Research Concentration

Thesis students, in collaboration with their major professor, thesis director, and guiding committee, choose a research area when enrolled. This research area is supported by their coursework chosen and then fleshed out in subsequent research hours. This work culminates in a thesis document and defense shared with the community of scholars.

Program of Study

For the MS program with thesis, the program of study requires 31 graduate credit hours:

  • 4 hours (1 course + seminar) in the CS Core (Seminar & Theory)
  • 9 hours (3 courses) in the Depth Requirement
  • 6 hours (2 courses) in the Breadth Requirement
  • 6 hours of Graduate Research (CSE 9000)
  • 6 free hours (2 courses)

Any required courses in the Core previously completed by a student may be applied for completion and replaced with another free course of the student’s and committee’s choosing. Students must have at least 9 8xxx credits (3 8xxx level classes) excluding thesis hours on their final program of study and the majority of credits must have course code CSE. See the Graduate Handbook for additional course policies.


The CS Core ensures students are prepared for graduate study and have a background in computer theory suitable for a graduate in computer science.

  • One Seminar Course: CSE 8011: Seminar
  • One Theory Courses: CSE 8833: Algorithms, CSE 8813: Theory of Computation, or CSE 8843: Complexity of Sequential and Parallel Algorithms.

Classes designated as theory by the faculty can in advance can be used to substitute for the theory requirement on a case-by-case basis.

Depth Requirement

The depth requirement allow students to chose where to focus their studies; depth courses (listed below) delve deeper into research areas of the department. All courses in the depth requirement (9 hours) must be from the same area. Courses labeled CSE 6/8990: Special Topics may count towards depth if approved by a student's committee.

Breadth Requirement

The breadth requirement allows students to gain a broader understanding of the computing discipline. These are additional courses (6 credit hours) outside of their depth area; the two courses cannot be in the same area. Courses labeled CSE 6/8990: Special Topics may count towards breadth if their area is different from the other courses.

Research Areas

The department has pre-identified courses and their research areas for choosing depth and breadth courses. If a course is listed in multiple areas, it can count only once on a program of study. The student’s Graduate Committee has final approval of all applicable courses. Currently approved research area courses are listed below; other courses may be used given a committee's approval including some non-CSE courses.

Artificial Intelligence Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6633: Artificial Intelligence, CSE 6643: AI Robotics
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8613: Cognitive Skill Models, CSE 8673: Machine Learning

Computational Science Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6163: Design of Parallel Algorithms, CSE 6623: Computational Biology
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8163: Parallel and Distributed Scientific Computing, CSE 8843: Sequential & Parallel Algorithms

Graphics Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6413: Principles of Computer Graphics, CSE 6453: Game Design
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8413: Visualization, CSE 8433: Advanced Computer Graphics

Human-Centered Computing Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6663: Human Computer Interaction
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8283: Empirical Software Engineering, CSE 8613: Cognitive Skill Models

Software Engineering Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6214: Introduction to Software Engineering, CSE 6223: Management of Software Projects, CSE 6233: SW Architecture & Design, CSE 6253: Secure Software Engineering, CSE 6283: Software Testing & QA
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8233: Software Engineering Project Management, CSE 8253: Software Design, CSE 8275: Software Requirements Engineering, CSE 8283: Empirical Software Engineering

Systems & Security Area

  • Split Level: CSE 6153: Data Communication & Computer Networks, CSE 6173: Cryptography, CSE 6243: Information & Computer Security, CSE 6273: Introduction to Computer Forensics, CSE 6363: Software Reverse Engineering, CSE 6383: Network Security
  • Graduate Level: CSE 8713: Advanced Cyber Operations, CSE 8743: Advanced Network Security, CSE 8753: Wireless Networks

Thesis Hours

Graduate students must complete at minimum 6 credit hours of graduate research, indicated by CSE 9000 sections under the direction the major professor or thesis director. Thesis hours representing work as a TA or RA cannot be used for this purpose (unless the RA position is tied to the relevant research).

Other Graduate Hours

Thesis students have 6 additional credit hours of graduate coursework of their choosing that are not tied to Core or Depth/Breadth. The only restrictions is that CSE 8080 Directed Project cannot be applied.

Thesis & Defense

The Research Concentration of the computer science Masters degree program requires that the degree candidate successfully undertake an independent research project and present the results of the research in a defensible thesis document. These guidelines supplement, but do not supersede, those provided by the Graduate School; see their guidelines for additional details such as the deadlines, exam process, submission steps, format for the dissertation, and so on.

To develop and defend a thesis, the following steps are required:

  1. The student develops a thesis proposal with the major professor containing:
    • An introduction to the research being proposed and research goals/questions addressed.
    • A review of the relevant research in the area and discussion of the research's relevancy/motivation.
    • A proposed approach to completing the research including hypotheses, proposed research methodology/procedures/experiments, and potential publication plan.
  2. The student & major professor schedules a research proposal session with the students Graduate Committee and gains Committee approval of the proposed research.
  3. The semester before their anticipated graduation, students should review their Program of Study  on Banner to ensure all coursework will be completed.
  4. Upon completion of the research, the student submits a draft copy of the thesis document to each member of his/her Graduate Committee. This draft copy must be distributed to the committee members at least one week prior to the planned date of the presentation. All suggestions and concerns should be resolved under the direction of the major professor.
  5. When the student is ready to defend the thesis and be examined, the student &  major professor schedules the presentation and examination. The thesis presentation is open to all students and faculty. The presentation is followed immediately by an oral examination of the student that is open only to the members of the student's Graduate Committee (and the research director).
  6. Once the student has made all changes to the thesis document requested by the committee members and the committee members and the Graduate Coordinator have signed the approval page, the student submits a signed copy of the approval page to the departmental office. Approval of the thesis proceeds from the committee, to the Graduate Coordinator of the Department, and thence to the Dean of Engineering. After all approvals are obtained, the student must submit an electronic copy of the thesis to the Library for final approval.

The Library provides guidelines for the format of theses. Dr. Ramkumar provides a LaTeX template for those wishing to use it, under the disclaimer that Library guidelines are the primary source of formatting and must be consulted at all times.

Previous Catalogs

For students that were admitted before the current Graduate Catalog, please refer to the Catalog archives for relevant information on your program of study: