Information Technology Doctoral Program
The general doctoral requirements of George Mason University apply to this program.
When the term Information Technology and Engineering is used at George Mason University to describe our school and its activities, it is intended to mean information technology and the branches of engineering most closely associated with information use and management. These aspects of technology are emphasized in this geographic region and we will develop excellence in precisely these areas. Our focus is on the information, systems, and architectural design approaches to technology. These complement and enhance the more traditional approaches to engineering that are more strongly based on the physical and materials sciences.
Information technology and engineering at George Mason involve both external and internal design. Electrical and computer engineering and computer science involve the hardware and software aspects of the internal design function. The human element and the external design functions are also important for successful system design and operation. Our efforts in information systems, software systems engineering, and systems engineering primarily concern working with people to assist them in knowledge organization. These efforts involve systems, including information systems, and the entire life cycle of systems from initial conceptualization and specification of information and architectural requirements through system evaluation and redesign. They include the analysis capability that is needed to quantitatively determine operational characteristics of existing and future systems and processes. Our activities in operations research and applied statistics are focused on these important endeavors as well.
Doctoral students in information technology are selected on the basis of scholarship and potential from among applicants with appropriate degrees from institutions of high standing. Generally, a master's degree in an information technology-related area, such as engineering, computer science, operations research, statistics, mathematics, physical sciences, economics, and psychology, is required for admission to the program. Students without an appropriate master's degree who otherwise satisfy admission requirements usually are encouraged to first seek such a degree in one of the seven master's programs offered through this school. Application packets are available from the Office of Admissions and from the Office of the Dean of SITE.
An undergraduate grade average of B (3.0/4.0) and a graduate grade average of 3.5/4.0 are basic requirements for applicants to the program. The admissions process includes submission of the application for admission, undergraduate and graduate transcripts from previous colleges and universities attended, GRE test results when available, three letters of reference, a resume and short statement of career goals and aspirations, and a self-assessment of past background. All of an applicant's background is examined before we make an admissions decision.
To ensure a common ground of fundamentals, students should have a background in topics such as calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, discrete structures, probability, and statistics. In addition, students entering the doctoral program in information technology must have a sound working knowledge in computing as demonstrated by examples of programs or applications developed and tested in at least one high-level programming language environment. Because much of the course work within this program requires computational proficiency, experience with a variety of languages and computer hardware is useful, as is an understanding of computer architecture. Highly qualified students who do not present evidence of appropriate course work for the program may be admitted and then required to take appropriate articulation courses.
The Ph.D. program in Information Technology is made up of a core curriculum and in-depth study and research in the student's field of concentration, followed by preparation of a dissertation. Generally, a student will have obtained a master's degree in a field appropriate to information technology, and this master's program typically contains many of the doctoral core courses.
Under the guidance of the doctoral supervisory committee, the student prepares a plan of study. The plan lists the intended courses and their expected timing in both the breadth and advanced specialty parts of doctoral study. The plan should also contain the intended date of the comprehensive examinations and the tentative subject of the dissertation research.
The core curriculum comprises six courses that are to be completed from the several M.S. programs of SITE and, as such, forms a significant part of the coherent Ph.D. plan of study that is required for each student. These courses should be carefully planned and, with the exception of courses necessary for the distribution requirement, are to be selected from the prerequisite courses for INFT 800- and 900-level courses.
The minimum requirements for the core curriculum are as follows:
- All students must take one course from OR 541 or STAT 544 or 554 or a course with a higher number from the offerings of the Operations Research and Engineering Department or Applied and Engineering Statistics Department. This requirement may not be waived barring extraordinary circumstances (e.g., the student has all but a dissertation from another institution in a highly technical field).
- A total of six courses are to be taken by all students from the six SITE departments. For the core curriculum, no more than two courses may be taken from one M.S. program. The M.S. programs are listed below:
- Computer Science
- Electrical Engineering
- Information Systems
- Operations Research and Management Science
- Software Systems Engineering
- Statistical Sciences
- Systems Engineering
- Urban Systems Engineering
- A GPA of 3.5 is required in core courses taken at George Mason.
- Waiver options may be requested for up to four core courses. Waivers must be approved by the departmental doctoral coordinator and the Office of the Dean based on a review of student-provided supporting material to ensure that the course waived was equivalent to the appropriate George Mason course.
- Waiver candidate courses must have been taken within five years of acceptance to the Ph.D. program or the student must attest to using the material from the course during the most recent five-year period (Honor Code invoked). A GPA of 3.5 is required for waived courses. Final examinations may be taken to obtain waivers for up to four core courses.
Upon admission to the program, a student is assigned a temporary adviser. The student is responsible for working with the temporary adviser until the student selects a dissertation director and an advisory committee as soon after the student's admission as is feasible. This is especially important for students who have completed a considerable amount of graduate work elsewhere.
The doctoral supervisory committee includes the dissertation director plus a faculty member from the student's intended major, who is selected by the student to become chair of the doctoral supervisory committee. The chair of the committee need not be the dissertation director, but should be selected from a list of approved chairs. Other committee members are selected to form a committee of at least four people from the regular (teaching) full-time George Mason faculty. At least three of these faculty will be from SITE. At least two of the departments of SITE must be represented on this committee. In addition, industrial representatives and faculty members from departments outside of the school are highly desirable but are not required on the committee. The doctoral supervisory committee administers the comprehensive examination, the dissertation proposal presentation, and the dissertation predefense and defense. Permission to take each of these, except the proposal presentation, is requested from the SITE dean on the basis of a written request and plan that has been approved by the Supervisory Committee.
Students must include in the plan of study a well-defined advanced specialty area. Successful completion of this requirement should enable the student to do basic or applied research in a significant contemporary area in information technology.
The comprehensive course requirements are as follows:
- Six INFT 800- and/or 900-level courses that represent a coherent plan of study that support the student's research area (two approved 700-level courses may be used in place of INFT courses). One directed reading course, INFT 796 or 797, may be included as one of the two approved 700-level courses. (If the student's research area does not have adequate course selection at the INFT level, alternate proposals may be made.)
- A plan of study must be approved by the Ph.D. Advisory Committee and the SITE dean. These approvals must occur before a student completes the comprehensive courses. There is no guarantee that the courses taken before this approval will be accepted.
The comprehensive examination is taken after the student has satisfactorily completed all the course work requirements in the approved plan of study filed by the student. To initiate the exam process, the student meets with the committee chair and the entire committee to prepare a memorandum to be forwarded to the Office of the Dean requesting the comprehensive examination. The requesting memorandum lists all courses taken by the student that form the program of study for the Ph.D. degree and proposes a suggested structure for the comprehensive examination. The exam is generally structured by four central areas, to include all comprehensive courses taken, and is reasonably explicit about the scope of the examination. The memo describes an advanced specialty area or areas and briefly comments on the courses that the student has taken in the area and on the independent study taken under the direction of a faculty member. This memo also defines the coverage for the comprehensive examination. The objective of the comprehensive examination is to allow the examining committee to assess a student's readiness for and ability to complete doctoral research in an area of specialization.
After completing the advanced specialty part of the studies, the student requests appointment of a comprehensive examination committee and the comprehensive examination. This request is transmitted through the supervisory committee to the Office of the Dean. Generally conducted by the doctoral supervisory committee, the examination covers the student's area of specialization and includes both a written and an oral part. The result of the comprehensive examination is a grade of pass or fail with recommendations for removing any deficiencies.
After satisfactorily completing the written portions of the comprehensive examinations, the student arranges the oral portion. The entire advisory committee meets with the student and asks questions concerning basic and advanced areas of study.
Near the end of the course work each doctoral student prepares a written dissertation proposal, which is presented to the doctoral supervisory committee. The student may enroll in INFT 998, Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, to complete this effort. During the term the student expects to present the dissertation proposal to the committee, the student should enroll in INFT 990, Dissertation Topic Presentations. After successfully completing this requirement, the student is formally admitted as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The application for candidacy is submitted to the Office of the Dean on a standard form.
With concurrence of the advisory committee, the student proceeds with the doctoral research, during which time the student must continuously enroll in INFT 999, Doctoral Dissertation. The student must complete a minimum of 24 credits from among INFT 990, 998, and 999, with a minimum of 12 credits of INFT 999. When the central portions of the research have been completed to the point that the student is able to describe the original contributions of the dissertation effort, a candidate submits the written dissertation to the supervisory committee and schedules an oral predefense to the committee. The predefense is to be held no sooner than one month after the members of the committee have copies of the dissertation. Once the committee believes the student is ready, a final public oral defense may be scheduled no sooner than one month after the conclusion of the predefense in order to have an announcement posted for at least two weeks.
Following a satisfactory evaluation of the oral defense of dissertation by the supervisory committee, the student must prepare, with supervision from the dissertation director, a final publishable dissertation that represents a definitive contribution to knowledge in information technology. This document must meet format guidelines specified by the Guide for Preparing Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Projects.
If the candidate successfully defends the dissertation, the dissertation defense committee recommends that the final form of the dissertation be completed, and that the faculty of SITE and the graduate faculty of George Mason University accept the candidate for the Ph.D. degree.
The term "residence" indicates that the student is "at home" intellectually with the faculty community. The student is expected to associate with the George Mason faculty for at least two full academic years. The advisory committee determines the equivalent of two academic years of effort at George Mason. The basis for residency is effort to complete the basic or core study area requirements of the comprehensive examinations, to complete the advanced specialty areas of study and the associated advanced specialty portions of the comprehensive examinations, and to prepare a dissertation proposal that defines a definitive research contribution.
Student research in industrial and government laboratories is encouraged to the extent that these facilities support quality independent research by the doctoral student. The greater Washington area is home for the largest group of information technology professionals in the world, many of whom have made definitive contributions to research. Area professionals with outstanding credentials and interests in information technology are solicited as Visiting Industrial Professors. They may serve on doctoral advisory committees and, where permitted by available time and interests, direct doctoral dissertations.
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