Computer Science PHD

Program Purpose

Ph.D. students in the Computer Science Department are prepared to be technical problem solvers, are competent in the state of the art, and have mastered a particular aspect of Computer Science. They are trained to identify and clearly formulate problems, to develop and analyze algorithmic solutions, and to direct research. All Ph.D. students are active in one of the Department's research labs, working closely with a faculty advisor. Ph.D. graduates make a novel contribution to Computer Science in the form of a dissertation and scholarly publications. They are an asset to their employers, as they demonstrate increased insight into formulating and solving problems. Furthermore, they have the skills to see the discipline clearly and to lead out on their own. Graduates are prepared with a solid background in both theoretical foundations and practical training for the lifelong learning necessary in this fast-moving field.

Curricular Structure

The Ph.D. program in Computer Science prepares students to be teachers and researchers in industry, academia, or research labs. The program is designed to teach students how to generate new ideas, to convince others that their ideas are worth pursuing, to do the necessary research to demonstrate that their ideas are viable, and to communicate the results of their research orally and through published literature. Students complete the following:

While in the Ph.D. program, students are expected to make steady and satisfactory progress toward their degree. Progress reviews take place three times each year. Students who fail to make appropriate progress are dropped from the program.

Graduate Catalog


Learning Outcomes

Appropriate Knowledge

Students will be able to teach computer science concepts at the university level.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence
Mastery of Topic

Students will be able to perform publishable research in their specialty.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence
Effective Reading Skills

Students can apply what they have learned in the current literature, assimilate and synthesize the current state-of-the-art, and understand the boundaries of knowledge in their chosen field.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Lifelong learning
Effective Analysis

Students will think deeply and originally about open problems in the field, suggest solutions and pursue those solutions to their logical conclusions while developing further understanding of the underlying problems.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Quantitative reasoning
Fruitful Teaching Experience

Students have a significant experience teachign computer science.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence
Effective Technical Communication Skills

Students have experience teaching their specialization to peers.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively
Research Skills

Students plan and conduct new research in the field.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence
Effective Publications

Students add to the dialogue of the field by producing multiple publications directly related to their dissertation research.


Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively

Evidence of Learning

Direct Measures

  1. Comprehension:
    1. Successful completion of courses on their study list and the qualifying process demonstrate mastery of advanced topics.
    2. Passing of the research area exam demonstrates a student's ability to read and understand the current literature, especially the current state of the art in their respective area.
  2. Contribution: Completion of dissertation research demonstrates a student's ability to contribute to the state of the art in Computer Science.
  3. Communication:
    1. End-of-semester student evaluations for the course(s) a Ph.D. student teaches assess their teaching ability.
    2. A student's publication record, dissertation proposal, written dissertation, and dissertation defense all demonstrate their ability to communicate in writing and orally.

Indirect Measures

  1. Comprehension: End-of-semester student evaluations of each course
  2. Contribution: Placement in position of influence

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement

Direct Measures

  1. Comprehension: Ph.D. students are reviewed three times each year by the graduate faculty to monitor the successful completion of coursework and the satisfactory completion of the qualifying process. In addition, a thesis committee of at least five faculty members is established for each Ph.D. student. This committee evaluates the dissertation proposal to ensure that the student has a broad understanding of his or her chosen area.
  2. Contribution: The student's committee maintains close contact with the student throughout the research process. This ensures that the research is significant, makes a novel contribution, and that the student makes consistent progress.
  3. Communication: Course evaluations of the courses taught by the Ph.D. student are reviewed by the department chair and the student. The committee reads and evaluates the dissertation proposal and participates in the dissertation defense to ensure that the student meets the Communication goals outlined above. Research papers that are produced as a by-product of the student's research are peer-reviewed by external reviewers as an additional validation of student learning and productivity.

Indirect Measures

  1. Comprehension: Student evaluations of each course are reviewed by the respective instructor and the department chair every semester, and areas of concern are forwarded to the graduate coordinator and graduate committee as appropriate. Copies of these reviews are stored online by the university.
  2. Contribution: The department monitors jobs taken by our graduates in order to assess the success of reaching the Contribution goal stated above. This information is used in discussions of the success and impact of the graduate program, and is used to make changes to the program where necessary.

Review and Improvement Process

The graduate curriculum committee meets on a regular basis to review the graduate program and to resolve issues. This includes reviewing the feedback provided through direct and indirect measures as well as making sure the program stays current with fast-moving changes in technology. The graduate secretary keeps minutes for each meeting, which are stored in our document repository. In addition, the faculty meet three times each year to review each Ph.D. student. The student's progress is discussed, and, where appropriate, suggestions are provided to the faculty advisor on how to best help the student succeed in the program.