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PhD | Foundation and Breadth Requirements

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The goals for the Foundation and Breadth Requirements in the PhD program are:

  1. To preserve the cohesiveness of Computer Science as a discipline with some common language, foundational knowledge, and shared perspectives.
  2. To support the development of researchers that can draw inspiration from a wide range of sub-disciplines and other fields.
  3. To instill sufficient understanding of the approaches, tools, and techniques of other sub-disciplines which encourages, enables collaboration, and communication between different fields.

Note: Students who started and want to complete the old breadth requirement, please see Retired Breadth Requirement.

Foundation Requirements

  •  Students will be required to take (Credit/No Credit accepted) or waive CS 103, 109, 111, 161.
    • Completion of a CS Bachelor's degree and/or CS Master's degree automatically waives all four courses. Please email and attach a copy of your UG or MS transcript for confirmation.
    • Waiving will be lenient based on sufficient coverage of a predefined set of topics for each course and transparent. Please email the foundation course approver and include a copy of your transcript and course syllabus or link to your course syllabus.
    • Double dipping: At the discretion of the waiver approver, a specific, more advanced, Stanford course could be assigned to waive foundation courses (e.g., CS 154 for CS 103) allowing students to fill both foundation and breadth requirements simultaneously.

Breadth Requirements

  • The Breadth course requirement will be three (3) total courses from four (4) different predefined areas (cannot be two (2) from the same area).
  • Students need to pass the courses with grade B+ or higher.
  • Breadth courses cannot be waived (these courses must be taken while in the PhD program).
  • Three foundation/breadth requirements need to be completed by the end of the second year. All courses need to be completed by the end of the third year. Any deviation from this timeline needs to be approved ahead of time by the student advisor and the director of the PhD program.

Breadth Area

  • Formal Foundations. Courses in this group emphasize mathematics and formal reasoning as it applies to foundational questions about computation. Available courses:
    • CS166, CS168, CS261, CS263, CS265, 
    • CS154, CS254, CS254B, CS354, 
    • CS205L, CS334a, EE364a, EE364b, CS369O, 
    • CS229T, CS328, CS331, 
    • CS157, Phil251, CS257, CS258, 
    • CS250, CS255, CS256, CS259Q, CS269i, CS355, CS359D 
  • Learning and Modeling. Courses in this group seek to build models of observed phenomena. They emphasize building these models from data, with the goal of predicting, classifying or otherwise structuring observations. Available courses:
    • CS221, CS222, CS223a, CS224n, CS224r, CS224s, CS224u, CS 224v,CS224w, CS227b, CS228, CS229, CS229t, CS231a, CS231n, CS233, CS234, CS236, CS237a, CS237b, CS281,
    • CS205L, CS230, CS330, CS332, CS333,
    • CS326, CS329X, CS329D, 
    • CS248A, CS248B, CS348A, CS348B, CS348C, CS348E, CS348I, CS348N,
    • CS279, CS271, CS272, CS274, CS273A, CS273B, CS371, CS373
  • Systems. Courses in this group explore the construction of computing artifacts that meet design constraints or requirements. They emphasize not only what we build, but how we build it and the challenges in doing so. Problems in this area often, but not always, include performance (speed, memory, energy), scalability, tradeoffs, complex software, and considering the quality of the artifact itself in addition to its capabilities. Available courses:
    • EE180, EE282, EE382E, CS149, CS316, 
    • CS112 (including CS111 prerequisite), CS140e, CS212, CS 240, CS240lx,
    • CS143, CS243, 
    • CS144, CS244, CS244b, 
    • CS145, CS245, CS246,
    • CS155, CS356
    • CS242, CS358, 
    • CS249i, 
    • CS348K
  • People and Society. Courses in this group examine how computing and technology affect and interact with humans and societies, seeking to place artifacts in the context in which they are used. In particular this area will include courses that deal with the societal impact of computation as well as courses in HCI. Available courses:
    • CS 147, 148, 152, 181, 182 194H, 206, 247 A/B/C/... SERIES, 256, 269I, 278, 281, 293, 323, 329X, 329R, 347, 377 A/B/C/... SERIES, 384, 329T, 448B, 470
    • AMSTUD 145, ANTHRO 132D, COMM 254, 266, 286, 324, DESIGN 255, EDUC 315A, EARTHSYS213, ENGLISH 184D, HISTORY 244F, INTLPOL 268, LAW 4039, ME 177, MS&E 193, 231, 234, 254, POLISCI 150A, PUBLPOL 103F, 353B