University General Course Catalog 2016-2017 
    May 30, 2023  

Computer Science and Engineering, Ph.D.

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I. Contact Information

Eelke Folmer Ph.D., Graduate Program Director
Office Phone: (775) 784-7592

Mailing Address:

University of Nevada, Reno
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Mail Stop 0171
1664 North Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89557-0330

II. Brief Introduction

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno offers an in-depth, cutting-edge curriculum for those graduates students seeking the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science and Engineering. Doctoral students are given the opportunity to focus on a specific area in computer science and engineering by taking advanced courses and becoming significantly involved in many aspects of original research, advancing scientific knowledge in their field of specialization.

III. Program Objectives/Student Learning Outcomes

  1. An ability to apply engineering research and theory to advance the art, science, and practice of the discipline.
  2. An ability to design and conduct experiments as well as to analyze, interpret, apply, and disseminate the data.
  3. An understanding of research methodology.

IV. Admission Requirements

Applicants to the doctoral degree program should have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, or science and have minimum experience that includes the equivalent of a Computer Science and Engineering minor. Applicants should further meet the following minimum criteria and the materials for admission:

  • A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 if the applicant has an M.S. degree.
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.25 if the applicant does not have an M.S. degree.
  • A minimum TOEFL ibt score of 80 (or equivalently, TOEFL pbt score 550 or IELTS score 6.5) for international applicants.
  • Combined GRE verbal and quantitative score of at least 302. Students who score below 155 in the quantitative section will find it difficult to complete our graduate program.
  • A one-page personal statement describing research interests and career goals. Candidates are expected to clearly indicate their research interests as well as the faculty members they are interested in working with.
  • Three letters of recommendation.

Admission decisions are competitive and satisfaction of the above thresholds does not guarantee an admission. Exceptions to these criteria may be made for applicants who show exceptional promise.

Admission fee-waiver
Domestic students that have a quantitative GRE score 165 and international students that additionally have a TOEFL ibt score 102 (or equivalently, TOEFL pbt score 609 or IELTS score 7.5) are eligible to have their application fee paid by the College of Engineering. Complete information and instructions are available on the fee-waiver program for highly qualified Ph.D. applicants page.

V. Program Requirements

Doctoral students are required to complete 72 units of coursework beyond their bachelor’s degree. Of this coursework, the Graduate School requires that 700-level courses must account for 30 units, while 24 units will be earned through their dissertation work. If a student has completed a Master’s degree, then a total of 24 units can be transferred (with grades “B” or better) from the Master’s degree to the Ph.D. degree. Out of these 24 units, a maximum of 18 units can be from 700-level courses. 

75% of the non-dissertation coursework (i.e., 36 out of 48 non-dissertation units) must be in Computer Science and Engineering, i.e., must be credits with CS or CPE codes. Furthermore, doctoral students must complete 3 credits of CS 792 Graduate Seminar, which requires attendance of department colloquia. These 3 credits of CS 792 count towards the requirement for 30 credits of 700-level coursework.

Two independent studies are allowed at the Ph.D. level.

Breadth Requirement

The students must show that they have taken at least one course, at the 400-level or above, in each of the areas listed below, earning at least a “B”. Students lacking sufficient background in these areas must complete prescribed prerequisite courses or another equivalent course before graduation.

Operating Systems 

Computer Networks 

Artificial Intelligence 

Analysis of Algorithms 

Software Engineering 

Theory of Computing


Coursework should be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor and dissertation committee. All coursework (24 units) must be taken at the 700-level.

Declaration of Advisor

The students must find an advisor and submit the Declaration of Advisor form ( to Graduate School by the end of their second semester in the program.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee should be formed within a year of admission to the Ph.D. program. The students will work closely with their dissertation committee to develop a program of study that suits their goals and interests. The committee will also play a key role in guiding the student’s progress through comprehensive exams and dissertation.

Comprehensive Exams

Before the students can become a Ph.D. candidate, they must pass the comprehensive exam by enrolling in CPE 795 . The exam has two requirements as detailed below:

Written Requirement

The students are required to submit a report covering the following to the dissertation committee:

  • Research proposal describing goals, methodology and research plan;
  • A thorough review of the literature for the research area; and
  • A description of work in progress.

Oral Requirement

The students are required to deliver a public colloquium covering the written exam and answer questions from the dissertation committee.

The dissertation committee will decide whether the student passes/fails the written and oral portions of the comprehensive exam. Students can take the exam up to two times.


The students’ dissertation must represent an original and independent research contribution to scientific knowledge. The dissertation should reflect both the ability to select an important problem for investigation and the mastery of research techniques. The dissertation must be successfully defended in front of the dissertation committee.

VI. Program Total Hours (72 units)

VII. Undergraduate Requirements

Students who are accepted into the graduate program are expected to meet requirements for a bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, or science and have minimum experience that includes the equivalent of the computer science and engineering minor. The department will consider applications from students lacking this background if they show exceptional promise.

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