CSME Ph.D. Program Structure

The structure of the CSME Ph.D. Program is described completely on this webpage. It is based on the CSME Ph.D. Proposal Document, which can be found on the CSME Resources webpage. However, as the program periodically evolves to address new developments, the information on this webpage should be viewed as the most accurate and current information about the CSME Ph.D. Program.

Ph.D. Program Overview

The CSME Ph.D. Program at UCSD is a campus-wide interdisciplinary training program designed to train the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in the use of modern tools of computational science. The CSME Doctoral Program is integrated into the existing doctoral programs of a number of core participating departments (see the CSME Overview webpage for the list of participating departments). The CSME Doctoral Program leads to a normal Ph.D. in the field of the specific participating department, with an additional credential of ``Specialization in Computational Science''. A "Specialization" is a formal University of California mechanism that allows a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in the UC System to obtain the Doctoral equivalent of a minor in a particular area of specialization. The CSME Ph.D. program involves modification of the standard graduate degree requirements in the core participating departments to allow students to complete additional requirements to earn a computational science specialization to their doctoral degree. The overall CSME Graduate Program is administered by the Center for Computational Mathematics within the UCSD Mathematics Department, but in all other respects the core participating departments are completely equal partners in the design, development, management, and evolution of the CSME Graduate Program.

Ph.D. Program Admission

Prospective students must apply to the Ph.D. program of a participating home department, be admitted to that department and then be admitted to the specialization through the CSME Program. The participating academic departments which allow their doctoral students to specialize in computational science through the CSME doctoral program are listed on the CSME Overview webpage. For more information about admission see the CSME Application and Admission webpage.

Ph.D. Program Structure and Requirements

Requirements consist of those of the doctoral program in the admitting home department (one of the participating departments) as well as the CSME proficiency, qualifying and elective course requirements as outlined below. Requirements and policies relating to the home department can be found in the General Catalog under that department's name, or by contacting the home department directly.
  1. The specialization requires that students complete all home department requirements for the Ph.D. along with satisfying the CSME proficiency, qualifying and elective requirements (see below). Note that some participating departments have modified their internal Ph.D. requirements specifically for CSME Ph.D. students (for example, the Dept. of Mathematics); contact the individual participating department for information.
  2. CSME Proficiency (see below) must be satisfied by the end of the first year.
  3. The CSME Qualifying Exams (see below) must be passed by the end of the second year or, on petition, by end of the third year.
  4. The CSME qualifying exams can be attempted repeatedly but no more than once per quarter per subject.
  5. The regular qualifying exams in the home department and the CSME qualifying exams must all be passed before the student is permitted to take the candidacy (senate) exam.
  6. Two CSME electives (see List B below) outside the home department must be taken.
  7. The two CSME electives can be taken at any time before defending the thesis.
  8. One of the CSME electives may be taken Pass/Fail; the other must be taken for a letter grade.
  9. Full-time students are required to register for a minimum of twelve (12) units every quarter. Eight (8) of these twelve (12) units must be graduate-level CSME Program courses taken for a letter grade.

Proficiency Requirements

All Ph.D. students participating in the CSME doctoral program must demonstrate advanced undergraduate level proficiency in numerical analysis and in computer algorithms and data structures. Proficiency may be demonstrated by taking UCSD's courses in both subjects while enrolled in the graduate program (4 units per course):
  1. Numerical Methods (MATH 174/274 or MAE 290A)
  2. Data Structures and Algorithms (CSE 100/101)
Alternatively, proficiency in the material contained in these courses may be satisfied by having previously taking these or equivalent courses at other institutions, or through other evidence of sufficient knowledge of this material. Demonstrating proficiency without taking these courses at UCSD is subject to approval by the CSME Executive Committee on an individual basis.

Qualifying Requirements

In addition to the home department doctoral program qualifying exam requirements, Ph.D. students participating in the CSME doctoral program must pass the final exams in all three qualifying exam courses listed below. The three qualifying exam courses have been selected to provide a general broad set of tools in computational science. It is expected that most students will register for and take these courses (4 units per course), but the CSME Qualifying Exam Committee may allow an exceptionally well-prepared student to take the final exams without taking the courses. Students must pass the qualifying examinations by the end of the second year or, on petition, by the end of the third year. The following CSME qualifying courses must be taken for a letter grade:
  1. MATH 275 or MAE 290B (Numerical PDE)
  2. PHYS 244 or CSE 260 (Parallel Computing)
  3. Course to be selected from LIST A

LIST A: CSME Qualifying Exam Courses

The LIST A set of courses is a fairly small collection of computational science and applied mathematics courses that represents core knowledge in modern computational science. Courses taken from LIST A to satisfy the qualifying requirements cannot be used to satisfy the LIST B elective requirement.
  1. MATH 270A, B or C (Numerical Analysis; Not permitted for Math Students, who typically take MATH 270ABC as a normal mathematics qual course)
  2. MATH 271A, B or C (Numerical Optimization)
  3. MATH 272A, B or C (Numerical Partial Differential Equations)
  4. MATH 273A, B or C (Advanced Techniques in Computational Mathematics)
  5. MAE 223 (Computational Fluid Dynamics)
  6. MAE 232 / SE 276A, B or C (Computational Solid Mechanics)
  7. MAE 280A or B (Linear Systems Theory)
  8. MAE 294 / SIO 203A, B or C (Introduction to Applied Mathematics)
  9. PHYS 221 AB (Nonlinear dynamics)
  10. PHYS 243 (Stochastic Methods)
  11. SE 233 (Computational and Technical Aspects of Finite Element Methods)
  12. CHEM 285 (Introduction to Computational Chemistry)
  13. (Additional Courses To Be Determined by Executive Committee or Allowed by Petition)

Elective Requirements

To encourage CSME Ph.D. students to both broaden themselves in an area of science or engineering as well as to obtain more specialized training in specific areas of computational science, students will be required to take and pass two elective courses, both of which must be outside of their home department, the first of which must be taken for a letter grade, and the second of which may be taken pass/fail. The courses must be selected from the following approved List B (4 units per course). The CSME Executive Committee may approve the use of courses not appearing on the following list on a case-by-case basis. Courses taken to satisfy the elective requirements can not count toward the qualifying requirements (and vice-versa) if the particular course appears on both List A and List B.

LIST B: Elective Graduate Courses in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering

The LIST B set of courses is a slowly expanding collection of computational science, science, and applied mathematics courses that encourages CSME doctoral students to increase their breadth across disciplines, and also gives students the opportunity to achieve substantial depth in a particular secondary discipline. (LIST B is a superset of LIST A above.) A course taken from LIST A to satisfy the qualifying exam requirement cannot be used to satisfy the LIST B Elective requirement.
  1. Any course appearing on List A above
  2. PHYS 241 (Computational Physics I)
  3. PHYS 242 (Computational Physics II)
  4. MAE 222 (Flow Control)
  5. MAE 261 (Cardiovascular Fluid Mechanics)
  6. SE 277 (Error Control in Finite Element Methods)
  7. SE 278A (Computational Fluid Dynamics)
  8. SE 278B (Computational Fluid-Structure Interaction)
  9. CHEM 215 (Modeling Biological Macromolecules
  10. BGGN 260 (Neurodynamics)
  11. ECE 272 (Dynamical Systems under Uncertainty)
  12. CSE 250A or B (Principles of Artificial Intelligence)
  13. MATH 210A, B or C (Mathematical Methods in Physics and Engineering)
  14. MATH 282A or B (Applied Statistics)
  15. MATH 231A, B, or C (Partial Differential Equations)
  16. (Additional Courses To Be Determined by Executive Committee or Allowed by Petition)
CSME electives from list B do not have to be taken for a letter grade, subject to item 9 in the above PhD Program Structure and Requirements list.


Ph.D. students participating in the CSME doctoral program must complete a dissertation which meets all requirements for the regular Ph.D. in the home department. In addition, it is expected that the Ph.D. dissertation will be interdisciplinary in nature and involve some aspect of computational science.

Final Examination

Ph.D. students participating in the CSME doctoral program must meet the regular final examination requirements of the home department.

Time Limits and other Requirements for the Ph.D.

All requirements for the Ph.D. in the home department are enforced for CSME Ph.D. students, unless the specific department has modified the internal structure of their Ph.D. program to allow for CSME participation (for example, the Dept. of Mathematics).

Relationship of the CSME Ph.D. Program with Existing Graduate Programs at UCSD

See the CSME MS Program webpage for a discussion on this topic.