Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science

Graduate Program Guide

Last updated: 03/24/2021

Table of Contents


M.S. Requirements        3

MS Thesis Option:        4

MS Project Option:        5

Systems and theory courses        5


Ph.D. Requirements        12

Plan of Study        16

Colloquium Attendance Requirement        18

Core Qualifying Exam        19

Choosing a Doctoral Committee        22

Candidacy Exam        23

Registering for Independent Study        24

Full-Time Status        25

Graduate Tuition Policy        26

Guidelines For Teaching Assistance Appointments        31

Policy Application Process for Transition of TA’s        35

Travel Reimbursement for Conferences        36

Childbirth Accommodation, Parental Accommodation, and Family Leave Policy for Graduate Students        37

Childbirth Accommodation        37

Parental Accommodation        39

Family Leave        40

Co-Terminal Program        37

Adding CS degree to current program        38

Continuous Registration        41

Submitting Your Thesis        42

Ph.D. Thesis Defense        43

Preparation Manual for Dissertations and Theses (PDF)

Preparing Your Thesis Using LaTeX or Word         (Website)


Class Hour Schedules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

Office of Graduate Education        (1516 Peoples Ave) [8:30AM-4:30PM] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

Office of Graduate Education Forms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

Registrar Forms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

Rensselaer Catalog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

        Academic Calendar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

        Academic Regulations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

        Course Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

Special Topics Course Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  (Link)

M.S. Requirements


The Master of Science degree in Computer Science at Rensselaer is a technical degree from which students may advance to positions of responsibility in the computing field with a solid foundation of knowledge to serve them. A number of students will continue into PhD study similarly well prepared.

The program requirements, detailed below, provide a broad program at a high level, yet permit a modest degree of specialization. A significant requirement of the program is the six-credit Master's Thesis based on original research. The Master's Thesis should demonstrate a student's skill in problem-solving and application of software engineering principles such as algorithm and data-structure design, programming language and software systems usage, program testing and debugging, and software documentation. Alternatively, students can complete a 3-credit Master’s project with significant conceptual depth, and earn the remaining credits through additional course work.


Students with significant prior computer science experience are encouraged to apply for admission to the program. To be considered, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree in a technical field, preferably related to Computer Science. Applicants must know how to program in at least three higher-level languages, and must have a thorough working knowledge of computer organization and data structures. The applicant also must have a substantial mathematics background at the college level, including a year of calculus and knowledge of linear algebra and discrete mathematics.

Application materials are available from the Rensselaer Admissions Office. A complete application file consists of the application itself, plus official scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, transcripts from all prior undergraduate and graduate work, a statement of background and goals, and letters of recommendation. International applicants are also required to include official scores for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination.

Applicants should clearly indicate, both in their personal statements and on the application form where requested, their main area or areas of interest in computer science research, relating them if possible to the faculty research interests as listed in the document Research Groups at Rensselaer Computer Science Department. An important factor in evaluation and selection of applicants is potential for conducting original research, so students who have already participated in a significant research project should emphasize their experience and achievements in the project. In most cases admission and financial aid awards will be by research groups rather than by the department as a whole, so that students become associated with a research group and begin research immediately upon entering the program.

The application deadline for the Fall semester is the preceding January 1, and for the Spring semester is the preceding August 15.

M.S. Requirements


In addition to meeting the degree requirements of the Office of Graduate Education, a candidate must:


MS Thesis Option:

The thesis option requires at least six, and no more than nine credits of CSCI-6990 Master's Research. If more credits are taken, at most nine credits can be put in the plan of study. The thesis is supervised by a member of the faculty, and evaluated by a committee of three faculty members that includes the research supervisor.  It is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis, and submitted to the Office of Graduate Education. The committee membership must be approved by the Office of Graduate Education prior to submission of the thesis. The student may work with a research supervisor who is not a CS faculty member, but the work must also be overseen by an advisor who is a member of the Computer Science Department faculty. The thesis should present an original research contribution, which is also the subject of a paper submitted for publication with the advisor as co-author.

Students must register for CSCI-6990 Master's Research prior to completion of the thesis, but normally earlier (even in the first semester of the program) as they begin exploratory research for the thesis. It is not necessary to take all six of the required CSCI-6990 credits in the same term. The Office of Graduate Education regulations in the Rensselaer Catalog for Master's Theses apply, including the following. Theses are graded either S (satisfactory) or U (failed). Most students should be involved in research each semester, taking at least one CSCI-6990 Master's Research credit under the supervision of their faculty advisor.  

The completed thesis must be presented to the candidate's advisor for review at least one week before the Office of Graduate Education's MS thesis submission deadline. The candidate must deposit a copy of the thesis, together with the advisor's written approval of both content and format, at the Office of Graduate Education by the MS thesis submission deadline. The Office of Graduate Education must certify that the approved document has been deposited before the degree is awarded. Only work meeting the highest standards of integrity will be accepted for degree requirements at Rensselaer. Academic integrity is a requirement of continued good academic standing and for the awarding of a graduate degree. 

In conjunction with the completion of the thesis, each student must complete an oral presentation to their faculty committee. For students completing a thesis, details can be found on page two of the Record of Master's Thesis .

MS Project Option:

The project option requires at least three, and no more than four credits of project credits. Students completing a Master’s project may register for either CSCI-6970 Professional Project or CSCI-6980 Master’s Project. The scope of the project is the same whether the student registers for CSCI-6970 or CSCI-6980. The differences are that 1) All credits for CSCI-6970 are taken in one semester, while credits for CSCI-6980 may be taken either in one semester or over multiple semesters, and 2) CSCI-6970 is graded A, B, C, or F, while CSCI-6980 is graded S or U.

Master’s projects are completed under the guidance of a project advisor. The project advisor must be someone who has a permanent teaching appointment (tenure track or teaching faculty) to the Department of Computer Science. Students may also collaborate with a research supervisor who does not fit this description, as long as there is also a project advisor who does meet the criteria and bears ultimate responsibility for supervising the project.

Before starting the project, the student, in consultation with the project advisor, will prepare a project proposal. Project proposals are typically 1-2 pages. It is strongly recommended that dates when particular milestones will be completed are included, along with grading criteria. The project scope will be agreed upon by both the advisor and the student. The workload for completing a project will be similar to the workload for a full semester ADVANCED 3-4 credit course.

Systems and theory courses 

Courses that count toward the systems and theory requirements are listed in the Theory & Systems groups under the PhD Requirements.

Students should advance their knowledge in each area beyond what it was when they entered the MS degree program. Therefore, the fact that a student has previously taken systems or theory courses is usually not grounds to waive these requirements. However, a student entering the program with an exceptionally strong preparation in one of these areas may request a waiver of the requirement in that area from the Graduate Curriculum Committee.

Elective Courses. The student must select additional courses to bring the total number of credits in the degree program up to 30. Course credits must be chosen with the advice and approval of the Computer Science advisor and must constitute a coherent plan of study reflecting the student's goals in obtaining a degree in Computer Science. At least half of the 30 credits required for the MS degree must be offered by the Computer Science Department (i.e., courses numbered CSCI-xxxx). These courses must be at the 4000 or 6000 level. No more than 12 credits of the 30 required for the degree may be at the undergraduate (4000) level.

Any 4000 or 6000 level Computer Science course can be a free elective, including independent study courses. In addition, there are many suitable courses offered by other departments. Some courses offered by other departments which may be of interest include:

BIOL - 4540/6410 Sequence Analysis

CIVL - 6660/MANE-6660 Fundamentals of Finite Elements

CIVL - 6680/MANE-6680 Finite Element Programming

MATP - 6610 Computational Optimization

MGMT - 4960 Networks, Innovation, and Value Creation

MGMT - 6650 Technology and Competitive Advantage

MGMT - 6660 Strategy, Technology, and Entrepreneurship

STSH - 4580 Self-organization in Science and Society

Ph.D. Requirements


The PhD in Computer Science is the highest professional degree awarded by the Rensselaer Department of Computer Science. With it students may advance to university teaching and research, and to careers in industrial research, with a solid foundation of knowledge and an ability to carry through original investigations in Computer Science.

The major milestones in the Ph.D. program are:

Part-time students may take up to twice the time to meet these milestones.

Students enrolled in the MS program concurrently with the PhD program are expected to work toward the above milestones from the time they enter the graduate program, rather than waiting until the MS is complete.

Most students should be involved in research each semester, taking at least one research credit under the supervision of their faculty advisor. PhD students register for CSCI-9990 Dissertation, which will only be allowed to count towards the PhD degree (not an MS degree).

Year 1: The Core Qualifying Exam

The first year of the program is devoted to becoming involved in research and completion of courses for the Core Qualifying Exam. Students should consult with their faculty advisor regarding both the requirements of their research project(s) and their plans for preparation for the core qualifying exam.

To fulfill the core qualifying exam requirement, students must take and do well in courses in five areas. Details are available under Core Qualifying Exam.

Full-time students who have not passed the Qualifying Exam within three semesters of entering the Ph.D. program will be dismissed from the program. Extensions to this deadline can be requested from the Graduate Curriculum Committee.

Year 2: Research Qualifying Exam and Committee

Year 2 is devoted to further research exploration, selection of a doctoral committee, and the Research Area Qualifying Exam.

A student's research is overseen by a faculty advisor and a doctoral committee. The student may work with a research supervisor who is not a CS faculty member, but the work with that supervisor must also be overseen by an advisor who is a member of the Computer Science Department faculty. Both the research supervisor and the CS advisor will be members of the student's doctoral committee.

The doctoral committee must include at least three full-time, tenure-track Computer Science Department faculty members and at least one "outside" member who is not a member of the Computer Science Department. Faculty who are based in another department but have a joint appointment to CS are not considered outside the department. Students are encouraged to choose an outside member who is not part of the RPI faculty.

The chair of the doctoral committee is normally the student's research supervisor and/or CS advisor. The committee chair must be a full-time, tenure-track faculty member who has an appointment to the Computer Science Department. The names of the committee members are submitted for the approval of the Department Chair who then communicates them to the Graduate School.

The research qualifying exam will be supervised by a preliminary committee consisting of the advisor and at least two other faculty members. The membership of the preliminary committee is informal and does not have to be approved by the Office of Graduate Education. The preliminary committee will be chosen based on who is likely to become a member of the doctoral committee, but when the time comes to choose the doctoral committee members, the choice need not be constrained by the membership of the preliminary committee. The preliminary committee will decide what a student must do for the research qualifying exam and whether the student passes or fails the exam. To pass the research qualifier the student must present a survey style oral talk to the committee. The purpose of the talk is for the student to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the related research and general area in which their work sits, and to place their research in this larger context, including citations to all related work where relevant.

An example of a Research Qualifying presentation can be found here: (Sample RQ)
The basis for the survey-talk can be one of the following:

1. Approximately 12 papers selected by the student and approved by the committee. The student should discuss the broad research field, summarize the contributions that have been made in this field and the interesting open questions. If applicable, the student should relate various contributions in this field to their proposed research topic.

2. A conference paper or a journal paper that has been published or is under submission, in which the student is a main co-author. This paper should be pre-approved by the committee. The student will expand on and present the related work surrounding the paper. During the talk the student should discuss the related work in the context of their contribution and precisely articulate what is novel about their contribution in the context of this related work.

For students taking path (ii), it should be emphasized that the presentation should not be a presentation of the students' work and methods, for evaluation by the committee. That will be the role of the candidacy exam. The purpose is for the student to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the related research and area in which their work sits, and to place their research in this larger context. As a concrete example, if the student’s paper is on a new mathematical model of network formation for a particular application X, the presentation could:

When the research qualifying exam has been completed, the committee members should complete and sign the Research Qualifying Exam Form and submit the form to Graduate Program Administrator at .

The Research Area Qualifying Exam must be passed by the end of the second year in the PhD program.

Year 3: Candidacy Exam

Working with his or her advisor, the student spends the third year developing a detailed understanding of the chosen research area, and preparing a research proposal. It is expected that a student will schedule a Candidacy Exam near the end of year 3.

The Candidacy Exam is an oral exam focusing on a thesis proposal and administered by the student's doctoral committee. The student begins by presenting the thesis proposal and then is questioned by the committee. Other faculty may attend the exam, but do not vote on whether the student passes the exam. Faculty members not on the committee should make their intention to attend the exam known early so that a copy of the thesis proposal can be given to them. The Candidacy Exam should be completed by the end of the third year in the PhD program.

Year 4 and Beyond: Research Completion and Defense

After the candidacy exam has been passed, the student must complete the proposed research, write the dissertation, and defend the dissertation, all under the supervision of the student's advisor. Throughout this time, the student should continue to discuss progress and results with committee members to reduce the possibility of "surprises" during the defense.

The dissertation defense is an oral examination that includes a presentation by the student of the major results in the dissertation. A student's doctoral committee establishes the specific format for this examination. The presentation of research results by the student is open to the public.

The defense should take place at least one year after the candidacy exam, in order to allow time to incorporate feedback from the candidacy exam. Students who wish to take the defense less than one year after the candidacy must contact the Graduate Program Director for approval.

The student is responsible for making sure that the dissertation is prepared according to the Office of Graduate Education regulations. The Thesis Writing Manual defines these regulations.

Course and Credit Requirements

Course and research credits must be chosen with the advice and approval of the Computer Science advisor and must constitute a coherent plan of study reflecting the student's goals in obtaining a PhD in Computer Science.

Students must complete 72 credits of coursework and research beyond the undergraduate degree. Of these 72 credits, at least 36 must be course credits and at least 24 must be research credits. If the student has a prior MS, a total of 48 credits beyond the MS must be taken, including at least 12 course credits and at least 24 research credits. At least two thirds of the course credits must be at the 6000 level. Up to one third of the course credits may be 4000 level.

The minimum average of all grades used for credit toward a PhD degree must be B. If a student’s grades fall below a B average, the Office of Graduate Education may request that the department conduct a formal review to determine whether continuation is warranted. The student’s adviser, committee, or department may recommend to the Office of Graduate Education that the student whose performance is unsatisfactory be dropped from the graduate program. A student who has accumulated two failing grades will be dropped from the graduate program.

Students who complete the required credits before completing their thesis work will need to continue to register for research credits to maintain full-time status.

Computational Molecular Biology Track

Each student should take courses in the following areas. This requirement can be satisfied by coursework completed prior to entering the PhD Program.

Courses used for the qualifying exam may also be counted toward this requirement. Recommended courses for fulfilling this requirement are the qualifying exam courses and courses in database systems, computational molecular biology, and data mining.

Additional Requirements

Students reading these requirements should also read the regulations laid down by the Graduate School, in the latest Rensselaer Catalog.

Evaluation of Student Progress

The progress toward the degree of each graduate student in the department is reviewed every year by their advisors and the Graduate Program Director to provide useful feedback to the student. At the end of each spring semester, all graduate students complete a Doctoral Student Yearly Review (DSYR) form that records their progress towards their degrees (e.g., milestones completed, courses taken, papers published, talks, major results, etc.) and sets goals for the next year. The faculty advisor meets with the student to review this form, make necessary changes, and evaluate whether the progress has been satisfactory or not. After the meeting, the form and an updated plan of study is sent to the Graduate Program Director for additional review. If a student’s progress is deemed unsatisfactory for two years in a row, the student is subject to dismissal from the PhD program. Note that students who enter the PhD program with a prior MS degree are expected to make faster progress through the PhD program than students who enter the program with no prior MS.

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the list of all the courses the student has taken or plans to take to fulfill the requirements for the degree. The Department, the Office of Graduate Education, and the Registrar's Office refer to the Plan of Study when they check whether students are fulfilling the degree requirements. When it comes time for a student to graduate, the Registrar's Office will compare the student’s Plan of Study with their transcript to be certain that the right courses were taken.

The form is available online. Students can print out the PDF version and fill it out. Students will probably have to revise the Plan of Study several times, so it will be easier to make revisions if you complete the form electronically.  Hand-written forms must be neat and easy to read. They should not be filled in with pencil.

COVID-19 Pass/No Credit policy, effective only for Spring 2020:

The Plan of Study should indicate that the student is fulfilling the following requirements:

For a Master's Degree:

When listing the systems and theory courses, students should place a check in the "Required" column. Any courses and credits that are above and beyond what is required must not be listed on the plan of study.

For a PhD:

Any courses and credits that are above and beyond what is required must not be listed on the plan of study.

Pursuing MS and PhD degrees at RPI

Students pursuing both an M.S. and a Ph.D. should file separate Plan of Study forms for each degree. In this case, students may list all course credits from an RPI Master's on the PhD Plan of Study. MS thesis and project credits do not count as either course or research credits for the PhD.

Plan of Study

PhD Plan of Study for students with MS from another school

Students who earned a Master's from another school should list the MS on their Plan of Study, and list it as counting for 24 credits. An additional 48 credits must then be listed to bring the total to 72 for the PhD. The 24 for the Master's are considered course credits, so the additional 48 credits should include at least 12 course credits and at least 24 research credits.


The curriculum is Computer Science. This may be written out or abbreviated as CSCI.

Extra credits

The total number of credits listed should be 72 for the PhD and 30 for the MS. It is likely that a student will register for more than that number of credits while a student here, but these extra credits should not be listed here.  Only the credits that are needed to count toward the degree should be listed. If needed to reach exactly 72 credits, fewer than the total number of courses may be listed. For example, it is okay to list only 2 credits of a 3-credit course. Courses may be counted for the core qualifying exam or research qualifying exam even if they are not listed on the Plan of Study.

Transfer credits

Students may count up to 24 transfer credits toward the PhD or up to six transfer credits toward the  MS. The Master's degree automatically counts for 24 credits toward a PhD; additional transfer credits may not be counted. For any transfer credit situation other than counting a prior MS toward a PhD, the transferred courses must be approved individually.  Students should use the Transfer Credit Approval Form to get the transfer credits approved. Send completed form, along with syllabus to Tracy Hoffman for the GPD’s review and approval. When the transfer credits are approved, an RPI course number will be assigned to each transferred course.  These numbers must be used on the Plan of Study.

Semester and Year

The semester section is divided into two columns. In the "Year" column, write the year, such as 2018. (Some students make the mistake of writing "1" for their first year.) In the "F, S, U" use one of the letters to indicate whether the credits will be taken in the Fall, Spring, or sUmmer.

Completing the form

On the Plan of Study form the course number must be listed with subject prefix (e.g. CSCI) and course title. The form must be signed by the student, the advisor, and the Graduate Program Director. Students can have the Graduate Program Administrator ( check the form prior to the advisor’s signature. Signed forms must be left with the Graduate Program Administrator who will get the Graduate Program Director signature, and then will make copies. She or he will send the original to the Registrar's Office, send a copy to the Office of Graduate Education, and keep a copy for the student’s file. If the courses the student takes are different from those listed on the Plan of Study, a revised Plan of Study form must be filed.  A revision is not needed every time a change is made, but the Plan of Study will need to be up to date any time a request is submitted to the Office of Graduate Education, and immediately prior to graduation. If the only change is the date of graduation, but the courses taken are unchanged, a new Plan of Study is not needed

Colloquium Attendance Requirement

During their first two years in the graduate program, full-time Computer Science graduate students are required to attend a total of 32 colloquia or at least 50% of those offered. After two years, attendance will no longer be tracked, but graduate students are encouraged to make colloquium attendance a habit throughout their time in the program.

The first two years will be counted based on the date the admission to the graduate program is effective, even if the student is enrolled in the undergraduate program at the time. There is one exception: students in the BS-PhD accelerated program will be counted starting after they complete 128 credits.

Students will be expected to attend at a rate of eight colloquia per semester, or 50% of those offered.

Students who attend fewer in a given semester will be warned during their annual review that they need to increase their attendance.

Students who are enrolled in the graduate program for less than two years will be expected to attend a total number of colloquia equal to eight times the number of semesters they are enrolled, or 50% of those offered during the time they are enrolled.

Only Computer Science Department colloquia, listed on the department's colloquium web page can be counted. Talks offered by other departments, talks specific to a research group, or department seminars do not count.

Students may sometimes have schedule conflicts which make it impossible to attend 8 per semester or 50%. If attendance is slightly below the requirement one semester, it can be made up through additional attendance during the following semester. If there are many conflicts, it may be possible to adjust the requirement. At the end of the semester, the student should contact the Graduate Program Administrator (  with the details of the conflicts. In the case of a department event with multiple talks on the same day (such as CS Day), each talk will count as a separate colloquium.

Part-time students are not required to fulfill the colloquium requirement, but they are encouraged to attend talks on campus and/or at their workplace as much as they are able.

Core Qualifying Exam

During the first few semesters, the student focuses on obtaining a breadth of knowledge in computer science. Full-time students must complete all requirements for the core qualifying examination by the end of their third semester. Part-time students may take up to six semesters to complete the core qualifying exam requirements. The timing is measured from the student's semester of PhD program entry, regardless of whether the student is concurrently enrolled in another degree program. The only exception is that students in the accelerated BS-PhD program may begin the timing when they complete 128 credits.

To pass the core qualifying exams, students must:

Core Qualifying Exam Details

Students entering F2019 and later must satisfy two parts. Students entering before F2019 may use the requirements at the time of entry or the current requirements.

Part I Core: Students must demonstrate competence at the advanced undergraduate level in the core areas of CS.

Students may demonstrate core competence in one of 3 ways.

Part II Depth: Students must demonstrate advanced knowledge at the 6xxx level in a primary research area. To satisfy the depth requirement, students must take 5 courses in designated depth buckets, with 3 courses in their primary (research area) bucket and two courses in other buckets. The student must receive at least 18.5 quality points in the 5 chosen courses to satisfy the depth requirement.

  1. Theory (T). (Selected courses demonstrate theory core.)
  2. Systems, Software and Security (SSS). (Selected courses demonstrate PL core and Systems core.)
  3. AI/ML/Data (AMD).
  4. Mathematics and Numerical Computing (MNC).
  5. Robotics/Vision/Graphics (RVG).

Notes and Examples:

  1. The core demonstration and depth requirement may be fulfilled separately. For example, a student takes Computer Algorithms with a B, 3 RVG courses with A and 2 SSS courses with A. Assuming the student chose the SSS courses appropriately
  1. RPI student who has taken 4020,4140,4450 at B or better only has to demonstrate depth.
  2. Student who comes into CS-PHD with little CS-background may need to catch up. They may do so with by taking 4020,4140,4450 to build background while satisfying CORE-Part I and then take 5 depth courses to satisfy CORE-Part II. Such a student may need to petition for an additional semester to fulfill the qualifier.

Theory (T):

* course can be used to satisfy Part-I algorithms core.

                (students may petition special topics courses for this area with advisor support)


Systems, Software and Security (SSS):

        ** course can be used to satisfy Part-I systems core.

        *** course can be used to satisfy Part-I programming languages core.

                (students may petition special topics courses for this area with advisor support)

AI/ML/Data (AMD)

                (students may petition special topics courses for this area with advisor support)

Mathematics and Numerical Computing (MNC)

            (students may petition special topics courses for this area with advisor support)

 Robotics/Vision/Graphics (RVG)

(students may petition special topics courses for this area with advisor support)


Choosing a Doctoral Committee

The Ph.D. thesis is supervised by a single faculty advisor and overseen by a doctoral committee with at least four members. At least three of the members, including the committee chair (the student's primary advisor) must be Computer Science Department faculty. These faculty must be full-time, tenured/tenure-track faculty. Clinical, research, and emeritus professors do not count for this purpose. Faculty who are based in another department but who have a joint appointment to Computer Science count as CS faculty.

The fourth member must be an "outside member." The outside member may be from outside Rensselaer, or may be an RPI faculty member who does not have an appointment to the Computer Science Department. Students are encouraged to choose an outside member who is not a member of the RPI faculty.

Students may choose more than four members for their committee if they wish.

After students have chosen the members of your committee, they must fill out a Nomination of Doctoral Committee form. Students must get all committee members to sign the form.

For any committee members who are not RPI faculty members, you also need:

  1. The committee member's curriculum vitae. This must be included with the nomination of doctoral committee form.
  2. A letter from the Graduate Program Director.  The student’s advisor must send a draft letter to the Graduate Program Administrator ( detailing the qualifications and suitability of the proposed committee member for your PhD research topic. The GPA will work with the Graduate Program Director on the letter and ask for clarifications as needed.

After the form is complete, including original signatures of the committed members, it must be delivered to the Graduate Program Administrator ( The GPA will have the Department Head sign it. After the form has been signed, the GPA will put a copy in the student’s file and send the original to the Office of Graduate Education.

If a student needs to change their committee membership, the student may submit another Nomination of Doctoral Committee form or the student may prepare a memo to be submitted by the department chair to the Graduate School.

If a member of a student’s committee retires or otherwise leaves Rensselaer before the student’s  graduation, the person may continue to count as one of the full-time committee members if

  1. The student graduates no more than one year after the professor's retirement.


  1. The department head requests an extension from the Graduate School.

Candidacy Exam

The candidacy exam should be taken around the end of the third year in the program. Additional information about the candidacy exam can be found in the PhD Requirements.

The candidacy exam is an oral exam, and the Ph.D. committee members serve as the examiners.  The committee form must be signed and approved by the Graduate School before the exam. If the committee membership is changed sometime between the candidacy and the defense, the new committee must be approved by the Graduate School, but the candidacy with the old committee will still be valid.

Prior to taking the exam, the student must have fulfilled the following requirements:

Before the candidacy exam, the student must prepare a Record of Candidacy Examination Form. After the candidacy exam, the advisor must check "Passed" or "Failed" and all members of the committee must sign the form. The completed form must be given to the Graduate Program Administrator ( after that, and the GPA will get the Graduate Program Director signature and send the form on to the Graduate School.

The Graduate School will issue a Candidacy Certificate when a student has passed the candidacy exam and met the requirements listed above.  When some requirements have not been met, the Graduate School will send the student a letter indicating what remains to be done.

Students who wish to hold their exam in one of the department's conference rooms, can ask Shannon Carrothers to reserve it. Often rooms can be reserved online at: .

Students should prepare a talk that will last 30-45 minutes without questions. The committee members may ask questions throughout the exam, so the exam may last up to two hours.

In addition to the oral exam, students must prepare a written candidacy proposal. This should include the following topics:

Some tips for preparing the proposal:

Registering for Independent Study

To register for an independent study, students do not register online, but instead they should complete an Independent Study Form.  Signatures are needed from the independent study supervisor, the research advisor, and the computer Science Department's Graduate Program Director. Along with the form, a syllabus of the independent study must be attached. After the form is complete, the student must submit it to the registrar's office. The deadline is the same as the deadline to add classes.

Full-Time Status

Many students need to maintain full-time status. Full-time status is required for aid eligibility and for student visas. The minimum number of credits per semester to still maintain full-time status is 9 for teaching assistants and 12 for all others. The maximum number of credits without paying additional tuition is 15. These rules apply to the Fall and Spring semesters. Students are not required to take additional credits during the summer to maintain full-time status.

Many students take two or three classes per semester, and then fill in the rest of the needed credits with research. For example, if a student needs to take at least 12 credits, they might take a 4-credit class, two 3-credit classes, and two research credits. The number of research credits taken during a given semester does not necessarily correspond to the amount of research that will be done during the semester.  Students will receive a grade of IP (in progress) for all research credits until completing the degree, at which time these grades will be converted to S (satisfactory). Thus, what matters is not how much research is done in a particular semester, but that by the time the student is finished they  have completed all the research and have registered for as many research credits as needed. Because it doesn't cost extra to take 15 credits, and because students don't have to do extra work if they register for extra research credits, students may want to register for 15 credits to get as many credits as possible out of the way.

Of course, the bigger challenge is getting the research done, and often students complete all their credits before they complete their research. In such a situation, students must continue to register for at least 12 credits per semester (or 9 for TAs). Usually students in this situation register for additional research credits rather than take classes. When they graduate, they will receive a grade of S (satisfactory) for those research credits used toward the degree. Any extra credits will remain with a grade of IP (in progress). The maximum number of research credits used toward an MS is 9. The total number of credits used for the degree (courses plus research) will be 30 for the MS and 72 for the PhD (or 48 for students with a prior MS).

Students must either register for every Fall and Spring semester or apply for a leave of absence. Part-time students must register for at least one credit per semester and full-time students must register for at least 12 (or 9 for TAs). Students who do not register for a semester will be removed from the program.

Graduate Tuition Policy


TA         full funding on a slot (tuition scholarship)

IRA/SRA        tuition funding from slot and stipend from either slot or start-up fund

FEL        tuition funding can be from a slot or gift/endowed but stipend must be from gift/endowed or some other external source

ERA        tuition and stipend funding from external research funding

Overall Policy Guidelines

  1. Tuition for all graduate programs, full-time and part-time, is set each year by the Board of Trustees upon recommendation by the President.
  2. Full-time graduate academic year tuition will be set at the same level as the undergraduate rate. All full-time students will pay this tuition.
  3. To receive a degree from Rensselaer, a student must be enrolled in an approved degree program, (i.e., matriculated).
  4. Full-time graduate tuition will be paid the entire time a student is matriculated and in residence, except for special cohort programs.
  5. Full-time status for all students, except teaching assistants, requires registration of at least 12 credits per semester.
  6. TA’s must register for at least 9 credits per semester.
  7. Payment of full-time graduate tuition allows a student to register for 12 to 15 credit hours in each of the fall and spring semesters. TA’s may register for 9 to 15 credits.
  8. Only full-time students will be eligible for financial support in the form of a tuition waiver, stipend, research assistantship, teaching assistantship, or fellowship.
  9. All assistantships and internal fellowships are indivisible and a student cannot be both a TA and RA within the same semester.
  10. All graduate students receiving stipends from the Institute, from contracts/grants, and from Institute administered external sources, must be paid the minimum stipend as established by the Institute. For FY21 the stipend for the academic year is $23,500 and for the calendar year is set at $30,837.
  11. Students must complete all degree requirements for the PhD within a continuous seven-year time period, and for a Master's degree within a continuous two and one-half year time period. Students entering with a Masters degree in their field of study must finish all degree requirements for the PhD within a continuous five-year time period. Approved Leaves of Absence for medical, military or maternity reasons allow up to an additional two years to complete the graduate degree.
  12. Students enrolling for more than 15 credits during the Fall or Spring terms will be charged the academic year tuition rate plus an incremental per credit hour rate, for each credit hour exceeding 15 credits. Master of Architecture students may register for up to 18 credits per semester at the academic year tuition rate. Any credits taken in the summer sessions will be charged the incremental per credit hour rate for each credit hour.
  13. A student pursuing graduate studies may not be employed by his/her Thesis/Dissertation advisor in any capacity except as a Research Assistant on thesis related research.
  14. Students who complete all of the degree requirements and whose Thesis/Dissertation has been certified by the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) prior to the end of the seventh week of classes may request a prorated reimbursement of their tuition. The pro-ration is based on the term withdrawal schedule set by the Office of the Bursar.
  15. All new contract/grant proposals and all contract/grant renewals must incorporate the current tuition policy. Specifically, the budget will include student support of full tuition less the current tuition cost share (35%), the current minimum calendar year stipend, and the current overhead on the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC), including the student stipend.

Graduate Tuition Policy

TA and Institutionally Supported RA Policy Guidelines

A number of institutionally supported positions which include TAs, IRAs and SRAs, will be assigned to each school in order to assist them in attracting the very highest quality students. In the selection of these students, strong consideration should be given to the research potential and interest of the student. For each of these positions, Rensselaer will provide tuition waivers and stipends from a centralized pool administered by the Dean of the Graduate Education. These positions are indivisible within a semester. It is expected that, once the student is no longer supported institutionally, faculty will support the student from externally funded research programs for the remainder of the student's degree program, in accordance with graduate tuition policy.

  1. A graduate Teaching Assistant (TA) is expected to work under faculty supervision for course-related responsibilities (i.e., no TA will be the primary  instructor for a course) of the assigned course(s) TA positions are not assigned to individual faculty, nor are they assigned  for research work, but rather are to support the teaching function in an assigned course or courses. As such, during the time a student is supported as a TA, he/she is expected to work towards the completion of his/her non-research related degree requirements, while at the same time attempting to identify a thesis advisor.
  2. A graduate Internal Research Assistant (IRA) or Start-up Research Assistant (SRA) receives support from internal funding and performs research duties under the supervision of a faculty member responsible for that research.
  3. A student may be institutionally supported up to two years for PhD students and one year for Masters students (except for March students for which a different policy pertains). After this period, it is expected that his/her thesis advisor will support the student.
  4. In the special case of two years of SRA where external support is not yet available, the SRA may be followed by one year of TA thus permitting three years of internal support, with the approval of the Dean of Graduate Education.

Graduate Tuition Policy

Externally Supported RA Policy Guidelines

The significant increases in the research portfolio outlined in the Rensselaer Plan will require that faculty undertake new and sustained efforts in the research arena. These efforts will require an increase in the rate of proposal submission; improvement in the quality of the proposals submitted, which will thereby enhance the success rate; and an increase in the number of large interdisciplinary, multi-investigator proposals developed and submitted. It will further require that a greater percentage of faculty members participate in sponsored research programs. One way to strongly encourage and motivate these types of activities while at the same time ensuring that proposals remain competitive from a total cost to contract perspective, is through the implementation of a tuition cost-sharing program. In such a program, a portion of the cost of the tuition for Graduate Research Assistants (RA's) will be provided as cost sharing on the contract by Rensselaer for students supported on externally funded, sponsored research projects. The implementation of this type of program, will result in a number of benefits, including:

  1. The current tuition rate, as set each year by the Board of Trustees (upon recommendation by the President), will be incorporated in all new contract/grant proposals and all contract/grant renewals.
  2. The tuition cost share rate for all competitive, externally-funded, sponsored research proposals paying the full indirect cost rate, is 35% of the required tuition for each graduate research assistant included in the proposal.
  3. Tuition cost sharing for proposals paying less than full indirect costs will be prorated accordingly.
  4. Externally supported RA positions are indivisible, i.e., may not be apportioned among multiple students.
  5. Any student supported on a contract/grant must have a full calendar year stipend and full tuition support less the institutional cost share.
  6. Therefore, the total cost to contract for each student will be the full tuition, less the university cost share amount, plus the minimum calendar year stipend and overhead on that stipend, unless otherwise restricted by the sponsor.
  7. In the event of tuition caps set by the sponsoring agency, the institute will determine how to treat the difference between the cap and the tuition on a case by case basis.

Fellowship Student Policy Guidelines

In order to attract the best students to Rensselaer, fellowship offers must be competitive.

  1. Only full-time students will be eligible for institute-provided fellowships.
  2. Fellowships will consist of the minimum calendar year stipend, and tuition support to be determined by the Fellowship Review Committee, chaired by the Dean of Graduate Education for Institutional Fellowships, or the Academic Dean for School-administered fellowships.
  3. Fellowships for GEM students and McNair Scholars consist of the minimum calendar year stipend and full-time tuition remission, with the duration of the fellowship being set so as to remain competitive with other research universities. The stipend funding is provided through the agency and the academic department, and the tuition funding can draw from institutional tuition funds to the extent necessary to make the award whole. The Office of Graduate Education handles the accounting and agency billings for these programs.

Graduate Tuition Policy

Part-time Student Policy Guidelines

Although the principal focus on the Troy campus is on full-time students that support the research mission of the Institute, part-time graduate students are also encouraged. The principal focus of the Hartford Campus is on working professionals and part-time students.

  1. With the exception of students enrolled in special cohort programs and those taking classes via distance learning, all Troy-based, non-matriculated students, wishing to enroll for less than 12 hours/semester, will be considered part-time and will be charged the part-time tuition.
  2. Students wishing to take 12 or more credits per semester will be considered full-time, must pay the full-time tuition, and must have been admitted to an approved degree program, (i.e., must be matriculated).
  3. Part-time students enrolled in the core (general studies) programs at Rensselaer at Hartford will pay the part-time tuition.
  4. The tuition for students enrolled in cohorts and other special programs will be determined separately.
  5. Part-time students are not eligible for financial support from Rensselaer.

Graduate Tuition

Full-time graduate tuition is $55,600 per academic year for FY21. Payment of this tuition allows a student to register for 12 to 15 credit hours in each of the fall and spring semesters. A student paying tuition and taking between 12 and 15 credits in the fall and spring is considered a full-time student throughout that calendar year. Students must register for at least 12 credits per semester to maintain full-time status. The only exception to this requirement is for those students serving as teaching assistants. These students may register for a minimum of 9 credits to maintain their full-time status. Students enrolling for more than 15 credits, with prior approval, during the fall or spring terms will be charged the academic year tuition rate plus a per-credit-hour rate of $2,320.00 for each credit hour exceeding 15 credits or for each credit taken in the summer sessions.

Part-time graduate tuition is paid on a per-credit-hour basis of $2,250.00 per credit hour.

Summer Administrative Registration

Summer Administrative Registration (SAR) is a no charge registration requirement for graduate students who will be receiving a stipend over the summer or graduating in the summer semester. Students taking credit-bearing courses or research credits should not register for SAR. Eligibility for SAR requires that the student has been registered in both the previous fall and spring semesters. (All students who are working should be registered at all times).

Cooperative Education

Graduate students may participate in the Co-op Program (Co-op) on a “permission only” basis. While on assignment, Co-op employees are considered full-time students, and no tuition is assessed. Students who are on a Co-op in the local area are still required to pay the activity and health service fees.

Graduate students may apply for Co-op positions that take place during the summer and/or semester (up to a maximum of one year). However, there must be compelling academic reasons for the student to participate in the program, and all jobs must be reviewed and approved by the academic advisor, Graduate Program Director, and the Dean of Graduate Education. In addition, international students must also have the position approved by International Student Services prior to commencing work.

Graduate Tuition Policy

For departments who have students that have exhausted their internal funding limits and have no external funding options available to them should use the following procedure:

  1. Assess the student in question to be sure that they are making the required academic progress towards their degree (this can be accomplished during the Doctoral Review process as well).
  2. Check the student record and try to determine the date of graduation. This will allow the department/school and OGE to have a better idea of the amount of time that the student will still need to be funded in order to obtain the degree.
  3. If the Graduate Program Director for your school is not able to solve the issue using school funding, they will appeal, in writing, to the Dean of Graduate Education for an exception to the rule. They must clearly outline the entire student situation and the steps they have taken to try to fund the student. The Dean of Graduate Education will then make an assessment of the situation and recommend a solution.
  4. The final decision will be sent to the school Graduate Program Director and the Business Manager for the Office of Graduate Education, who will consult with the department on the decision.

Guidelines For Teaching Assistance Appointments

Adopted by the Dean’s Council on 1/8/03. Revised on 9/1/03

The purpose of this document is to describe the guidelines, rights, and responsibilities of graduate students, faculty and departments with regards to graduate student teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The goals of these guidelines are to ensure that teaching assistants are adequately prepared, given appropriate teaching assignments and workloads, and that there is appropriate oversight and mentoring by the department and faculty. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recognizes that the primary objective of a teaching assistant is to make steady progress toward an advanced degree. Teaching assistant employment status is dependent upon student status. The primary responsibility for all courses taught at the Institute is and will continue to rest with the faculty.


Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) is a registered full-time graduate student chosen as a result of excellent scholarship and promise as a teacher. The GTA minimally holds a baccalaureate degree in a field that is closely related to the one in which he/she will be assisting.

Under faculty supervision, the duties of a GTA may include providing help sessions; leading discussion, recitation, laboratory or quiz sections; holding office conferences with students; preparing materials for faculty-guided classroom or laboratory instruction; assisting professors in the design of a course; assisting in the design and/or preparation of exams or quizzes; proctoring examinations; and grading student papers and/or examinations to faculty guided standards.

TA’s are not and should not be held responsible for the intellectual or instructional content of a course, for the selection of student assignments, for planning examinations and/or defining policies that determine final course grades. The GTA is not to be assigned responsibility for instructing or lecturing the entire enrollment of a course, or for providing the entire instruction of a group of students in a course for a prolonged period.

Guidelines For Teaching Assistance Appointments


Students holding a teaching assistantship share a responsibility for promoting the scholarly and educational objectives of the department in which they are employed. Graduate Teaching Assistants, like faculty, should treat students with respect, do their best to get to know the students assigned to their class, and to have a genuine interest in their academic progress. Graduate Teaching Assistants are subject to policies and procedures of their departments and of the Institute and should respect and conform to the rules and procedures of the department or laboratory/center to which they are assigned.

Graduate Teaching Assistants are not permitted to hold appointments that require an average of more than 20 hours per week, therefore the GTA responsibilities should be consistent with this rule.

Each semester, departments are expected to provide all appointees with timely notification of specific assignments clearly outlining their duties and responsibilities for a given term. A reasonable effort should be made to take into consideration the competencies and preferences of the graduate teaching assistant, as well as try to accommodate her/his course schedule when determining assignments.

The department is expected to carry out a review of the graduate assistant’s performance each term. This review will be conducted jointly by the faculty instructor(s) to whom the GTA is assigned and the appropriate department chairperson. Also, it is expected that adequate work space and access to needed equipment be provided, as well has a place for receiving mail.

Each department is responsible for providing orientation, training, and supervision for all graduate teaching assistants. All GTA’s are required to attend scheduled orientations; failure to do so can result in termination of the appointment. At least one faculty member needs to be assigned to work closely with each graduate assistant to assist him/her  in carrying out his or her assignments and to help facilitate professional development. The faculty member and the graduate assistant should meet on a regular basis throughout the term. If the GTA is instructing a laboratory, or recitation section for the first time, the faculty member should arrange to observe the instruction several times.

In the event of a GTA’s serious illness or physical incapacitation, the department chair or his/her designee will arrange for completion of the teaching assignments. In this event, the GTA shall receive salary and health benefits for the remainder of the academic term.

Guidelines For Teaching Assistance Appointments

Appointment Guidelines

The following guidelines must be used in appointing Graduate Teaching Assistants. Exceptions to these requirements must be made individually and in writing to the Dean of Graduate Education.

A Graduate Teaching Assistant must:

The GTA must receive a letter that states the general conditions of the appointment and that specifies the salary, general duties, duration, any fringe benefits, and other pertinent terms of appointment. A copy of this document should be included with the letter. The appointment letter is sent in duplicate to the student. To accept the appointment, the student signs the copy and returns it to the designated authority. The student should retain the original.

GTA positions are not assigned to individual faculty, nor are they assigned for research work, but rather are to support the teaching function in an assigned course or courses. However, part of the TA's assigned responsibility will be to conform to departmental policies and guidelines for graduate study.

When a student accepts an appointment in writing, that appointment shall be binding and in accordance with the University’s graduate tuition policies. However, a GTA, after accepting an appointment for the semester, may resign in writing four (4) weeks before the beginning of a semester. A department may, during the term of appointment, transfer a student, with the student’s consent, from a teaching assignment to another assignment as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) or to another appropriate assignment, which provides for essentially equal financial benefits and professional opportunities.

Guidelines For Teaching Assistance Appointments

Duration of Appointment

Appointment dates for GTA’s shall be consistent with the academic year of the Institute. For those given a two semester assignment at the beginning of the academic year, the term will be consistent with faculty academic year appointments (August 15 to May 16). For those given fall semester only appointments, their terms shall begin with the start of the academic year appointments (August 15) and be completed two days after the last day of final exams at the end of the fall term. For those given spring semester only appointments, their terms shall begin one week before the start of classes and end two days after the last day of final exams at the end of the spring term. These dates can be modified by the department for special cases where responsibilities may extend beyond these dates (e.g. Distance courses).

A student will be supported on a teaching assistantship for a maximum of two years for PhD students and one year for Masters students, (except for MArch students for which a different policy will pertain).

Immigration and ESL Requirements

Immigration laws require employers to verify that a job applicant is authorized to be employed in the United States. Each new GTA is required to verify that he/she is either a U.S. citizen or authorized to be employed in this country. All international GTA’s who are involved in student contact must possess adequate English language fluency for effective communication with students. GTA’s who are nonnative speakers of English must be evaluated by the Institute ESL specialist and possess the recommended level of English fluency consistent with their teaching assignment. Any GTA’s not meeting the recommended levels of fluency must enroll in language enhancement courses. If a GTA does not obtain a satisfactory score by the time of reappointment, it is sufficient cause for non-renewal.


A GTA appointment can be terminated for non-performance. Termination proceedings can only be initiated if the GTA has been evaluated on a regular basis and has received appropriate written warning of his/her performance, or has violated one or more Institute policies. The GTA must be informed in writing by the dean of the school in which they are enrolled of the reasons for the termination, and the appeals procedure.

Grievance Situations

Any GTA who believes that they are being treated unfairly according to the guidelines set forth here should first discuss the problem with the course supervisor, and then, if resolution cannot be achieved, with the appropriate department chairperson. If resolution cannot be reached at the department level, the grievance can be presented to the Dean of the GTA’s school for further evaluation, adjudication, and advice on additional grievance procedures.

Appeals must be submitted within one week of notice to the Dean of Graduate Education. The Dean of Graduate Education can decide to convene an appeals panel of two faculty, or handle the appeal by him/herself. Final determination of the appeal should occur within 21 days of receipt of the formal appeal.

Policy Application Process for Transition of TA’s

The Graduate Tuition and Student Support Policy states:

“To facilitate the movement of TA's to contract supported RA's, when a PhD student who has been a TA moves into research with a supervisor who has a research contract with full Indirect Cost recovery, the Institute will provide a 50/50 cost share of the tuition and stipend on the professor's contract/grant for one calendar year.”

Eligibility and requirements:

  1. Beginning in the Fall of 2004, PhD students who are in their second or third year of graduate study and have been supported most recently as TA’s may be eligible for the Transition RA program.
  2. External funds used to support Transition RA students MUST supply full indirect cost recovery.
  3. Students entered into the Transition RA program must continue to receive support from external funds through the completion of their doctoral programs. All support provided to the student during the student’s tenure must be consistent with the limitations on semesters of internal support and other policy restrictions as set forth in the Graduate Tuition and Student Support Policy. The continuation of support is contingent upon the student remaining in good academic standing.

Process and implementation:

  1. Faculty who wish to support a student will apply for the Transition RA in their respective Dean’s Office using the application form. The departmental financial manager should verify the funding data. The PI should to the extent possible identify the project and account from which the student will be paid for the remainder of his/her program. The School Dean, with advice from the portfolio financial manager, will determine the suitability of the request. It is left to the judgment of the School Dean to approve or not approve cases in which not all the necessary funding is present, but in which there is an expectation that the funding will be received. The responsibility for supporting the student, should funding not be available, will rest with the School Dean’s office.
  2. If approved for the Transition RA, the student will receive a stipend paid entirely from the PI’s grant. The Institute will collect the tuition as originally budgeted from the PI’s grant and overhead on the stipend. An amount equal to one-half of the stipend and the difference between one-half of the tuition and the cost share, or normally 15% of the tuition will be credited to the PI’s ‘TA/RA transition incentive’ account. The return of 15% of the tuition and one-half of the stipend, when coupled with the 35% cost share amounts to a 50/50 cost share as stated in the Graduate Tuition and Student Support Policy. The amount described above will be calculated as described above for one year, thereafter the Graduate Tuition and Student Support Policy will be fully applicable. Monies place in the incentive account must be spent for legitimate research purposes within two calendar years. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Office of the Provost 110 8th Street / Troy, NY 12180 USA Phone (518) 276-6487 / FAX (518) 276-4061
  3. Under no circumstances will this transition RA policy be applied prior to the awarding of funding, nor may this policy be incorporated into the budgets of grant proposals. Transfer of money to the transition incentive account will always follow the collection of student tuition and overhead from an existing grant or contract fund.
  4. An individual student may be ‘transitioned’ only once and the maximum number of students who can be transitioned on a particular grant or contract is equal to the number of students specified in the proposal budget. 

Travel Reimbursement for Conferences

If you are presenting a paper or poster at a conference, your expenses can usually be reimbursed partially by your advisor and partially by the Office of Graduate Education (OGE). The Computer Science Department and the School of Science do not offer travel funding except in rare special circumstances.

To request OGE funding, complete a Graduate Student Professional Meeting Travel Request. You'll need to include a copy of your invitation letter from the conference, as well as an abstract of the paper or poster you will be presenting.

After you have completed the form, attached the required documents, received your advisor’s signature, bring the form to Tracy Hoffman as she will process and send to the department’s Business Administrator.

The Office of Graduate Education will fund no more than one conference per student per academic year. The maximum amount the Office of Graduate Education may contribute is $200.

After you have attended the conference, submit your receipts in Concur for your reimbursement.

Childbirth Accommodation, Parental Accommodation, and Family Leave Policy for Graduate Students

The policy addresses family and child-related circumstances that a graduate student may encounter and provides appropriate accommodations in accordance with individual circumstances, eligibility, and need. An effort has been made to match the type and extent of accommodation to the individualized needs of graduate students whose circumstances require a leave from their programs for any one of the reasons covered by the policy. This policy is not intended to replace communication between the student and the advisor but rather to serve as a framework and provide support for family situations. At all times, the student should work proactively with the advisor and the Office of Graduate Education to ensure progress towards academic goals. In the case of pregnancy, the student should also be sure to work with Environmental Health and Safety so that possible health risks can be addressed.

Childbirth Accommodation

Allows full-time student status to continue for a specific timeframe that may be during and/or after the pregnancy and to facilitate the return to full participation in class work and, where applicable, research, teaching and clinical training in a seamless manner.


This policy applies to full-time matriculated and enrolled women graduate students who are anticipating childbirth and have been enrolled at Rensselaer for at least two consecutive semesters of full-time study at the time of delivery.


A student anticipating childbirth is eligible for a maximum of one semester of childbirth accommodation during which the student may postpone course assignments, examinations, and other academic requirements. The accommodation period begins on the first day of classes in the applicable semester as agreed upon and approved by the Office of Graduate Education during the formal request process.

Students utilizing this policy are eligible for a full-time, zero credit continuous registration for the approved time period that carries no tuition cost and will allow the student to retain access to on campus facilities as well as maintaining electronic access. Standard Rensselaer health and activity fees will be applicable and charged as normal during the childbirth accommodation period. Normally, students residing on campus can remain in their respective housing, as appropriate for the specific housing assignment, or they may contact Residence Life for a change in housing if it is available.

During the childbirth accommodation period, students who have been funded for the previous twelve (12) months through TA/RA/Fellowship and who have received an award letter indicating continuing support will be eligible for salary continuation to be paid from a fund 2 established by the Provost and managed by the Office of Graduate Education. This fund will be known as the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. During this timeframe, duties typically performed by TAs and RAs will be suspended and the student will not be expected to work.

Some students may want to continue working during the accommodation period. The standard disability-related maternity leave for normal delivery is 6 weeks in length and the standard disability-related maternity leave for caesarean section delivery is 8 weeks in length. A student on maternity leave may not return to work until deemed medically able to return by a physician. Any student who would like to continue working during the accommodation period, except during maternity leave, should discuss this with their advisor and department. During the discussion, the advisor and department should identify an alternate source of stipend funding (from the advisor or department) that will provide a stipend to pay the student for the work they perform during the accommodation period.

The time to degree limits for students under the childbirth policy will be extended by the approved period of the accommodation (one semester) with the possibility of three additional semesters of Family Leave, upon approval of the Office of Graduate Education.

Health Issues:

It is recognized that in a laboratory environment there may be certain processes, chemicals or equipment that represent a hazard to the healthy development of an unborn child. The following procedure is intended to minimize these risks. On learning of a pregnancy the student may elect to inform Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). EHS, in collaboration with the student, their advisor and other students in common laboratory areas, will make an assessment of the student's work environment at the request of the student. If the assessment reveals potential hazards to the unborn child the student may choose to request their advisor reassign them to another area or reassign them to projects that do not pose a potential hazard to the unborn child, for at least the first trimester of the pregnancy. If this request is made, and the student provides medical documentation from the attending physician, the advisor must make every effort to comply. If the advisor is unable to comply due to specific project agreements or deliverables, the Office of Graduate Education should be notified immediately to assist with an agreeable solution.


The Office of Graduate Education will administer the policy through a formal request process that does not require departmental approval but is reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Education. Students who are expecting a child should inform the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) by completing the “Request for Childbirth or Parental Accommodation” form. This should be completed and forwarded to OGE by the add deadline in the term for which the accommodation is being requested. Supporting evidence as outlined on the form will be required.


The Childbirth Policy is intended to establish standards for accommodating women graduate students before, during and after childbirth so that the student can focus on their familial responsibilities as well as continue to work towards their academic goals in an atmosphere supportive of both objectives.

Parental Accommodation

It is recognized that the birth of a child affects not only the birth mother but also the spouse or domestic partner* and that students may also choose to adopt or bring a foster child into their family. The proposed Parental Accommodation policy is intended to provide support for these types of situations.


This policy applies to full-time matriculated and enrolled graduate students who are in support of a spouse or domestic partner that has given birth, have adopted a child or taken a child into foster care.


A student requesting parental accommodation is eligible for a maximum of one semester of accommodation during which the student may postpone course assignments, examinations, and other academic requirements. The accommodation period begins on the first date of classes in the applicable semester as agreed upon and approved by the Office of Graduate Education during the formal request process.

Students utilizing this policy are eligible for a full-time, zero credit continuous registration for the approved time period that carries no tuition cost and will allow the student to retain access to on campus facilities as well as maintaining electronic access. Standard Rensselaer health and activity fees will be applicable and charged as normal during the parental accommodation period. Normally, students residing on campus can remain in their respective housing, as appropriate for the specific housing assignment or they may contact Residence Life for a change in housing if it is available. If a student is supported by a TA/RA/Fellow, the tuition award will be postponed for the period of the parental accommodation. The student may elect to continue with their assigned stipend duties and receive compensation or postpone the duties and stipend along with the tuition award.

The time to degree limits for students under the parental accommodation policy will be extended by the approved period of the accommodation (one semester) with the possibility of three additional semesters of Family Leave, upon approval of the Office of Graduate Education. 4


Students who wish to apply for this type of accommodation should inform the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) by completing the “Request for Childbirth or Parental Accommodation” form. This should be completed and forwarded to OGE by the add deadline in the term for which the accommodation is being requested. Supporting evidence as outlined on the form will be required.

*Includes same-sex domestic partner and opposite-sex domestic partner.

Family Leave


This policy applies to all matriculated and enrolled graduate students who need to take an extended leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for the care of a child, spouse or parent who has a serious health condition.


Students on family leave are not considered registered students and do not have access to campus facilities during the leave. The initial leave is normally approved for one semester and can be extended for a maximum of four semesters during which the time to degree limits will be extended by the approved leave period. In the case of a student who has already received an approved Childbirth or Parental Accommodation period, a maximum of three semesters of family leave can be utilized with no penalty to the degree time limit.


A student wishing to request this type of leave must make a formal written request to the Office of Graduate Education (OGE). Returning from the leave will require written notification and completion of the “Graduate Change of Status Form” and the applicable departmental approval.

Continuous Registration

The graduate policy on continuous registration applies to part-time students and full-time students both. All graduate students must remain registered each spring and fall semester until graduation, or take an approved leave of absence from their program. Students do not need to register for the summer if they were registered during the preceding spring.

Here are some key points on the continuous registration and leave of absence policies:

Submitting Your Thesis

Rensselaer’s Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and the Rensselaer Libraries have transitioned to an electronic-only submission process for theses and dissertations for all graduate students. This process now streamlines many of the former paper submission steps including being eco- and student-friendly!

Submission site: You will submit the electronic copy of your thesis online through UMI ETD Administrator.

No paper submission: Students are no longer required to submit a paper copy of their thesis/dissertation to OGE. Supporting documents and forms are required, however, and should be submitted to our Office. Please refer to the Dissertation/Thesis Checklist for required forms that must be brought to OGE before you can upload your thesis for the final phase of the review/approval process.

Fees, payable by credit or debit card: You will need to use a credit or debit card to pay $27 directly to UMI as part of the UMI ETD Administrator submission process. This $27 fee covers the cost of ProQuest/UMI supplying a bound paper copy of your thesis to the Rensselaer Libraries for preservation. Additional copies for personal use may also be purchased through Proquest/UMI

Please access the Preparation Manual for Dissertations and Theses for guidelines and requirements. Students graduating in Spring 2016 and beyond are required to follow the standards set forth in this edition of the manual. OGE's Dissertation/Thesis Formatting Checklist will aid you during this process as well.

Students are encouraged to make an appointment with our Office to conduct a preliminary review of their thesis/dissertation before final submission. Requests should be made before a student defends and includes the Citation Style used. For questions and/or more information, please contact the Office of Graduate Education at 518.276.6488.

Helpful One-Pagers

Attribution Guidelines

Academic Integrity

STEM Fields Citation Styles

Non-STEM Fields Citation Styles

Ph.D. Thesis Defense        

When your thesis is complete, you must defend it in a public exam conducted by your committee. You will need to:

The defense should occur at least one year after the candidacy exam. Students who wish to defend less than one year after the candidacy must contact the Graduate Program Director for approval.

Co-Terminal Program

Rensselaer's Co-Terminal Program provides undergraduates the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees while maintaining their undergraduate Rensselaer funding. Most Rensselaer master’s programs are available as part of the Co-Terminal Program, and participants follow the same curriculum as traditional master's students. Co-Terminal students can pursue a master’s degree in the same academic discipline as their bachelor's or take an interdisciplinary approach, applying to a graduate program outside of their undergraduate department.

Co-Term students are required to graduate with their bachelor's degree in up to eight semesters, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (Computer Science has a minimum GPA requirement of 3.5 in order to apply). After graduating with their BS degree, they have up to two semesters to complete their master's degree.

Computer Science Application Deadlines:
April 15th- for students graduating with their BS in December
November 1st- for students graduating with their BS in May

Application Requirements:

Adding Computer Science to current non-CS program

If you are currently in a non-Computer Science program and planning to add Computer Science to your program, you must provide the below documents to Tracy Hoffman ( Your documents will then be reviewed by our Admissions Committee. Before submitting materials you are required to have a Computer Science Research Advisor.

If you are a current MS non-CS major, looking to add a PhD then you MUST apply through the traditional application system (SLATE, Graduate Admissions). Also, if you’re looking to drop your current program and be a full-time CS student then you must apply through SLATE as well.

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