Santa Clara University

Graduate Computer Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy in
Computer Science and Engineering


Ph.D. Program Forms and Resources

The following links are of use to Ph.D. candidates and committee members:


Degree Information

The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is conferred by the School of Engineering primarily in recognition of competence in the subject field and the ability to investigate engineering problems independently, resulting in a new contribution to knowledge in the field. The work for the degree consists of engineering research, the preparation of a thesis based on that research, and a program of advanced studies in engineering, mathematics, and related physical sciences. The student’s work is directed by the department, subject to the general supervision of the School of Engineering.

The student and his or her advisor jointly develop a complete program of studies for research in a particular area. The complete program of studies (and any subsequent changes) must be filed with the Engineering Graduate Programs Office and approved by the student’s Doctoral Committee. Until this approval is obtained, there is no guarantee that courses taken will be acceptable toward the Ph.D. course requirements.

Upon the student’s request, the advisor will form a Doctoral Committee. The committee will consist of at least five members, including the thesis advisor and at least two members from the Department of Computer Engineering. The committee must also include at least one member from outside the department, preferably from outside the School of Engineering. The Doctoral Committee will review the proposed program of studies and determine any further changes that may be required prior to approving the program.

A minimum of four consecutive quarters of full-time study must be undertaken at the University for the doctorate; spring and fall quarters are considered consecutive. The residency time shall normally be any period between passing the preliminary examination and completion of the thesis. For this requirement, full-time study is interpreted as a minimum registration of 8 units per quarter during the academic year and 4 units during summer session. Any variation from this requirement must be approved by the Doctoral Committee.


Ph.D. Preliminary Exam Information

The preliminary written exam is offered at least once per year by the School of Engineering as needed.  The purpose of Ph.D. Preliminary Exam (application form for Fall 2011) is to test the applicant’s knowledge of the fundamental concepts and techniques necessary for advanced studies in computer engineering. The material covered in the exam will be at the level of senior and first year graduate courses and will focus on the understanding of basic concepts. The examination, generally held at least once a year in the fall, consists of three individual tests in

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms [sample exam]
  2. Operating Systems [sample exam]
  3. Computer Architecture [sample exam]

and of an assessment in mathematical reasoning skills (COEN 490).

The individual tests are written and graded in a manner deemed appropriate by the department. After the individual tests are graded, and after the student has completed COEN 490, the department faculty meets to discuss the results of the exam and to determine who has passed and who has failed.

  • The students will be officially informed (by letter) whether they passed the exam or not. No numeric scores will be provided.
  • The examinations will not be shown to the students.
  • The student may confer with an advisor, who may indicate areas of weakness to the student. (These do not necessarily have to correspond to areas in which tests were failed, as a student may have shown weak preparation while passing a test.) If a student is convinced there must have been an error in the grading of a test in which his or her performance was reportedly weak, he or she may ask the advisor to request that the test be re-examined.
  • If a re-examination of a test results in a change substantial enough, in the opinion of the advisor, to merit reconsideration of the student's overall performance relative to passing the preliminary exam, the advisor may request that the faculty meet again to reconsider the affected student.


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