Ph.D. in Computer Science 


Doctor of Philosophy study in computer science (PCSC) at Louisiana State University − Baton Rouge offers talented students the opportunity to prepare for Research careers in universities or industrial laboratories. There is a strong and continuing demand for computer scientists to work at the frontiers of knowledge in both theoretical and applied specialties. Our curriculum covers several areas related to theoretical foundations, systems and architecture, databases and data analytics, software, computational science, and digital media.

You can also download the Doctoral program quick-guide, and the Ph.D. Plan of Study form.


Ph.D. Degree Requirement and Timeline

All LSU Graduate School ( regulations and procedures apply. In addition, the rules and requirements set by the Division of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) apply. It is the student’s responsibility to read and understand all requirements such as course work, exams, time limitations, and residency requirement. The basic process for satisfying the degree requirements for Ph.D. in Computer Science (for full-time students) is as follows:

Year One

The student upon entering the program meets the Graduate Advisor of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Division who will serve as his/her primary mentor during the first year. The Graduate Advisor assesses the student's curriculum requirements and helps him/her schedule courses. A orientation/reception by the CSE Division is held in the beginning of every semester to welcome new graduate students and introduce them to the graduate study rules and regulations, active Research areas, and other opportunities. 

The student files a "Plan of Study" specifying his/her Research goals and intended coursework with the Division’s graduate office. Any subsequent changes or additions must be officially documented. The student decides on Research specialization area/topic and finds a faculty member from the CSE Division who is involved in that area and is willing to supervise his/her Research as the Advisor (Major Professor). If the student holds a Research assistantship, the corresponding faculty may serve as the Advisor. The Ph.D. advisory committee consisting of the Advisor as the chair or co-chair, and at least two other members is formed. 

The student takes three or more core courses in the first year (at least one core course each semester) and also takes electives (additional courses). Note that each core course is offered once year. He or she enrolls in the seminar class (CSC 7800), and may take CSC 7999.

Annual evaluation consists of the course work, plan of study, and feedback from the Graduate Advisor (and/or the Major Professor).

Year two

The student is supervised by his/her Advisor (Major Professor) and the advisory committee in the second year. The student enrolls in the remaining core courses thereby making the first attempt to all core courses by the end of the second year. He or she may take Research hours (CSC 9000). The first attempt to the Research Qualifying Exam must be made. 
Annual evaluation consists of the course work, Research Qualifying result, and Research topic /area, and the feedback from the advisory committee.

Year three

The student is supervised by the Advisor (Major Professor) and the advisory committee. The student must retake the Research Qualifying in the fifth semester, and must also retake and pass (with B- or better grade) all core courses by the end of year three. He or she enrolls in Research hours (CSC 9000) in addition to regular courses (electives) and may also take the Ph.D. General Examination (aka Oral Proposal Defense). The student is also expected to start publishing Research papers. 

Annual evaluation consists of course work, Research Qualifying result, and feedback from the advisory committee.

Year four

 Each Ph.D. student candidate is supervised by the Major Professor (Advisor) and the advisory committee (which now includes the Dean’s representative). The student enrolls in Research hours (CSC 9000), and also in more courses as needed. The student must take Ph.D. General Examination (aka Oral Proposal Defense) which consists of a Research talk open to all faculty and students, and an evaluation by the committee. Extension to one more semester may be granted on advisory committee’s request pending the CSE Division Chair’s approval. The student is also expected to publish Research papers. 

Annual evaluation consists of General Exam results, Research progress, and advisory committee’s feedback.

Year five and beyond

Each Ph.D. student candidate is supervised by the Major Professor (Advisor) and the advisory committee. The student enrolls in Research hours (CSC 9000) and is expected to publish Research papers. The Ph.D. Defense (aka Final Exam) is strongly recommended by the end of the 5th year and can be taken one semester after the General Exam. The student must give a Research talk open to all faculty and Ph.D. students, followed by the committee’s pass/fail decision. The Final exam requires the Dissertation be submitted to the advisory committee two weeks in advance and the exam be announced 3 days prior to the Examination date. 

Annual evaluation consists of Research progress and Dissertation writing. The graduate teaching assistantship or other divisional support is discontinued after the year five (an extension to one more semester may be granted on the advisory committee’s request or for TA3 level pending the CSE Division Chair’s approval). The Major Professor (or the current sponsoring faculty) may opt to discontinue the Research assistantship.


Ph.D. STUDY Policies

Course Work and Research Hours

The doctoral degree requires a minimum of 55 hours of credit at the graduate level. This consists of a minimum of thirty-seven credit hours of course work, not including CSC 9000, all with a grade B- or higher. A beginning student thus takes a minimum of three years of graduate course work above the baccalaureate. Students who have already received Master’s degree or who are transfer students earn fewer hours of credit at LSU as required. The following four core courses worth for 12 credit hours are required:

  • Three mandatory core courses: CSC 7300 (Algorithms Design and Analysis), CSC 7101 (Programming Language Structures), CSC 7103 (Advanced Operating Systems)
  • One core course out of CSC 4890 (Theory of Computation), CSC 7080 (Computer Architecture), CSC 7135 (Software Engineering)

The student must pass each core course with B- or better grade, otherwise the course must be repeated. Note that each core course is offered once year. The Ph.D. student must take at least 18 hours of CSC 9000 Dissertation Research with "S" grade. The student may start registering for CSC 9000 from the 2nd year and continue to register for this course until the Final Exam semester so the number of Research hours can be very high. 

In addition, the student must also earn credit in the CSC 7800 Research Seminar in the first year. Eight additional courses (electives) must be chosen from at least two of three categories listed below and must include at least five 7000+ level courses (which may include CSC 7700 Special Topics courses in specific areas as appropriate, and up to three interdisciplinary graduate courses from other departments).

Theory, algorithms, and databases: CSC 4356, CSC 4402, CSC 4444, CSC 4512, CSC 7333, CSC 7442, CSC 7481, CSC 7701, CSC 7700

Systems, software, and architecture: CSC 4304, CSC 4330, CSC 4351, CSC 4501, CSC 4700, CSC 7700, CSC 7601, CSC 7602

Computational science and digital media: CSC 4243, CSC 4263, CSC 4357, CSC 7443, CSC 7481, CSC 7700 

There may be more courses (not listed here) in each category about which you can learn from the Graduate Advisor and the Division website. The student's advisory committee and Graduate Advisor must approve eight courses and may require additional course work. Any transfer of credits from other academic institutions must be approved by the Major Professor and the Graduate Advisor. The student may also enroll in CSC 7999; only 3 credit hours apply to the Ph.D. course requirement. See the Graduate Advisor for more information about this course.


Annual Evaluation

Every Ph.D. student is evaluated annually in April. The entire faculty meet to review each student progress and to provide feedback and suggestion. This evaluation is used to decide whether the teaching assistantship or other financial support should be continued at the full level or a reduced level to the next year or should be stopped. Student with unsatisfactory progress will be dropped from the Ph.D. program. 

The evaluation format and criteria (which may vary) include: Course work and initial Research plan in the first year whereas Research report/presentation in the second year and thereafter. The student is expected to start publishing Research papers as early as possible. Remarks and recommendation by the Adviser (Major Professor) and the advisory committee are important in this process. An in-depth review (such as meeting with the student) may be conducted as needed.

Any student matter which can not be resolved at the advisory committee level is also handled by the entire faculty, and the graduate school may be consulted as well.


Continuity and Residency Requirement

A Ph.D. student must maintain continuous registration for courses and Research hours as specified in his/her plan of study. Should the student alter his/her plan of study (e.g., substitute courses for those listed on the form), a request for change must be made. If a student can not pass all core courses by the beginning of the 6th semester, he/she will be dropped from the Ph.D. program. Also, if a student can not take or pass the general exam (proposal Defense) by the end of 4th year (unless an extra semester is granted), he/she will be dropped from the Ph.D. program. 

A dual degree enrollment (Ph.D. in computer science and MS in computer science) or a change from doctoral program to MS program may be granted on the advisory committee’s request pending the approval of the CSE Graduate Advisor or the Division Chair. A Ph.D. student must not register in CSC 7090 or CSC 8000 before obtaining the approval. The graduate teaching assistantship will be stopped as soon as the student decides/intends to either enroll in or switch to Master’s program.After the approval of the plan of study, the student begins to fulfill the residency requirement, which consists of two successive semesters of full-time course work. The Graduate Advisor in conjunction with the Graduate School must approve any transfer credit.


Advisory Committee

The advisory committee must be formed by the end of first year. The Major Professor or Advisor serves as the chair of the committee, which has, at least, two other members (one of them being CSE faculty). The chair and members all are chosen from the Graduate Faculty in Computer Science and Engineering. In the event that the Research area requires additional supervision from a faculty member not in Computer Science and Engineering (or the student has chosen to have a minor field of study), a member must also be chosen from the Graduate Faculty in that area, subject to approval by the Major Professor and the Graduate Advisor. An adjunct professorial faculty or a faculty from other department can serve only as the co-advisor thereby requiring a regular CSE faculty as the co-advisor. At least two members of the advisory committee must be full members of the Graduate Faculty; the other members of the committee can be full or associate members of the Graduate Faculty. The committee must be approved by the Chair of the CSE Division, and then approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. 

Although each student is primarily responsible for his/her own progress through the program, the advisory committee (which meets, at least, once every semester since its formation) is responsible for ensuring that the student’s curriculum is of high academic quality and appropriate to allow the student to pursue his/her Research and career goals. The committee provides feedback and recommendation during the annual evaluation, and also advises the Graduate Advisor and Division Chair on matters concerning the student.


Research Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the Research Qualifying Examination is to evaluate the Research progress of the CSE Ph.D. students and also to provide feedback for the students’ future Research endeavors. The exam consists of an oral presentation and a written report, which are evaluated by the student’s advisory committee (excluding the Dean’s representative). It includes the formulation of a novel Research problem with adequate related work and proposed solutions or technical approaches (preliminary results). Alternatively, it may consist of an extensive survey of an important Research area with interesting Research problems and a Research plan.

  • Oral Presentation: The student will give a talk, which is at least 30 minutes long followed by about 10 minutes of questions. The talk is public, open to all faculty and students. The presentation is based on the written report and the student’s advisory committee will evaluate it for both its clarity and content. At the end of the presentation the committee will convene privately to decide the outcome of the exam. Exceptionally, the oral presentation requirement can be waived (see note).
  • Written Report: The report should be a substantial document at a similar quality level of a full Research publication article. The report should be about 8 pages long using the IEEE conference proceedings template, which is available at:

    It must include title, author(s), an abstract of 50 – 200 words, and should contain the following sections (not necessarily in this order and section names): (i) Introduction (about 1 page), which explains the Research problem and motivation; (ii) Body (about 4-5 pages), which presents the methodology, Research results and discussion; (iii) Related work (about 1 page), which gives the literature review; (iv) Conclusions, which summarizes the Research findings and gives future plan/directions. In case of a survey the sections are adjusted accordingly. In addition, there should be a section with publication references (about 1 page) and if needed an appendix. The written report must be submitted to the advisory committee at least two weeks before the oral presentation date.

At the end of the oral presentation the advisory committee will provide comments, and depending on the quality of the presentation/report it may request the student to revise and attempt the exam again. Every committee member decides to either pass or fail the student. For passing the exam there should be no more than one negative decision by any member. A student is allowed in total two attempts to pass the exam. The first attempt is to be made no later than the fourth semester, while the second attempt is to be made no later than the fifth semester. In the fall and spring semesters the Research-Qualifying exam (oral presentation) should take place before the end of October and March, respectively. The advisory committee comments are recorded for the annual student evaluation. Failing the exam once will give ground for possible funding loss (i.e., no teaching assistantship support) from the CSE division, while failing the exam twice will result to definite funding loss from the CSE division. In the case of Research assistantship support, failing the exam may result to funding loss at discretion of the concerned faculty.

Note: Waiver for the oral presentation requirement

Exceptionally, if a student has already published an article since joining the CSE Ph.D. graduate program, then the oral presentation requirement can be waived upon approval of the advisory committee. A student has to submit a waiver request to the committee, with justification explaining the student’s contribution to the publication, the importance of the venue, the significance of the results and the impacts to the Research community, and a future plan (about 1 page). The publication article must be a full refereed paper in proceedings or journal, at least in the accepted status. In case of a conference paper it would be helpful if the student has presented the paper before. The publication must have the LSU CSE affiliation of the student with appearance or acceptance date after the student joined the Ph.D. program. The student should be first author (or the main contributor in case of alphabetical author ordering). The publication substitutes the written report requirement.

If all advisory committee members approve the waiver request, then the student passes automatically the Research Qualifying Examination. (Otherwise, the student goes through the normal process of the oral presentation and written report submission.)

The waiver request must be submitted at least three weeks before the date of what would have been the oral presentation, and the response by the committee members will be given within a week.

At the request of the student, even with the granted waiver the student can still give the presentation in front of the committee to receive feedback (with no additional pass/fail decision).


Ph.D. General Examination (Proposal Defense)

After successfully passing the Research Qualifying Exam and satisfying the core course requirement, the student must submit a written proposal of his/her doctoral Research project to the student’s committee. After the student requests the Graduate School for the exam, it appoints one additional member (called Dean’s Representative) to the committee. The proposal is discussed and defended before the student’s advisory committee in the General Examination, which must be held before the end of the fourth year (unless an extra semester is granted on the committee’s request pending to the Division Chair’s approval). The other students and the faculty may also attend the seminar. After passing the General Exam, the student is admitted to candidacy for the degree. The student should begin to take the CSC 9000 Dissertation Research course, if he or she has not already begun to do so. At least 18 hours of CSC 9000 must be taken and passed with "S" grade. The number of Research hours is generally expected to be high.


Ph.D. Final Examination (Dissertation Defense)

The primary goal of a doctoral program is to ensure that the student is able to conduct independent Research on a significant problem in the field of computer science. For this reason, each student must prepare a Dissertation (thesis) describing original Research in computer science and submit it to his/her advisory committee. The Dissertation Research must be of sufficient quality and depth to merit publication of the results in a refereed scholarly journal. A paper describing the bulk of the Research should be submitted to such a journal or accepted for presentation at a refereed national meeting (conference) of some relevant professional society. The advisor committee may require technical report be prepared on the student’s Ph.D. work.

The student defends the Dissertation in a public oral Examination (called the Final Exam or Defense) before his or her advisory committee. The student must spend one semester after the General Exam. The other students and the faculty may also attend the seminar. The student must submit his/her Dissertation to the advisory committee at least 2 weeks before the exam date. Final approval of the Dissertation by the full advisory committee (including the Dean’s Representative), and approval by the Graduate School constitute completion of the requirements for the doctoral degree. The room, time, and date of the presentation Examination, along with the names of the candidate and advisory committee members, and the title and abstract of the Dissertation, must be announced in advance at least, 3 working days before the exam. Failure to follow this policy is sufficient cause for postponement of the exam.