Computer Science Program
The Doctoral Degree Program Requirements
All Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) Computer Science
(CS) students are admitted directly into a full-time common graduate
program that leads to either:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), if the student is selected and
passes the Qualifying Examination; or
- Master of Science (SM), if the student fails the Qualifying
Examination but meets the SM requirements;
- Opts to complete his/her graduate studies with SM
The requirements for the doctoral degree consist
of the successful completion of the following components:
- Graduate Coursework;
- Qualifying Examination,
- Teaching Assignment; and
- Doctoral Thesis.
Planning and timing of the doctoral
The timing of the various requirements in the doctoral
program will vary from student to student and moderate variations
are expected. However, the SMA CS Program does have expectations
which should guide the student and his/her co-supervisors in their
planning. The SMA CS Program has also established a few critical
deadlines that have important consequences. The schedule below represents
the timing that the SMA CS Program would expect of a typical student
who enters into the Program, assuming each academic year starts
from June and ends in May.
|Jun - Aug
2) Summer Conference at MIT
|Sep - Nov
||Choose research area/project
||1) Conditional streaming into SM or PhD track
2) Start project
||Confirm PhD candidate status
||Complete SM project
||PhD Qualifying Exam
|Sep – Nov
||Continue with coursework
||PhD Qualifying Exam
(2nd try, if necessary)
|Jan - May
||If failed 2nd PhD Qualifying Exam:
1) Complete SM Coursework (if not done)
2) Complete SM project
|Jun - May
||1) Submit Thesis Proposal
2) Complete Teaching Assignment
||1) Complete PhD project
2) Complete Thesis Defense
3) Submit PhD Thesis
The student must complete at least 6 graduate-level,
12-unit courses in SMA CS/MIT/NUS, as specified for the Master's
degree. This requirement is to ensure that each student has the
formal technical background necessary for PhD level research.
In addition, as deemed appropriate by the student's
Doctoral Committee (DC), the student may be required to:
- Complete a Minor Program consisting of two courses which have
been approved by the student's DC. This is to broaden the student's
experience at an advanced level; and/or
- Complete additional courses related to the doctoral research,
if necessary (normally no more than two beyond those required
for the Master's degree). This is to further prepare the student
for doctoral research.
The PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) will be held twice a year,
in August and December. The QE consists of 3 sections.
(i) Term Paper
This section is to determine the student's aptitude and attitude
for research, based on the project work conducted so far. The student
is expected to identify a promising research area. The paper should
be self-contained, in the style of a journal paper and about 20
pages, and provide a good overview of the research problems, a survey
of existing work, and insight to the research problems, with preliminary
study and proposals on outstanding research issues.
(ii) Oral Presentation
This section is to test the communication skills of the student
and his/her ability to deliver key points of his term paper research
clearly. The presentation should be around 45 minutes.
(iii) Evaluation on General Computing Knowledge
This section is to determine the student's knowledge in fundamental
computing. The student will be asked a series of questions that
are aimed at determining
the breadth and depth of knowledge in areas of Computer
Science and/or Information Systems. Examiners will pose questions
that are OUTSIDE the term paper's research topic, but relevant to
at least 3 out of 5 general computing areas indicated below:
- Computer Systems
- Artificial Intelligence
- Algorithms and Theory
- Programming Languages
- Data Storage, Organization, and Communication
Each QE committee will consists of 3 persons –
normally 2 Singapore CS Fellow and 1 MIT CS Fellow. Thesis supervisors
will not serve on the QE committees of their own students, but will
be required to complete a research assessment report to be submitted
to the QE committee before the examination. The QE committee will
submit the PhD Qualifying Examination Report and a recommendation
upon evaluating the student.
This report will be reviewed by the Program Co-Chairs
or their designates. The Program Co-Chairs will make the final decision
regarding the examination and will determine any additional actions
that may be necessary. The Program Co-Chairs will appoint the student's
Doctoral Committee (DC) at this time.
The Doctoral Committee
When the QE has been successfully completed, the
student is judged qualified for the doctoral program. From that
time on, the student's program is under the supervision of the student's
Doctoral Committee (DC). The DC shall consist of three members,
including the two co-supervisors and a reader. This committee is
charged with establishing the post-qualification requirements below
and with monitoring the student's progress. The DC meets with the
student at least once per term and reports in writing to the Program
The student is expected to carry out a teaching
assignment as approved by the DC. This will usually consist of one
or more terms as a Teaching Assistant but other arrangements are
possible. This requirement is to assure that all doctoral students
have the necessary training for technical communication and a uniquely
effective learning experience.
The student must submit a thesis proposal within
a year after s/he has passed her/his QE. The thesis proposal must
be approved by the student's DC before continuing work on the thesis
can be carried out. This requirement is to focus the student's attention
on a careful description of the proposed research and on the background
and context of the proposed research problem.
The doctoral thesis must be a piece of original
work with sufficient scope and depth as deemed appropriate by the
student's DC. Thesis work should be carried out with a at least
one semester stay at MIT.
Thesis Examination and Presentation
When the thesis investigation is substantially
completed and the student has prepared a document of preliminary
character which summarizes the work, a thesis examination is held.
It will comprise of an open seminar presentation, followed by a
close-door oral examination.
a) Seminar presentation should take about 45 minutes.
This will be announced as a public talk open to both staff and students.
After the presentation, a 10-minutes Q&A session will be available
for the public.
b) A close-door oral examination by the student's DC will follow
after the seminar presentation. The student is expected to answer
satisfactorily any questions raised on the subject matter pertaining
to her/his research thesis and related subjects.
If the defense is satisfactory, the student is
instructed to proceed with the final write-up incorporating suggestions
made during the thesis examination. If all other requirements have
been satisfied, the doctoral program is completed when the co-supervisors
sign the thesis, report a satisfactory grade, and the student submits
the document to the SMA Office.