The Department of Computer Science 3




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Table of contents

About this Handbook 2

The Department of Computer Science 3

The Computer Science graduate program
Admission requirements 5
Master of Science degree program summary 8
Doctor of Philosophy degree program summary 9
Transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program 13
Cross-disciplinary degrees 14

Graduate courses 15

Financial support
Faculty research grants 21
Scholarships 21
Graduate Assistantships 23
Other financial support 25

Resources 26
Departmental network layout 27
Campus map 28
Office and laboratory layouts 30

Graduate student life 33

Getting settled in Calgary
Before you arrive 35
On arrival 36
In the days following arrival 37

Additional information for international students
Before you arrive 38
On arrival 39

Academic staff 40

Support staff 44

Graduate student publications since 1991
Ph.D. theses 45
M.Sc. theses 45
Published papers 47
Research reports 53

What’s happening in the Department
Selected research seminars 58
Workshops 60
Research funding 60
Visiting scientists 61

For yet more information ... 62


ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK


The purpose of this handbook is to provide you with information about the graduate programs in the Department of Computer Science, the resources within the Department and the University of Calgary, and graduate student life in general. It is intended as a guide for prospective and new graduate students.

The handbook provides an informal description of the graduate programs at the time of writing, and is to be interpreted within the existing Graduate Faculty regulations available from the Office of Graduate Studies.

For further information about the Department, see the brochure entitled “Research in Computer Science” available from the Main Office, Room 247, Math Sciences building or the section “For yet more information ...” at the end of this handbook.


The Department of Computer Science

The Department of Computer Science was created in 1975, separating from what was then the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computing Science. At that time, there were 14 full-time academic staff, 2 support staff, and some miscellaneous computing equipment on one floor in the Math Sciences building. Fifteen years later, the Department has grown into 24 full-time academic staff, 17 support staff, and approximately $5 million in state-of-the-art research and teaching computing equipment covering three full floors of the same building.

Research

Our Department places a high priority on research. We continue to expand our profile by augmenting existing strong research groups with new computer scientists and by developing groups in emerging research areas. Newcomers will see plenty of evidence of a vibrant research atmosphere such as healthy research grants and high quality research publications. Currently, three journals are edited in the Department, and five annual workshops are hosted by Faculty members.

The research culture is very open with collaboration between researchers in this and other departments of the University, Canada, and international institutions. There are several research projects involving members of industry (such as the department spin-off company Jade International), and formal ties with the large local oil business. Students are encouraged to become part of the worldwide community of researchers as early as possible, through workshop, conference and journal publication, and through networking with those they have met at research meetings. Research is fun at Calgary—fun that is taken very seriously!

Graduate programs

The Master of Science graduate program commenced with the formation of the Department in 1975; the Doctor of Philosophy program was instituted in 1983. Both are thesis-based. They have the dual goal of training highly qualified people and fostering research in computer science. The masters program aims to produce graduates who will become senior technical professionals in the computing industry, while the doctoral program primarily trains graduates for academic and industrial research. Masters research need not include an original component (although we find it often does); originality and penetrating insight in at least one specific area is essential for the doctorate. Both programs are primarily oriented toward research, balanced by a course work component chosen from some twenty established graduate courses and a large, growing selection of special topics courses.

Graduate teaching and curriculum

The curriculum is designed to reflect current trends and topics in computer science, while focusing on a slate of core subjects. The graduate courses are continually revised to ensure that they reflect the current state of the discipline. Small classes permit individual attention and allow the curriculum to be tailored to student needs.

Undergraduate teaching

The current staff and teaching capabilities of the Department allow approximately 150 computer science majors per year. Details of the undergraduate program, admission requirements to the University and Faculty of Science, academic regulations, and the academic year schedule can all be found in the University Calendar. A flow chart of undergraduate courses and prerequisites appears at the end of this handbook.

The Computer Science graduate program

The Department offers graduate programs leading to M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees. Both degrees are thesis-based: students must produce and successfully defend a thesis in order to receive a degree. Although the emphasis is on research, some course work is required.

The M.Sc. program normally requires two years of study (one year full time) including the equivalent of four one-semester courses at the graduate level, and a thesis. For Ph.D. students who do not already have an M.Sc., the Department normally requires the equivalent of six one-semester courses at the graduate level, and a thesis. For those who do, the Department normally requires two one-semester courses at the graduate level, and a thesis.

The graduate programs are run under the umbrella of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, which is responsible for most graduate programs in the University. Within the Department the Graduate Coordinator is responsible for the administration of the programs. This section contains an informal summary of the programs; detailed regulations can be found in the Graduate Calendar available from the Office of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.


Admission requirements

Entry to the programs is competitive; only very promising applicants are admitted. Applicants to the M.Sc. program must have a recognized B.Sc. in Computer Science with an honours standing, or an equivalent background. Students with insufficient background in Computer Science are normally required to spend a term or year qualifying, by taking at least four full year Computer Science courses at the third and fourth year level of which two or more are fourth year courses.

A recognized M.Sc. in Computer Science is usually a requirement for entry to the Ph.D. program. Excellent students who progress well at the Masters level may be able to transfer directly to the Ph.D. program. Each case is considered individually, but guidelines for “exceptional progress” include a grade-point average of at least 3.7 (on a 4-point scale) in graduate courses taken for the M.Sc. program, and the approval of a specially appointed Transfer Committee.

Applications should be initiated by writing to the Department. Visa student applicants will be asked to submit a preliminary questionnaire. If this questionnaire appears promising, official application forms will be sent. You must submit an application form, a $50 fee, three letters of reference and official academic transcripts.

Proficiency in the English language is required. As a result, non-Canadians whose native language is not English are usually required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and achieve a minimum score of 600 to be considered for entry into the Department.

In order to evaluate applicants from different backgrounds according to a uniform standard, overseas applicants are required to have taken the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) general test.

Early application for both programs is advisable in order to allow for delays in the completion of admission procedures (including the collection and review of transcripts, letters of reference, and so on).

Application must be made by April 15 for the September entry, and September 30 for the January admission. (There are earlier deadlines for major scholarship applications; see below under Financial Support.) It is also possible to enter the program in either May or July, but this is not common.

Later applicants may be considered if places are available, but admission may be delayed until the following year. Applicants are encouraged to apply for conditional acceptance prior to completion of their current program in order to assist in meeting deadlines.

In summary, the application procedure is as follows:

1. Initial enquiry received by department.

2. Program information and questionnaire sent out for visa students. Qualified others will be sent the questionnaire and official application forms.

3. Questionnaire received and screened on the basis of:
(a) Computer science background: B.Sc. for M.Sc. program; M.Sc. for Ph.D. program
(b) Grade point average: at least 3.0 over last two years of degree program
(c) For non-Canadians: TOEFL score of 600 or better, GRE with pass
If (a) or (b) is unsatisfactory, a rejection letter is sent to the applicant.
If TOEFL or GRE scores are missing for non-Canadians, the applicant receives request for them.


4. If questionnaire is satisfactory, application package is sent out.

5. Applicant returns the following items to the department:
(a) completed application form
(b) two official transcripts and degree certificates (plus translation if not in English)
(c) three reference letters (sent directly by references)
(d) $50 application fee
(e) TOEFL and GRE official scores if non-Canadian
Deadline for completed applications is April 15th for September admission, September 30th for January admission.

6. When file is complete, it is evaluated by the Department. It is reviewed by at least three faculty members in the applicant’s research area for review (normally those in research areas named in applicant’s questionnaire).

7. File then goes to the Graduate Affairs Committee for selection. Meetings are held in May for September admission and October for January admission.

Entry to the Department is highly competitive. Applications are assessed in terms of:

(a) The match between an applicant’s research interests and the resources available in terms of research activities, equipment and supervision in the Department.

(b) Grade point average: preferably at least 3.5 over senior Computer Science courses (10 full-course equivalents).

(c) Background interests in terms of references, experience, projects, papers, and so on.

8. If accepted, original documentation is sent to Faculty of Graduate Studies for official approval, and the applicant receives a letter saying that admission is recommended and detailing offer of financial support (when appropriate). Otherwise, the applicant is notified immediately of rejection.

9. If approved by Graduate Studies, the applicant is sent an official admission letter.

Master of Science degree program summary

Masters degree candidates must demonstrate that they have acquired an advanced level of knowledge and understanding in their field of study, are capable of relating knowledge of particular topics to the broader field of study involved, and can present such knowledge in a critical and scholarly way. The M.Sc. program therefore requires course work in addition to the submission of a thesis.

The thesis must be an original work comprising a satisfactory record of research undertaken by the candidate, or a satisfactory critical survey of knowledge in the approved field of study. It must show competence in the appropriate method of research and/or an adequate knowledge of the field of study; exhibit independence of approach or presentation; be satisfactory in literary presentation; and include full and adequate reference to the literature.

Structure of the program

The M.Sc. program is a full-time program with a minimum residence requirement of 8 months. A typical schedule for a student registering in the Fall, who already has a B.Sc. in Computer Science, is:

First registration September year 1
Course work completed April year 1
Research and writing of thesis May year 1–year 2
Thesis submitted; Final Oral Exam Spring year 2.

A number of students have completed the program within a year, and the Department expects all students to complete within two years. Under the Faculty regulations, the Final Oral Examination must be held within four calendar years of initial registration.

Course requirements

After admission to the Masters program, a candidate must complete at least four one-semester courses in Computer Science normally at the graduate level, with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4-point scale). Courses are chosen in consultation with the student’s supervisor (or interim advisor) to round out the Computer Science background and provide a foundation for the area of research specialization.


Final Oral Examination

Upon completion of the thesis, the candidate must sit the Final Oral Examination. The dissertation is adjudicated by a Final Examining Committee.

Supervisor

Each student’s program is arranged by a supervisor who guides the student through the research and thesis writing stages. In consultation with the Graduate Director, a student chooses an interim advisor on entry to the program. Students must have a permanent supervisor by the second annual registration.

Final Oral Examination Committee

For the Final Oral Examination, the student’s supervisor chooses at least two other faculty members, one of whom is from outside the candidate’s own department.


Doctor of Philosophy degree program summary

Candidates must demonstrate by the presentation of a thesis and by performance at an oral examination that they are capable of pursuing original research in their field of study, relating particular research projects to the general body of knowledge in the field, and presenting the results of their research in a critical and scholarly way.

Candidates must also demonstrate that they have a rounded knowledge of a broad area of specialization within Computer Science. The Ph.D. program therefore requires course work to round out a candidate’s knowledge, plus written and oral candidacy examinations, in addition to the submission of a thesis.

The thesis must be an original work making a significant contribution to knowledge in or understanding of the field of study, and containing material worthy of publication. It must show adequate knowledge of the field of study and relevant literature; show the exercise of critical judgment with regard to both the candidate’s work and that of other scholars in the same field; contain material which presents a unified body of work such as could reasonably be achieved on the basis of three years of postgraduate study and research; be satisfactory in its literary presentation; give full and adequate references; and have a coherent structure understandable by a scholar in the same general field with regard to intentions, background, methods and conclusion.

Structure of the program

The Ph.D. program is a full-time program with a minimum residence requirement of two years (for an M.Sc. graduate) or three years (for a B.Sc. graduate). The expected schedule for a M.Sc. graduate registering in the Ph.D. program in the Fall is:

First registration September year 1
Research area specified By March year 1
Course work completed April year 1
Research proposal submitted By end of year 1
Departmental Written Examination Middle year 2
Faculty Candidacy Examination (oral) Middle year 2
Thesis submitted; Final Oral Examination End year 3.

A student entering the program without an M.Sc. or transferring into it from the M.Sc. program would be expected to take up to a year longer.

Constraints on the schedule are:

(a) both course work and research proposal must be complete before the Departmental Written Examination is attempted;

(b) the Faculty Candidacy Examination must be taken no more than 28 months after initial registration for a candidate with a completed Master’s degree, or within 36 months for a candidate with a Bachelor’s degree or who transfers to a doctoral program before Master’s is complete.

(c) the Final Oral Examination must be held at least two and at most six calendar years after initial registration.

Course requirements

After admission to the doctoral program, a Ph.D. candidate must complete at least two one-semester courses in Computer Science past the M.Sc. level, with a grade-point average of at least 3.3 (on a 4-point scale). Courses are chosen in consultation with the student’s supervisor (or interim advisor), and are intended to give students background knowledge for their area of specialization. The student’s Supervisory Committee (see below) may specify additional courses and/or reading for a student whose background appears to be deficient.


Research proposal

Each candidate must prepare a research proposal which will contain an abstract, a literature survey, an analysis of the literature, an overview of the proposed research (including a statement of problems to be investigated and approaches to solving them), and references. The body of the proposal should be between 6 and 20 typeset pages; additional material may be included as Appendices. This proposal will provide the focus for questions related to the candidate’s thesis topic in the Faculty Candidacy Examination. The proposal must be approved by the Supervisory Committee before the Departmental Written Exam.

Departmental Written Examination

The Departmental Written Examination consists of both closed book exams and a take-home exam. It is intended to ensure that every Ph.D. candidate has background knowledge of the area of specialization. The area of specialization should be fairly broad (such as Artificial Intelligence, Computational Complexity, Computer Graphics, Machine Learning, Software Verification, etc.). The scope of the examination is indicated by a reading list, prepared by the supervisor in consultation with the Supervisory Committee and other members of the department interested in the area of specialization, which must be given to the candidate at least two months prior to the examination. Questions should be set by the Supervisory Committee whenever possible, and must be approved in advance by the Graduate Director.

Faculty Candidacy Examination

The Faculty Candidacy Examination is an oral examination intended to assess both the candidate’s preparation in subjects relevant to the general field of research, and his/her research potential. Candidates who have passed their required courses and the Departmental Written Examination may proceed to the Faculty Candidacy Examination. The papers completed by the student for the Departmental Written Examination, and the research proposal, will be circulated amongst the examiners in advance and will serve as a basis for questioning at the oral.

Final Oral Examination

The final checkpoint is the production of a Ph.D. dissertation. The dissertation is adjudicated by a Final Examining Committee, which also conducts the Final Oral Examination. The Final Examining Committee will assess the candidate’s ability to initiate and pursue original research at a high level and ensure that the candidate’s achievements represent a distinct advance in knowledge in the field of specialization. The research should be of a sufficiently significant and original nature as to warrant publication of its results in recognized journals requiring critical review.

Administration of the program

Each student’s program is arranged by a supervisor in conjunction with several committees: the Supervisory Committee, the Faculty Candidacy Committee, and the Final Oral Examination Committee. All committees are normally chaired by the candidate’s supervisor. Care is taken that members of the department working in the candidate’s area of specialization are included, both in the Supervisory Committee and in its expansion to the examination committees.

Supervisor

In consultation with the Graduate Director, a student chooses an interim advisor on entry into the program. Students must choose a supervisor no later than the second annual registration.

Supervisory Committee

Course work and research for a doctoral program are carried out under the direction of a Supervisory Committee which normally consists of two faculty members in addition to the candidate’s supervisor. The Supervisory Committee should be appointed as soon as possible and no later than three months after the supervisor’s appointment.

Faculty Candidacy Committee

For the Faculty Candidacy Examination, the Supervisory Committee is augmented by two other members, one of whom must be from another department if an external member is not already a member of the supervisory committee.

Final Oral Examination Committee

For the Final Oral Examination, the Supervisory Committee is augmented by at least two other members, one of whom must be external to the student’s home department and the other external to the University of Calgary and a recognized authority in the candidate’s field of research.

Transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program

Students without a master’s degree who apply for entry to the Ph.D. program are normally admitted first to the M.Sc. program and then later transferred to the Ph.D. program if this program is satisfactory. Also students in the M.Sc. program who are making exceptional progress may apply for transfer to the Ph.D. program. A G.P.A. of 3.7 or better on graduate courses is expected of students applying for transfer.

The procedure for transfer is that the supervisor of a student in the M.Sc. program requests that a student be evaluated for transfer to the Ph.D. program.

A Transfer Committee is appointed by the Graduate Coordinator to make a recommendation relating to transfer. This will normally include the intended members of the Supervisory Committee should the transfer be approved, together with others knowledgeable in the subject area. The student supplies the Committee with a dossier specifying a research program together with other material supporting the case of transfer, such as reports and papers written by the student, draft M.Sc. chapters, and so on. The committee meets for up to two hours, hears a presentation by the student on the proposed research program for up to 15 minutes, and then puts rounds of questions to the student relating to the student’s capability to undertake Ph.D. research.

If the Transfer Committee recommends the transfer it sends this recommendation to the Graduate Affairs Committee which normally endorses it and sends it to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval.

The Transfer Committee also normally recommends a supervisory committee and addresses the preparation of the Candidacy examinations, reading lists, schedule, and so on.

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