Requirements for a dual PhD


The form required to apply for a dual PhD in CMSE and a second subject can be found here and a description of the process to apply for a dual PhD can be found here.  Several examples of dual PhD programs can be found in Appendix C of the CMSE graduate handbook.

MSU allows "dual PhD" programs for individual students to span graduate programs, as long as the graduate programs involved agree to do so - see the MSU guidelines on dual major doctoral degrees for more information.   In order to qualify for such a program, the student's dissertation must include significant research contributions in both disciplines. 

It is typical that a student enters into a dual PhD program after starting graduate school at MSU in their primary department, and then arranges the secondary affiliation upon choice of a research project and advisor.  A request for the dual major degree must be submitted within one semester following its development and within the first two years of the student's enrollment at Michigan State University.

The Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering has developed a set of guidelines for these dual major PhDs, which should apply to all students wishing to pursue a PhD jointly between CMSE and another program.  These guidelines are as follows:

  1. A request for the dual major degree must be submitted for approval to the Graduate Directors of both departments and the Dean of the Graduate School within one semester following its development and within the first two years of the student’s enrollment at Michigan State University.  A copy of the guidance committee report must be attached.  (Note: this is a university policy.)
  2. Of the two departments involved, one must be the student's primary affiliation and the other is their secondary affiliation.  (Their primary thesis advisor can be in either department.)  The degree is then called "PhD in Primary & Secondary" - for example, for a student with a primary affiliation in Chemistry and a secondary affiliation in CMSE, the name would be "PhD in Chemistry and Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering." Admission requirements to graduate school are based on the primary department.
  3. Qualifying Exam: Students whose primary department is CMSE must select and pass three of the four subject exams (as detailed in the CMSE program description), and students whose secondary department is CMSE must select and pass two of the four subject exams.  This is typically achieved by the student taking the appropriate core CMSE graduate courses and then taking the subject exam that is the final exam for that course.  The average of the subject exam grades must be at least 3.5, with no one grade being less than 3.0, in order for this requirement to be fulfilled. 
  4. Cognate coursework requirement:  Students must determine, in discussion with their thesis committee, a comprehensive set of courses that fulfills the requirements of both departments.  The CMSE PhD program's cognate requirement is typically fulfilled by taking coursework in the non-CMSE department, with the maximum number of required credits being 120% of the credit requirement in the primary department.  Dual PhD students must take a minimum of 12 credits of coursework in computationally-focused courses.  This explicitly includes all CMSE graduate courses aside from CMSE 801 and 802, and may also include computationally-intensive courses in other departments at the discretion of the thesis committee.
  5. Research credit requirement:  Students must take at least 24, and no more than 36, dissertation research credits in their primary department (CMSE 999 or its equivalent).
  6. Thesis Committee: Students must form a PhD thesis committee that includes faculty from both their primary and secondary departments, and which satisfies to the greatest extent possible the requirements for the composition of a thesis committee from both departments.  The thesis committee must include at least one faculty program advisor whose tenure home is in each of the two departments.  The thesis committee must be formed and meet prior to the end of the student's second year in a PhD program in order to submit the dual PhD request to the Graduate School.  This meeting does not have to be the same committee meeting where the comprehensive exam takes place.
  7. Comprehensive Exam:  Comprehensive examinations are specified according to the guidelines of the primary department, and in CMSE is the first formal meeting of the thesis committee and a presentation of the thesis proposal (although see the previous point).  For dual PhDs where CMSE is the secondary department: In the case where the comprehensive exam is part of the first formal thesis committee meeting, this meeting should explicitly include discussion of the student's career goals and the creation of a professional development plan (as detailed in the CMSE PhD program description).  In the case where the comprehensive exam takes some other form, this discussion should be part of the first formal thesis committee meeting.  This requirement should be fulfilled after passage of the qualifying exam, and no later than the end of their third year.
  8. Dissertation and dissertation defense: The student's dissertation must be composed of novel research that advances the state-of-the-art in algorithms or applications relating to computational and/or data science, and must include significant intellectual contributions to both disciplines.  The details of the dissertation and defense are specified according to the guidelines of the primary department.
  9. Responsible Conduct of Research training: All PhD students must complete Responsible Conduct of Research Training through their primary department.

Students whose primary department is CMSE must adhere to the requirements specified in the CMSE PhD program description with regards to the number of opportunities to pass exams, GPA requirements, and timelines.  Students should also consult the CMSE Graduate Handbook for further information, and download the Dual PhD Application Form to bring to be signed by your dissertation committee.

If a student decides to leave the interdisciplinary degree program, their PhD program requirement reverts to the requirements of their primary affiliation.  In this circumstance, the student should consult with the graduate director in their primary department to determine if any further action is needed.

If you have questions, please contact the CMSE Graduate Director.