The HCII Ph.D. program graduates first-rate researchers able to understand and participate in technological developments in their broadest possible contexts.

Requirements encourage researchers to gain skill in a range of methodologies to support research that is both rigorous and creative.

To this end, research is prioritized over any specific set of required courses, which we leave flexible to suit your individual interests. We expect that all students will become involved in an HCI research project from the beginning. For this we rely on an apprenticeship-based approach. You will be teamed early with an advisor who is matched to your interests, and who will guide you in your work.

Communication Skill Requirement

Students are required to make an oral presentation of their research work at the end of their first and second years of study. This encourages students to get started with research early and affords the opportunity to get research feedback early. Oral presentations are to the whole HCII community. A requirement for the Ph.D. is a “certification of communication skill,” which is awarded based on review and approval of presentations by the HCII faculty.

Course Work

The HCI Ph.D. program of study focuses on an emphasis area that students and advisors define together, which results in a coherent set of courses that enable the development of deeper knowledge in an area of interest, for example, Social Computing, Assistive Technologies, or Research through Design. A small set of core courses provide both a common experience for incoming students and a grounding in the concepts, methodologies, and prior work of a set of fields that contribute in important ways to HCI.

Course requirements are structured to be completed within the first two and a half years of study. However, students are free to schedule their course work in a variety of ways to accommodate their educational needs. In some cases prerequisite course work may be needed or requirements may be waived.

Course Requirements for All Students

All programs of study are created individually, but must be approved in advance by both the student’s advisor and the faculty. All programs of study must include the following:

Teaching Requirement

Students must successfully complete two Teaching Assistantships (TAships). Successful completion is determined by the faculty member for whom the student serves as TA. Students are assigned to TAships by faculty and student representatives, in a process that is responsive to the department’s needs, student preferences, and faculty requests.

Practice in HCI (Usability Skills) Requirement

The intent of this requirement is for the student to demonstrate that they possess basic usability skills (which would, for example, enable the student to teach an Introductory HCI course). A couple of ways to fulfill this requirement is to either successfully take a course on usability methods or to complete a TAship for this course.

To fulfill the Practice in HCI (Usability) requirement, you can TA for UCRE (User-Centered Research and Evaluation), SSUI (Software Structures for Usable Interfaces), or PUI (Programming User Interfaces), or you can enroll in and receive at least a B- for the final grade in UCRE or SSUI.

Dissertation Proposal and Defense

Your program of study will culminate in a dissertation describing original research. Proposal and defense of this dissertation are primary requirements for obtaining a Ph.D. in HCI.

Prior to proposing a dissertation topic, each student will form a Ph.D. committee consisting of an advisor, at least two but as many as three HCII faculty members and one outside faculty member (taken from either another CMU department or from outside the University). This committee will be responsible for approving a written and oral presentation of a dissertation proposal, as well as the final written dissertation, and its oral defense.