PhD Program

Acadmic Progress and Milestones

  • First Year Requirements

 First year students are required to take two 3-quarter-course sequences; one is an analytic/physical mathematics+modeling track, which includes applied dynamical systems, applied functional analysis, and PDE, and the other track is a computational one that includes matrix computation, optimization and machine learning.

In addition to these first year required courses, students take an elective course each quarter. They are assigned a first-year advisor who will help them select appropriate elective courses for their interests. 

At the end of the first year, students are assessed in these areas with a pair of exams, one on each of the tracks. For these, students must choose 2 out of the 3 courses, for each track, for their exam questions.

While students need only take courses in their first year, most take courses well into their second, in addition to taking reading courses and research seminars.

  • Thesis Advisor and Dissertation Committee

Students typically select a thesis advisor by the end of their second year, and choose a three-person thesis committee with that advisor.

By the end of the third year, each Ph.D. student must have a dissertation advisor and, after consultation with their advisor, shall establish a thesis committee of at least three faculty members, including the advisor. At least two of the dissertation committee members must be faculty of the Committee on Computational and Applied Mathematics. A CAM form listing the committee members, with their signatures, must be approved by the Director of CCAM, and filed with the CAM student affairs administrator by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year. The composition of the committee may be changed at any time if the student or faculty so choose; however, it must always include the student's dissertation advisor and at least two of the committee members must be faculty members from the Committee on Computational and Applied Mathematics. Any such change must be filed as a resubmitted and newly completed and signed form with the CAM student affairs administrator.

  • Proposal Presentation and Admission to Candidacy

No later than the end of Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students should have scheduled and completed a proposal presentation to their committee, in order to be advanced to candidacy. The proposal presentation is typically an hourlong meeting that begins with a 30-minute presentation by the student, followed by a question and discussion period with the committee. The proposal meeting will be scheduled by the student and his or her committee and reported to the CAM student affairs administrator. Acceptance of the proposal by the Dissertation Committee is a formal requirement of CAM’s Ph.D. program; all committee members must sign the form approving the proposal. After a successful proposal presentation, the student will be formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. By University rules, the dissertation defense cannot occur earlier than 8 months after admission to candidacy, and the student should keep this in mind when scheduling both the proposal presentation and the defense.

Following advancement to candidacy, during each year that the student remains, the student is required to have a yearly meeting with the dissertation committee leading up to the final thesis defense.

  • Dissertation Defense

The Ph.D. degree will be awarded following a successful defense and the electronic submission of the final version of the dissertation to the University's Dissertation Office. In this process, a number of University and Department deadlines have to be obeyed. Listed in reverse order, the steps are:

a) Submission of Final Version of Dissertation:
The deadline is set by the University and is generally on a Friday in the 6th or 7th week of the quarter when the degree will be awarded. See:

for this deadline as well as guidelines for the formatting of dissertations.

b) Dissertation Defense:
The thesis defense will be an open seminar announced to the department. Following the regular question-and-answer session, the committee will remain, together with any interested faculty, and continue questioning the candidate. The decision on the thesis will then be reached in a closed meeting of the faculty present. The defense is to be scheduled at least two weeks before the University deadline indicated in point (a). A final draft of the dissertation must be made available to the entire faculty 8 days before the dissertation presentation.

c) Committee Approval of Scheduled Defense:
A draft of the dissertation should be distributed to the members of the dissertation committee no later than five weeks before the dissertation defense. At least four weeks before the defense, the student must file a departmental form in the Department office, signed by all members of the dissertation committee, indicating that the student can reasonably expect to defend the thesis within four weeks.

These rules delineate the minimum level of involvement of the dissertation committee. We strongly recommend that students set up their committees early and that they interact regularly with the members of their committees once they are established. In particular, we strongly recommend that those students wishing to complete the degree before September schedule their defense before the Summer Quarter, else unanticipated committee requirements may lead to the degree being delayed to the Winter Quarter.