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Level 1

The goal of Level 1 is to provide a broad foundation in the field on which you can later build a research project. During this phase you will take a series of courses in a breadth of computer science topics, begin research in seminars, and prepare contributions to papers in journals and conference proceedings. The courses you take will culminate with the Level 1 Qualifying Exam, a research survey presentation.

The requirements for Level I are designed to encourage you to get involved with research early in your studies. However, you should keep in mind that the preparation for and passing of the Level 1 Qualifying Exam is the primary goal during this first phase, and research is secondary.

Core Courses

Our Ph.D. core courses, organized into three areas, are listed below (in no particular order). The students are required to pick at least one course from each of the three areas.


  • CS 752: Advanced Algorithms and Applications
  • CS 745: Modern Cryptography
  • CS 780: Matrix Algorithms for Data Science
  • CS 785: Foundation of Data Sciences


  • CS 710: Database Systems
  • CS 730: Computer Architecture
  • CS 732: Parallel Computing
  • CS 702: Compiler Design
  • CS 733: Cloud Computing
  • CS 729: GPU Programming


  • CS 723: Network Security
  • CS 735: Network Programming or CS 716: Big Data Programming
  • CS 760: Artificial Intelligence
  • CS 767: Machine Learning
  • CS 770: Computer Graphics or CS 773: Computer Vision & Conv Neu Net
  • CS 775: Data Visualization
  • CS 762: Natural Language Processing
  • CS 746: Digital Currency
  • CS 763: Data Mining
  • CS 775: Deep Learning
  • CS 743 Cloud Security

Level 1 Qualifying Exam

For the Level 1 Qualifying Exam you will develop a written survey and critique that covers the breadth of a research area and give an oral presentation of your work. The Examination Committee will perform the examination on behalf of the graduate faculty. You are expected to pass this qualifying exam in two years. If you fail the first time, you will be given one more chance, but must pass it no later than the end of your third year.

The exam process consists of:

  1. Proposing a list of research articles. You will propose a list of research articles to be surveyed, covering the breadth of a research area. The list of articles, together with an abstract, must be approved by the committee at least one semester before the presentation of the work.
  2. Writing a survey article. You will prepare an article surveying and critiquing the research articles from the approved list. While the literature search should be motivated by a concrete problem and the original proposal should identify some of the most influential papers in the targeted area, the scope of your survey should be specifically as broad as possible. It should be of sufficient quality that it could be submitted to a journal appropriate to the research area. The article must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before presentation of the work.
  3. Presenting the work. You will prepare a 25-minute presentation of your findings. The presentation will be open to the public (typically scheduled in a CS seminar slot) and will be followed by questions from the committee.

The Examination Committee determines whether you pass or fail the qualifying exam. It will evaluate you on the basis of your comprehension of the fundamental facts and principles that apply within the research area, and your ability to think incisively and critically about the theoretical and practical aspects of the field.

The requirements for Level I are designed to encourage you to get involved with research early in your studies but you should keep in mind that the preparation for and passing of the qualifying exam is your primary goal during this first phase; research is secondary.