Tulane implements new computer science Ph.D program

Tulane is introducing a stand-alone computer science Ph.D program.


Tulane is introducing a stand-alone computer science Ph.D program.

To keep up with an increasingly technology-dependent world, Tulane will offer a standalone computer science Ph.D. program starting this fall.

Tulane currently offers a graduate program in computer science through an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. The current interdisciplinary program explores topics such as economics, psychology and mathematics and how they relate to computer science. Students enrolled in this self-designed program are required to pursue an additional area of study aside from computer science while doing projects examining the two fields together.

The new program, which was approved in December, will give students the opportunity to study computer science as a standalone field.  

Michael Mislove, professor and chairman of the Department of Computer Science, said he expects the program will give more legitimacy to the Department of Computer Science and to Tulane as a research university. 

“… Computer science is a core discipline now, and you can’t be a major research university if you don’t have a research-active computer science program,” Mislove said. 

Students will be required to engage in research and other projects throughout their courses. The department also plans to expand funding and research opportunities for the university.

“Graduate research is one of the core elements of a healthy computer science department at a research university,” Associate Professor Ramgopal Mettu said. “So we have graduate students that are trained to go off and do research on their own, but they are also integral parts of the larger research projects that you would typically have at a research university.”

The addition of a standalone computer science Ph.D. program will prepare students for success in their computer science careers, as it offers a more specific degree than the current interdisciplinary program. 

“It looks much better if you have a Ph.D. in computer science than interdisciplinary,” Ph.D. student Andrea Martin Hernandez said. “Interdisciplinary is very broad, so I think it is better to have a main focus, especially in a Ph.D.”

Despite the more focused design of the new program, students will still have opportunities to explore other fields of study. Students must complete one interdisciplinary project to earn their degree, which is unique compared to other computer science Ph.D. programs.

“It’s where computer science is these days,” Mislove said. “If you look at the effects of computer science on all the myriad disciplines … Computer science is sort of invading and providing tools that hadn’t been available before and changing the way research is done.”

For some students who were previously enrolled in the interdisciplinary program, the more targeted focus encouraged them to switch over.

“The computer science program would allow me to focus more on computer science,” Ph.D student Cody Licorish said. “Before [the change], I was doing computer science and math, so I’d have to keep track of both, which might not have played to my strengths.”

The doctoral program requires 48 hours of credit, which is expected to take about five years to complete.

For this fall, the program expects five students to enroll but hopes to expand with time. Along with the students, the faculty is expected to grow from eight to 15 faculty members in the coming years. 

“I want this department to be nationally and internationally recognized, and I think we are well on our way to doing that,” Mislove said. “There was never any question that we would settle for something less than that.”

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