Prior to 2015

2015-2016 Graduate Catalog: 

Links to text:

The Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems (CIS) program has five concentration options: Bioinformatics (BINF), Business Information Systems and Operations Management (BISOM), Computer Science (CS), Software and Information Systems (SIS), and an Interdisciplinary concentration (INT).  The Program is staffed with a multidisciplinary faculty and offers opportunities for students to develop advanced competencies in a number of CIS-related fields.  Faculty from the Departments of Computer Science, Software and Information Systems, Bioinformatics and Genomics, and Business Information Systems and Operations Management form its core.  Students, in cooperation with faculty advisors, design flexible programs of study tailored to address individual career goals.

Students who aspire to academic research and teaching can benefit from a strong research faculty of international stature and exposure to practical applications of their specialties. Others seeking employment in industry, commerce, or government are afforded the opportunity to participate in high-quality applied research.

General Admission Requirements

Admission is competitive.  Preference is given to applicants with strong credentials and appropriate undergraduate and/or professional preparation.  Specific admission requirements for the program include:

  1. A baccalaureate degree from a recognized institution.  Students must show evidence of preparation in their chosen field sufficient to ensure profitable graduate study.
  2.  A satisfactory past academic performance as usually reflected by a grade point average of (or equivalent to) at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) on courses related to the chosen field of Ph.D. study.
  3. Excellent GRE or GMAT scores.
  4. Applicants whose native language is not English must score at least 83 on the Internet-based version, 220on the computer-based version, or 557 on the paper-based version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  In addition, they will be required to take an English Proficiency Examination prior to the beginning of the first semester of study.  Students who do not pass this examination must pass ENGL 1100 (English as a Foreign Language) with a grade of B or higher.
  5.  A one-page essay that addresses the following:
  6. Three letters of reference from professionals working in the applicant’s field of interest that address the applicant’s previous experience and potential to do research. 

Further documentation that will support the application may include:  evidence of scholarly and creative activity, including publication list; awards; results in national or international contests related to computing and information systems and the like.

Highly qualified individuals who may not meet all the required prerequisites may be admitted with a clear agreement to make up the prerequisites.

Concentration Specific Additional Admission Requirements

Additional admission requirements for Business Information Systems and Operations Management, and Software and Information Systems concentrations include:

a. The applicant’s motivation

b. Area(s) of research interest

  1. Adequate understanding of software/information systems analysis, design, and implementation
  2.  Evidence of college-level skills in mathematical logic and data analysis (e.g., statistics, differential and integral calculus, discrete math, linear algebra)

Additional admission requirements for the Computer Science concentration include:


Incoming students should possess a Master’s or at least a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a closely related discipline.  Specifically, students should have demonstrable knowledge in at least

four of the following areas:

  1. Algorithms and Data Structures
  2. Theory of Computation
  3. Programming Language Concepts
  4. Computer Architecture
  5. Operating Systems
  6. Software Engineering and Design

Course requirements may be satisfied through prior undergraduate or graduate work, or by a satisfactory score on the Computer Science Subject GRE examination.  Admission into the Computer Science concentration is highly competitive.  Thus, satisfying the requirements listed above does not guarantee admission.

Exceptionally strong students from other disciplines will be considered and may be allowed to make up the deficiencies at the discretion of the CS Ph.D. Admissions Committee.


Prior research experience and strong recommendation letters (preferably from university faculty or researchers at corporate labs) will be a significant consideration in evaluating the applicant’s research potential.  Research experience maybe demonstrated via publications, Bachelor’s or Master’s theses.  A good match with faculty research interests as well as faculty input to the Admissions Committee will play a significant role in the final decision.  Potential applicants are encouraged to communicate with research faculty regarding their interests.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines are in accordance with UNC Charlotte Graduate School deadlines.  However, to ensure full consideration for financial support, applications must be received by September 1st for Spring admission and February 1st for Fall admission.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems program prepares students to be well-rounded professionals in the

broad discipline of Computing and Information Systems (CIS).  The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is granted for

performance of original research resulting in significant contributions to the discipline's body of knowledge. 

Students are admitted into a concentration within the program by one of the participating units:

  1. Department of Computer Science
  2. Department of Software and Information Systems
  3. Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics

Department of Business Information Systems and Operations ManagementThe Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems program also has an interdisciplinary concentration in which CIS is applied to different disciplines.  Students in the interdisciplinary concentration are admitted into one unit but are expected to complete some coursework in a complementary discipline in addition to the minimum core requirements of their chosen unit.  Students in the interdisciplinary concentration must have co-advisors from their chosen unit and the complementary discipline.  The detailed requirements are provided below.  Failure to satisfy the requirements may result in the student’s termination from the program.

Minimum Hours

To earn a Ph.D. degree, students in all concentrations must complete at least 72 post-baccalaureate credit hours. This includes at least 18 hours of dissertation research and at least 9 hours of coursework completed at UNC Charlotte.  A limited amount of transfer credit is allowed (see below for details).  Students are expected to acquire a sufficiently broad body of technical knowledge in the discipline as well as a deep understanding of a specialized area.  Such courses will be defined by the student’s advisor(s).  Students are expected to excel in all coursework. 

Graduation requirements mandate that students must achieve a minimum grade point average of 3.0 to graduate.  Receiving more than two C grades or a grade of U in any course will result in a suspension from the program. 

Introduction to Computing and Information Systems Research

First-year students must take ITSC 8110 (Introduction to Computing and Information Systems Research) in the first Fall semester.  This course will be jointly taught by CIS Ph.D. faculty in all the concentrations, providing new students an overview of the CIS research areas and opportunities at UNC Charlotte. Only when there is an unavoidable schedule conflict between ITSC 8110 and another Ph.D. level course that a student has to take, the student can make a request to take ITSC 8110 in the second Fall semester.  Such a request must be justified and signed by the student’s initial Ph.D. advisor and endorsed by the Ph.D. Program Director.

Graduate Research Seminar

Students must sign up for and receive credit for ITSC 8699 (Graduate Research Seminar) every semester that theyare in the Ph.D. program until the semester after they pass the proposal defense, unless they are enrolled in ITSC 8110.

If there is a legitimate reason that a student has to do part of his/her Ph.D. research in a different site during a regular semester, then he/she must first make a request to be exempted from taking ITSC 8699 for the period that he/she is visiting the other site.  Such a request must be well justified and signed by the student's Ph.D. advisor and endorsed by the Concentration Coordinator.  The period of exemption should not exceed one semester.  Exceptions must be approved by the Ph.D. Steering Committee.

Research Advisor and Qualifying Exam Committee

Each Ph.D. student is assigned a temporary academic advisor within a concentration when admitted to the program.  Before the end of their fourth semester in the program, students should select a Research Advisor, and, in consultation with their Research Advisor, form a Qualifying Exam Committee.  The Qualifying Exam Committee should include at least three CIS Doctoral Faculty members, plus the student’s Research Advisor who is a nonvoting member of the Qualifying Exam Committee.  The Qualifying Exam Committee must be approved by the Concentration Coordinator.

Qualifying Exam

Each student must pass a qualifying exam, given and evaluated by the student’s Qualifying Exam Committee.  The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to ensure that the student will have sufficient capability for doing dissertation- level research leading to a Ph.D. degree.

Each student must prepare a written research survey that describes the research area the student is expected to do his/her dissertation research in. Copies of the research survey must be provided to the committee at the time of filing the Qualifying Examination application, which must be at least two weeks prior to the exam. The student must present the research survey and defend it in a manner accepted by the Qualifying Exam Committee.  Prior to the oral defense of the research survey, the student’s advisor is required to submit a written evaluation of the student’s research and academic progress to the Qualifying Exam Committee, with a copy also provided to the Concentration Coordinator. The Qualifying Exam will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis, based on the corresponding rubrics by the Qualifying Exam Committee.  A pass decision must be unanimous.  

The student must pass the Qualifying Examination in at most two attempts within three years of the date of first enrollment into Ph.D. study at UNC Charlotte. A student who fails the Qualifying Exam twice will be terminated

Dissertation Committee

After passing the qualifying exam, the student should set up a Dissertation Committee of at least four graduate faculty members, which include at least three Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems faculty members.  This Committee may, but is not required to, consist of the same faculty members as the Qualifying Exam Committee.  Ordinarily, the chair of this committee will be the student's advisor(s), who must be a member of the CIS program faculty member and will ensure that the composition of the committee is appropriate.  Committee members from outside the University must be appointed Associate Graduate Faculty members at UNC Charlotte.  The Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Concentration Coordinator.  After identifying and obtaining the signatures of the CIS faculty who will be serving on the Committee, the Dissertation Committee Form must be sent to the Graduate School for the appointment of the Graduate Faculty Representative.  This appointment may take as long as four weeks.  If there is need to change committee members later, a formal written request must be first submitted to the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee with a clear explanation of the rationale for change.  Upon approval by the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee, a revised Committee form (above) must be submitted. 

Proposal Defense

Each student must present and defend a Ph.D. dissertation proposal after passing the qualifying exam and within ten semesters since entering the Ph.D. program.  The proposal defense will be conducted by the student’s Dissertation Committee and will be open to the CIS Ph.D. faculty and students.  The student shall provide copies of the written proposal to the Committee members at least two weeks before the scheduled defense.  At the discretion of the Dissertation Committee, the defense may include questions that cover the student’s program of study and background knowledge in the area of the proposal.  The proposal defense will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis, according to the corresponding rubrics by the Committee.  A pass must be a unanimous decision by the Committee members; otherwise, the proposal defense fails.  A student may retake the proposal defense if he/she cannot pass it the first time, and should consult the Concentration Coordinator before the second attempt.  The second failed defense of a dissertation proposal will result in the termination of the student’s enrollment in the Ph.D. program.  It is expected that the student first take the proposal defense by the ninth semester after they are enrolled, in order to provide time for a second attempt should the first one fail. 

Ph.D. Candidacy

A doctoral student advances to Ph.D. candidacy after the dissertation proposal has been successfully defended.


Each student must complete a research program approved by the student’s Dissertation Advisor(s) that yields a high quality, original, and substantial piece of research.  The Ph.D. dissertation describes this research and its results. The dissertation defense is a public presentation.  A written copy of the dissertation must be made available to each member of the student Ph.D. Dissertation Committee, to the Ph.D. Steering Committee, and to the UNC Charlotte Library, at least three weeks before the public defense.  The date of the defense must be publicly announced at least three weeks prior to the defense.  The student must present the dissertation and defend it in a manner accepted by the Dissertation Committee.  The dissertation will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis, based on the corresponding rubrics by the Dissertation Committee.  A pass decision must be unanimous and must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.  A student who fails the defense of a dissertation twice will be terminated from the Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems program.

Progress Report and Evaluation

By every January, each student is required to submit a written progress report for the previous year, and the advisor(s) is required to submit a written evaluation of the student to the Concentration Coordinator, with a copy to the Program Director.  A rubric is used for evaluation of progress.  Failure to make satisfactory progress may result in discontinuation of the student’s graduate assistantship and suspension from the program.

Residency Requirements

Each student must satisfy the residency requirement of one continuous full-time year (i.e., two consecutive semesters with the student being enrolled for at least nine graduate credit hours in each semester) after being admitted to the Ph.D. degree program.

Transfer Credit

In accordance with rules of the UNC Charlotte Graduate School, students are allowed to transfer up to 30 semester hours of graduate credit earned at UNC Charlotte or other recognized graduate programs.  In cases of applicants with records of exceptionally high quality, the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee, at its discretion, may request that the Graduate School approve transfer credit beyond the limit set by the Graduate School.  To receive transfer credit, students must file a written request and submit all necessary documents to the Concentration Coordinator.