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Computer Science: MS, MCS, PhD

Computer Science

This department offers graduate students an extensive education in many areas in computer science. Its faculty members are engaged in research and cutting-edge advancements in computer science and they teach the graduate courses in the department giving graduate students individual attention. Students who graduate with advanced degrees in computer science have high job placement and, as computers are crucial to nearly every industry, continued growth in computer science careers is expected in the future. Additionally, the MS in computer science at USU is offered via distance education and available through evening classes allowing working professionals to obtain a master's degree.

There are six areas of research focus for graduate students and faculty within the department:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Computer vision: Artificial intelligence deals with the development of systems (hardware and/or software) that in some way exhibit intelligent behavior. Computer vision studies how to make sense of and use images and video. Teaching and research at USU in this area focuses on robotics, image and video analysis, machine learning, and agents.
  • Data Science: Data Science is an emerging field that seeks to visualize, analyze, and understand data, often big data. At USU researchers specialize in data quality, data visualization, data mining, and deep learning. USU offers an MS in Data Science as well.
  • Security: Security is about all aspects of secure, private and reliable data, communications, and software. At USU teaching and research centers on making security and privacy more usable and cyber security.
  • Algorithms: Algorithms are at the core of developing fast and efficient applications. USU researchers are at the cutting edge of algorithms in computational geometry, energy use, and bioinformatics.
  • Software systems: This is a broad area of computer science that covers every aspect of software development, with the goal to create more sophisticated, reliable, and secure software. USU researchers specialize in distributed computing, software engineering, and databases.
  • Computer education: Computer education covers ways to improve how we teach computer science and how to use computers in teaching. Researchers in this area at USU develop games, methodologies, and programs to improve education.

The Master of Computer Science (MCS) is a terminal degree with coursework requirements similar to the MS, but lacking the MS's requirement for original research.

Careers in computer science can be categorized into the following four areas:

Software development (software systems)

  • Business applications
  • Game development
  • Web programming
  • Scientific computing

Finding and creating new uses for computers (AI, parallel computing, or bioinformatics)

  • Searching for cancer and other disease treatments
  • Automating medical images such as mammograms
  • Autonomous vehicles for use in agriculture and more

Solving computer problems (AI, parallel computing, or bioinformatics)

  • Research in computer theory
  • Creating more effective algorithms

Managing computer systems (software systems or parallel computing specializations)

  • This can be done for a wide variety of industries and companies


Additionally, PhD graduates are qualified to pursue academia or research positions with government or private labs.

Admission Requirements

Students from any undergraduate background are welcome to apply; however, to be considered, applicants must have extensive experience in computing, programming experience in C++, and a course in data structures and algorithms, as well as a working grasp of calculus and statistics.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 80th percentile on the quantitative section of the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

Spring semester:

  • October 15

Fall semester:

  • All students who want to be considered for Financial aid: February 1
  • International students without being considered for financial aid: May 1
  • Domestic students without being considered for financial aid: June 15

Program Requirements

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD students must successfully complete a three-part qualifying process:

  • As the first step, students must write a publishable paper and present it to their committee. There is no set time for completion, but it is recommended that it be completed sometime within the student’s first year.
  • Within one year of the paper production and presentation, students must pass an oral assessment of critical review skills. The committee will assign a series of scholarly articles the student must read and study, and the assessment will consist of a discussion of these articles.
  • Candidates are required to pass a preliminary exam in which they present the topic for their dissertation. This must be completed before students are allowed to proceed with their dissertations.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of three options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper or creative work of art and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Financial Assistance

The department offers a limited number of assistantships, both teaching and research, each year. These are competitive assistantships awarded to highly qualified students.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Vicki Allan, PhD, Colorado State University
Associate Professor
Area: Multiagent systems, automated code generation, parallel algorithms, program optimization, analysis of algorithms, programming languages
Office: MAIN 429
Phone: (435) 797-2022

Heng-Da Cheng, PhD, Purdue University
Associate Professor
Area: Image processing, pattern recognition, computer vision, artificial intelligence, medical information processing, fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, neural networks, parallel processing, parallel algorithms, VLSI architectures
Office: MAIN 401 B
Phone: (435) 797-2054

Stephen Clyde, PhD, Brigham Young University
Associate Professor
Area: Software-engineering principles, models, and methods; object orientation; distributed systems; development tools; multimedia applications
Office: MAIN 401 D
Phone: (435) 797-2307

Curtis Dyreson, PhD, University of Arizona
Associate Professor, Graduate Advisor
Area: Software systems, temporal databases, native XML databases, data cubes, and providing support for proscriptive metadata
Office: MAIN 402 A
Phone: (435) 797-0742

John Edwards, PhD, The University of Texas
Assistant Professor
Area: Geometric Modeling, Simulation, Scientific Visualization
Office: MAIN 401D
Phone: (435) 797-0246

Erik Falor, MS, Utah State University
Office: Main 421
Phone: (435) 797-4118

Nick Flann, PhD, Oregon State University
Associate Professor
Area: Computational modeling of integrated multi-cellular systems
Office: MAIN 402 D
Phone: (435) 797-2432

Douglas Galarus, PhD, Montana State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Data science, big data, machine learning, systems and software engineering, mobile/web/embedded development, computer science education, spatio-temporal and geo-computing
Office: Main 401D
Phone: TBA

Minghui Jiang, PhD, Montana State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Algorithms, discrete and computational geometry, bioinformatics and computational biology
Office: MAIN 402 G
Phone: (435) 797-0347

Vladimir Kulyukin, PhD, University of Chicago
Associate Professor
Area: Assistive technology, mobile and ubiquitous computing, human-robot interaction, information retrieval
Office: MAIN 401 E
Phone: (435) 797-8163

Chad Mano, PhD, University of Notre Dame
Area: Computer Security
Office: Main 435
Phone: (435) 797-5794

Dean Mathias, PhD,
Area: Distributed Systems, Computer Games
Office: Main 426
Phone: (435) 797-4458

Mahdi Nasrullah Al-Ameen, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington
Assistant Professor
Area: Cyber Security, Usable Security and Privacy, Human-computer Interaction.
Office: MAIN 401F
Phone: (435) 797-0241

Xiaojun Qi, PhD, Louisiana State University
Associate Professor
Area: Content-based image/video retrieval, digital watermarking, digital steganography/steganalysis, image processing, pattern recognition, computer vision, image forensics
Office: MAIN 401 C
Phone: (435) 797-8155

Haitao Wang, PhD, University of Notre Dame
Assistant Professor
Area: Computational Geometry, Algorithms and Theory, Combinatorial Optimization, Operations Research
Office: Main 402 F
Phone: (435) 797-2416

Dan Watson, PhD, Purdue University
Associate Professor
Area: Parallel and distributed algorithms
Office: MAIN 402 B
Phone: (435) 797-2440

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

Association for Computing Machinery: ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, delivers resources that advance computing as a science and a profession. ACM provides the computing field's premier digital library and serves its members and the computing profession with leading-edge publications, conferences, and career resources.

Association for Computing Machinery for Women: ACMW at Utah State University is a group of women in the department who are interested in encouraging women to enter this area of study and to join the ranks of women in the computer science field. In present years, the number of women in the field has declined. Through the establishment of a support system which includes activities and projects that aim to improve the working and learning environments for women in computing, ACMW strives to end this decline.

Free Software and Linux Club: The FSLC is a community of users that enjoy learning, teaching, and promoting Linux and other free software. FSLC holds weekly meetings, monthly workshops, and a yearly forum, all with useful tutorials and introductions to a wide variety of free software topics.

Labs, Centers, Research

AggieAir Flying Circus: AggieAir Flying Circus provides high-resolution, multispectral aerial imagery using a small, unmanned aerial system. The system is able to map small areas quicker, more frequently, at greater resolution, and at a smaller cost than conventional remote sensing. Some applications for AggieAir include monitoring of soil moisture and evapotranspiration in agriculture, riparian habitat mapping, road and highway surface monitoring, wetland mapping, and fish and wildlife tracking.

Center for Active Sensing and Imaging: CASI uses radar-like, laser-based LIDAR technology to measure distances instead of radio waves for a variety of industrial applications, including sitting wind farms, controlling emissions, and rapid replacement of bridges, runways, and other infrastructure.

Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences: CASS is recognized nationally and internationally as a progressive research center with advanced space and upper atmospheric research programs. CASS scientists are tackling the adverse consequences of space weather. Undergraduate and graduate students are involved in numerous research projects in CASS that provide opportunities to program computers, analyze data, and build instrumentation.

Center for High Performance Computing: HPC at USU is a research service center that serves and expands the computational needs of the USU community. HPC at USU houses a 256-processor cluster called “Uinta,” with three networks.

Center for Self-Organizing and Intelligent Systems: CSOIS is a multi-disciplinary research group at USU that focuses on the design, development, and implementation of intelligent, autonomous mechatronic systems, with a focus on ground vehicles and robotics.

Center for Space Engineering: CSE is a multi-disciplinary group of faculty at USU involved in space technology, systems, and science. The center brings together academics, industry, and government to advance the understanding of the space environment and to train the next generation.

Environmental Management Research Group: EMRG is a research unit of the Utah Water Research Laboratory focused on integrated watershed management and systems analysis of environmental problems. EMRG provides software development, watershed and water quality modeling, and GIS data analysis service to internal and external entities directed at solving integrated watershed and environmental management-related problems of a variety of scales.

Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium: RMNSGC is one of 52 National Space Grant Consortia in the United States. As a member of the consortium, USU has awarded more than 100 fellowships to students interested in aerospace-related education and careers. The majority of Space Grant student awards include a mentored research experience with university faculty and NASA scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Space Dynamics Laboratory: SDL is known for sending 500+ successful experiments into space and brings in $54 million per year in revenue, the majority coming from grants, contracts, and appropriations. SDL’s expertise in the development of sensors and calibration, small satellites and real-time intelligence has made it an internationally known organization in the space arena.



Academic Advising

Caitlin Thaxton
Office: MAIN 421
Phone: (435) 797-0778

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