Postgraduate Programs and Research

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering has established critical mass in a few research areas that are relevant to the needs of society and that can be sustained by talents from the local community. These areas are:

Artificial intelligence research studies how computers can be made to exhibit intelligent behavior in performing certain tasks, which, at the moment, are often done better by human beings. These tasks include speech and language processing, vision, motion control, reasoning, planning, decision making, and learning.

Research in Data, Knowledge and Information Management draws upon techniques from the database, knowledge base, information retrieval, software engineering and networking areas and focuses primarily on the effective integration and application of technologies from these areas. It is driven by the need of existing and emerging data-, knowledge- and information-intensive applications in both centralized and distributed environments.

Faculty members in Networking and Computer Systems are conducting cutting edge research that is at the heart of the Information Technology revolution. Their research covers wide and well integrated topics that can be classified as follows: networking equipment, networking applications, networking protocols and networking security.

Software Technologies are pervasive in that virtually all applications involving the digital computer require software to make the hardware components function properly. They can be modified more easily than hardware to adapt to changes in applications or to support additional features. Research in this area includes computer music, cryptography and security, internet computing and software engineering.

Work in the Theoretical Computer Science tries to model central problems from computing applications, find efficient approaches to solving them, and identify structures that underlie computational processes. Solutions are typically, but not always, independent of specific hardware and software architectures. Solutions may involve more modeling than algorithms, more algorithms than performance analysis, or more data structure issues than algorithmic ones.

The Vision and Graphics group leads research in image analysis, computer vision and computer graphics. Computer Vision and Image Analysis focuses on the challenge of making computers see and understand images while Computer Graphics focuses on the challenge of making computers create pictures. The major research areas under investigation include computer vision, computer graphics, medical image, biometric systems and video processing.

The Department offers a Master of Science Program in Information Technology MSc(IT), and Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in Computer Science and Engineering. Applicants for admission are required to have completed, by the time they enter HKUST, a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related science or engineering field. Students must also demonstrate a sufficient command of English.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Program in Computer Science and Engineering

1. Coursework Requirement

A student must complete at least five (5) postgraduate courses (15 credits), of which at least 8 credits must be earned at HKUST, LANG 5001 (LANG 501) Postgraduate English for Academic Purposes (1 credit), and the Computer Science seminar for two semesters (1 credit). Credits used to satisfy the course requirement must cover at least four established research areas of the Department.

MPhil students newly admitted in 2013-14 and onward are required to take and pass ENGG 6770 Professional Development in Engineering in their first year of study. Part-time students may be exempted from a maximum of 50% of mini-workshops of ENGG 6770 and be given extension to complete the course, subject to prior approval of the School. The 1 credit earned from ENGG 6770 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.

2. Thesis and Thesis Defense Requirement

Each MPhil student is required to conduct research, to submit a thesis and to defend it before an MPhil thesis examination committee at a public oral defense.

An MPhil thesis examination committee, approved by the Head of the Department, shall consist of three (3) faculty members including at most one of the thesis supervisors. A majority of the members shall be from the Computer Science and Engineering Department.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program in Computer Science and Engineering

1. Coursework Requirement (also see a summary page)

In addition to the requirements of LANG 5001 (LANG 501) Postgraduate English for Academic Purposes (1 credit) and the Computer Science seminar for two semesters (1 credit), a PhD student must complete at least seven (7) PG courses with 21 credits, of which four (4) with 12 credits must be PG-core courses (see the list of PG-core courses). At most one of the seven PG courses can be an independent study course. None of the seven PG courses can be a UG course and in particular, no UG remedial courses can count towards the required PG courses. Cross-listed courses can count towards only one of the cross-listed areas that can be chosen by the student.

Of the seven PG courses, four are required to be PG-core courses covering four (4) different areas among the following: Theoretical Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Data, Knowledge and Information Management, Networking and Computer Systems, Software Technologies and Vision and Graphics. One of the PG-core courses chosen should be in the area of "Theoretical Computer Science".

Students must finish at least two (2) PG-core courses in their first year of PhD study, and all four (4) PG-core courses within their first two years of PhD study. Students are required to get a grade of B+ or above in each of the four PG-core courses.

Transfer of the PG courses from other universities is done on a case by case basis with approval by the CSE departmental PG committee. No UG course can be used for the transfer. No more than six (6) credits can be transferred from outside the HKUST CSE department. Note that transferring credit for courses does not automatically provide an 'area waiver'. The use of a transferred course to cover one of the four required areas must be applied for approval from the PG Committee seperately.

PhD students newly admitted in 2013-14 and onward are required to take and pass ENGG 6770 Professional Development in Engineering and COMP 6770 Professional Development in Computer Science and Engineering. Part-time students may be exempted from a maximum of 50% of mini-workshops of ENGG 6770 and COMP 6770, subject to prior approval of the School and the Department respectively. Students are expected to complete the Professional Development courses in their first two years of study. Subject to the approval, part-time students may be given extension to complete the courses. HKUST MPhil (CSE) graduates who have taken and passed ENGG 6770 before may be exempted from taking the same course, subject to prior approval from the Department Head and PG Coordinator.

Also, PhD students newly admitted in 2013-14 and onward are required to fulfill School of Engineering requirments.

2. Qualifying Examination Requirement

Before attempting the PhD qualifying examination, students must obtain a grade B or above in each of the following UG courses or their equivalent: COMP 3511 Operating Systems, COMP 3711 Design and Analysis of Algorithms, COMP 3721 Theory of Computation. These UG courses cannot be used for PG course requirement.

Each PhD student must satisfy the PhD qualifying examination (PQE) requirement which consists of a comprehensive, written critical survey and review of the student's intended research focus, and a public oral examination. The purpose of the qualifying examination requirement is to assess the student's understanding of the literature, as well as preparedness to conduct research, in the selected research focus. The written survey and review should identify important research issues in the student's intended research focus. The research focus should be broad enough to contain many potential thesis topics, yet sufficiently narrow that the highly relevant papers number in the tens rather than in the hundreds. The student is required to present and be examined on the survey and review before his/her qualifying examination committee at a public oral examination.

A qualifying examination committee, approved by the Head of the Department, consisting of a minimum of four (4) faculty members (including the supervisor) should be set up at least six (6) weeks before the date of the qualifying oral examination. A majority of the qualifying examination committee members shall be from the Computer Science and Engineering Department. The Director of Postgraduate Studies shall appoint the chair of the examination committee. The written survey and review should be distributed to the committee members at least two (2) weeks prior to the oral examination. One copy should also be given to the Director of Postgraduate Studies.

A PhD student is expected to fulfill the PhD qualifying examination requirement by the end of his/her first eighteen (18) months of study. The PhD qualifying examination requirement can be attempted at most twice. The second attempt must be completed within six months of the first attempt. When a student passes the PhD qualifying examination requirements, he/she becomes a PhD candidate. The qualifying examination requirement must be completed before attempting the thesis proposal defense.

3. Thesis Proposal Requirement

Each PhD candidate is required to submit a thesis proposal and to defend the proposal at a public oral examination, normally within one year after satisfying the qualifying examination requirement.

A thesis proposal examination committee, approved by the Head of the Department, consisting of a minimum of four (4) faculty members (including the supervisor) should be set up at least six (6) weeks before the date of the thesis proposal defense. A majority of the thesis proposal examination committee members shall be from the Computer Science and Engineering Department. The Director of Postgraduate Studies shall appoint the chair of the examination committee. The thesis proposal should be distributed to the committee members at least two (2) weeks prior to the oral examination. One copy should also be given to the Director of Postgraduate Studies.

The PhD thesis proposal requirement can be attempted at most twice. The second attempt must be completed within six months of the first attempt. The thesis proposal requirement must be completed before attempting the final thesis defense.

4. Thesis and Final Thesis Defense

Each PhD candidate must submit a thesis describing significant original research completed at HKUST. A public oral examination conducted by a thesis examination committee must be held in defense of the thesis research.