral examination scheduling form to the Computer Science Graduate Office at least two weeks before the proposed examination date. At least two weeks before the oral examination, you must give a copy of the dissertation to each member of the dissertation committee.

One week before the exam, the department will distribute a notice of the defense, inviting all interested graduate faculty of the department to attend as non-voting participants. The examination committee chair may invite additional non-voting participants.

The defense is oral, and is normally no more than two hours long. All members of your committee must be present (for policies on participation remotely, see here). It consists of an oral presentation of your dissertation research (normally no more than 45 minutes long), and questions by the committee about your research and your dissertation. Only your committee and members of the graduate faculty are allowed to remain after the presentation. At the end of the exam, the committee will ask you to leave the room while they confer in private, to decide whether your defense has been satisfactory. For further information on the dissertation defense, you can consult the relevant parts of the UMCP Graduate Catalog.

To complete your degree, you must pass the oral examination and make all changes in the dissertation required by the examination committee. You must then electronically submit one copy of the corrected dissertation to the Graduate School. The Grad Office will remind you of the deadline.

2.6 Graduating with the PhD

In the semester in which you intend to graduate, you should complete the following forms by the posted Graduate School Deadlines:

You must apply for graduation through Testudo by the posted deadline, which is very early in the semester. Forms must be submitted to the Computer Science Graduate Office before their posted deadlines as well.

The following will forms will need to be completed after completing your defense:

  • Report of Examining Committee (via AdobeSign)
  • File your dissertation with the Graduate School. Details here.

Students wishing to place an embargo on their dissertation must file a Thesis and Dissertation Embargo Request form, which allows a publication delay of up to two years. 

3. Travel Grants for PhD Students

The Computer Science Department has travel grants for students to attend conferences where they have an accepted paper. Grants are competitive and awards are decided by the Graduate Director. Students can apply for these travel grants at any time by submitting applications to the Graduate Office.

The maximum amount of a grant is $500 for domestic travel and $1000 for international. The conference should be reputable and the student's request should be supported by the advisor. Students are limited to $1000 in grant funding during their degree program, subject to availability of funds. 

To apply, submit this form outlining your request and uploading a combined PDF support document that includes a copy of the paper to be presented and a statement of support (e.g., e-mail) from your faculty advisor.

Students are also encouraged to apply for funds for conference registration fees and matching travel funds via the Graduate School’s travel grants.

4. Internships

Graduate students may undertake paid internships during the summer months. International students should check with International Education Services (IES) for the procedures to be followed.

5. M.S. Degree Requirements

The department offers both thesis and non-thesis options for the Master of Science degree in computer science. The following requirements apply to both options.

  1. Graduate credits: You must complete at least 30 credit hours of approved coursework, with a B average.
    1. These courses must be at the 400 level or higher, with at least 18 credit hours at the 600-800 level. CMSC641, CMSC642, CMSC643, and CMSC644 can be used toward the 30-credit-hours requirement, but cannot be used toward the 18-credit-hours requirement (the registration for these courses is handled by OES).
    2. At least 21 credit hours must be in computer science courses.
    3. Students completing the MS degree without thesis may count six credits of CMSC 798 (excluding 798E or 798F) toward the 30-credit requirement.
    4. Courses from other departments must be approved by your advisor; you must submit a written approval to the Graduate Office prior to the start of the semester in which the course is to be done.
  2. Qualifying coursework: You must complete at least four MS qualifying computer science courses at the 600-800 level in four out of the eight areas. You must complete at least two courses with either an A or A+, and two courses with at least a B or above. 
  3. You must be registered for at least one credit in the semester in which you expect to receive your degree.
  4. Transferring graduate credits: You may transfer no more than six credit hours from another university or another program at the University of Maryland, College Park (with the exception as noted below and those admitted via the Combined BS/MS program). If you wish to take these credits after you are admitted to the University of Maryland Graduate School, you may do this only with prior written approval of your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School.
  5. Transferring graduate credits from the Graduate Certificate in Data Science and Professional Masters programs: You may do an internal transfer of up to 12 credit hours from the Graduate Certificate in Data Science. However, those courses (CMSC641-644) do not count towards the 18 credit hours required at the 600-800 level, nor do they count as MS qualifying courses; e.g., you must do additional 18 credit hours at the 600-800 level if you transfer 12 credit hours from the Certificate courses. DATA and MSML courses cannot be counted towards the MS. ENPM courses can count as an elective only with adviser approval.
  6. Time limit: You must complete all requirements for your degree no later than five years after the date you were admitted to the program. Further details can be found here. 

5.1 M.S. Advising

A formal advisor is not required for MS students with regard to coursework selection. When you enter the MS program, and especially once your research interests become clearer, you may want to find a research advisor. You may choose to do a research project (and register for CMSC 798 research credits) ​with a professor, who would then become your advisor. You may also choose to do a thesis with the advisor, or opt for the scholarly paper route.

MS students should consult the MS Milestone Tracker and the following resources:

5.2 Continuation to Ph.D. Program

MS students who want to continue with a PhD should plan to apply to the PhD program via the standard online application, targeting admission for the term following the final term of their MS. Current MS students will have their application fee waived. Additionally, although most PhD students are only admitted during the Fall term, current MS students may be able to apply for Spring PhD admission with the support of a research advisor.

Students applying to continue to the PhD, and wishing to have their MS courses count, should structure their program to ensure coursework is eligible for credit towards the degree (i.e., not 400-level; see section 2.3 on PhD Pre-Candidacy Requirements). Most importantly, the application should include three letters of recommendation from current UMD faculty speaking to your research ability. It is recommended that students do research with faculty members and build their research portfolio.

5.3 M.S. Degree with Thesis

You must complete six hours of CMSC 799 (Master's Thesis Research) and prepare a thesis. The thesis must present an independent accomplishment in a research, development, or application area of computer science. The required format is available from UMCP Graduate School. You may count the course credit for CMSC 799 toward the MS graduate credits requirement (in Section 7). To register for CMSC 799, you will need the permission of your thesis advisor.

At the beginning of the semester in which you intend to graduate, you should plan to complete the following forms (with adviser signatures where required) and e-mail them to the Graduate Office by the stated semester deadlines:

You must apply for graduation through Testudo by the posted deadline, which is very early in the semester. Forms must be submitted to the Computer Science Graduate Office before their posted deadlines as well. The Grad Office will send reminders of upcoming deadlines

The following will forms will need to be completed after completing your defense:

  • Report of Examining Committee (via AdobeSign)
  • File your dissertation with the Graduate School. Details here.

Students wishing to place an embargo on their dissertation must file a Thesis and Dissertation Embargo Request form, which allows a publication delay of up to two years. 

Once your advisor is satisfied with your thesis, you will need to set up a thesis committee. The thesis committee must consist of at least three faculty, at least two of whom are regular CS faculty members, and its purpose is to give you an oral examination called the thesis defense. To request the formation of this committee, you and your advisor should fill out the thesis committee nomination form and return it to the Computer Science Graduate Office.

At least two weeks before the day on which you want to have your thesis defense, you must do two things:

  1. Schedule the defense, by submitting the oral examination scheduling form and sending your picture and proposal abstract to the Computer Science Graduate Office
  2. Give a copy of the thesis to each member of the thesis committee.

You must pass the thesis defense, and make all changes to the thesis required by the thesis committee. You must then electronically submit the corrected thesis to the Graduate School (https://gradschool.umd.edu/students/academic-progress/thesis-and-dissert...). The Computer Science Graduate Office will remind you of the deadline for submission.

If you do not complete your degree in the semester in which you filed all of the required forms, they will remain on-file in the Graduate School and you will not be required to resubmit them if you graduate in a later semester.

5.4 M.S. Degree without Thesis

You must also complete a scholarly paper acceptable to a professor (CS tenure track or affiliate, who need not be your advisor) in an area approved by that professor. The paper must include an abstract and references to the relevant literature. You must electronically submit by the appropriate deadline one copy of the scholarly paper to the Computer Science Graduate Office. Your paper, along with your name, will be available for viewing on the Scholarly Paper Archive webpage.

At the beginning of the semester in which you intend to graduate, you should plan to complete the following forms (with adviser signatures where required) and e-mail them to the Graduate Office by that semester's posted deadlines. The paper should be sent to the Graduate Office by the Degree Audit deadline, but should be submitted to the supervising faculty member a few weeks prior to ensure adequate time for review and to request revisions:

You must apply for graduation through Testudo by the posted deadline, which is very early in the semester. Forms must be submitted to the Computer Science Graduate Office before their posted deadlines as well. The Grad Office will send reminders of upcoming deadlines.

If you do not graduate in the semester in which you filed the required forms, they will remain on-file in the Graduate School or in the Computer Science Graduate Office, and you are not required to resubmit them, if you finish in a later semester.