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Program Requirements (DSE)

Course Requirements

The course requirements include a minimum of 36 hours of coursework beyond the BS degree. The following 36 hours of coursework or their equivalent must be completed at a minimum, including the Core Curriculum for Data Science, a Knowledge Breadth Curriculum, a Knowledge Specialization for Domain Science Curriculum, and Seminar Series.

Core Curriculum for Data Science: 21 hours

Students must complete 21 hours in the following core courses (or substitute, approved in advance).

  • DSE 511
  • DSE 512
  • COSC 526 or STAT 577
  • MATH 525 or STAT 563
  • MATH 526 or STAT 564
  • MATH 571 or 572 or other applied math
  • COSC 525 or 522

Knowledge Breadth: 6 hours

Students must complete six hours by selecting appropriate courses in the following areas.

  • Policy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Outreach

Knowledge Specialization for Domain Science: 6 hours

Students must choose courses from participating departments and approved by the Bredesen Center’s Assistant Director for Data Science related to the following disciplines.

  • Health and Biological Sciences
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Materials Science
  • Environmental and Climate Science
  • Transportation Science
  • National Security
  • Urban Systems Science

Seminar: 3 hours

Topical seminars in the focus areas of the Bredesen Center.

Graduate Student Examinations

Examination requirements for students who are pursuing a concentration in Data Science and Engineering are required to follow the examination procedures of their respective degree programs (i.e. Mechanical Engineering, Physics, etc.). For the Data Science and Engineering doctoral program, three examinations are required as part of the doctoral program: a qualifying examination, a comprehensive examination, and a defense of dissertation examination.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is developed, administered, and graded by the faculty (or designated subset of the faculty) of the PhD program under the coordination of the Bredesen Center Director. The Data Science and Engineering doctoral program requires students to be able to investigate and conduct research on a variety of problems. The qualifying examination tests the capabilities of a student through the preparation of a professional quality investigative research report and accompanying presentation that addresses one of several questions in data science and engineering. In case of failure, the candidate may appeal to retake the examination through the Bredesen Center Graduate Curriculum Committee within 30 days of notification of the result. If the appeal is granted, the student must retake the examination at the next offering. The result of the second examination is final. Completion of the qualifying exam enables students to begin working on dissertation research.

Comprehensive Examination

Timing: The Comprehensive Examination may be completed as early as the end of the second year following entrance into the PhD program and prior to admission to candidacy. Students should aim to complete the comprehensive exam by the end of the third year and must complete it no later than the first semester of the fourth year unless extenuating circumstances are involved. The timing is late enough in a student’s academic program to permit most of his/her graduate course work to be covered on the examination, and early enough to permit modification of the student’s program based on the results of the exam.

Prerequisites for the Exam: Two requirements must be satisfied before a student takes the Comprehensive Examination.

  1. A written Dissertation Proposal, approved by the major professor, must be submitted to each member of the student’s Doctoral Committee two weeks prior to the examination.
  2. Each member of the student’s Doctoral committee must agree that the student is ready to take the Comprehensive Exam. The committee member will communicate to the major professor when they are satisfied that the student is ready to take the Comprehensive Exam.

Format: The Comprehensive Examination will consist of the student constructing and defending his or her dissertation research proposal to the committee in a format deemed acceptable by the student’s Doctoral Committee. Typically, an oral defense is sufficient for this examination, although a written component may be administered by the committee at their discretion.

Once the Comprehensive Examination is passed, the student should file for and be admitted to candidacy. At the discretion of the Doctoral Committee, supplemental reexaminations for the Comprehensive Examination and/or proposed dissertation research may be required. In case of failure, the candidate may not apply for reexamination until the following semester. The result of the second examination is final.


Defense of Dissertation Examination

A doctoral candidate must pass an oral examination on the dissertation. The dissertation, in the form approved by the major professor, must be distributed to the committee at least two weeks before the examination. The examination must be scheduled through the Graduate School at least one week prior to the examination and must be conducted in university-approved facilities. The examination is announced publicly and is open to all students and faculty members. The defense of dissertation will be administered by all members of the doctoral committee after completion of the dissertation and all course requirements. This examination must be passed at least two weeks before the date of submission and acceptance of the dissertation by the Graduate School. The major professor must submit the results of the defense by the dissertation deadline.