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Computer Science and Engineering

Department Overview

AC101 Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering

Computer science is the study of information and algorithms within the context of real and abstract computing devices. Computer scientists are interested in such topics as the representation and storage of information; algorithms to access, display, edit, and transform information; programming languages to express algorithms; and hardware and software processors to execute algorithms. These concerns lead to practical developments in computer systems software, such as operating systems and compilers; in application areas, such as artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and computational biology; and also to theoretical investigations of computers, algorithms, and data.

Computer engineering is a closely related field concerned with the design and practical application of computer hardware and software systems to the solution of technological, economic, and societal problems. The computer engineer analyzes a problem and selects from a variety of tools and technologies those most appropriate for its solution. A computer engineer can expect to be involved in hardware design, software creation, and systems integration.

Undergraduate Program

101 Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, Box 352350
(206) 543-1695

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers the following programs of study:

  • The Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree
  • The Bachelor of Science degree with a major in computer science (see Computer Science in the Arts and Sciences section of this catalog)

The core requirements of the two undergraduate majors are similar. The computer engineering major may be more appropriate for students who are interested in creating and building systems that include both hardware and software components and that must be engineered to meet a variety of cost and performance constraints. The program includes a general foundation in engineering fundamentals to enable interdisciplinary work with other departments in the College of Engineering and the University as a whole.

The computer science major may be more appropriate for students who want to earn a double major with another College of Arts and Sciences program (for example, mathematics or economics), who want the additional flexibility of the computer science requirements (the computer engineering major has more required courses and fewer electives), or who may be more interested in the theory, design, and implementation of software systems and applications (for example, the techniques of modern compilers or the algorithms behind computer graphics and animation).

Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126; PHYS 121, PHYS 122; CSE 142, CSE 143; English composition.

Department Admission Requirements

Applicants are considered in two groups: Direct Admission and Regular Admission. Admission is competitive. Completion of minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

  1. Direct Admission: Computer Science and Engineering enrolls up to 30 percent of its incoming class directly out of high school, prior to completion of university-level prerequisites. Freshman applicants to the University listing Computer Science or Computer Engineering as their intended major are automatically considered. Competitive applicants have taken calculus and at least one year of laboratory science (preferably physics) upon entering the University. Admission is for autumn quarter only.
  2. Regular Admission
    1. Minimum 2.0 grade in each of the following courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126 (or MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136); PHYS 121; CSE 142, CSE 143; and at least five credits of English composition.
    2. Admission is for autumn or spring quarter. Application deadlines are July 1 for autumn quarter and February 1 for spring quarter.
    3. Individual application prerequisites may be waived or substituted with departmental permission for matriculated students who have excelled in CSE introductory courses. Information is available from the department adviser.

Graduation Requirements

180 credits as follows:

General Education Requirements (83 credits)

Written and Oral Communication (12 credits): 5-credit course in English composition from the University-approved list; HCDE 231; 4 credits of UW approved writing (W) or additional UW approved composition (C) courses.

Visual, Literary, & Performing Arts (VLPA) and Individuals & Societies (I&S) (30 credits): Minimum 10 credits required in each area.

Natural World (41 credits):

  1. Mathematics (15-18 credits): MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126 (or MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136); MATH 308 or MATH 318 (waived if MATH 136 taken)
  2. Science (20 credits): PHYS 121, PHYS 122, and 10 additional credits from the list of approved natural science courses in the CS&E handbook
  3. Mathematics or Science (3-6 credits): 3 to 6 additional credits of math/science (to bring total to 41) chosen from approved natural science courses in the CS&E handbook: STAT 390, STAT 391, STAT 394, MATH 307, MATH 309, MATH 334, MATH 335, AMATH 351, or AMATH 353 (STAT 391 recommended).

Major Requirements (72 credits)

  1. Required Courses (33 credits): CSE 142, CSE 143, CSE 311, CSE 312, CSE 332, CSE 351, CSE 352; E E 215 or E E 205.
  2. CSE Electives (39 credits):
    1. One course chosen from: CSE 403, CSE 466, or CSE 484
    2. Three additional courses chosen from the CSE 401, CSE 403, CSE 444, CSE 451, CSE 452, CSE 461, CSE 466, CSE 467, CSE 471, CSE 484
    3. Two additional courses chosen from the CSE core course list in the online CSE handbook
    4. A design capstone course from the approved list in the CSE handbook.
    5. 7 credits of College of Engineering courses from the CSE elective list
    6. Additional (1-5 credits) CSE electives to being total CSE electives to 39 credits
  3. Minimum 2.0 grade for any course applied to the major, Natural World, or Written and Oral Communications requirements. Transfer students must earn a minimum of 24 graded credits toward the major through the UW.
  4. Free Electives to reach 180 credits

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes:

    Engineering Quality: Graduates engage in the productive practice of computer engineering to identify and solve significant problems across a broad range of application areas.

    Leadership: Graduates engage in successful careers in industry, academia, and public service, providing technical leadership for their business, profession, and community.

    Economic Impact: Graduates enhance the economic well-being of Washington State through a combination of technical expertise, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

    Lifelong Learning: Graduates adapt to new technologies, tools, and methodologies to remain at the leading edge of computer engineering practice with the ability to respond to the challenges of a changing environment.

    The computer engineering undergraduate degree is housed in the College of Engineering and is thereby accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, telephone: (410) 347-7700. The department has adopted the following student outcomes. Upon graduation from the computer engineering program, students have:

    1. An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
    2. An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
    3. An ability to design a computing system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability
    4. An ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams
    5. An ability to identify, formulate, and solve computer engineering problems
    6. An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
    7. An ability to communicate effectively
    8. The broad education necessary to understand the impact of computer engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context
    9. A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning
    10. Knowledge of contemporary issues
    11. An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern computer engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The department is housed in the state-of-the-art Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering. The Allen Center includes more than 20,000 square feet of laboratories, nearly 1,000 computer systems, and more than 50 terabytes of storage. Gigabit connectivity is provided to every desktop by more than 60 miles of data cabling, and wireless access is available throughout the building.

    CSE general-purpose laboratories support the diverse set of hardware and software platforms required for a cutting-edge education in the field. CSE special-purpose laboratories provide tailored support for activities such as mobile robotics, computer graphics, digital design, motion capture, embedded systems, laser scanning, educational technology, networking, and artificial intelligence.

    The Allen Center is one of the finest computer science and computer engineering facilities in the nation. All of its capabilities are available to all CSE students.

  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core and Departmental Honors requirements). With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.

  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: Internships and co-op opportunities are available for computer science undergraduates. See and for information.

  • Departmental Scholarships: CSE has a limited number of scholarships available to current CSE majors. Scholarship information is listed at

  • Student Organizations/Associations: A student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) operates within CSE. The ACM helps to coordinate new student orientations, research nights, technical talks, and various tutorials.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
AC101 Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, Box 352350
(206) 543-1695

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers programs of study leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. Students can pursue full-time graduate study leading to a PhD with an integrated MS. Students can also pursue part-time graduate study in the evening, leading to an MS. Programs are designed to provide considerable breadth of knowledge, as well as depth in an area of specialization.

The department has 40 faculty and is authorized to grow over the next few years. In addition, there are nearly 40 adjunct, affiliate, and emeritus faculty members. The faculty is currently conducting research in the following areas: embedded systems and reconfigurable computing; computer architecture; networking; operating systems and distributed systems; programming systems; information retrieval, database systems, and intelligent Internet systems; software engineering; computer graphics, vision, and animation; human interface to computing; artificial intelligence; theory of computation; and computing and biology.

Master of Science

Degree Requirements

40 credits, as follows:

Non-Thesis Option:

20 credits in courses numbered 500 or above; 30 credits in CSE courses. 10 credits may be in one or more supporting fields.

MS qualifying evaluation. The faculty assesses whether the student has satisfactorily completed a breadth requirement and an independent project requirement as described below.

A breadth requirement, satisfied through coursework. The required course list may change from time to time. Students may meet requirements in place when they are admitted. Students must take one course in each of the four groups below and one additional course from two of the groups (18 credits) for graded credit (a waiver is possible for graduate courses taken elsewhere):

  • Either CSE 521, CSE 525, or CSE 531
  • Either CSE 548, CSE 551, CSE 561, or CSE 567
  • Either CSE 501, CSE 503, CSE 505, or CSE 544
  • Either CSE 510, CSE 546, CSE 557, CSE 573, or CSE 576
  • Two additional courses from two of the groups above

An independent project completed under the supervision of a primary and a secondary faculty adviser. A written summary and an oral presentation are required.

Thesis option:
  1. 9 credits CSE 700, master's thesis - a written thesis acceptable to a CSE Supervisory Committee and an oral examination on the thesis work
  2. Of the 31 remaining credits,
    1. 24 credits must be CSE courses
    2. At least 16 credits numbered 500 or above
    3. 7 credits may be in one or more supporting fields such as: engineering, mathematics, natural sciences, business administration, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, or medicine.

Professional Master's Program

Degree Requirements

Eight 4-credit PMP (Professional Master's Program) courses (determined in consultation with an adviser) and other courses providing 8 totaling credits. The additional credits may be earned through participation in the department's colloquium series, which features leading-edge researchers and developers in computer science from around the world. Students who take one course per quarter, plus 1 credit of colloquium, complete the program in two-and-a-half years.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

Most entering students are expected to have a solid background in computer science, including programming, machine organization, data structures, discrete mathematics, automata theory, and programming systems (i.e., the equivalent of CSE 326, CSE 321, CSE 322, and CSE 378, and either CSE 401 or CSE 451). Some exceptions to these requirements are made for otherwise-promising students. Graduate Record Examination scores are required within the preceding five years. The Computer Science and Engineering Graduate Program home page for prospective students gives full details of application procedures.

Application deadline is December 15 for both U.S. and international students for autumn quarter admission.

Degree Requirements

90 credits, to include:

  1. PhD qualifying evaluation, to include:
    • A breadth requirement satisfied through coursework. The required course list may change from time to time. Students may meet requirements in place when they are admitted.
    • One course from each of the four groups below and one additional course from two of the groups (18 credits) for graded credit (a waiver is possible for graduate courses taken elsewhere):
      • Either CSE 521, CSE 525, or CSE 531
      • Either CSE 548, CSE 551, CSE 561, or CSE 567
      • Either CSE 501, CSE 503, CSE 505, or CSE 544
      • Either CSE 510, CSE 544, CSE 546, CSE 557, CSE 573, or CSE 576
      • Two additional courses from two of the groups above
      • Four additional courses taken for credit from CSE or related areas with approval.
    • An independent project completed under two faculty advisers to include a written summary and an oral presentation.
  2. General examination. The applicant must demonstrate depth of knowledge in a principal area acceptable to the PhD Supervisory Committee.
  3. At least 90 credits of coursework, at least 40 of which are in courses numbered 500 or above. 45 credits should be in courses chosen from the computer science course list. At least two CSE courses numbered 500 or above (or approved courses in related disciplines) must be taken for graded credit in addition to courses taken to satisfy the breadth component of the qualifying evaluation. Coursework taken toward the MS degree is applicable toward the PhD degree.
  4. Two quarters of teaching assistantship within the department.
  5. Dissertation acceptable to the Supervisory Committee. Students must register for at least 27 credits of CSE 800 (Dissertation).
  6. Oral examination on the dissertation work.


Research and teaching assistantships are allocated on the basis of scholastic excellence and potential. All students accepted to the program are awarded three years of funding. Students applying for assistantships to start in autumn quarter should have all applications to the Graduate School and the department completed by December 15.