Other Program Information
You will be assigned an academic advisor when you enter the Computer Science graduate program. Generally, if you work as an RA for a professor, he or she will be your advisor. If you are a TA, your advisor will be a professor with whom you share research interests. You should meet with your advisor at least once a semester (typically, more often) to review the previous semester in terms of goals, problems, progress, and so on; and to set new goals for the coming semester.
You may request a different academic advisor at any point. Similarly, your advisor might suggest that you should be assigned a different advisor. These requests should be made to the Graduate Program Director.
Unless you are self-supported as a graduate student, you will probably be funded on a fellowship, an assistantship, or a combination of the two. Assistantships are either Research Assistantships (RAs) or Teaching Assistantships (TAs).
Computer Science assistantships awarded to entering students are usually for nine months unless otherwise specified. Renewal, if granted, will be on a semester by semester basis. It is hoped, but not guaranteed, that students initially supported by the school will continue to receive support throughout their academic program. (Historically, almost no students have been unsupported except by their own choice.) Renewal is contingent upon the availability of funds and upon satisfactory performance by the student in his/her assigned duties. In general, the major support for PhD candidates is expected to come from RAs on faculty research grants and contracts.
The terms of an assistantship contract are governed by the graduate student union (Graduate Employee Organization, or GEO) and are therefore out of our control. The following represents our informal understanding of the current rules, combined with typical practices within the School. The GEO contract, however, is the final authority on these issues, not these pages. The contract is available from the GEO web site.
Vacation time and, when possible, personal time should be requested in advance and should preferably be taken in the January or Spring breaks. Alternate arrangements can be made with your advisor or TA supervisor if possible. For example, many RAs and their advisors are comfortable with a much less formal way of handling time off. If you feel that you are not getting sufficient vacation or personal time, you should talk with your advisor, supervisor, or the Graduate Program Director.
Changing between TA and RA
The school is assigned a fixed number of TA positions by the University each semester. We attempt to provide a TAship for every student who needs one, either because there is no appropriate RA or to satisfy the PhD teaching requirement. TA assignments usually happen in August for the fall semester and January for the spring.
Many students take an internship, usually in the summer but occasionally during the spring or fall semesters. An internship provides experience with a different group of researchers working on different problems. It can provide valuable networking as well as as practical training. Internship opportunities are advertised regularly by email and/or the sponsoring organization's web site. It is your responsibility to find possible internships if you are interested in one. (Most advisors are happy to help.)
For US citizens and permanent residents of the US, the process of taking an internship is straightforward.
If you hold a student visa, you will need approval to undertake an internship. The internship is treated as Curricular Practical Training and must be approved by the International Programs Office. Your specific limitations and requirements will depend on your visa. Check with the IPO for more information.
Statue of Limitations
When you are admitted to the MS, MS/PhD, or PhD program, the Graduate School assigns you a statute of limitations date. This date reflects the amount of time the Graduate School believes you need to complete your degree. It is initially three years for MS-only, six for the MS/PhD track, and four years for PhD-only.
Leave of Absence
Some students need to take a leave from the program for personal or professional reasons. If you wish or need to take a leave of absence, discuss the situation with your advisor who will ask the Graduate Program Director to request the leave from the Graduate School. The request will need a reason for the leave as well as its anticipated duration. Leaves of one semester or one full year are the most common. (If the reason for your leave cannot be comfortably discussed with your advisor, you should talk with the Graduate Program Director directly.)
While you are on a leave of absence, you will be required to pay the University a continuous enrollment fee each semester to keep your record "alive". (In 2007 that fee was US$260 per semester.)
Withdrawing from the Program
Although we hope it does not happen, some students end up withdrawing from the program. The most common such situation is when a student in the MS/PhD track decides that PhD-style research is not a good match for his or her interests. However, some students end up withdrawing for other reasons and at other times.