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University of Pennsylvania Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :15 Dec 
International :15 Dec 

PhD Computer and Information Science

 Course Level
Full Time

5 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

17802 USD
17802 USD

Application fee

International 80 USD
National 80 USD
Department of Computer and Information Science
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)307
GMAT (avg)732

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About this course

The Doctoral Program (Ph.D.) in Computer and Information Science (CIS) welcomes candidates with strong training in any of the disciplines related to modern information processing, with an emphasis on computer science and mathematics. Research and teaching form the essence of our doctoral program. Our curriculum is designed to develop the intellectual skills essential for the rapidly changing character of research and to meet the demands of academe and industry. Students develop their own advanced study focus, working with faculty mentors on topics ranging from the core computer science discipline to diverse scholarly interactions within the School of Engineering and the University.

Doctoral studies in the Department offer the opportunity for rewarding exploration and research. Research opportunities span a wide range of theoretical and application topics including robotics, vision, natural language processing, databases, formal methods, real-time systems, computer architecture, machine learning, programming languages, graphics, network security, software engineering, bioinformatics, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations with fields such as biology, genetics, linguistics, mathematics, and electrical engineering.

Our research laboratories offer myriad possibilities for exploration. Presentations by outstanding leaders in their fields at our departmental and laboratories' colloquia provide rigor, breadth, and relevance to the research and education experience. The University of Pennsylvania's schools and research centers create an academic environment whose synergy informs research and education in the Department of Computer and Information Science.

Check further details on University website

Eligibility Criteria

Eng lang – On the TOEFL-iBT exam (Internet-Based Test), competitive applicants tend to have a composite score of 100 and above (the exam is scaled from 0-120, with 120 being a perfect score) with demonstrated consistency on each section of the exam (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). On the Paper- Based TOEFL, Penn tends to admit students with a score of 600 and above (the exam is scaled from 310 to 677, with 677 being a perfect score).

  • IELTS - 7.0
  • GRE - 307
  • GMAT - 732


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Course Modules

General Requirements
All doctoral work, including the dissertation, must be completed within ten years of matriculation as a graduate student at Penn.

To be in good standing the student is required to maintain satisfactory progress and to achieve the CIS PhD benchmarks in a timely manner.

The student is required to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.

During their doctoral career, Ph.D. students must take four seminar courses - CIS 600/level courses, CIS 800/PhD Special Topic Seminars and designated CIS 700/Special Topic courses - during their studies at Penn; two courses related to the dissertation research area, and two in an unrelated area. Two half-credit seminars may be counted as one course for purposes of this requirement. A doctoral student who enters the program with a master's degree is only required to take two seminar courses at Penn if she/he took two seminar-level courses while pursuing the master's degree curriculum. Students who have done previous graduate work prior to matriculating at Penn should submit the petition to transfer that coursework to their University of Pennsylvania transcript.

The Teaching Practicum
The Teaching Practicum is a requirement for the Ph.D. degree, and it applies to all Ph.D. students regardless of their source of funding. Normally, students participate in the teaching practicum during their second year, assisting with one course per semester. However, the requirement may be postponed for students who have not passed all sections of the WPE-I, at the request of the advisor.

Students participating in the teaching practicum will be registered for one credit of CIS 895/Teaching Practicum, in addition to three course/independent study credits for a total of four credit units.

Teaching Practicum assignments are made by the graduate coordinator, the graduate chair, taking into consideration specific requests from faculty and/or students. Satisfaction of the requirement is based on end-of-semester evaluations by course instructors.

It is expected that a student will spend approximately 15 hours per week on the teaching practicum.

Thesis Committee - Thesis Proposal
The objective of the thesis proposal is to evaluate the direction and progress of the thesis project, to assess its suitability, to determine whether the student has in-depth knowledge of concepts fundamental to the research, and to ensure that the student is capable of pursuing independent research.

During the third year of doctoral studies, students must assemble a thesis committee of at least three Penn faculty, (the dissertation advisor is not one of the three), and one external committee member and present them a five page description of proposed research. (The external need not attend the meeting.) Students complete the Dissertation Proposal Approval Form which is approved by their Advisor and the Graduate Group Chair; email Mike Felker, mfelker@cis.upenn.edu & Britton Carnevali,brittonc@seas.upenn.edu orcisphd@seas.upenn.edu to access the Dissertation Proposal Approval Form; you can share the google doc Dissertation Approval Form with your advisor, committee and the graduate group chair. If needed the thesis committee may be changed prior to the thesis proposal.

Students must defend their thesis proposal by the end of their fourth year in the doctoral program, and at least a year before the thesis defense.

The proposal document and presentation should clearly address the following questions:

  • What exact problem, issue, or question is this research concerned with?
  • What limitations or failings of current understanding, knowledge, methods, or technologies does this research resolve?
  • How significant is the problem, issue, or question?
  • What new understanding, knowledge, methods, or technologies will this research generate? How does this address the purpose of the work?

What experiments, studies, or prototypes will be produced to achieve the stated goal?
How will achievement of the goal be demonstrated and the contribution of the work measured?
The proposal document should be delivered to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the defense, to allow time for thorough reading.

Graduation Checklist for Ph.D. Candidates

  • Watch for email announcements re: applying for graduation. Information re: applying for a degree/graduation and thesis formatting can be found here.
  • Make sure your bursar bill is cleared before the end of the final semester. Any outstanding balance will prevent you from receiving your diploma. A large outstanding balance might prevent you from graduating.
  • Check that your academic record is clear of all F's, Incompletes, No Grade Reported, and Unsatisfactory Progress (any of which will prevent you from graduating), that your cumulative GPA is at least 3.0. and that you have taken the appropriate courses for the PhD degree (including at least four 600 level courses).
  • If you have completed all degree requirements (including the defense of your dissertation) before your last semester, and you need only to submit your dissertation, you may be eligible to be exempted from tuition payments for the last semester. See Mike Felker to get the form for this exemption.
  • Dissertation Submission - All PhD candidates are governed by procedures established in the School of Arts & Sciences Graduate Office, 3401 Walnut, Suite 322A, and dissertations are submitted there. It is necessary to schedule an appointment (by calling 898-7444) to submit the dissertation.
  • Three forms must accompany the dissertation. One of these forms certifies that the student has met all Ph.D. requirements, and it is signed by the dissertation advisor, the Graduate Group Chair, and the Associate Dean. The "153" form certifies that the dissertation is ready for microfilming, and it is signed by the Graduate Group Chair only. An "Acceptance of Dissertation"' form, signed by your advisor, dissertation committee members, and the graduate group chair must also be submitted with your dissertation - contact Mike Felker regarding these forms and needed signatures. The CIS Department does not require the dissertation to have an index.

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

Application Requirements

  • biographical information (part of the online application).
  • a personal statement.
  • two [2] official letters of recommendation: one must be from a faculty member who is familiar with the candidate's scholarly abilities;CIS PhD application requires three [3] letters or recommendation.
  • Unofficial Transcript - submitted with applicationOne [1] transcript form each university or college attended where course credit was earned, to be uploaded and submitted with the online application.
  • Official Transcript - submitted when offer of admission is receivedOne [1] official transcript from each university or college attended where course credit was earned. This must be submitted by the issuing institution.
  • one [1] official final transcript, showing completion of the degree. You must also send a certificate of graduation, when the transcript does not list the degree earned. This must be submitted by the issuing institution.
  • We encourage all applicants that have attended a Chinese Institution to use the CHESSIC translation service when sending their official documentation. The first document is $12 and all additional documents are $10. Please note, it may take up to 20 business days for the documents to be electronically transmitted.
  • non-refundable application fee of $80. This payment must be submitted with the online application.

GRE - official score report for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) - required by all programs. In addition to the GRE, all International Applicants must meet the requirement indicated below. The institution code to use for the GRE exam is 2888. You must take the exam by the application deadline.

TOEFL/IELTS* - All international applicants and applicants for whom English is not the native language must submit offical scores for either the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS)*.The institution code for the TOEFL exam is 2888.

You must take the exam by the application deadline.
TOEFL Score Recommendations - BE, BIOT, CBE, CIS, EE, IPD, MEAM, ROBO and SE programs strongly recommend a TOEFL score of 100 or higher for all applicants.
IELTS Score Recommendations - a minimum of 7.5 is recommended for all programs.
* This requirement can be waived if the candidate has completed at least three (3) years of academic work on a full-time basis at a university-level institution in the United States or in a country in which English is recognized as the official language or where the medium of instruction is English. This is at the discretion of the individual program.

Applications are evaluated as a whole portfolio and not on a single criterion. Thus, we do not adhere to strict minimums pertaining to test scores. Averages can be found in some university publications and media such as U.S. News & World Report and Peterson's.

Official Transcripts
All official transcripts associated with an application to a graduate program within the School of Engineering and Applied Science should be mailed or sent electronically. If the transcripts will be mailed, please have them sent to the following address:

University of Pennsylvania
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Graduate Admissions
111 Towne Building
220 S. 33rd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6391

Check further details on University website

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