Data Science and Engineering Major, PhD
The Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education offers a graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Data Science and Engineering (DSE). This interdisciplinary degree is a collaborative effort supported by selected faculty from various colleges at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the UT Health Sciences Center, the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and research staff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. These research and educational leaders are appointed as faculty members of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. Members of the Bredesen Center faculty determine the curriculum and serve as the primary resource for the teaching, research, and mentoring of the students admitted to the program. The Bredesen Center Graduate Admissions Committee makes decisions on admissions, transfer, evaluation, and continuation of graduate students in the program.
In order to be admitted to the PhD program in data science and engineering, student applicants must fulfill the general admission criteria for the Graduate School of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. In addition, the student must have a Bachelor of Science degree in either engineering or a scientific field (e.g., analytics, biology, chemistry, computational science, mathematics, physics, statistics, etc.), or the equivalent. Students with other undergraduate degrees may also be admitted on a case-by-case basis by the Bredesen Center Graduate Admissions Committee. Dependent on the student's background, additional coursework may be required to satisfy co- and prerequisites.
A minimum of 72 credit hours is required beyond the bachelor's degree, exclusive of credit for an MS thesis, and completion of the core requirements, as outlined in the section on Course Requirements. Of this number, a minimum of 24 and up to 36 credit hours of course 600 Doctoral Research and Dissertation and six credit hours of 600-level coursework at UTK will be required.
No later than one year after entering the program, each student must take a qualifying examination. A student must pass the qualifying examination to proceed in the PhD program and to engage in dissertation research.
No later than the first semester of the fourth year following entrance into the PhD program, each student must take and pass a comprehensive examination that includes presentation and approval of the proposed dissertation research. After passing the comprehensive exam, the student should submit the Admission to Candidacy Application to the Graduate School. Admission to candidacy indicates that the student has demonstrated the ability to do acceptable work in the area of study and has made satisfactory progress toward the degree. This action usually connotes that all prerequisites to admission have been completed and the program of study/research has been approved (see details in a later section).
After completion of the dissertation, prior to graduation, each student must pass a dissertation defense examination administered by the student's doctoral committee.
Out of the 72 credit hours required for the program, 36 credit hours of coursework is required beyond the BS degree. The following 36 credit 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, as summarized below. Students with Master's degrees must complete at least 24 credit hours of graduate coursework. Students must fulfill all requirements for the Core Curriculum, the Knowledge Breadth Curriculum, Knowledge Specializations for Domain Science, and the Seminar Series utilizing both MS and PhD coursework as appropriate and approved by the department.
A. Core Curriculum for Data Science (21 credit hours)
Students must complete 21 credit hours in the following core courses (or substitute, approved in advance).
MATH 525 / STAT 563
BZAN 645 / BZAN 646 / ECE 571
B. Knowledge Breadth Curriculum (6 credit hours)
Students must complete six credit hours by selecting appropriate courses in the following areas.
- Political, social, legal, ethical, and security issues related to data issues
- Entrepreneurship, leadership, and management
C. Knowledge Specialization Curriculum for Domain Science (6 credit 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
- Advanced Data Science
D. DSE 599 - Seminar (3 credit hours)
Each graduate student must have an advisor/major professor. This professor advises the student about course selection, supervises the student's research, and facilitates communication within the degree program and/or student's major department, to other departments, and with the Graduate School relative to requirements. A temporary advisor may be assigned to direct the entering student's work during the period in which the student is becoming acquainted with the institutions and determining the focus of research interests. Once the major professor is determined, the major professor and the student together select a doctoral committee. The student is expected to maintain close consultation with the major professor and other members of the doctoral committee with regard to progress in the program.
The major professor directs the student's dissertation research and chairs the doctoral committee. The student and major professor identify a doctoral committee composed of at least four faculty members holding the rank of assistant professor or above, three of whom, including the chair, must be approved by the Graduate Council to direct doctoral research. At least one member must be outside the Bredesen Center faculty. Committee members should be chosen to ensure multidisciplinary breadth. The Center Director has oversight responsibility to ensure the multidisciplinary nature of the committee. A doctoral student, in collaboration with the major professor, should begin to form the doctoral committee during the first year of study. Once formed, the doctoral committee, by request of the major professor, will meet as a group with the student to ensure timely progress toward the degree. At a minimum, the committee should meet at least once during each academic year.
Admission to Candidacy
Admission to candidacy indicates that the student has demonstrated ability to do acceptable graduate work and that satisfactory progress has been made toward the degree. This action usually connotes that all prerequisites to admission have been completed and a program of study has been approved.
A student may be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree after passing the comprehensive examination and maintaining at least a B average in all graduate coursework. Each student is responsible for filing the Admission to Candidacy form.
Graduate Student Examinations
This section provides a description of the graduate student examination requirements for the PhD degree program. Three examinations are required as part of the doctoral program: qualifying examination, comprehensive examination, and defense of dissertation 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.
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.
Two requirements must be satisfied before a student takes the Comprehensive Examination.
- 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.
- 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.
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.