Requirements

M.S. Requirements
Ph.D. Requirements
First-Year Exam (Ph.D. only)
Comprehensive Exam (Ph.D. only)
Qualifying Exam & Advancement to Candidacy

Requirements for the Master's Degree

The M.S. focuses on the interdisciplinary field of computational media.  All students are required to take a set of core classes that focus on CM history, theory, research approaches, and evaluation methods.  Students must also take courses that delve more deeply into particular CM topics, but there are no defined sub-areas of emphasis.

M.S. students must complete a minimum of 35 quarter units of graduate and upper division courses, including 15 units of core courses, 10 units of topical courses, CMPM 204 (5 units), and at least 2 units of supervised research.  No more than 15 units may be upper division undergraduate courses.

Core Courses (15 units)

  • CMPM 201: History and Theory of Computational Media (5 units)
  • CMPM 202: Computational Media Research (5 units)
  • CMPM 203: Computational Media Methods (5 units)

Topics Courses (10 units)

M.S. students are required to take 10 units of CM topics courses.  This category includes all 5 unit CMPM graduate classes, as long as they are not already counted in another category (e.g., it cannot include core courses), in addition to courses available in other departments.  See current non-core topics graduate courses.

M.S. Thesis (7-10 units)

The M.S. is either a written thesis or a project (with a written report of the project) in lieu of a thesis. It is a substantial undertaking within the CM field, which may emphasize technical, media-creation, or interpretive aspects — or may emphasize more than one area equally. It is reviewed by a committee of at least two faculty that must include at least one member of the CM department and draw half or more of its members from the UCSC academic senate. M.S. students are required to take CMPM 204 (Computational Media Project Definition), in which their written thesis or project topic is developed, as well as CMPM 299, an independent study with the faculty advisor for their written thesis or project.

Additional Requirements

All M.S. students must demonstrate an understanding of media creation in a CM context, and must do so by the end of their second year in the program. This can be completed by any of:

  • The Computer Science: Computer Game Design B.S. game studio sequence (CMPM 170, 171, 172) before graduate enrollment.
  • The Art and Design: Games and Playable Media B.A. game studio sequence (ARTG 170, 171, 172) before graduate enrollment.
  • A DANM project group sequence (three DANM 250 courses in same area, in sequence) during or before CM M.S./Ph.D. graduate enrollment.
  • The Games and Playable Media M.S. project sequence (GAME 270, 271, 272, 273) before CM MS/PhD graduate enrollment (due to PDST and cohort model, these cannot be taken by students in other programs).
  • At least three graduate or upper-division undergraduate courses from a list of offerings at UCSC that require programming knowledge and are focused on defining and developing CM-related projects (e.g., CMPM 148) during or before CM graduate enrollment. See the media creation courses.
  • Petition to CM graduate director, presenting evidence of equivalent coursework at another institution and/or equivalent CM project experience in another context.


All M.S. students must demonstrate an understanding of computer programming sufficient to carry out CM research, and must do so by the end of their second year in the program. This can be completed by either:

  • Taking core programming (e.g., CMPS 12A and 12B) and advanced programming (e.g., CMPS 109) at UCSC or another institution.
  • Petition to CM graduate director, presenting evidence of programming knowledge developed in another context.

All M.S. students are expected to have an understanding of interpretive practices sufficient to carry our CM research. Students who lack such a background are strongly encouraged to take a series of interpretation-oriented courses, consulting with their advisor regarding which courses would be most appropriate. A set of three courses from those required for the minor in History of Consciousness are recommended:

  • HISC 1: Introduction to the History of Consciousness
  • HISC 185: Topics in the History of Consciousness
  • A five-credit graduate or upper-division undergraduate course in an area of the student’s interest from the History of Consciousness course listing (which includes cross-listed courses with programs such as ANTH, POLI, and HAVC)

*In extraordinary circumstances the Graduate Director can reduce the number of required courses based on a petition presenting past accomplishments. For example, reducing the number of required topics courses by one for each substantial past research publication or system accepted from the petition.

Transfer Credit

Up to 10 units transferred from equivalent courses in previous graduate work at UCSC or elsewhere can be applied towards the M.S. course requirements.  This can satisfy the topics requirement, but is not to exceed three course overall limit on transfers from outside institutions.  Course Substitution/Waiver form can be found on the BSOE Graduate Advising webpage:  https://ga.soe.ucsc.edu/current/forms

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Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Course Requirements (49 units)

Ph.D. students will complete 15 units of core courses, 20 units of topical courses, and 14 units of courses involved in preparation for the first-year and comprehensive examinations.

Core Courses (15 Units)

  • CMPM 201: History and Theory of Computational Media (5 units)
  • CMPM 202: Computational Media Research (5 units)
  • CMPM 203: Computational Media Methods (5 units)

Topics Courses (20 units)

Ph.D. students are required to take 20 units of CM topics courses.  The courses may be any combination of these types (as long as not already counted in another category):

  • 5 unit CMPM graduate classes.
  • Classes in other subject codes that cover the theory and/or practice of a CM area, as listed in the "topics courses".
  • Up to 10 units transferred from equivalent courses in previous graduate work at UCSC or elsewhere (not to exceed three course overall limit on transfers from outside institutions, between this and other requirements).

Exam Courses (9 units)

  • CMPM 205: Computational Media Synthesis (2 units): Includes First-Year Exam
  • CMPM 206: Computational Media Research Preparation (2 units): Includes Comprehensive Exam
  • CMPM 297:  Independent Study (5 units): preparation for the Comprehensive  Exam

Additional Requirements

All Ph.D. students must demonstrate an understanding of media creation in a CM context, and must do so by the end of their second year in the program - and before the comprehensive exam. This can be completed by any of:

  • The Computer Science: Computer Game Design B.S. game studio sequence (CMPM 170, 171, 172) before graduate enrollment.
  • The Art and Design: Games and Playable Media B.A. game studio sequence (ARTG 170, 171, 172) before graduate enrollment.
  • A DANM project group sequence (three DANM 250 courses in same area, in sequence) during or before CM M.S./Ph.D. graduate enrollment.
  • The Games and Playable Media M.S. project sequence (GAME 270, 271, 272, 273) before CM MS/PhD graduate enrollment (due to PDST and cohort model, these cannot be taken by students in other programs).
  • At least three graduate or upper-division undergraduate courses from a list of offerings at UCSC that require programming knowledge and are focused on defining and developing CM-related projects (e.g., CMPM 148) during or before CM graduate enrollment. See the media creation courses.
  • Petition to CM graduate director, presenting evidence of equivalent coursework at another institution and/or equivalent CM project experience in another context.

All Ph.D. students must demonstrate an understanding of computer programming sufficient to carry out CM research, and must do so by the end of their second year in the program - and before the comprehensive exam. This can be completed by either:

  • Taking core programming (e.g., CMPS 12A and 12B) and advanced programming (e.g., CMPS 109) at UCSC or another institution.
  • Petition to CM graduate director, presenting evidence of programming knowledge developed in another context.

All Ph.D. students are expected to have an understanding of interpretive practices sufficient to carry our CM research. Students who lack such a background are strongly encouraged to take a series of interpretation-oriented courses, consulting with their advisor regarding which courses would be most appropriate. A set of three courses from those required for the minor in History of Consciousness are recommended:

  • HISC 1: Introduction to the History of Consciousness
  • HISC 185: Topics in the History of Consciousness
  • A five-credit graduate or upper-division undergraduate course in an area of the student’s interest from the History of Consciousness course listing (which includes cross-listed courses with programs such as ANTH, POLI, and HAVC)

*In extraordinary circumstances the Graduate Director can reduce the number of required courses based on a petition presenting past accomplishments. For example, reducing the number of required topics courses by one for each substantial past research publication or system accepted from the petition.

Ph.D. Field Examinations

The Ph.D. required two examinations before the qualifying examination.

First-Year Examination

The Ph.D. first year exam measures students’ understanding of, and ability to synthesize and apply, core computational media knowledge (history, theory, research approaches, and evaluation methods). This is the material covered in the CM core courses. The exam is organized as part of a two-unit course (CMPM 205) in Spring, and the in-person portion of the exam is administered at the course final exam period.

There are three possible outcomes of the first year exam:

  1. Pass at Ph.D. level
  2. Pass at M.S. level
  3. Fail

Students who pass at the Ph.D. level are done with the exam. Students who pass at the M.S. level may elect to leave the program with an M.S., upon completion of all M.S. requirements. Both students who pass at the M.S. level and students who fail have the option to take the exam again. Students who pass at the M.S. level may elect to either take the exam again in the Summer offering (before the beginning of Fall quarter) or wait a year for the Spring offering. Students who fail may only take the exam again in the immediately-following Summer offering. Students who take the exam again may not decrease their outcome (e.g., a student who passes at the M.S. level in Spring, then fails in Summer, retains the option of completing the M.S.). Students may only take the exam twice. Students are recommended for dismissal from the program immediately if they either (a) fail twice or (b) fail once and elect not to take the exam again.

In extraordinary circumstances the Graduate Director may give a student the option of taking the first year exam without having taken the core coursework (CMPM 201, 202, 203, and 205) during any quarter. Those who pass may complete the degree without taking the core courses.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

The Ph.D. comprehensive exam measures students’ preparation to perform independent CM research. It must be taken (for the first time) no later than the end of a student’s third year in the program (the ninth quarter, excluding summer quarters). Before taking the exam, students must have completed the requirements for understanding media creation and computer programming (as outlined above). Students enroll in (a) CMPM 206 (a two-unit course, usually offered by the CM grad director each quarter) and a 10-unit independent study (CMPM 297, usually with their advisor, and usually in the same quarter as CMPM 206), and take an exam evaluated by advisor and course instructor (with another faculty member stepping in if advisor is course instructor). The exam itself includes:

  • Reading a significant body of material in two or three depth areas of CM — from a list developed by student, advisor, and course instructor — integrating it, and writing about it.
  • A portfolio review of CM projects, with (a) a detailed written description of the computational system-building goals and process of at least one project led (in this aspect) by the student and (b) a detailed written description of the media-making goals and process of at least one project led (in this aspect) by the student. The projects may be from during or before enrollment in program, and the written descriptions may be of the same or different projects.

There are three possible outcomes of the comprehensive exam:

  1. Pass at Ph.D. level
  2. Pass at M.S. level
  3. Fail

As with the first year exam, students who pass the comprehensive exam at the Ph.D. level are done with the exam. Students who pass at the M.S. level may elect to leave the program with an M.S., upon completion of all M.S. requirements. Both students who pass at the M.S. level and students who fail have the option to take the exam again, by enrolling in CMPM 206 again in a future quarter, not later than the middle of their fourth year in the program (the 11th quarter, excluding summer quarters). Students who take the exam again may not decrease their outcome (e.g., a student who passes at the M.S. level in Spring, then fails the following Fall, retains the option of completing the M.S.). Students may only take the exam twice. Students are recommended for dismissal from the program immediately if they either (a) fail twice or (b) fail once and elect not to take the exam again.

Qualifying Examination & Advancement to Candidacy

The Ph.D. qualifying exam measures students’ preparation to begin Ph.D. research. It must be taken (for the first time) no later than the end of a student’s fourth year in the program (the twelfth quarter, excluding summer quarters). It has two parts. First, a detailed written description of a proposed dissertation project, distributed to the committee before the oral exam. Second, an oral presentation of the project, followed by questioning from the committee.

The committee policy for the CM Ph.D. follows that of UC Santa Cruz. Specifically: The qualifying exam committee shall consist of at least four examiners, one of whom is not a member of the student's department. The department shall submit to the Office of the Graduate Dean at least one month before the proposed examination a list of four qualified persons who are willing to serve on the examination committee, and who meet the following conditions:

  1. The chair of the examination committee must be a tenured faculty member.
  2. The student's thesis advisor cannot chair the examination committee.
  3. The outside member must be (a) a tenured faculty member from a different discipline on the University of California, Santa Cruz, campus, (b) a tenured faculty member of the same or different discipline from another academic institution involved in research and graduate education, or (c) a qualified person outside of academia with significant research experience (as determined by the Graduate Division).

After passing the qualifying exam, students advance to candidacy. Students who do not pass the exam may take it again, but must do so not later than the end of their fifth year in the program. Students may only take the exam twice. Students are recommended for dismissal from the program immediately if they either (a) fail twice or (b) fail once and elect not to take the exam again.

Ph.D. Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is a significant contribution to the CM field. It may emphasize technical, media-creation, or interpretive aspects, but must have a significant secondary contribution from at least one of the other areas — and may also emphasize areas equally. It requires an oral defense before a faculty committee, as well as a final dissertation document reviewed by that committee (distributed to the committee before the defense, and revised after the defense in response to committee comments). The committee must include at least two members of the CM department.