Computer Science Ph.D. Qualifier Requirement

In order to continue in the PhD program past the second year, students in the CSE department must complete a set of "Qualifier Requirements" that consists of three parts, which may be completed in any order:

  • Core Competency Requirement
  • Programming Competency Requirement
  • Depth Study Requirement.
  • Although students have two years to complete these requirements, we advise and expect that most students will complete most of the requirements early on in their studies to allow them to get started in earnest in their research.

    Core Competency Requirement

    The Core Competency Requirement involves a yearly set of examinations that must be taken at the earliest opportunity, and must be passed by the end of a student's second year in the PhD program. The competency requirement is intended to insure that our PhD students have high competency in the undergraduate core areas of computer science. The examinations will test high level concepts rather than low level details. It is assumed that students took the associated courses over one year prior to taking the test, and have spent a few hours refreshing their memories on the topic as necessary.

    The Core Competency Requirement evaluates each of four (4) core topics of computer science, listed below. In most cases, proficiency for each topic is demonstrated by taking a two (2) hour written Competency Exam that is offered during the week after Final Exams of the Spring semester. The material covered by each exam will be defined by a reading list that will be made available at the beginning of the prior Fall semester. Each exam will be scored by the faculty as "high competency", "passing competency", and "failed". To complete the Core Competency Requirement, students must obtain at least a "passing competency" score on each exam, and a "high competency" score on at least two of the exams. Exams can be re-taken when they are next offered. However, all core topic tests must be passed by the end of the second year. The last score received for a particular area will be the one counted, even if it is lower than a previously obtained score.

    Core topics:

    1. Analysis of Algorithms. Material from CSE 340.
    2. Theory of Computation. Material from CSE 318. CSE 409 is the advanced course.
    3. Operating Systems. Material from CSE 303. CSE 403 is the advanced course.
    4. Computer Architecture. Material from ECE 201. ECE 401 is the advanced course.
    5. All students are required to take the core competency exams, even if they have taken and done well in the associated undergraduate courses at Lehigh. The one exception is that a high grade (A- or A) in a graduate course which is the graduate-level successor to an undergraduate course will exempt the student from taking the test associated with that undergraduate course. For example, receiving an A- or A in CSE 403 (Theory of Operating Systems) would exempt a student from the Operating Systems exam and would be equivalent to receiving a "highly competent" score. Receiving a B+ would be equivalent to a "competent" score.

      Programming Competency Requirement

      All PhD students must demonstrate competency in programming skills by obtaining a grade of B+ or better in a course designated as "programming intensive", and being certified by the instructor of that course as having programming competency. The "Advanced Programming Techniques" (CSE 411) course is one of the "programming intensive" courses, and is recommended for students who feel that their programming skills are weak. Programming intensive Independent Study courses may also be used to demonstrate program competency. Students taking a particular course to satisfy the Programming Competency Requirement must submit a form stating this objective to the course instructor by the 10th day of the semester. Students taking a particular course to demonstrate programming competency may be given additional work to complete for the course's programming assignments. The programming competency requirement must be satisfied by a course taken after being admitted to the PhD program and completed by the end of the student's second year in the PhD program.

      Depth Study Requirement

      Students are required to complete a "Depth Requirement" by the end of the second year after being admitted to the PhD program. This requirement entails performing an in-depth literature survey and analysis of a research area of computer science, writing an article that gives a comparative analysis of that literature and discusses future research directions, and giving a public presentation of that analysis. The analysis should include a discussion of how different approaches and results contained in the literature studied might be integrated to produce improvements. Satisfaction of the requirement will be determined by a "depth requirement committee," consisting of three members of the CSE faculty that agree to serve on the committee at the student's request. The literature survey will include seminal papers and survey papers that provide the foundations of the research area, and recent articles that define the state of the art in the area. The number of articles must be determined in a case-by-case basis by the committee, but should consist of roughly 10 significant articles. Some of the articles will be identified by the committee, while others will be identified through the student's literature search. Depending on the area, the committee may ask the student to implement selected established techniques to verify claims in the research articles. The student's article must be written well enough to be submitted to a journal publication, such as ACM Computing Surveys, although submission to a journal for publication is not required. Regardless, articles must be submitted to be included in the department's technical report repository after approval by the committee. The presentation of the student's analysis must be announced to the department faculty and students one week before it will be held, and must be attended by the depth requirement committee. That committee is responsible for certifying that the quality of the written and oral presentations, as well as the student's response to questions on the material, meets the depth requirement.

      Satisfying the depth requirement will require a significant amount of time and effort. Students are encouraged to begin work on this requirement as soon as possible. It is expected that students will perform much of the work in conjunction with taking Independent Study (CSE 492) and/or graduate research seminar courses that are offered by a member of the depth requirement committee. However, receiving a good grade in such courses does not imply completion of the depth requirement. Presentations given as part of the course can meet the presentation requirement if they are publicly announced, are attended by the depth requirement committee, and meet the quality standards of the depth requirement. The depth requirement must be complete by the end of the second year. It would not be unusual that a student will need more than one semester to complete the requirement. Therefore, students are encouraged to select their committee and begin their work on the depth requirement by the beginning of the second year. The student is responsible for identifying the depth requirement committee, and to work with that committee to determine the area of research on which to perform the literature survey.

      Approval Forms

      Forms that indicate that each of the three requirements of the Qualifier have been completed should be obtained from the Graduate Coordinator, signed by the Graduate Program Chair and any other necessary parties, then returned to the Graduate Coordinator for the student's file.

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