Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program

Grad student

The Ph.D. program will help you find your passion for research

Duke Computer Science gives incoming students an opportunity to investigate a range of topics, research problems, and research groups before committing to an advisor in the first year. Funding from the department and Duke makes it possible to attend group meetings, seminars, classes and colloquia. Students may work on multiple problems simultaneously while finding the topic that will motivate them through their first project. Sharing this time of learning and investigation with others in the cohort helps create lasting collaborators and friends.

Write a research proposal the first year and finish the research the second under the supervision of the chosen advisor and committee (see RIP); present the research results to the committee and peers. Many students turn their RIP work into a conference paper and travel to present it.

Course work requirements are written to support the department's research philosophy. Pass up to four of the required eight courses by exam (see quals) in the first two years to give time and space for immersing oneself in the chosen area.

Years three through five continue as the students go deeper and deeper into a research area and their intellectual community broadens to include collaborators from around the world. Starting in year three, the advisor funds the student's work, usually through research grants. The Preliminary exam that year is the opportunity for the student to present their research to date, to share work done by others on the topic, and to get feedback and direction for the Ph.D. from the committee, other faculty, and peers.

Most Ph.D students defend in years five and six. While Duke and the department guarantee funding through the fifth year, advisors and the department work with students to continue support for work that takes longer.

Teaching is a vital part of the Ph.D. experience. Students usually TA twice, although faculty are ready to work with students who want more involvement. The Graduate School's Certificate in College Teaching offers coursework, peer review, and evaluation of a teaching portfolio for those who want to teach. In addition, the Department awards a Certificates of Distinction in Teaching for graduating PhD students who have demonstrated excellence in and commitment to teaching and mentoring.

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