Graduate Student FAQ

Questions frequently asked by newly admitted students
Questions frequently asked by current students
FAQ for prospective graduates can be found from here.

Questions frequently asked by newly admitted students

Q1. What are the basic TODO items after I come to NMSU?
A. The basic TODOs are 

  1. Attend the orientation session organized by graduate school. If you do not know the orientation information, please contact gradinfo@nmsu.edu.
  2. Read this FAQ page carefully.
  3. Please read the NMSU catalog. In particular, under the “Degree” tab, please find the degree requirement for your program.
  4. Make an appointment with the department graduate advisor to discuss your study plan. Before talking with the department graduate advisor, please first (i) read this FAQ page carefully and (ii) read your degree requirement in the catalog carefully. When you talk with the department graduate advisor, you will know your deficiency courses. You will also discuss your options of courses in the first two semesters.
  5. Go to see Ivan or Mark and get a CS email address with cs.nmsu.edu and get an access code to the graduate student lab. The information of Ivan and Mark can be found from https://www.cs.nmsu.edu/wp/people/staff/
  6. Attend the department’s graduate student orientation which is organized by the Computer Science Graduate Student Organization (CSGSO, gradrep@cs.nmsu.edu, https://www.cs.nmsu.edu/~gradrep/).
  7. Make sure that you are in the csgrads@cs.nmsu.edu email list. The department will send general IMPORTANT notifications to this email list. If you are not in the list, you will miss those important emails.

Q2. Who is the current department graduate advisor
A. The current department graduate advisor is Dr. Huiping Cao (hcao at cs dot nmsu dot edu).  

Q3. How can I get Teaching Assistantship (TA)
A. If you are a newly admitted student and you are not given any TAship before your arrive, you miss the deadline to apply for TA in your first semester. However, you can get TA in other semesters. The details of applying for TA can be found from https://www.cs.nmsu.edu/wp/student-information/grad-students/graduate-financial-aid/. The procedure of applying for TAs

  • New students send an email to gradcs at cs dot nmsu dot edu to denote that they want to apply for teaching assistantship.
  • Deadline to send the TA application email: (1) mid of November for students that will start their first semester at CS in the coming Spring semester and (2) mid of April for students who will start their first semester at CS in the coming Fall semester.
  • Decisions about TAs to new students are generally made at (1) the end of November for students that will start their first semester at CS in the coming Spring semester and (2) the end of April for students who will start their first semester at CS in the coming Fall semester.

Q4. How can I get Research Assistantship (RA)
A. The decision of RA is made by individual professors. You can check each professor’s research interest and contact the professor with whom you want to work with.

Q5. I get a course ID (e.g., C S 463). How do I know what course this is and what topics that it covers? 
A. Please read the NMSU catalog and find the information in the “Courses” tab.

Q6. How do I transfer graduate credits from other universities?  
A. All the course credit transfer must be requested at the time of arrival. If you get a grade lower than B, your course credit cannot be transferred. If you get a grade of B or above B, you need to show the course syllabus to the department graduate advisor. The department graduate advisor decides whether your course credits can be transferred. If the graduate advisor cannot make the decision, the graduate advisor will contact the professors who teach those courses. These professors may need to talk with you to make this decision. If the graduate advisor/professor thinks that your course credit cannot be transferred and you insist on getting it transferred, then you need to take a challenge test (time/location agreed by both parties) and ask the professor to grade it. If you manage to get a B, then your course credit can be transferred.

If the graduate advisor/professor thinks that your course credit cannot be transferred and you insist on getting it transferred, then you need to take a challenge test (time/location agreed by both parties) and ask the professor to grade it. If you manage to get a B, then your course credit can be transferred.A.

Q7. I am new to the department. What courses should I take?  
A. Please contact the graduate advisor to ask for suggestions about which courses to take. Not every course is offered every semester. Thus, if you are new to the department, you are encouraged to talk with the general graduate advisor first.

Q8. When I try to register for a course, the system does not allow me to register (maybe because of the lack of prerequisite(s), or maybe the course is closed), what should I do?  
A. Please contact the course instructor (not the graduate advisor) who will be teaching that course to ask for approval. When you contact the course instructor, please provide your banner id (the 9-digit 800 number) and let them know your situation (e.g., this is your deficiency course, or you need to take your course to prepare for PhD qualifying exam, etc). Please note that if you do not meet the course prerequisites, the course instructor (not the graduate advisor) decides whether you are allowed to take that course or not. If you do not know the course instructor, please read Q102 and its answer to find the course instructor information.

Q9. When should I start taking PhD qualifying exam? and when will I get notifications to register for the PhD qualifying exams?
A. You should take the PhD qualifying exam at the end of the first semester that you join NMSU if you do not have any deficiencies. If you have deficiencies, you should take the PhD qualifying exam at the end of the first semester that you finish all your deficiencies. At each semester (after the middle of the semester), you will receive emails from the faculty who will be organizing the PhD qualifying exam to ask you to register for PhD qualifying exam. The emails will be sent to the csgrads@cs.nmsu.edu list, please make sure that you are in that list.

Questions frequently asked by current students

Q101. How can I find my deficiencies
A. Please talk with the department graduate advisor by making an appointment.

Q102. How can I find which courses will be offered in an immediate upcoming semester? 
A. Please follow the following steps to find such courses.

  1. Go to NMSU course lookup page.
  2. Select the campus “NMSU – Las Cruces (Main)”.
  3. Select a term.
  4. Select a subject/major. For Computer Science courses, you should select “C S”.
  5. Click “Get Courses”. Then you will be shown with a page with all the courses that will be offered in the selected term. For each course, the page will also show the course instructor, the time and room for the lecture and the lab (if applicable).

Q103. How can I find course prerequisites and the dependency of courses?
A. The core undergraduate level courses are 172/460, 271/462, 272/463, 273/464, 278/465, 370/466, 371/468, 372/469, 471, and 474, where CS 460, 462, 463, 464, 465, 466, 468, and 469 are transition graduate courses. The detailed descriptions of these courses can be found from this page. The dependency of theses courses are briefly summarized here. Most computer science upper level and graduate level courses have prerequisites. It is strongly recommended that you do not take a course without finishing the prerequisites. In very special cases that you need to take a course without finishing the prerequisites, you need to get the instructor’s approval. The order of the courses that you can take can be

  1. CS 462, 463, 464, 465. The prerequisite of these courses are CS 172/460. We generally do not require graduate students to take CS 172/460 even if they do not have a Computer Science background. There is no dependency relationship in these four courses. You can take any one without taking the other. These courses will serve as deficiencies for other CS courses.
  2. CS 466, 468, 469. These three courses largely depend on the previous four courses. CS 466 requires CS 271/462, 272/463, and 273/464 as prerequisites. CS 468 requires CS 271/462 and 272/463 as prerequisites. CS 469 requires 272/463 and CS 278/465 as prerequisites.
  3. CS 471 and CS 474. CS 471 requires CS 466 and CS 468 as prerequisites. CS 474 requires CS 273/464, CS 371/468, and CS 372/469 as prerequisites.
  4. Graduate level courses generally have specific prerequisites. You can check this page for prerequisites of specific courses.

Q104. What is the procedure to graduate for coursework only option?
A. Please note that students pursuing coursework only option will not need to have a final exam. The steps for graduation are:

  1. Fill in the “program of study form”, which can be downloaded from https://gradschool.nmsu.edu/graduate-forms/, and denote that it is coursework only.
  2. Ask the department graduate advisor, the department head, and the college dean to sign the form.
  3. After acquiring all the signatures, give back the form to the department graduate advisor. The graduate advisor will send the form together with a memo to graduate school.

Q105. What is the difference between the Master’s project (CS 598) and Master’s thesis (CS 599) courses? Which one should I take?
A. You need to take 6 credits of either course to graduate if you are not choosing a coursework only option.

  • In CS 598, you are generally required to implement a solution to solve a problem using the knowledge you have learned. In this course, you do not need to implement much creative ideas. At the end of the project, you need to write a project report and have a final exam. The project report will be used by the committee members and will not be sent to graduate school.
  • In CS 599, you are generally asked to design and implement new ideas to solve a problem. The outcome of a thesis should be able to be submitted and published as a research article. At the end of the thesis, you need to write a project thesis and have a final exam. The project thesis needs to be sent to graduate school. Thus, your thesis format should strictly follow the graduate school requirement.
  • The deadlines to have the final exam for CS 598 and CS 599 are different. You need to check graduate school website to figure that out. Generally, the deadline to have the final exam for CS 599 is earlier than the deadline to have the final exam for CS 598.

Q106. Can I still get TA/RA if I am taking less than 9 credits?
A. No. RA/TA can only be awarded to students taking at least 9 graduate credits. This is a department policy.

Q107. Will the transition courses (e.g., C S 463, C S 465) be counted as graduate credits?
A. Yes. However, they are not counted towards your graduate program (MS or PhD).

Q108. I got a D grade in a graduate course. How does it affect my GPA? Will it be counted as graduate credit?
A. A D-grade course will be used in your GPA calculation, thus it affects your GPA. However, a D-grade course will NOT be counted towards your graduate program. For example, if you get a D in C S 510, which is a required course for your Master’s program. In order for it to be counted for your program, you need to retake it and get a higher grade.

Q109. In the PhD catalog, there is a requirement of “Other graduate credit to meet NMSU requirements” (21 credits). Will CS 600 be counted in this category?
A. Yes.