Jun 18, 2018  
USC Catalogue 2018-2019 
USC Catalogue 2018-2019

Computer Science (PhD)

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The Doctor of Philosophy with a major in computer science is awarded in strict conformity with the general requirements of the USC Graduate School. See Requirements for Graduation - GRAD . Departmental requirements for this degree consist of a concentrated program of study and research and a dissertation. Consult a separately published guide, available from the department office and Website, for more information concerning course requirements, the screening procedure, the teaching requirement, the qualifying examination, the thesis proposal and other requirements.

Course Requirements
Each student is required to complete two semesters of CSCI 697  (1 unit each, 2 maximum) and CSCI 670  (4 units). In addition, students are required to pass two semesters of CSCI 698  (1-2 units each, no maximum) as part of a teaching requirement.

Elective courses: In addition to the mandatory courses, each student must complete five CSCI courses at the 500 level and above, 4 units each. No more than two of these courses (8 units total) may be at the 500 level; the remaining must be CSCI courses at the 600 level. Directed Research units or thesis credits do not satisfy this requirement. Students are strongly advised to take at least one of their elective courses in an area of computer science that is different from their proposed area of research. The PhD adviser is expected to provide guidance on this matter to the student.

The CSCI 670  course requirement may be waived by examination only. Each course in the department has a faculty member who is designated as the course "owner." The owner of CSCI 670  is in charge of creating and grading the waiver examination. CSCI 697  and CSCI 698  may not be waived.

Course Requirements

Each PhD student is expected to demonstrate breadth of knowledge as well as depth in a chosen area of concentration. Hence, the required courses fall into two groups: (1) a common core, required of all doctoral students, and (2) additional required courses which depend on the student's area of concentration. The common core consists of five courses selected from the following five groups. Students must complete one class from each group:


A minimum GPA of 3.5 must be obtained in these five core courses.

Additional Requirements

In addition, all PhD students must register for two semesters of CSCI 597 Seminar in Computer Science Research for a maximum of 2 units during their first year. PhD programs in computer science are grouped into the following specializations: Network and Systems (Interaction); Databases (Interaction); Software Engineering (Interaction); Robotics (Autonomy); Intelligent Agents and Organizations (Autonomy); Natural Language Processing (Autonomy); Graphics and Multimedia (Immersion); Vision (Immersion); Theory of Computation: Genomic, Molecular and Quantum Computation (Computation); Brain Theory and Neural Networks (Computation); High Performance Computing and Parallel Computation (Computation).

Each student must select a specialization as his or her area of concentration. Each specialization requires a minimum of three additional courses. Specific specialization requirements (which may change as the fields change) will be provided to the students by the department.

Required courses may be taken in any chronological order, with due attention to prerequisites, and may precede or follow the Screening Evaluation.

A total of 60 units, at least 40 at the 500 level or above, beyond the bachelor's degree is required (including the above required courses). A minimum grade point average of 3.5 must be maintained. Students with a Master of Science degree may transfer up to 27 units.

Qualifying Examination

All doctoral students must pass a qualifying examination in computer science within four years before being admitted to candidacy. The qualifying examination tests the student's broad knowledge of computer science and deep insight into a chosen area of research.

Permission to take the qualifying examination must be obtained from the dean of graduate studies at least 60 days prior to its occurrence, and must be taken in the semester for which permission is granted. The qualifying exam committee administers the qualifying examination and evaluates the student's performance. If the examination is failed, the qualifying exam committee may recommend that the student repeat the examination 6–12 months later. The examination cannot be taken more than twice.


An acceptable dissertation based upon original research is required. The dissertation must show mastery of some special field, must be an original contribution to that field and must be presented in scholarly form.

Defense of the Dissertation

When all other requirements are satisfied, the candidate must pass a public final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

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