Fordham’s Department of Computer Science has unveiled a new Ph.D. program.
The program is currently accepting applications from potential students for enrollment in fall 2022.
Damian Lyons, Ph.D., professor of computer science, said the need for those with doctoral degrees in computer science is enormous, particularly in the private sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15.3% increase from 2012 in the number of jobs in computer science requiring a doctorate degree by 2022.
Despite the strong market demand, there remains relatively low Ph.D. production in computer science, he said. Just 2% of all degrees conferred in the computer science discipline are doctorates, he noted, compared to 8% in the sciences, math, technology, and engineering fields overall.
He added that doctoral degrees are also becoming a more common prerequisite to private sector employment. Often, large, multi-sectoral organizations will reserve top-ranked positions for doctoral degree holders. For example, 16% of all positions at Google now require a doctorate.
A Focus on Ethics
A Ph.D. at Fordham will address more than just the technological aspects of the discipline, though. Students who earn the computer science doctorate will learn to wrestle with the thorniest issues of the field, including privacy and responsibility in fields such as artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity.
“Our program will promote ethically informed public-interest technological research,” Lyons said.
“The program is also unique in its commitment to training students in computer science pedagogy,” he said, “and in its commitment to engaging students in research within the first year of being in the program.”
The Ph.D. program is the latest expansion of Fordham’s focus on computer science education. In 2014, the department added a master’s in cybersecurity to its offerings, and a year later, it added a master’s degree in data science.
In 2017, Fordham was designated as a Center for Excellence in Cybersecurity by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security. For 12 years, Fordham has hosted the International Conference on Cyber Security, jointly sponsored with the FBI.
A Research-Heavy Sequence
Research will be a key element of the Ph.D. program. Lyons noted that students will be required to take a research method class their first year and conduct an initial but significant supervised research project that will result in a peer-reviewed publication. That project may or may not be connected to their dissertation research, but it must be completed before any dissertation research can be proposed.
Students will be supervised and mentored at all stages throughout the program. “This curriculum has been designed to facilitate advising and nurturing students as they go through the process,” Lyons said.
The program is poised to offer students an excellent return on investment: It is estimated that 60% of computer science doctoral students enter private industry after graduating, at firms such as Google, Uber, Bloomberg, Microsoft, IBM, and others.
Artificial Intelligence: Seeing the Bigger Picture
Lyons is especially excited at the prospect of Fordham graduates addressing the challenges of artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity.
“There’s a great deal of information and sentiment out there about the role that such advanced computer science could play in society, with arguments spanning the spectrum from it being a tremendous good that will help everybody, to well-known comments by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk that it could lead to the downfall of society,” he said.
“The way you deal with that is, you ensure that the researchers you’re training understand that science is a part of society, that they aren’t so focused on the technical perspectives and excitement of what they’re doing that they don’t see the bigger, ethical picture.”