Regulations Graduate Studies 2016–2017

Table of Contents

1. Goals of the Graduate Program

The University of Pittsburgh Computer Science Department (CSD) has a graduate program of study that provides high quality, advanced training in the field of computer science. The program combines course work, supervised research, and independent research, none of which is sufficient alone. Degrees are awarded at both the Master's (MS) and Doctoral (PhD) levels. The purpose of the MS program is to prepare students for responsible jobs in industry. The purpose of the PhD program is to prepare students for a career of research and/or teaching in computer science.

Graduate students are expected to participate actively in their own training, to build a foundation of knowledge in computer science from course work and independent study, to identify interesting problems for their own research, and to contribute to the progress of their fellow students as well as to the science.

This brochure lists the regulations for graduate study in the CSD. University regulations, which are listed in theGraduate and Professional Bulletin and the brochure Regulations Governing Graduate Study at the University of Pittsburgh must also be observed and will take precedence.

(Precedence is given to university regulations. Note that the Bulletin also lists departmental regulations, as a service. However, its listing of departmental regulations may be out-of-date, as the Bulletin is only published every third year. Thus, in the case of departmental regulations, the information provided in this document is observed.)

Requests for exceptions to any regulation must be made in writing to the CSD's Graduate Programs and Examinations Committee (GPEC); written approval is required for an exception to be granted.

2. Academic Standing

2.1 Graduate Admission Status

Graduate admission decisions are made by the Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid Committee (GAFA). There are three categories of admission status:

2.1.1 Full Graduate Status

A student admitted with full graduate status is certified as meeting all admission requirements in the degree program to which he or she is admitted.

2.1.2 Provisional Graduate Status

A student may be admitted to a degree program with provisional status if his or her background is lacking in some respect in comparison to full admission standards. In the letter of admission with provisional status, the student is given specific performance goals that must be met in order to achieve full status. Typically, the performance goals involve either or both of the following:

  • Completing specific courses to remove deficiencies. A grade of B or better must be earned in each of these courses. These courses will not count towards the MS or the PhD degrees.
  • Completing 12 credits, exclusive of transfer credit, towards the graduate degree sought. A grade of B or better must be earned in each course.

A student admitted with provisional status must satisfy all performance goals before completing 18 credits of course work. Normally this is six courses, or one year of full-time graduate studies. A student who does not satisfy the performance goals within this time limit is subject to dismissal. When the goals have been met, the Department recommends to the Dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences (A&S) that the student be advanced to full graduate status.

Note that students with provisional status are not allowed:

  • to hold an assistantship or fellowship;
  • to register for an MS project or thesis;
  • to take preliminary or comprehensive examinations for PhD.

2.1.3 Special (temporary) Status

A student may be admitted temporarily to take specific courses with the consent of the instructors concerned. Special students are not admitted to any degree program.

2.2 Admission/Transfer to a Degree Program

All students, except those with special status, are admitted to either the MS program or to the PhD program. Admission to a particular degree program may be at the request of the applicant or at the discretion of GAFA. Students admitted to the MS program are eligible to complete the requirements for that degree. If they wish to transfer to the PhD program, they must apply to GAFA for a transfer. GAFA will make its decision based on the student's performance in the MS program and on the recommendation of the faculty. Students admitted to the PhD program are not eligible to register for the MS project course or the MS thesis course before they complete (pass or fail) the PhD proposal. Transferring from the PhD program to the MS program is only possible if recommended by GAFA.

2.3 Probation

A student with full graduate status may be placed on probation, and thereby notified that his or her progress is unsatisfactory. (Students with provisional status are not placed on probation, because they already have a specified set of performance goals.) Dismissal will follow if performance is not improved according to the criteria listed below in Section 2.3.2.

2.3.1 Placement on Probation

A student may be placed on probation for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Low QPA. Whenever the cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of a student falls below 3.0, he or she is automatically placed on probation whether formally notified or not.
  • Incomplete work. When in the judgment of the Department a student's record shows a disproportionate number of G, I, N, or W grades, he or she may be placed on probation. (Note: A definition of the grades given in AS can be found in the Bulletin of AS.)
  • Lack of satisfactory progress. When in the judgment of the Department a student is not making satisfactory progress, he or she may be placed on probation. Examples of unsatisfactory progress include the failure to complete an acceptable number of courses and/or acceptable amount of research each term or year; or delay in taking the preliminary or comprehensive examinations.

2.3.2 Removal from Probation

The criteria for removal from probation depend on the reason(s) the student was originally put on probation:

  • Low QPA. A student put on probation for low QPA must raise his or her cumulative QPA to 3.0 or above within two regular semesters.
  • Students who are placed on probation for a third term will be dismissed.
  • Incomplete work. A student put on probation for incomplete work must complete nine additional credits of prescribed graduate study at a rate satisfactory to his or her advisor.
  • Lack of satisfactory progress. A student put on probation for lack of satisfactory progress must complete additional work at the rate prescribed in the letter informing the student that he or she was placed on probation.

3. PHD Program

A student interested in earning the PhD must be admitted into that program. Master's students interested in the PhD program are encouraged to take the preliminary exams.

3.1 Residency Requirement

All students seeking the PhD degree in the CSD must engage in a minimum of one term of full time graduate study by the end of the term in which the comprehensive examination (see Section 3.5) is taken.

3.2 PHD Course Requirements

The PhD degree requires 72 credits of formal course work, independent study, directed study, and/or dissertation research.

The following 12 courses must be completed with an overall grade point average of "3.0" or better:

Course Requirements

(see COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSES for course descriptions)

A. The following 12 courses must be completed with an overall grade point average of "3.0" or better:

  • CS 2001, Research Topics in Computer Science, and CS 2002, Research Experiences in Computer Science. Students are required to take CS 2001 during their first fall term and CS 2002 the following spring.
  • At least one course from each of the following foundation areas.

     Architecture and Compilers 
     CS 2410 Computer Architecture or 
     CS 2210 Compiler Design

     Operating Systems and Networks 
     CS 2510 Computer Operating Systems or 
     CS 2520 Wide Area Networks

     Artificial Intelligence and Database Systems
     CS 2710 Foundations of Artificial Intelligence or 
     CS 2550 Principles of Database Systems

     Theory and Algorithms
     CS 2110 Introduction to Theory of Computation or 
     CS 2150 Design and Analysis of Algorithms.

  • An additional 6 graduate-level CSD courses (for a total of 12 courses). These courses must be 2100-level or higher CSD courses and cannot be independent study courses (CS2990, CS3000), graduate internship (CS2900), thesis project or research courses (CS2910, CS3900).
  • At least 2 courses must be at the 3000-level.
  • The following requirements apply to the 12 required courses:
  • All must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Students are required to complete the four required foundation area courses by the end of the fourth regular term of study. Regular terms include the fall and spring and do not include the summer session.
  • The student must receive a grade of B or better in each of the required foundation area courses, and a grade of B- or better in each of the six additional courses; in addition, he or she must maintain an overall average QPA of 3.0 or better.
  • No more than 6 of the 12 courses may be taken outside of the CSD. This includes courses that are transferred from other universities. All courses from outside the CSD must be approved by GPEC; see Section 5.6 for details.
  • All courses must be at the 2000- or 3000-level and at least 2 courses must be at the 3000-level. Courses in the range 20xx (e.g., CS2045) do not count toward the 12 course requirement.
  • All 12 courses must be successfully completed before admission to candidacy for the PhD (This normally occurs when the student passes the oral examination during the dissertation proposal.)

B. CS2003 Requirements

  • After completing CS 2001 and CS 2002, students must enroll in CS 2003 until receiving a satisfactory grade of S for 4 regular terms.
  • In order to receive a satisfactory grade of S, students must: 

    (a) Attend at least seventy percent (70%) of Departmental Research Colloquia offered at the regularly scheduled course time over the course of the term. If there are an unexpectedly high number of Colloquia in a term (approximately more than one per week), attending only 10 Colloquia is required. 

    GSO-sponsored colloquia occurring within the regularly scheduled course time shall be included in the count of colloquia offered for this requirement.

    (b) Perform at least one (1) approved Research Activity during a regular term (fall or spring) of each academic year. 

    Options include: Presenting a GSO-sponsored colloquium for CS 2003, presenting a poster at the alumni research reception (fall) or CS Day poster competition (spring), or participating in the CS Department research competition. Other related activities may be presented to GPEC in petition for approval.

    This annual requirement shall be evaluated only in the spring term and shall consider the academic year beginning with the prior fall term. As such, students may receive an S in the fall term having only fulfilled requirement (a), with the expectation that requirement (b) will be fulfilled in the spring.

3.3 Timetable

Preliminary Exam Must be passed within 2 regular terms after full status admission.
Foundation Area Courses Must be passed within 4 regular terms after admission.
Comprehensive Exam Must be passed within 4 calendar years of admission.
Oral Proposal Must be passed within 5 years after full status admission.
Defense and Dissertation Submit an approved dissertation to the A&S Dean a minimum of 8 months after passing the proposal.
Statute of Limitations PhD degree must be completed within a period of ten calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study (or within eight calendar years for students who enter with a master's degree). These limits apply to all students, whether full-time or part-time.

Please note that each of the above milestones must be satisfied by the indicated deadline as part of maintaining good academic standing in the department.

3.4 PHD Preliminary Examinations

During the first two regular terms of study, each student must pass:

 - At least 2 courses at the 2100 - 2899 level with a grade of A- or higher

 - At least 2 courses at the 2100 - 2899 level with a grade of B or higher

At least one of the courses taken for an A- must be a required foundation area course. Students are not permitted to repeat a class that they have passed (i.e., earned B or better) in order to improve the grade (i.e., to A or A-).  Regular terms include the fall and spring and do not include the summer term.

3.5 PHD Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to test the depth of knowledge of the student in one or more areas that are related to the student’s area of research and that are approved by the comprehensive examination committee.

To pass the comprehensive exam a student must demonstrate sufficient expertise and depth of knowledge in a selected area of foundation to conduct research leading to a dissertation in that area. The comprehensive exam is an oral exam and is administered by at least three(3) CSD faculty that compose the PhD dissertation proposal committee. The committee has to be approved by the department chair at least four(4) weeks before the scheduled exam date.

The student will prepare a 30 minute presentation which will be followed by an oral question and answer session. The exam is based on a reading list. The student should agree on a reading list with each member of the comprehensive exam committee at least two weeks prior to the exam. The length of the exam is at least two hours and the focus and goal of the presentation and the question and answer session will be specified by the committee at least two weeks before the exam.

Normally, the comprehensive exam should be completed within 1.5 years of completing the preliminary exams.

3.6 Dissertation Proposal

All PhD students must conduct original research leading to a dissertation. This research must be conducted under the direction of a faculty advisor and begins with the preparation of a dissertation proposal. A written dissertation proposal of approximately 30-40 pages and a presentation of the dissertation proposal are made to a committee of graduate faculty. This committee will examine the dissertation topic and research methods. The committee has to be approved by the department chair at least two(2) weeks before distributing the proposal or the dissertation to the committee.

The intent of requiring a dissertation proposal and an examination on it is to provide opportunities for substantive feedback from a studen's committee on the dissertation topic and methods of research. The proposal and examination can aid the student in identifiying especially promising research issues and in avoiding work that the committee deems to be unnecessary or inappropriate.

After obtaining approval of the dissertation proposal from the faculty committee, a student gains the official status of a PhD candidate. At this time the proposed research is conducted under the direction of the faculty advisor. Yearly meetings with the student's dissertation committee are required. Upon completion of the research, and subject to agreement from the faculty advisor and committee, the candidate schedules an open meeting at which the dissertation is presented and defended.

3.6.1 Doctoral Committee

Each student intending to complete a PhD degree should work carefully with his or her advisor to select a doctoral committee. The committee is composed of:

  • The student's advisor, who must be a full time (primary appointment) CSD faculty member and a member of the A&S graduate faculty. A student may also have a co-advisor, but the co-advisor must have a primary or secondary (including adjunct) appointment in the CSD. A co-advisor must also be a member of the A&S graduate faculty.
  • At least two other faculty members with a primary appointment in the CSD, one of whom must be tenured in the CSD.
  • At least one faculty member from another department within the University, that would serve as an external member. The external member(s) should also be a member of the graduate faculty. With the approval of the A&S Dean, the external member of the committee may come from outside the University. The external member can not serve as a co-advisor.

A majority of the committee members, including the advisor, must be members of the A&S graduate faculty. A&S regulations require that the doctoral candidate and his or her committee meet at least once per year to evaluate the candidate's progress. The membership of the committee may be changed whenever it is appropriate or necessary, subject to the approval of the CSD chair and the Dean of A&S. The committee, or any change to its member, has to be approved by the department chair at least four (4) weeks before distributing the proposal or the dissertation to the committee. Note that the doctoral committee need not be identical to the comprehensive examination committee, although usually there will be significant overlap between the two.

3.6.2 Written Proposal

A written proposal must be distributed to the examining committee at least two weeks in advance of the oral examination on the proposal.

There is no specific requirement on the length of the written proposal. However, each member of the Doctoral Committee may request that the student provides him/her with a short document (about 30-40 double-spaced pages) that summarizes the proposed research. This document normally contains:

  • a clear statement of the problem to be solved,
  • proposed methods of solution,
  • scholarly review of related work,
  • preliminary results obtained from a prototype program and/or a partial analysis, and
  • a detailed research plan, stating the issues remaining to be addressed and suggestions for how they will be addressed, within a specified time frame.

Additional documents (including papers or technical reports) may be provided as appendices.

3.6.3 Oral Examination on the Proposal

After writing the proposal and conferring with his or her advisor, the student must schedule an oral examination and send an announcement of the examination to all faculty and graduate students at least one week in advance of it.

The oral examination (sometimes called the prospectus meeting) consists of two parts:

  • a public presentation of the proposal open to all members of the University community, followed by questions from the general audience; this component is normally 40-50 minutes in length, and
  • a private examination by the doctoral committee.

Any CSD faculty member may attend the private examination, but only the examining committee will vote on results. The doctoral committee must unanimously approve the dissertation topic and research plan before the student may be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree.

The oral examination must be announced to the CSD community via the faculty and graduate student mailing lists. This announcement must be at least one week prior to the examination. The announcement should include a title, abstract, advisor(s) name(s), committee member names, date of examination and location of examination. The abstract is due to the graduate administrator at least four(4) weeks before the scheduled proposal date.

It is the student's responsibility to schedule meetings with members of the examining committee within a few weeks after the examination to review criticisms and suggestions.

After passing the oral examination on the proposal, a student gains the official status of a PhD candidate.

3.7 Dissertation Research and Defense

The student must meet with his or her entire dissertation committee at least once per year during the time in which the research is being done. The student will also be meeting regularly with his or her advisor.

Upon completion of the research, the student prepares a written dissertation, and, in consultation with his or her advisor and dissertation committee, schedules a public oral defense.

The oral defense must take place at least 8 months after the admission to candidacy. The normal format for the defense of dissertation is a public oral presentation of the research followed by questions by the dissertation committee and general audience. Only the dissertation committee will vote on the result. If the outcome is not unanimous, the case is referred to the Dean for resolution.

The oral defense is public and open to all members of the University community. It must be publicly announced to the school and CSD (via the faculty and graduate mailing lists) at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense date. The announcement should include a thesis title, abstract, advisor(s) name(s), committee member names, date of defense and location of defense. The abstract is due to the graduate administrator at least four(4) weeks before the scheduled defense date.

It is the responsibility of the student's advisor to ensure that the dissertation is in final form before requesting signatures of all committee members. After the final oral examination is successfully completed, the student must submit his or hers theses or dissertation electronically. Check the website to see what you will need to submit for the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD).

3.8 Research, Internship Training Requirement

3.8.1 Research Training

Because the PhD degree is a research degree, students should expect to participate in research projects as a way of learning the art of doing research. Normally, a student will start by working with a faculty member on a pre-defined research problem, and later will define his or her own research problem as the subject of the dissertation.

There is no departmental requirement that students participate in the preparation of research grant proposals. However, it is desirable that all doctoral students have some exposure to the process of preparing and submitting research grant proposals. Normally this will be part of the mentoring by each student's advisor.

3.8.2 Internships

When an international student does an internship, he or she must use Curricular Practical Training (CPT). If a student on an F-1 visa has engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training, he/she will be ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

4. MS Program

4.1 MS Course Requirements

The MS degree requires 30 credits of formal course work. The 30 credits include a total of 24 credits plus an MS thesis, CS 2000; or 27 credits plus an MS project, CS 2910. Please note:

  • The 30 credits must include one course from each of the following foundation areas. These courses must be completed with a grade of "B" or better.

     Theory and Algorithms
     CS 2150 Design and Analysis of Algorithms or
     CS 2110 Theory of Computation or
     CS 1510 Algorithm Design or
     CS 1511 Introduction to Theory of Computation

     Architecture and Compilers 
     CS 2410 Computer Architecture or
     CS 2210 Compiler Design

     Operating Systems and Networks 
     CS 2510 Computer Operating Systems or
     CS 2520 Wide Area Networks

     Artificial Intelligence and Database Systems 
     CS 2710 Foundations of Artificial Intelligence or 
     CS 2550 Principles of Database Systems

  • At least twelve (for thesis option), or fifteen (for project option) additional credits of graduate (2100-level or higher) CSD courses. These cannot include independent study courses (CS2990, CS3000), thesis project or research courses (CS2910, CS3900). Alternatively, a student may count either (a) one CS1600-level or CS20xx course (excluding 2000-2009) or (b)  petition GPEC to count one out-of-department course.
  • All coursework must be completed with an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

4.2 Timetable

  • MS degrees must be completed within four calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate studies. This limit applies to all students, whether full-time or part-time. Normally, full-time students will complete the degree within two years.
  • Students must file an official Application for Graduation in the Office of Graduate Studies, 5141 Sennott Square, early in the term in which graduation is expected. A student must be registered for at least one credit during that term.
  • Copies of the thesis must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the examination.
  • The project report must be submitted to the advisor at least a week in advance of the end of the term.

4.3 MS Project or Thesis

There are two options for completing the MS degree: the thesis option and the project option.

For the thesis option, the student must complete a written thesis, taking at least six credits of CS 2000, which must be taken with the S/N grading option. The student's advisor will assist him or her in selecting a thesis committee, to consist of at least three faculty members, at least two members must be from Computer Science (one being your advisor) and at most one from outside the department or University (all three could be from Computer Science). The committee will conduct a public oral final examination. The committee must be formed with all names sent to the graduate administrator at least four weeks before the examination date.

The committee will vote on the outcome, and sign a report that will be filed in the AS Dean's office. The oral examination is public and open to all members of the Computer Science Department. It must be announced to CSD via the faculty and graduate mailing lists at least one week prior to its scheduled date. The announcement must include a title, an abstract, name of advisor(s), name of committee members, date of examination, and location of examination.

For the project option, the student must complete a Master's project, taking at least three credits of CS 2910, with the S/N grading option. Approval of a project report by the advisor is required.

Both CS 2000 and CS 2910 are closed courses, requiring approval of the faculty advisor for enrollment.

Note that students selecting the thesis option must complete a total of four electives, plus foundation courses and thesis research (CS 2000), while students completing the project option must complete a total of five electives, plus foundation courses and directed research (CS 2910).

4.4 MS Internship

A maximum of one credit of MS Internship (CS 2900) can be taken by students wishing to supplement their in-class education with practical training.  Note that international students must complete two semesters of full-time study prior to qualifying for CPT.  Further, OIS is unlikely to approve CPT authorization during the final semester of study; please talk to the graduate studies administrator or the DGS for more information regarding these issues.

Students wishing to complete an MS Internship (CS 2900) as part of their MS degree must fill out a learning agreement in conjunction with their employer and their faculty advisor in the CS Department.  Please note that MS Internships not contributing substantively to a student's graduate education will not be approved by the Department.  Completed Learning  Agreement forms (with all signatures) should be turned in to the graduate studeis administrator prior to the add/drop deadline for the term in which the Internship will take place.

5. General Policies

5.1 Advisors and Student Evaluations

When a student enters the Department he or she will be assigned a temporary advisor. The temporary advisor will guide the student in making course selections and will provide advice and information about the students's academic program. The advisor will sign the student's registration form each term, except when the student is on probation. During a probationary period, the student must have the registration form signed by the Graduate Enrollment Officer. A student may change advisors at any time, after obtaining the agreement of the new advisor. The advisor presents information about his or her students at the annual student performance evaluation meeting.

When a student begins to do independent work on either a MS or PhD project, he or she will negotiate with a faculty member to supervise this work and to become the student's principal advisor. The principal advisor replaces the temporary advisor, and assumes the responsibility for guiding the student in his or her academic program, for signing his or her registration form, and for presenting information about him or her at the annual student performance evaluation meeting. The principal advisor also guides the student in selecting an appropriate research problem for a MS project, MS thesis, or PhD dissertation, and oversees the work.

All students should meet with their advisor at least once per term. Students engaged in research will normally meet with their advisor weekly.

5.1.1 Annual Student Performance Evaluation Meeting

Once a year, the CSD faculty will hold a meeting to evaluate student progress. In that meeting, information about each student's academic progress during the previous 12-month period is presented by his or her advisor. It is the student's responsibility to provide the advisor with any supporting material that the advisor requests for the evaluation meeting. After the meeting, students will receive a letter from the GPEC chair describing the faculty's assessment. Students who are not making satisfactory progress in the program will be sent a warning letter stating specific performance goals. Failure to meet those goals may result in termination from the program.

5.1.2 Responsibilities

The following parties share responsibilities for a student's academic progress:

The student is expected to:

  • be knowledgeable of A&S and departmental regulations;
  • keep his or her advisor current about his/her academic status (i.e., provisional or probation), progress, and plans;
  • register for courses on time (preferably as early as possible);
  • assist the administrator in CSD Graduate Programs Office in keeping current his or her file, including an up-to-date mailing address;
  • notify the administrator in the CSD Graduate Programs Office if he or she changes advisor;
  • provide advisor with materials for the student annual evaluation meeting;
  • (for doctoral students) file an application for candidacy for the PhD degree, after passing the dissertation proposal examination and at least eight months before the defense of the dissertation;
  • follow the published instructions on A&S procedures for graduation, including filing an official application for graduation early in the term in which graduation is expected; and
  • deliver two copies of a final MS thesis or PhD dissertation to the CS Library (please refer to the templates online at

The advisor is expected to:

  • assist the student in selecting courses and sign his or her registration form (except in the case of students who are on probation, whose forms must be signed by the Graduate Enrollment Officer);
  • counsel the student and verify that his or her planned program is appropriate, given the student's academic goals and the CSD regulations;
  • assess the student's progress towards a degree and provide him or her with advice;
  • present information about the student's progress at the annual student performance evaluation meeting;
  • assist the student in selecting a research area and a principal advisor;
  • validate the appropriateness of the student's research problem for a MS project or thesis or PhD Dissertation;
  • assist the student in forming thesis, comprehensive examination, proposal and/or dissertation committees, as appropriate; and
  • oversee the student's oral examination for an MS thesis, doctoral comprehensive examination, doctoral dissertation proposal meeting, and doctoral dissertation defense examination. In all cases, after the examination has been completed the advisor will secure the signatures of all committee members, complete the required forms, give them to the administrator in the CSD Graduate Programs office, and communicate the results to the student.

The Chairperson of GPEC is expected to:

  • act on petitions for transfer of credit, substitution of course requirements, and similar matters;
  • announce the timing of PhD preliminary examinations to all graduate students and faculty;
  • oversee the preparation, grading and review of these examinations; and
  • report the results of the examinations to the student, the student's advisor, the administrator in CSD Graduate Programs Office, and the A&S Dean.


5.2 Calculation of QPA and Repeating Courses

For CSD purposes, a student's quality point average (QPA) will be computed according to the following guidelines:

  • All graduate-level courses taken during fulfillment of degree requirements, even if more than the minimally required number, will be used in computing the QPA. This includes courses taken outside the Department, with GPEC approval, after enrolling in the CSD.
  • The following courses are not used in computing a QPA: courses taken to remove a deficiency while on provisional status; elective courses not carrying graduate credit; courses taken prior to admission; and courses for which non-letter grades are given (i.e., courses in which the student receives G, I, N, S, or W).

Note also that students are prohibited from repeating courses in the CSD solely for the purpose of increasing their QPA. If a course is repeated solely for this purpose, only the first grade received will be used in computing the QPA. Repetition of failed foundation courses is expected, and the second (or subsequent) grade will be counted toward the QPA.

5.3 Registration Requirements and Statute of Limitations

A&S regulations impose certain conditions on a student's registration, including the following:

  1. Continuous registration. Any student who does not register for at least one credit during a 12-month period is automatically put on inactive status. In order to resume his or her program, the student must reapply for admission, and pay the application fee. If readmitted, the student must complete any review work stipulated by GAFA.
  2. Level of registration. A student must be registered at all times for a number of credits fairly reflecting his or her utilization of departmental resources. In particular, a student must be registered for thesis or dissertation credits during any term in which he or she confers with his or her thesis advisor. A student must also be registered in the term in which they take preliminary and comprehensive examinations. Moreover, a student must be registered for at least one credit during the 12-month period preceding graduation, and must be registered during the term in which he or she is graduated.  Note: foreign students should consult appropriate INS legislation to determine level of registration for legal purpose (see OIS).
  3. Statute of Limitations. Requirements for the master's degree must be completed within a period of four calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study. Requirements for the doctoral degree must be fulfilled within a period of ten calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study. For those students entering with a master's degree in computer science, requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within a period of eight calendar years from their first registration for graduate study. The CSD applies the eight-year, post-MS limit to students with MS degrees both from other universities and from the University of Pittsburgh.

A student is not permitted to continue in his or her graduate program when the statute of limitations has been reached.  Under exceptional circumstances a candidate for an advanced degree may apply for an extension of the statute of limitations.  Applications must state the reason for the delay, provide evidence of continuing progress toward the completion of the degree and include a plan and proposed date for the completion of the degree.  The request must be made in writing, approved by the student's advisor, GPEC, and the Department Chairperson; and then submitted to the Dean for final action.  Each student who requests an extension of the statute of limitations must be prepared to demonstrate proper preparation for the completion of all current degree requirements.

Under special circumstances, a graduate student may be granted one leave of absence.  Consistent with A&S regulations, a maximum leave of two years may be granted to doctoral students or one year to master's students.  An application for a leave of absence must state the reason for the request, and must be approved by the student's advisor, GPEC, and the Department Chairperson, and then submitted to the Dean for final action.  If approved, the time of the leave shall not count against the total time allowed for the degree(s) being sought by the student.

5.4 Grading Options

All formal course requirements in the CSD must be completed with letter grades. Directed and independent study, and thesis and dissertation research must be taken with the S/N grading option. This includes CS2000, CS2003, CS2910, CS2990, CS3000, and CS3900.


5.5 Independent Study and Directed Study

Students may elect to undertake individual study under the supervision of a faculty member. A student who wishes to register for CS2000 (Master's Thesis), CS2910 (Master's Project), CS2990 (Independent Study), CS3000 (PhD Dissertation Research), or CS3900 (PhD Directed Study) must submit an individual study permit request for approval by the supervising faculty member. The approved title and short description for these courses must be submitted to the CSD Graduate Programs Office before the student is allowed to register in these courses.

5.6 Transferring Courses

Normally, students will fulfill CSD course requirements by taking graduate-level courses within the CSD, while they are enrolled in the department. However, in some cases, it may be desirable for a student to count coursework done outside the CSD and/or prior to the time the student enrolls in the department. In such cases, written approval of GPEC is required.

Students can petition GPEC to use courses taken outside the Department in two different ways. First, students may apply to transfer the credits for these courses, using the credits towards the total number needed for a degree. Second, students may apply to use these courses to place out of requirements, i.e., to substitute a course taken elsewhere for a course required by the CSD.

Note that these actions neither entail one another nor are mutually exclusive. For example, a student might enter the CSD having previously taken a graduate-level course in Operating Systems. In that case, he or she might petition both to receive both 3 transfer credits and to place out of the requirement to take CS2510.

In another case, a student might have taken a course that is relevant to graduate studies in computer science, but does not directly correspond to any course required by the CSD, for example, a course in Neural Networks. In that case, the student might petition only for a transfer of 3 credits.

Finally, in yet another case, suppose that a MS student enters having previously taken graduate-level courses in Compiler Design and in Principles of Database Systems. Since only one out-of-department course can be counted for the MS degree, the student may request the transfer of 3 credits for only one of the two courses (say, CS2210), thereby placing out of the requirement. The student may then request placement out of the requirement for the second course (in this example, CS2550), though the credits for this course will not transfer.

Petitions to count courses taken outside of the CSD must be submitted according to the following schedule:

  1. A petition to count a course to be taken outside the CSD during a given term must be submitted no later than 2 weeks after the start of the registration period for that term.
  2. A petition to count course(s) taken prior to enrolling in the CSD must be submitted within the first two terms after entering the program, and normally within the student's first term. A student must submit all petitions to transfer or substitute courses taken prior to enrollment at the same time. Petitions should be submitted during the first three weeks of any given term and GPEC will meet shortly thereafter to look into these petitions.
  3. Normally, an incoming student will not enroll for credit in courses outside the CSD during his or her first term in the program. In unusual cases, an incoming student may petition GPEC during the first week of classes to count such a course.

The following regulations apply to courses taken outside the CSD:

  • Only courses taken at an accredited graduate institution and in which the student received a grade of B or better will be considered for transfer of credit or for use to place out of a requirement;
  • For the MS degree, no more than one course (3 credits) that is either taken out-of-department or is 1600-level can be counted. This does not include the required course in theory or algorithms (CS1510 or CS1511). In no case will a 1000-level course taken prior to enrollment in the CSD count towards the MS degree (including CS1510/CS1511).
  • For the PhD degree, no more than 24 credits taken at the MS level may be transferred from out of the department. In addition, for courses taken beyond the MS level, 12 more transfer credits may be acceptable. Note however, that at most 4 of the 12 required courses for the PhD may be taken outside the department. Thus, additional transfer credits (beyond 12 used to satisfy required courses) may be used towards the 72-credit requirement, but students must still complete 8 courses in the CSD.
  • After enrolling in the program, students will not normally be given approval to take a course outside the CSD in place of a required CSD course, if the student could take the required CSD course within the next academic year.

Petitions to transfer credit and/or place out of requirements must be submitted to GPEC. For each course the student must submit the following:

  • A transfer/course substitution form, available from the administrator in the CSD Graduate Programs Office, signed by the student's advisor. If the petition includes a request to place out of a requirement, the form should also be signed by a CSD faculty member who teaches the equivalent course. Students may contact the GPEC chair if they need assistance in locating the appropriate faculty member(s).

for courses taken prior to enrolling in the CSD:

  • a transcript showing the course name and grade;
  • an explanation of course numbering and grading systems at the university where the course was taken;
  • a syllabus for the course;
  • a course description.

courses that the student would like to take after enrolling in the CSD:

  • a course description;
  • a syllabus for the course, if available;
  • a statement of the reasons that courses within the CSD will not satisfy the student's goals or constraints; and
  • the signature of the principal advisor endorsing the petition.

For requests to transfer credits, GPEC will either recommend approval or reject the petition. If GPEC recommends approval, it will send the recommendation to the A&S Dean, who will make a final decision and notify the student. GPEC will make the final decision about requests to place out of requirements, and will notify the student directly.

5.7 Awarding of Teaching Assistantships

The CSD supports a number of students with Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships (TAs/TFs). In awarding these, the Department gives priority to PhD students. The following policies apply to the awarding of TAs and TFs; note that these policies are subject to the Department having adequate funds, as discussed below.

1. Students may be admitted with or without support. Those offered support will be offered full support, except under extenuating circumstances. Students may be offered partial support during the summer.

2. All PhD students admitted with support typically continue with the same level of support for the first two years, provided that he/she meets the eligibility requirements for a TA.

3. The eligibility requirements for a TA are:

(a) they are not placed on probation

(b) they score at least a 4 in the English Language Fluency Test

(c) they perform their TA/TF duties satisfactorily

(d) they complete their preliminary examinations by the end of the third regular term of enrollment.

(e) they have been in the program no more than 5 years.

(f)  they have maintained an S in the CS2003 course.

4. PhD students in their 3rd year or beyond are also typically given support. However, responsibility for providing the financial support typically moves from the department to the student's advisor. Please contact your advisor (by March 1) for details.

5. All other students will be considered for support on a case-by-case basis. Criteria used in giving support to these students will include:

(a) the number of course requirements already completed

(b) scholarly performance, including QPA and evidence of research potential

(c) the results of attempts to pass the preliminary examination

(d) the score in the English Language Fluency Test, and

(e) the quality of previous teaching performance (if applicable)

Note that it is often the case that some TA positions become available only on very short notice before the start of a term. In order to satisfy the Department's teaching needs, these positions may be filled on an "emergency'' basis, following these criteria as preferences. Students receiving these emergency appointments should be aware that their appointment does not imply any preferential treatment for appointments in subsequent terms.

6. In order to be considered for financial aid for the Fall term, a student has to file an application in the CSD Graduate Programs Office by March 1st. Copies of a vita, an up-to-date grade report and teaching evaluations (when applicable) must be enclosed with the application. Awards for the Fall term will normally be for a full academic year (i.e., Fall and Spring terms), except in the case of emergency positions as noted above. Applications for the Spring and Summer terms are due Nov. 1 and Mar. 1, respectively.

7. A student who has signed a TA contract may resign from all or part of the assignment for a given term any time up to four weeks before the start of that term. If a student does not resign from the TA assignment, he or she is bound by that assignment. Students violating this rule will not be eligible for TA positions in any subsequent term.

5.8 Fellowships and Awards

Each year, there are several opportunities for graduate fellowships and awards. It is the student's responsibility to watch for these opportunities, to determine eligibility and to complete an application.

For some external fellowships and awards, the CSD may nominate a maximum number of students. For example, the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship restricts the number of students that a department may nominate. When a fellowship or award limits the number of nominations, the CSD will follow a four-step procedure to select the actual nominations. Note that a nomination by the department does not necessarily imply the awarding of a fellowship.

  1. Determine eligibility:A student is eligible for a fellowship if he/she meets the criteria established by the organization that grants the fellowship. In addition, a student must be in a good academic standing and meet certain criteria that are determined by the department. The specific department criteria will be announced each year prior to the fellowship deadline.
  2. Seek advisor endorsement: An eligible student must discuss the fellowship with her/his advisor and get the agreement of the advisor to write a letter of recommendation.
  3. Apply: If a student is eligible and has an advisor's endorsement, then a fellowship application should be completed and submitted to the Computer Science Department.
  4. Selection of final nominees: The applications will be made available to the whole CSD faculty, who will vote on the final set of nominees. The faculty will vote based on the application materials and additional information about students' departmental activities that include attendance of departmental colloquia, and participation in the departmental research competitions. A student should write the application in a way that is clear to a non-specialist. The final set of nominees may submit their applications to the fellowship organization.

As an example of department criteria for fellowship eligibility, the following criteria was established for the 2006-2007 Andrew Mellon Fellowship:

  1. Passed preliminary examination
  2. An author on at least two papers
  3. Primary author on at least one paper
  4. 3.6 QPA or better

5.9 Grievance Procedures

Students who believe that a decision about their academic program has been made on the basis of incomplete or incorrect information may appeal the decision. To do this, the student should prepare a letter that outlines his or her position and provide evidence that supports the claim that the decision was appropriate. The student should send the letter to the CSD Chairperson, after securing the endorsement of his or her advisor. The CSD Chairperson may either reject the appeal or forward it to the Dean of A&S for consideration. Appeals must be made within thirty days of the date of notification of any decision.

A. Glossary

CSD Computer Science Department
A&S Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
GAFA Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid Committee
GPEC Graduate Programs and Examinations Committee
QPA Quality Point Average

B. Whom to Contact

Department Chair Prof. Taieb Znati
Graduate Programs Director Prof. Adam Lee
Chair of GPEC Prof. Panos Chrysanthis
Chair of GAFA Prof. Adam Lee
Graduate Enrollment Officer Prof. Daniel Mossé
Graduate Programs Administrator Mrs. Keena Walker


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