Rahul Simha
Professor of Computer Science


Department homepage
GW homepage

The PhD in Computer Science program requirements are quite straightforward: (1) you take the 3 core courses, (2) pass the prelim exams, (3) complete the remaining course requirements, (4) defend a proposal, (5) do your research while completing thesis credits, and finally, (6) defend your thesis.

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

  • I've done much of the core-course material from another institution. Do I need to take the courses here? You might not need to take the courses, but you should at least sit in some of them. The reason is, the prelim exams are based on these courses and questions in the prelims are set by the faculty who teach these courses. You can get copies of recent exams and course notes for some of these courses, but it nonetheless helps to sit in. To get a waiver, you'll need to bring transcripts and course descriptions from your other institution to your advisor, who needs to examine them before signing off. Note: at most two courses can be transferred in this way.

  • When is the right time to start research? After the prelims or after finishing all course requirements? The right time is now. Don't wait until you complete coursework. It's best to start early because it takes a while to learn what research is, what topics might interest you, and how to formulate a research question. Starting early gives you time to make mistakes and recover.

  • I need to take courses to fulfill course requirements, but I don't seem to find many relevant ones. What can I do? If you and your advisor think you've taken enough courses but you still have course credits to complete, you can take independent studies.

  • How will I know if I'm ready to defend a proposal? Usually, this is between you and your advisor. Generally, you need to have a well-defined problem and need to have made the case, via a rigorous literature review, that the problem (or your approach) is new and significant. You also need to make the case that your approach has a reasonable chance of success.