Study plan - PhD Programme in Computer Science: Software Engineering, Sensor Networks and Engineering Computing
The PhD programme in Computer Science: Software Engineering, Sensor Networks and Engineering Computing is a doctoral education in computer science. The programme is aimed at candidates who want to qualify for research and scientific work at a high international level. The programme enables the graduates to pursue a research career in academia as well as in industry linked to the application of computer science in engineering, science, and society.
The programme encompasses the research fields of software engineering, sensor networks, and engineering computing. The field of software engineering is concerned with the engineering principles used for the design, development, evaluation, deployment, and maintenance of software and software systems. The field of sensor networks is concerned with the techniques, hardware- and software platforms used to establish communication infrastructures between networked sensing devices. The field of engineering computing is concerned with the development and application of mathematical modelling techniques, software, and computing platforms for solving complex problems in engineering.
The programme specifically puts emphasis on computer science research related to the engineering of systems and the application of computer science in engineering disciplines. Depending on the specific area of specialisation, PhD candidates graduating from the programme will have state-of-the-art research knowledge, skills, and competences within one, or a combination of, the research areas of: model-driven engineering approaches for the development of software systems, efficient communication infrastructures for networked and embedded sensor systems, advanced mathematical modelling and associated computational techniques for problem solving in engineering, and techniques for the processing and analysis of massive data sets from scientific experiments.
The programme concentrates on the fields of software engineering and sensor networks as many ICT systems are based on communicating software components for processing and interpretation of data from sensing devices. This is a development that is expected to continue in the future considering current trends such as the Internet-of-things, big data science, and cyber-physical systems. This implies that for the engineering of future computing systems, it is important to consider both the efficient and reliable engineering of the software components and applications as well as the communication infrastructures, middleware, and protocols used to enable efficient communication between networked sensing devices. Research into both software engineering and sensor networks are therefore central for the engineering of future computing systems.
Engineering computing is a field that builds on mathematical modelling, simulation, software and algorithms, and powerful computing platforms. In the context of engineering computing, particular emphasis is on the realization of software for computational methods and their application to engineering problems. Engineering computing in combination with software engineering for high-performance computing is becoming increasingly important as an enabling technology in engineering disciplines both for system realisation, interpretation and processing of big data sets, and for mathematical modelling.
The PhD programme is offered by the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL). HVL offers one of the largest engineering programmes in Norway, including master's programmes in software engineering and communication systems that are closely related to the PhD programme. The PhD programme is based on the research activities at the Department of Computing, Electrical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. The PhD programme has research links to several other engineering departments and faculties at HVL.
The PhD programme is governed by the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges, the Regulations of the Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, the quality assurance system for PhD programmes at HVL and the Supplementary Regulations for the PhD programme in Computer Science: Software Engineering, Sensor Networks and Engineering Computing.
Admission to the PhD programme requires a master's degree in computing such as a master's degree in computer science, informatics, software engineering, communication systems, engineering computing, scientific computing, or computational science and engineering. Candidates from other natural sciences or engineering disciplines having completed a master's degree with a strong emphasis on computing may also qualify for admission into the programme.
The applicant must document completion of the master's studies with strong results. A grade of B or better (according to the Norwegian grading scale) on the master's thesis, and an average higher than C on the associated coursework are normally required for admission into the programme. Courses completed prior to admission into the programme and which is to be part of the course work component of the PhD education should not be older than two years at the time of admission.
Application for admission to the programme uses a predefined form and must document the formal qualifications of the candidate and contain a plan for the studies. The plan must contain a project description, description of plans for the studies, funding, and any planned visits to external institutions. The applicant must also specify the need for supervision, infrastructure and equipment, and the language in which the PhD thesis will be written. The thesis is normally written in English, but can be written in another language subject to approval by the programme committee for the PhD studies. The application must also account for any legal or ethical aspects relevant for the completion of the studies. The project description must be developed in cooperation with the main academic supervisor and the application must be accompanied by a recommendation from at least one academic supervisor.
The assessment of the relevance of the master's degree will be done by the programme committee. In addition to grades on the coursework and the master's thesis, the committee will evaluate the quality and relevance of the project description, any prior scientific publications, and relevant work-life experience of the candidate. Admission into the programme takes places on a continuous basis throughout the year. The programme committee for the PhD studies makes the decision on admission.
At the time of admission, a formal agreement must be entered into between the candidate, HVL, the supervisor(s), and any other parties that are to contribute scientifically, economically or otherwise to the research project and education of the candidate. The agreement is to regulate the mutual responsibility and rights of the involved parties for the duration of the agreement.
Upon completion of the programme, the candidate
- is in the forefront of knowledge in a specialization area rooted in one or more of the fields of software engineering, sensor networks, and engineering computing.
- has comprehensive knowledge on state-of-the-art concepts, methods, and technology platforms within his/her area of specialization.
- can contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, engineering methods, and software-based technologies and their application in engineering and society.
- can formulate research hypotheses, plan, and carry out independent theoretical- and applied research work within his/her area of specialization.
- is able to carry out research work of high international standards that advances the forefront of knowledge and application of technology within his/her area of specialization.
- can engineer computing systems by applying state-of-the-art modelling and validation techniques in conjunction with hardware platforms and software technology.
- can review research work within his/her area of specialization, relate it to the forefront of knowledge, and assess its applicability for the engineering of computing systems.
- is able to perform research that challenges established concepts, theory, methods and technology within engineering of computing systems.
- can identify relevant ethical issues pertinent to computer science research and its application in engineering and society.
- can carry out research work with scholarly integrity and in accordance with the established scientific norms and traditions for research within computer science.
- can participate in interdisciplinary assignments and projects involving research into, and application of, one or more of the fields of software engineering, sensor networks, and engineering computing.
- can disseminate and publish research results through recognized channels, including scientific workshops, conferences, and journals within computer science.
- can participate in research discussions and research collaboration internationally on scientific topics within his/her area of specialization.
- can identify and assess the need for innovation, and initiate and contribute to innovation projects that involve one or more of the fields of software engineering, sensor networks, and engineering computing in engineering and society.
Successful completion of the programme of study leads to the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD).
The PhD programme is a full-time programme with a nominal completion time of 3 years. For candidates employed in PhD research fellow positons of four years with 25 % teaching duties, the PhD studies will span a period of four years.
The programme is divided into a coursework (training) part of 30 ECTS, and a dissertation part of 150 ECTS that is completed with the PhD defense.
The coursework part consists of one mandatory course on research methodology, research ethics and scientific work practice. This course is designed such the candidates may develop a thorough understanding of research methodologies and their foundation in the philosophy and history of science, and the application of these to practical work within the field of computer science research. This will serve as the base foundation of the scientific work to be conducted as part of the dissertation work.
The portfolio of elective courses is designed to give the candidates a solid foundation for obtaining state-of-the-art knowledge and skills on the topic of their PhD project.
The candidates will typically select two of the elective courses and obtain the additional 5 ECTS by a combination of popular science presentations, scientific writing courses, conference/workshop presentations, participation in national or international PhD summer/winter schools linked to the topic of their dissertation, and longer research visits to international institutions.
The choice of elective courses will depend on the particular area of specialisation of the candidate.
PhD candidates specializing in software engineering will typically follow the PCS955 (Model-driven Software Engineering and Reliable Software Systems) and PCS956 (Research Trends in Applied Machine Learning) courses.
PhD candidates specializing in sensor networks will typically follow PCS921 (Wireless Sensor Networks) and (depending on the particular research interest of the candidate) choose one of the courses PCS951, PCS955 or PCS956. The PCS951 course (Distributed Computing Systems) is recommended if the candidate has a main interest in the processing of data from sensor systems, PCS955 (Model Driven Software Engineering and Reliable Software Systems) is recommended if the interest of the candidate is in the development of software for sensor networks and on techniques that can be used to verify the correctness of protocols, middleware, and application software for sensor networks., and PCS956 (Research Trends in Applied Machine Learning) is recommended if the interest of the candidate is on data analysis, machine learning and artificial intellegence.
PhD candidates specializing in engineering computing will typically follow the PCS911 (Engineering Computing) and PCS912 (Domain Decomposition Methods) courses. Candidates with research interests in the implementation of software for the engineering computing may choose to replace the PCS912 course with PCS955 (Model Driven Software Engineering) to get a broader perspective on approaches for transforming models into executable software, or PCS956 (Research Trends in Applied Machine Learning) if they are interested in data analysis, machine learning and artificial intellegence. The Candidates with a research interest in the mathematical interpretation and processing of data from sensors may follow either PCS911 or PCS912 and PCS921.
Candidates are required to follow at least one of the elective courses offered in the programme.
The PhD thesis constitutes the central part of the programme and documents an independent research project carried out under individualised academic supervision. The research project is required to contribute new knowledge and original research results in one or more of the areas of software engineering, sensor networks, engineering computing, and their application in computer science. The thesis must document the individual scientific work conducted by the candidate in accordance with international standards for research ethics, scientific level, and work practices in the field of computer science.
The thesis may either have the form of a monograph or a collection of papers published in, or submitted to, peer-reviewed international workshops, conferences or journals. In the latter case, at least one paper must have been published or accepted for publication in a high-quality journal or conference. Theses based on a collection of papers must include an overview chapter that provides an introduction to the research field, clearly states the research questions and goals, provides an overview of the research results obtained, and positions the scientific results contained within state-of-the art in the research field.
Papers that are part of a thesis consisting of published and submitted papers are allowed to have co-authors. The thesis must then be accompanied by co-authors' statements specifying that the candidate contributed with a substantial amount of the work.
Work Structure and Teaching Methods
The candidates will be exposed to a wide range of forms of teaching, including lectures, group work, seminars, and self-study. In the coursework component, the teaching is largely based on a combination of lectures, seminars by visiting researchers and the candidates themselves, and discussions and practical work in smaller groups. The candidates will give oral presentations and write reports and papers in all courses that are offered in the programme. Furthermore, the candidates will conduct reviews of papers, and provide assessment of oral presentations by fellow PhD candidates. Most PhD research projects and coursework involves practical work linked to the development, evaluation, and application of software and computing technologies.
The PhD candidates will be part of one or more research groups, and are expected to actively participate in scientific discussions at meetings and seminars organised by the research group. The PhD candidates will take part in the weekly/biweekly meetings of the research group in which the daily work of the research group is discussed and planned. In these meetings, the PhD candidates typically contribute with short presentations of work-in-progress, and receives feedback on dry-runs of workshop and conference presentations. The PhD candidates participates in a weekly research seminar for all faculty members, PhD candidates, and master's thesis students. In these seminars, the PhD candidates presents their research work to a broader audience. The seminars also include presentations by faculty members, visiting researchers, and other external guests. The PhD candidates organises an informal monthly PhD forum in which the PhD candidates discuss matters related to their research and their work environment. A main purpose of this forum is to support the integration of new PhD candidates into the research environment.
The programme of study organizes an annual retreat for all faculty members, post-doctoral fellows, and PhD candidates. At this annual retreat, the PhD candidates give presentations in relation to their PhD project. The retreat also contains lectures - some from external guest - on topics related to researcher education such as dissemination of research, research ethics, paper reviewing, writing of project proposals and funding applications, writing research papers, giving scientific presentation, and building a network and research career. As part of the retreat, the PhD candidates also contribute to group work on proposals for cross-disciplinary projects and collaboration, and project proposals for external funding.
This implies that a candidate will regularly be giving oral presentations on the current work undertaken in the context of his/her research project, and will engage in discussions with other researchers and PhD candidates on related topics. Candidates will also regularly attend national and international scientific workshops and conferences which will lead to collaboration and interaction with researchers at other institutions. Candidates typically attend one or more PhD summer/winter schools related to the topic of their research project.
The work on the research project of the candidate will be based largely on self-study under individual supervision that address a broad spectrum of the learning outcomes of the programme of study. This will involve both literature studies, and theoretical and practically-oriented work. Candidates are entitled to receive 200 hours of supervision in relation to the research project. The hours of supervision includes preparation, discussion with the candidate, and any follow up tasks.
The main element in the individual supervision is to ensure the academic development of the candidate in terms of skills and independence in research and writing, and the timely scientific progress on the PhD project in accordance with the rules and regulations of the programme of study. For the course work component, the supervisor will provide advice on courses and PhD summer/winter schools to ensure that the candidate obtains the required background to carry out his/her PhD project. The supervision also includes: guidance on the focus of the research project; guidance on formulating hypotheses and delimiting the scope of the project; and guideance on ensuring that the project is carried out with scientific integrity and in accordance with established ethical norms in computer science.
The PhD candidate typically writes several research papers in the course of their project (in addition to the thesis itself). For both the writing of the research papers and the thesis, the work form is typically iterative. The supervisor(s) will provide advice on the structure and content, and give feedback on draft versions of research papers. In relation to this, the supervision also includes advice on workshops, conferences and journals for submission of papers, and discussions on how to address feedback from review reports in a professional and constructive manner. For workshops, conferences and journals, important factors are relevance in relation to the project and scientific quality. In many cases, the PhD candidate and the supervisor(s) (or other PhD candidates) also write joint research papers which further aids the candidate in obtaining the required skills in scientific writing. Other important issues in the supervision are advice on relevant literature and related work, feedback and advice on oral presentations, and advice on career planning. The supervision may also include risk management, revision and change of original plans.
The supervisors typically serves as members of international programme committees and in relation to this, the PhD candidates will receive advice on scientific reviewing and may act as sub-reviewers in order to be exposed to the evaluation aspects of research work. The supervisor(s) also introduces the PhD candidates to their international contact network and, in relation to this, supports the PhD candidates in planning the compulsory international research visit and in building their own network.
The PhD candidates will normally have two academic supervisors from HVL one of whom will be the main supervisor. Normally, the main HVL supervisor will have full-time permanent positions at Western Norway University of Applied Science and the primary academic responsibility for the candidate, including the formal responsibility on matters related to the education and scientific work of the candidate. The candidate may apply to have one or more co-supervisors from other institutions when special competence in the PhD project is required. In the case of an external main supervisor, at least one co-supervisor from HVL must be assigned. An important duty of the HVL-based supervisor(s) is to ensure that the candidate shows good progress in the course of studies and that the candidate becomes part of the research environment at HVL.
The assessment at exams that is part of the course work component is done in accordance with the regulations for studies and exams at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (FOR-2019-05-09-1000).
The assessment in the coursework component involves a combination of seminar presentations and project reports. In many cases, the project reports will have the form of a research paper. Exams in courses that are part of the PhD programme are assessed by an internal and an external examiner. All mandatory and elective courses in the programme are graded pass/fail. For courses comprising multiple pass/fail components, a pass grade must be obtained on all components in order to receive a pass grade on the course.
Annual progress reports. The PhD candidate and the supervisor(s) must submit an annual report to the programme committee detailing the progress on the coursework and the research project of the candidate. The annual progress report will be followed up by a meeting involving the programme coordinator, the candidate, and the supervisor(s) assessing the progress and updating the plan for the studies.
Mid-term evaluation. Approximately half-way through the PhD studies, each candidate must provide a written report documenting the progress made on the research project, and give an oral presentation of the current state of the thesis project and the future plans and directions. The purpose of the progress report and presentation is to assess the scientific progress related to the coursework and the research project of the candidate. The evaluation will be undertaken by a committee consisting of the supervisor(s), one external researcher, and the programme coordinator. The programme coordinator prepares an evaluation report based on the written report and the oral presentation. If applicable, the report may contain a specification of any measures to be implemented in order to ensure satisfactory progress in the research project. The programme committee is responsible for monitoring that the recommendations from the status report are followed by the candidate.
The coursework component of the PhD studies must have been approved by the programme committee before the candidate can apply for an assessment of the thesis. The assessment of the dissertation is made by an evaluation committee consisting of at least three members and in accordance with the regulations for the PhD programme §14-§15.
The PhD degree within computer science: software engineering, sensor networks and engineering computing is awarded on the basis of:
- approved coursework component (mandatory and elective parts),
- an approved thesis,
- a trial lecture on a specified topic,
- an approved public defense of the thesis.
The assessment is made in accordance with §12-§23 in the regulations of the PhD programme. The thesis diploma will specify the title of the thesis and contain information about the coursework conducted as part of the training component.
All PhD candidates and main supervisors are required to deliver progress reports by November 1st each year. Any problems reported in the progress reports will be followed up by the programme management.
A mid term evalation is carried out normally during the fourth semester of activity.
The research environment responsible for the PhD programme has extensive international collaborations including both research collaborations and supervision of PhD candidates. The PhD candidates will have the opportunity to present research work as part of seminars and meetings with international visitors, and to engage in discussion with other researchers in the field.
The PhD studies includes a compulsory 3-6 months visit to an international research group. Exemption from this is only possible in extraordinary cases and is subject to approval by the programme committee. A visit at an international research institution can be accredited up to one ECTS subject to approval by the programme committee. Candidates will also give research presentations at international scientific meetings, workshops and conferences, and it is expected that PhD candidates give at least one talk at an international venue in the course of the studies.