This document has been put together by GRACS (the Graduate Representative Association for Computer Sciences) as an introduction to the University of Texas Department of Computer Science for CS graduate students. Further information is available on the GRACS wiki .
GRACS represents the interests of CS graduate students within the University of Texas at Austin CS department, provides services and information to graduate students, and works to foster a sense of community among graduate students in the department. To contact GRACS, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the GRACS Web page at https://www.cs.utexas.edu/~gracs/.
If you have comments about or suggestions on how to improve the documentation, please e-mail gracs@cs.
|Caution: This is unofficial advice from fellow grad students, and not official department policy. See the UTCS Graduate Program web site for the final word on policy topics.|
Incoming Ph.D. students have an advising bar (registration restriction) placed on their account which prevents them from registering for classes. To clear this bar, you must have your proposed course schedule approved by the graduate advisor, Prof. Greg Plaxton. The graduate office will send instructions on how to get this approval. Note that all Ph.D. students must register for CS 398T their first fall semester.
Incoming master's program students have no formal advising. The advising bar will automatically be cleared prior to registration dates.
Fellowship students and those students who have been awarded RA-ships should receive e-mail messages instructing them whom to contact. New TAs should receive e-mail from the graduate office informing them about their assigned classes and any orientation meetings they need to attend. If you don't have the appropriate e-mail message(s), ask the graduate office what you should do.
The University requires some new international TAs to pass an English certification examination. New international TAs who need the exam will be sent information by email from the CS Graduate Office. All TAs and RAs are required to show proof of eligibility to work in the United States. Proof must be in the form of the documents listed on the final page of the I-9: either a List A document or a List B document together with a List C document.
Start with the course schedule and your degree requirements. Course schedules for each semester can be found by visiting the UT registrar's Web site. Degree requirements can be found on the UTCS Graduate Program Web pages. You can also determine your registration time slot by visiting the UT OneStop page for registration and clicking on 'Registration Information Sheet'. Other useful registration information can be found on this page, including information about any outstanding bars.
Unlike at some schools, registration at UT does not remain open for weeks. You must register during the dates and times shown on your RIS or you may be unable to register before the late-add deadline, which carries an additional fee.
Full-time graduate students are required to take 9 hours of courses during the spring and fall semesters. Typical classes count as 3 hours because they meet for three hours each week. Thus, you must register for at least three classes during the spring and fall. Registering for 12 or more credits requires the permission of the student's advisor and the graduate advisor. All TA, RA, and fellowship appointments require full-time status.
|Important: You must carry a full-time course load, or many complications may occur, including loss of funding and visa violations. Talk to the grad office before registering for less than full time. (If you are a self-funding student and do not need a visa to be in the US, this warning does not apply.)|
Research is highly emphasized within this program and as such incoming students are required to start doing research their very first semester. To this end, incoming Ph.D. students are required to register for CS 398T during their first Fall semester. CS 398T provides a forum for faculty to present their interests and for students to learn more about ongoing research. Additionally, full-time Ph.D. students are required to register for 3 research credits (CS 395) every semester from their second semester onward until they reach candidacy. This means that Ph.D. students will take two courses plus CS 398T their first semester.
Requirements are subject to change. Check with the CS Grad Office if you have any questions.
Most administrative tasks can be accomplished via UT Direct. This includes registering for classes, viewing and paying your tuition and fees, updating your address information, and many others. Access to these services is secure, and requires an electronic identifier (UT EID) and password (both of which you should have created when applying to UT).
You'll need to consult the course schedule for courses offered and the steps for registration. Keep in mind that there are invariably additions and/or changes to the courses offered; the schedule on the Web is always up-to-date.
Resources about deciding what courses to take include:
Additionally, you should talk to other graduate students—there is typically a spirited burst of messages on the utcs-advice listserv in the summer just before registration opens for new graduate students, and in-person social events are also a great way to ask. If you would like to talk to individual professors about their classes, check in the Graduate Office for information on office hours and office locations.
Note that, some of the course work can be demanding. If you have any weak points in your background, it can be a very good idea to start slowly.
UTCS does not have Ph.D. comprehensive examinations (“comps”). Instead, the program requires certain background and diversity (breadth) and depth courses.
The qualifying exam is your Ph.D. dissertation proposal presentation.
See the doctoral degree program requirements for details.
Funding can come from a combination of three sources:
Most master's students are self-funding or using student loans, but there are a few with funding from the above sources. Doctoral students have funding terms specified in their letters of admission from the department.
After you have started working for a particular faculty member, that professor may pay you as a graduate research assistant (GRA) using money from a grant. Every semester, the department selects students to act as teaching assistants for the next semester. Doctoral students without other funding are chosen first. Both TA and GRA positions are forms of UT employment, and so have the accompanying benefits: health insurance, automatic tax withholding, and paycheck direct deposit.
The department occasionally sends out notifications for external fellowships, which you should pay attention to. Most fellowships, because of their generous terms, are competitive and often require an application and recommendations. However, since fellowships are not a form of UT employment, they often have added complications. Typically, you will need to pay for the student health insurance (or find your own health insurance). Taxes are not automatically withheld, so it's important to set aside money for that. Always make sure you understand the terms of the fellowship before it starts. Another subtle difference between employment and fellowships is that employment pays you for the previous month's work, while a fellowship often pays for the upcoming month. Thus, at the end of a fellowship, you may have a month without a paycheck.
Students being supported by teaching and research assistantships are eligible for in-state tuition, but there is a bureaucratic dance that must be performed to get it. Students must fill out a form to change their tuition to in-state rates via the Web. It can all be done via the Web listed here: https://utdirect.utexas.edu/acct/fb/waivers/index.WBX. Log-in, click on the 'Request Wavier' link on the left hand side of the page, and follow the instructions. The graduate office will send out e-mails reminding you to do this at the beginning of each semester.
The University has a few important rules regarding graduate student funding. They are typically not a problem, but you should be aware of them nonetheless. You can find more detailed information at the Office of Graduate Studies. Also note that some of the rules are slightly different for international students.
The CS Graduate Office will give you information on creating your UTCS account when you first check-in.
Note that there are university-wide computing resources, and UTCS department resources. These are almost completely unrelated – separate log in IDs, administrators, documentation, etc., so be aware of this partition.
You have two important official e-mail addresses:
E-mail is an essential channel of communication in the department and the university. You will miss out on important information if you don't create your accounts and read your e-mail regularly. In fact, it is university policy that you must check e-mail sent to the address in your student records “ideally daily, but at least twice a week”.
The university will send its official notices to the e-mail address listed in your student records. Keep this up-to-date!
The university provides you a UTmail account free. You can keep this email address once you graduate, subject to certain constraints. UTmail is Gmail, but with the university's domain. This seems like a good address to use in your student records (but you can use any address). UTMail addresses have the domain “@utexas.edu”.
In addition, most graduate students qualify for an Office 365 account. Unlike UTMail accounts, you cannot choose the local part of these email addresses. They are assigned to you and are usually of the form “email@example.com”. Though rare, some administrative units on campus ignore the email address in your records and send email directly to your Office 365 account.
When you create your UTCS account, you get a UTCS address. The department sends its messages there.
Of course, you can set your e-mail signature to whatever you want, but if you are looking for something to start with, here is the HTML for UT's official e-mail signature template:
<span style="font-family: Arial, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif; color:rgb(90,109,118);"><b>FIRST NAME LAST NAME</b>, Graduate Student<br/> <span style="color:rgb(191,87,0);">The University of Texas at Austin</span> | Computer Science | 512-nnn-nnnn | cs.utexas.edu</span>
The entire thing is Arial, color rgb(90,109,118). You name is boldface uppercase. “The University of Texas at Austin” is color rgb(191,87,0).
Obviously, replace “FIRST NAME LAST NAME” with your name in all capital letters. You may want to change “Graduate Student” to “Graduate Teaching Assistant”, “Graduate Research Assistant”, or “Assistant Instructor” if you have been hired by UT in one of these titles. Replace “512-nnn-nnnn” with your phone number, or delete it.
Graduate student offices are located in “Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall” (GDC) or the “Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Building for Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences” (POB, formerly known as ACES). To find out where a graduate student's office is, use
finger on a department Linux host, or check the grad office assignments list.
The department assigns offices for the graduate students. To get an office, either you or your sponsoring faculty member must request a space each year. (All doctoral students are automatically sponsored.) To request an office, use the
officereq utility on a department Linux host. Offices are assigned once a year, effective at the start of the Fall semester, and are allocated according to your research area and advising professor.
If you don't have an office, there is work space in the graduate reading room, GDC 5.202, and in the atrium bridge lounges.
You may give out the following address for CS-related mail (not personal mail):
[your name here]
Department of Computer Science
The University of Texas at Austin
2317 Speedway, Stop D9500
Austin, TX 78712-1757
United States of America
Note that this is only for university business (i.e., research & teaching related mail).
You can also receive occasional faxes in GDC 5.202 at (512) 471-9536.
The Graduate Representative Association of Computer Sciences (https://www.cs.utexas.edu/~gracs/) represents the interests of CS graduate students within the department and the university, provides services and information to graduate students, and works to foster a sense of community among graduate students in the department.
GRACS consists of a five member executive committee. GRACS sponsors the weekly Tea-Time and occasional events (both social and academic) throughout the semester.
We would like to encourage your participation in GRACS. GRACS is your organization. Its effectiveness depends on your participation. Please attend GRACS events, assist with GradFest and the buddy program, or run for election to the executive committee. Elections are held twice a year, with the five members holding staggered terms of office to ensure continuity. To get more information about GRACS, visit the home page or send us mail at gracs@cs.
As mentioned earlier, a major means of communication within the Computer Sciences Department is the network of computer systems. In order to get started using the departmental systems, you must have a computer account.
In addition to computers found in your assigned office space, there are public labs in GDC; a list of them can be found here (https://www.cs.utexas.edu/facilities/public-labs). There are also a number of labs you can use with permission from the professors/committees that own them, including the LESS and LECS labs. There are laser printers located throughout GDC, including in the grad reading room, GDC 5.202.
The department maintains a number of useful documents for new users at https://www.cs.utexas.edu/facilities/documentation. Also worth reading are the FAQs at https://www.cs.utexas.edu/facilities/faq.
Learning about others' activities in computing research and practice is one of the most important things you can do while you're here. Since UTCS is such a large and well-regarded program, there are a large number of opportunities to do so.
During any given week a number of technical talks will take place. Attending some of these colloquia, proposal presentations, oral defenses and such provides not only interesting technical stimulation, but gives you the chance to get to know the department a little better. Most notices are sent out via e-mail, and are visible here:
Reading groups are a great way to “check out” an area, to broaden your knowledge outside your specialty, or to keep up to date. Most reading groups are happy to have anyone join.
While this document deals primarily with the CS department, it's worth mentioning that one of the best things about the University of Texas at Austin is Austin. It is a wonderful place to live with a tremendous number of things going on. Austin is perhaps best known for having great music and being home to UT and the state capital. Austinites enjoy a town that is big enough to offer a wide variety of things to do, but not so large as to suffer the problems of many big cities. You will have to explore Austin yourself, but no doubt you will be riding or jogging on the Town Lake hike and bike path, eating Amy's ice cream, drinking Shiner Bock beer and listening to music on Sixth Street before long. To get more information on what's happening in Austin, pick up one of the free weeklies, “The Austin Chronicle” (http://www.austinchronicle.com/) or “XL,” available in most restaurants and coffee houses.
Also, UT has excellent fitness facilities and intramural sports offerings. Check out the RecSports page at http://www.utrecsports.org/index.php. Austin has some great camping, hiking, and biking areas. For information on this, check out http://austinexplorer.com/. Austin is also an excellent place for going fishing. There are many lakes around.
The best ways to become acquainted with faculty members and to learn about their research interests is to take classes from them, attend talks by them, and read papers or tech reports written by them. You can also make an appointment to talk with them personally. The faculty profiles section of the department Web site has a list of faculty and their areas of research.
“The Department of Computer Science manages its own network and systems, which number over 1600 hosts. UTCS operates a general-purpose High Throughput Computing (HTC) cluster, Mastodon, which is managed using the Condor job scheduling software. In addition to the Mastodon cluster, UTCS operates the CIAS Emulab, which provides a shared infrastructure for experimental computer science.”
For help, see UTCS facilites Documentation.
cshosts pubprinters to get the names of the various printers.
Use the LaTeX preview facility or
ghostview to save paper! Other tree-saving tips: use
enscript -2r to print two pages of a text file on one page, or
psnup -2 to do the same for any PostScript file. Alias
lpr -h to avoid printing the cover sheet.
For info about available machines, use the
cshosts help command.
To see if someone is logged in, use
rwho | grep (username). For information about someone (like their office number), use
UT has 17 libraries on campus, and has purchased a large number of Web library subscriptions.
See the Libraries article for details.
Austin is a “Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community”. In a climate like that in central Texas, riding a bicycle is a real pleasure most of the year. (July, August, and September can be a bit warm, however!) Since parking a bike is free and relatively easy, and there are no schedules which dictate your time as with a bus, there are definite advantages to two-wheeling. Note that the city of Austin has a high number of bike thefts – be sure to lock your bike with something that's not easily picked or cut through.
UT requires that all bicycles on campus be registered. Their bicycle registration program is intended to help police in recovering stolen bicycles and as a deterrent to would-be thieves. Registration is free and on-line. Just go to the My Parking Profile, log in, and click “Register Bicycle” at the bottom of the page, fill in the info, and a sticker will be mailed to you.
The UT Police Department routinely posts bicycle-mounted cops at on-campus corners. Their job is to catch bicyclists who do not obey traffic laws, such as:
Our new building has a secured bicycle storage room and showers on 1 south, for CS grad students, faculty and staff only. To request access, write to help@cs.
Read the Bicycling article for details.
The best way to determine routes/what bus to take is just to enter your starting and ending destination in Google Maps and then choose public transportation (icon looks like a bus) to give the possible times and routes for buses to take.
There are seven bus services administered by Capital Metro, and the first two of them shown below are widely used by UT students.
To get to the airport when metro bus service is not available, you can also turn for help to SuperShuttle service or taxi service.
The MetroRail train system http://www.capmetro.org/MetroRail is now up and running which UT students can ride for free.
Parking is based on a system of parking permits corresponding to different categories of students and employees. Parking on the streets, parking lots and garages on campus is marked according to the permits that are required to park there. Note that all permits are mutually exclusive: you can't use a “better” permit in a lesser parking area, unless the signs explicitly allow it. In addition, the parking rules change depending on the time of day. For example, in the evening some areas are open to anyone. The following is a brief summary of the relevant types of permits. For more complete information, see the university parking information Web page (https://www.utexas.edu/parking/). To purchase any of the following permits, go to 'My Parking Profile' at https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/pts/parking/ and log-in.
The parking rules are often significantly relaxed during breaks (such as winter break, spring break, and in between semesters). Always check the official parking Web-page during these periods. Finally, beware football game days. On such days most of the parking on campus is reserved and you will have significant trouble parking on campus. If you own a permit, you are allowed to park in the San Antonio Garage (the West-most garage) for free on game days.
There are vending machines located in most buildings on campus, with wares ranging from soda to sandwiches to chips and cookies. In GDC, they are in the northwest corner of the north basement (GDC 1.308); and in POB, the machines are located in a room near the 2.100 corridor entrance on the East side of the building.
There are a plethora of restaurants around campus. POB, the building that GDC connects to, has O's Campus Cafe. Another simple choice for lunch is the Student Activity Center (has Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Taco Cabana, and Zen); the Texas Union (has Wendy's, Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, Quizno's, and a BBQ and a salad place); or the Wendy's in Jester. The Drag also has many restaurants, including Kerby Lane, Mellow Mushroom, Einstein Brothers, Pita Pit, Austin Pizza, and Chipotle. JP's Java, Posse East, Subway, and Double Dave's Pizza are also close to the north edge of campus.
A fellow student put together a list of eating places on campus.
Various groups on campus and in the CS department recycle cans, paper, and newspapers. White laser printer and copier paper is collected in boxes or blue trash cans located beside each laser printer and copier. There are guidelines on the blue trash cans as to what can go in them.
Throwing unwanted, suitable paper in the trash rather than in the recycling box is frowned upon.
Laser printer toner cartridges are recycled after use. This is especially important since these cartridges are very expensive to the department. See the departmental “New User's Guide” for more information.
Austin is home to Dell and is Apple's second largest location. More importantly for grad students, there are good deals for faculty, students, and staff. National chains are also here including CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, and Best Buy as well as many small computer stores.
UT students are entitled to a variety of substantial hardware and software discounts. Additionally, the university and the department have pre-paid for some software.
Join some useful mailing lists at this Website, particularly the csgrad mailing list used by GRACS.
We sincerely hope that you have found this document useful, informative, and even a bit fun. If you have any feedback or suggestions (or even find a mistake in this document), we would greatly appreciate hearing from you! You can send your comments to gracs@cs or drop them off in the Graduate Office.
“Goodbye, and good luck.” :