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Graduate Program Overview

Rensselaer was among the first universities to offer advanced master’s degrees and doctoral study in the highly creative, interdisciplinary field of Information Technology.

We define IT@Rensselaer as the combined use of the power of computing with the study of social issues and managerial know-how to strategically solve current real-world problems and to creatively research future IT solutions. Today, IT is one of Rensselaer’s two highest research priorities, along with Biotechnology. IT graduates enjoy excellent employment opportunities, many choosing from among multiple offers.

Ph.D. Opportunities in IT

Ph.D. programs in Architecture, Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, Management, and Science offer a wealth of opportunities for doctoral study with focused IT research.

In addition, for highly interdisciplinary research, an IT Track is available in the Multidisciplinary Science Ph.D. program. The IT Track is designed to allow a student to work with faculty from multiple Rensselaer departments and schools.

Master’s Opportunities in IT

Rensselaer’s Master of Science in Information Technology balances the study of management strategies and technology leadership with advanced course work in an IT concentration.

Eleven concentrations are currently available, ranging from Data Science and Analytivs to Financial Engineering. Programs are individually tailored to accommodate a variety of entering backgrounds and career goals.

For MS in Information Technology graduates, the top starting salary to date is $114,000 plus bonuses. The average starting salary in 2013 was $99,000.

Information Technology Track in the Multidisciplinary Science PhD Program
Purpose
The IT Track in the Multidisciplinary Science PhD program is designed to prepare students for a career in interdisciplinary IT research. The IT Track requires a technical core coupled with a concentration that provides the context for the student's research. This concentration may incorporate one or more disciplines in addition to its core IT components. The IT Track focuses on research – creative and original enough to be recognized by scholars in the student's areas of concentration, both in academia and industry.

IT Track Requirements
To successfully complete the IT Track of the Multidisciplinary Science PhD program and earn a PhD in Multidisciplinary Science, the student must satisfy the following four requirements:

  1. Doctoral Qualifying Exam
  2. Doctoral Concentration
  3. Doctoral Candidacy Exam
  4. Thesis Defense Examination

In addition, a student must satisfy all the Institute requirements for a PhD as defined in the Rensselaer Catalog.

A student should satisfy these four requirements in the order that they appear above. As a general guideline, the Doctoral Qualifying Exam should be completed following the first year of study, the Doctoral Concentration after the second year of study, and the Doctoral Candidacy Exam after the third year of study.

Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE)
The Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE) is intended to determine if a student has sufficient knowledge and ability in the core principles of IT to be formally admitted into the doctoral program. It is designed to test the student's fundamental knowledge in computing and other core areas of IT. The exam consists of four parts, each of which is an oral examination.

Part 1 -- IT Theory : Relevant coursework to prepare for this exam includes the courses:
- CSCI-4020 Computer Algorithms
- CSCI-4260 Graph Theory

Part 2 -- Technologies : The student selects one of the three areas below for examination. Relevant coursework to prepare for each area includes:

Systems:
- CSCI-4210 Operating Systems
- ECSE-4670 Computer Communication Networks

Hardware:
- CSCI-4250 Computer Architectures
- ECSE-4770 Computer Hardware Design

Software:
- CSCI-4440 Software Design and Documentation
- CSCI-6090 Generic Software Design

Part 3 -- Contributing Core IT Disciplines : The student selects one of the six areas below for examination. Relevant coursework to prepare for each area includes:

Artificial Intelligence:
- PHIL-6240 Logic and Artificial Intelligence
- CSCI-4150 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

Computation:
- CSCI-4800 Numeric Computing
- DSES-4810 Computational Intelligence

Human-Computer Interaction:
- CSCI-4600 The Human-Computer Interface
- COMM-6420 Foundations of HCI Usability

Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery:
- CSCI-4390 Database Mining
- DSES-6180 Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining

Decision and Information Systems:
- DSES-6500 Information and Decision Technologies for Industrial and Service Systems
One of:
- CSCI-4380 Database Systems
- DSES-6520 Enterprise Database Systems

Management of Information Technology:
- MGMT-6130 Research Seminar in Management Information Systems
- MGMT-6180 Strategic Information Systems Management

Social Science of IT (This overarching contributing core IT discipline can be achieved in different areas of social science):
- COMM-6510 Communication Theory
- COMM-6730 Computer Mediated Communications
or
- STSS-6040 Technology Studies
- STSS-6100 Policy Studies
or
- ARTS-6960 New Media Theory
- ARTS-6110: Electronic Arts Overview
- ARTS-6120 Fieldwork as Arts

To remain in good standing within the degree program, the student must earn grades of A or B in all courses taken in the program. A student who is not in good standing may be required to do additional remedial work or dismissed from the program. The research advisor and the Associate Dean of IT make these decisions jointly.

Part 4 – Research Area: The structure for this part of the exam is determined by the research advisor (and other doctoral committee members, if known). It is intended to verify that the student has sufficient preparation to begin research in the chosen area. It consists of two subparts.

  1. To ensure that the student is prepared to conduct research, the student must take a research methods course selected by the research advisor in an area relevant to the intended research.
  2. The student must complete additional scholarly work determined by the research advisor to demonstrate preparation for research. This might, for example, be additional coursework, compilation of an extensive annotated bibliography, or a bibliographic review essay including a synthesis and original argument on the state of a research area.

The first three parts of the DQE seek to evaluate the student's ability and creativity in problem formulation and in the application of IT methods, as well as the student's specific knowledge of the material covered in the courses. Two members of the Faculty of IT administer the oral exam for each of these parts of the DQE. The student's faculty research advisor and the Associate Dean of Science and Information Technology jointly select these six faculty members. The student passes a part of the DQE if both faculty members administering the exam for that part agree that the student passed.

The research advisor administers part four of the DQE and the research advisor decides when the student has passed this part of the exam.

A student must pass all four parts of the DQE to satisfy the DQE requirement. The parts of the DQE do not need to be taken simultaneously. A student is allowed to take the exam for each of the first three parts of the DQE a maximum of two times.

Doctoral Concentration (DC)
The Doctoral Concentration (DC) assures that the student has a sufficient level of competency in his or her selected concentration area to pursue advanced research in that area. The DC requires that a student take a minimum of five courses pertaining to the selected research concentration. The specific courses are selected with advisement from the research advisor. Example research concentrations include (but are not limited to):

  • Computer Communications and Networks
  • Electronic Commerce
  • Discrete Event Simulation
  • Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science
  • Social, Economic and Policy Studies in IT and Emerging Legal Regimes
  • Arts, Education and Cultural Studies
  • Cross-National Studies of IT Use
  • Electronic Arts
  • Communication in Technologically Mediated Contexts
  • Human-Computer Interaction and Interface Design
  • Modeling, Visualization and Uncertainty

Selection of the five courses for the DCR is subject to the following rules:

  1. No more than 6 credit hours of independent study may be counted toward the DCR. An exception to this restriction is possible in special circumstances with joint approval of the research advisor and the Associate Dean of Science and IT.
  2. A minimum grade of B is required in each course, and a minimum grade point average of 3.5 is required for all DCR courses.
  3. The DCR must be satisfied BEFORE the Candidacy Examination.

Doctoral Candidacy Examination (DCE)
The purpose of the DCE is to determine whether the student has made satisfactory progress in his/her doctoral program, including progress in the chosen research area, and whether he/she demonstrates the ability to pursue doctoral research with distinction.

The first requirement is to complete a research paper with the research advisor and have it submitted for publication to an archival journal or conference proceedings that requires peer review (Note that the paper need not be accepted to satisfy this requirement. However, the expectation is that the paper has a good chance of eventually being accepted for publication.) This paper can be: (1) a portion of the student's dissertation proposal, or (2) any other report on IT research.

The second component of the DCE is an oral examination (approximately 2 hours in length) conducted by the student's Doctoral Committee. The chair of this committee is the student's primary research advisor who must be a full-time tenure-track faculty member at Rensselaer. The rest of the committee is constructed in consultation between the student, the primary research advisor and the Associate Dean of Science and Information Technology, who formally requests appointment of the committee from the Dean of the Graduate School.

The Committee must include at least four full-time Rensselaer tenure-track faculty members, all with the rank of assistant professor or higher and at least half of which are members of the Faculty of IT. Furthermore, either i) at least one of the faculty members on the Committee is from outside the department of the candidate's primary research advisor, or ii) the committee additionally includes a member from outside Rensselaer. The Committee members should represent the principal areas included in the student's concentration.

The student's Doctoral Committee decides whether or not the student passes the DCE. The student's Doctoral Committee, in consultation with the Associate Dean of Science and Information Technology and the Graduate School, determines if and when a student can retake the DCE if he/she fails to pass it. The DCE is given whenever the student's Doctoral Committee approves the student's request for a DCE.

The DCE is based upon a thesis proposal prepared by the student, copies of which should be given to the student's Doctoral Committee at least 3 weeks prior to the scheduled exam. The thesis proposal should include i) a concise discussion of the proposed thesis effort, including a discussion of the problem to be addressed, the impact its solution would have, its fundability and the plan of attack; ii) an in-depth review of the pertinent literature (together with how the proposed effort would build on and extend existing knowledge, theoretically and/or practically); and iii) a brief presentation of preliminary results suggesting that the effort can be successfully undertaken. However, the scope of examination for the DCE is not limited to the thesis proposal.

Thesis Defense Examination
The thesis and final examination requirements are the same as those required by the Institute and given in the Rensselaer catalog.

Admission
Students interested in applying to this IT Track apply to the Multidisciplinary Science PhD program and include a letter stating that the IT Track is desired. In addition to the standard application materials required by Rensselaer, the student must submit:

  • A 1000-word essay describing the proposed research and why the IT Track is appropriate.
  • A letter from the expected research advisor stating the advisor's willingness to work with the student in the IT track and to support the student financially during the program of study.
  • A Plan of Study that demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of the program of study.
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