Carnegie Mellon University

Who should be on my Thesis Committee?

The Thesis Committee must include at least one Faculty member from the Institute for Software Research, two members of the SCS and/or Other Approved Faculty, and one External Committee Member.

An "External" Committee Member is ordinarily a technical expert based outside of the academic units of CMU; experts within CMU can be designated as "External" upon determination by the Department Head.

The committee should include only Tenure Track and Research Track Faculty members, though faculty on other tracks are occasionally allowed through the mechanism of an "Approved List" managed by the Department Head. Requested additions to the Approved List are identified to the Department Head through a request by an ISR faculty member.

All Thesis Committees and dates require prior approval by Connie Herold at least one week before the Thesis Proposal/Defense Date. Also all Thesis Committee Members must have a copy of your Proposal/Defense document one month in advance.

Definition of Other Approved Faculty: Anthony Tomasic, David Eckhardt (other non-SCS faculty who have recently served on SE committees)

How Do I get a Star Course approved?


The faculty have selected an initial set of approved courses in each category. These are subject to review from time to time to ensure that, if the course content changes, it remains consistent with the purpose of that star.

SE Ph.D. students may request that the faculty approve an additional course in one of the star categories. In general, if the request is approved, the course will be added to the list for other students to take for star credit. Students should submit a request to the head of the SE Ph.D. program (Jonathan Aldrich) and the Student Program Coordinator (Connie Herold) with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Name and number of the course
  • Course description or URL to course description
  • Which star requirement you want this course to satisfy
  • An indication of approval by your advisor
  • Evidence, including quotes from the course description and syllabus with supporting links, to demonstrate that the course:
    • Matches the topic and fulfills the particular requirements of the star course category you have requested
    • Assumes an undergraduate background in the relevant area--no more and no less
    • Uses multiple forms of evaluation (e.g. assignments, exams, projects, papers, ...)
    • Is appropriate for Ph.D. study. For example, if a course is primarily designed for master's students, a justification should be given that the course is also an appropriate preparation for Ph.D. study. Sometimes a course that is missing engagement with research may be adapted for Ph.D. students through additional or replacement assignments that lead PhD students deeper into relevant research topics

Given sufficient information, requests received by the faculty should generally receive a response within 2 weeks, if the request is made during a regular academic semester. Star credit should generally be requested at least 2 weeks before the end of the semester before taking a course, and preferably 2 weeks before the beginning of the registration period. This ensures students can register for a course before it fills up, and avoid spending time on a course that is not in the end approved.

Courses will not, in general, be approved in two categories, but instead will be approved in the category that best fits the primary emphasis of the course (if any). If any exception to this principle is made, the student must choose which category to apply the course to, and find a different course with which to fulfill the other requirement.

Course curricula may evolve over time, due to the advancing state of knowledge, the changing background and needs of students, or the strengths that a new instructor brings to bear on a course. Therefore, the faculty may re-examine star courses from time to time in order to verify the the course continues to fulfill the requirements for a star. If it does not, star status may be withdrawn for future offerings of the course.