Graduate Studies

The CMS department offers a variety of PhD programs. We offer two traditional, disciplinary programs leading to the following degrees:

Additionally, our faculty participate in three unique interdisciplinary programs that focus on the emerging interfaces at the boundaries of computer science, electrical engineering, applied math, and biology.

Note that all CMS faculty can advise students in all of the programs listed above.

Additionally, we offer subject minors for graduate students in other areas wishing to broaden their experience:


Options Administrator

Maria Lopez

Applications for graduate studies are reviewed and evaluated for admission (and financial aid) each year starting on December 15th, after all credentials (including recommendation letters and official copies of test scores) have been received. GRE scores are required (applicants should take the GRE in September to allow enough time for Caltech to receive the scores by December), and a subject test of the student's choice is strongly recommended. The Graduate Admission Committee usually decides on admissions by the end of February.

CMS Grad Council

Thomas Anderson
Sara Beery
Dimitar Ho
De Huang
Yorie Nakahira
Xiaoqi Ren
Matteo Ronchi
Jialin Song

Applications are encouraged from fields other than computer science or applied mathematics; however, applicants should be aware that our program is quite mathematically and scientifically oriented, and students are expected to catch up on their field of studies by the end of the first year. Students who hold a PhD degree from another institution are not normally admitted to graduate standing at Caltech to pursue a second PhD degree.

Fellowships And Financial Support

Each year, we award several graduate fellowships to our doctoral students. Fellowships usually provide full tuition and a substantial living-expense stipend for one academic year (Fall, Winter, and Spring terms). The department also provides financial support for graduate students in the form of research assistantships and/or teaching assistantship. Note that admission and financial aid are considered separately; on rare occasions, some students may be admitted without financial aid. Visit the Financial Support page of the Graduate Admissions website for further information.

Applicants are also encouraged to secure financial support from outside sources, e.g. government fellowships, industry, etc. There are a number of outside fellowships available to U.S. citizens including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships, the Office of Science Graduate Fellowships, to name a few.

For more general details on graduate studies at Caltech, visit the Caltech's Graduate Office.

CMS Meeting of the Minds

Each year, in the Spring, CMS hosts the Meeting of the Minds, an event that gives both undergraduate and graduate researchers a chance to showcase their work via a poster and/or demo. Many classmates and other members of the CMS community attend this poster session, and vote on their favorite research presentations. The presentations that receive the most votes are awarded with prizes.

More information about the event, along with participation guidelines, can be found at the Meeting of the Minds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which PhD program is best for me (ACM/CS/CDS/CMS)?

If you're unsure about which program is best for you, please feel free to apply to multiple programs. Also, note that it is possible to switch between programs once you arrive to Caltech. That said, each program has a specific goal. The ACM and CS programs are somewhat traditional PhD programs in Applied Math and Computer Science, while the CDS, and CMS programs are unique interdisciplinary programs meant to appeal to students interested in emerging areas at the boundaries of computing and mathematics. For example, our flagship program, the CMS program, is a unique, new program that provides students with a cross-cutting perspective on optimization, algorithms, learning, statistics, and networks.

When are graduate applications due?

Applications for the graduate program are due by December 15th. Late submissions are considered with a lower priority.

Can I earn a terminal Master's Degree in Computer Science at Caltech?

We traditionally do not offer a Master's degree as a terminal degree.

How do I apply for graduate admission?

Visit the Graduate Admissions website in order to download or request an application. Complete instructions may be found there. Applications are due on December 15th for entry the following September. Also peruse this website for detailed information on the faculty and their research expertise; current graduate students; alumni; and general information about our department.

Where can I find information about the PhD Programs in CMS?

On our webpages and in the Online Catalog.

Can I attend Caltech as a part-time student?

No. Our graduate programs are for full-time students only.

How many years does it take to earn a PhD within CMS at Caltech?

The PhD program requires a minimum of three academic years of residence. Most students complete the PhD program in four to six years.

Are stipends available for graduate students?

In general, students offered admission to graduate study at Caltech are simultaneously offered a package of financial support that pays all tuition charges and provides them with a stipend. Financial support for graduate students comes in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantship, or some combination of fellowship and assistantship support. In most cases financial assistance is awarded on an annual basis, but there are also multi-year fellowships available. Applicants requesting additional information on financial assistance may contact the Office of Graduate Studies at (626) 395-6348.

Must I take the GRE?

Yes. GRE scores are required, with a subject test of the student's choice strongly recommended. It is strongly recommended that applicants take the GRE in September to allow enough time for Caltech to receive the scores by December.

I already have earned a PhD May I still apply to your program?

Students who hold a PhD degree from another institution are not normally admitted to graduate standing at Caltech to pursue a second PhD degree.

Department of Computing + Mathematical Sciences