The Research Milestone

The milestone is a validation by a small committee of CS faculty on behalf of the Department that the student has demonstrated the ability to conduct independent research at a level appropriate for developing and completing a dissertation in the department.


Within 2 1/2 calendar years of matriculation, each Ph.D. student is required to write and successfully defend a paper or report documenting significant technical research by the student. The paper should describe the student’s body of work and be written in a style that is appropriate for submission to a peer-reviewed computer science conference.

The Process

Ordinarily, Ph.D. students will select a subject area advisor for the milestone project at the beginning of their second year in the program and register for the Research Practicum. The Practicum will provide intensive supervision for one semester, in collaboration with the subject area advisor, as the student develops a milestone project and begins to research it. All students are required to have submitted the milestone paper and presented it to a committee of three CS faculty by the fourth week of the Fall semester of their 3rd year (5th semester in the program, or 6th semester for January admits). The Committee consists of the Practicum instructor, the subject area advisor, and an additional member appointed by the Graduate Committee. If the Committee determines that either the paper or the presentation are not satisfactory, the student has the rest of the semester to work with the Committee to produce a satisfactory outcome. If the student fails to pass the milestone by January (beginning of the 6th semester in the program), then the student will be asked to leave the program.

Students who successfully complete the milestone before their third semester in the program (both the paper and presentation) can be exempted from the Practicum at the discretion of their advisor.

In addition to this process, all students will continue to receive annual evaluations from the department.