December 15, 2006

SIUC to offer doctoral degree in computer science

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved Southern Illinois University Carbondale's request to offer a doctoral degree program in computer science.

The IBHE approved the SIUC request during its regular meeting Dec. 5. Mehdi R. Zargham, chair of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Science at SIUC, said the University will welcome its first computer science doctoral students in fall 2007. Typically, it will take about three years to obtain the degree.

Zargham said the success in obtaining approval for the program will help many aspects of the University.

"Computer science is the heart of many majors here on campus and it's important that any research-level university offer it as an option," Zargham said. "The demand is there and the need is there for this type of graduate. It also will help increase the research productivity of our department."

Zargham said another important optional advantage is allowing computer science undergraduates at SIUC to enter the doctoral program seamlessly, without having to first earn a master's degree.

"If they choose to do this they will take some additional classes in their doctoral studies but it will still save them time," Zargham said. It also will allow the students to stay at SIUC to pursue their doctorate, instead of transferring to another institution.

Jack M. Parker, dean of the College of Science, said he was excited about the new program.

"We have made some great faculty hires in computer science and having a doctoral program will allow them to fully participate in the educational and research mission of the University," Parker said.

Parker said the new program means all departments in the College of Science now offer doctoral degrees. Previously, computer science and physics did not.

"Early in 2005, the state approved the applied physics doctoral program and now we have approved the one in computer science. I am very happy that this happened while I was dean," said Parker, who retired today (Dec. 15). "While I played a very small role in moving these programs forward, I am pleased to be able to leave the College of Science stronger than ever."

Zargham said the new offering will improve research coming out of the department.

"It's easier for our faculty to get grants with us offering the doctorate because grant reviewers often consider whether the department does so," Zargham said. "It also will allow our students to do two or three years of intense research pursuing a doctorate, rather than only one year as they pursue a master's degree."

The University will add another position to the department and increase various other support as part of the new program, Zargham said.

The Department of Computer Science is about 30 years old and is located in Faner Hall.

Achieving excellence in graduate and professional programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.