Admission Requirements


Ph.D. students from any UC Davis graduate program/group are eligible for admission. The following Ph.D. programs are officially affiliated and support the DE: Animal Behavior, Animal Biology, Anthropology, Communication, Computer Science, Ecology, Economics, EducationGeography, Human Development, Linguistics, Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership​, Political Science, Psychology, Public Health Sciences, Sociology. The candidate should apply by sending the following material to the Chair of the DE (Prof. Hilbert, hilbert[at]ucdavis) and the Chair of the DE's Membership Committee (Prof. Frey, sfrey[at]ucdavis). 

  1. the standard form from Graduate Studies needs to be signed by the Chair of the PhD Program (the program has to be officially affiliated with the DE).
  2. a separate letter stating:
  • how admission to the DE will enhance the applicant’s doctoral work;
  • that the Qualifying Exam has not yet been taken and when it will be probably be taken (if the PhD program joined very recently, petitions can be made to be "grandparented in" after QE);
  • a tentative plan for taking the necessary courses in the DE (if you are unsure, no worries: no need to wait with the application, as this is only tentative; you can apply in Year 1 of your 1st Quarter, if you'd like);
  • how research interests (and possible thesis) involve Computational Social Science.

Applications will be reviewed and selections made by the DE executive committee.



Required Coursework

Students are required to complete minimum four graduate courses (min 12 units), relevant to the Designated Emphasis. This course work needs to be completed before the Qualifying Exam (QE). These include:

  • CMN 275Y: Hybrid online course with lecture recordings and weekly face-to-face discussion sessions with participating faculty members (offered once a year). The general outline can be found in this generic syllabus here. It's usually offered every Winter Quarter. It is advised to take this course as soon as possible, because it gives an overview of CSS methods.
  • At least one course from each of the three categories of Elective Courses (see right). At least one of these three courses needs to be taken from a program other than the student's PhD program.

Courses used to fulfill the DE requirements can be S/U graded. However, please note that courses that overlap between the DE and the Ph.D. degree requirement coursework need to be letter-graded (as of Ph.D. requirements).


Qualifying Examination

The student’s Qualifying Examination Committee must include at least one member of the DE (that means you need to sign up for the DE before your QE!). The Chair of the DE and the student’s Ph.D. program Graduate Adviser must co-sign the Qualifying Examination Committee form, which is submitted to Graduate Studies for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. When sending the form for signature, please specify which course work you have done to fulfill the DE requirements. The Qualifying Examination will assess the student’s depth and breadth of knowledge within the area of the DE, as well as the Ph.D. program area. Satisfactory performance on the Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D. will be judged independently from performance on the DE. Thus, an allowable outcome of the Qualifying Examination is that the student’s performance may be “passing” for the Ph.D. but “not passing” for the DE. In this event, the Executive Committee of the DE will define a plan for remediation. The plan may include, but is not limited to re-examination by the DE Executive Committee, coursework, teaching, or preparation of a paper. If the student is re-examined, the outcome is limited to “pass” or “fail”. If the student receives a “fail”, the student is disqualified from the DE.

Dissertation Requirements

​The dissertation shall contain original research connected with the DE and its relation to the student’s research in the home program, commonly by applying or developing computational social science methods. The student’s Dissertation Committee shall be selected in accordance with the regulations of the Ph.D. program, but must include at least one member of the DE. The DE member may be the Dissertation Committee Chair.

Student Advising

The DE will appoint a faculty advisor for each student admitted, in agreement with the student’s main advisor. This advisor may be different from the advisor appointed by the student’s Ph.D. program, and if so will serve the candidate only in matters relating to the DE.

Degree Conferral Process

​The Designated Emphasis will be awarded solely in conjunction with the Ph.D. and will be signified by the degree designation “Ph.D. in X with Emphasis in Computational Social Science” where X is the Ph.D. program.

Elective Courses

Students must take three Elective Courses, totaling 12 units. Besides the courses listed below, students can petition for ad-hoc approval of other elective courses in each category from the Executive Committee of the DE (especially 280s and 290s Special Topics and Seminar courses from the affiliated PhD programs or appropriate undergraduate courses, or the popular ECS 253). In this sense, the courses listed below aim at communicating the nature of the three categories, while specific courses can be approved by the Executive Committee in an ad hoc manner (see *footnote).

Computational & Mathematical & Statistical Foundations

  • PHY 256A&B. Physics of Information
  • ECS 222A. Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • ECS 235A. Computer and Information Security
  • ECS270. Artificial Intelligence – 3 units
  • ECS271. Machine Learning and Discovery
  • ECS272. Information Visualization
  • ECN 240A. Econometric methods
  • GEO 200CN. Quantitative Geography
  • LIN 277. Computational Linguistics
  • POL 281. Statistical Computing Issues in Political Science
  • SOC 206. Quantitative Analysis in Sociology
  • STA 243. Computational Statistics
  • STA 250. Special Topic: Data, Computing and Science
  • STA 260. Statistical Practice and Data Analysis – 3 units

​Social Science Theory and Substance

  • CMN 233. Persuasive Technologies for Health
  • CMN 251. Digital Technology and Social Change
  • CMN 252. Computer-Mediated Communication
  • CMN 255. Social Media
  • LIN231. Syntactic Theory
  • POL 215. Introduction to Modeling Political Behavior
  • POL282. Advanced Modeling of Political Behavior
  • PSC 241. Attitudes and Social Influence
  • SOC 220. Deviance, Law, and Social Control
  • SOC 226. Sociological Social Psychology
  • SOC 265B. Theory in Contemporary Sociology
  • SOC 280. Organizations and Institutions

Applied Computational Social Science

  • CMN 212. Web Science Research Methods
  • CMN 213. Simulation Methods in Communication Research
  • CMN 214. Analysis of Communication Networks
  • ECN 203B. Game Theory
  • ECN 230A. Public Economics
  • LIN 227. Text Processing and Corpus Linguistics
  • POL 279. Political Networks: Methods and Applications
  • POL 284. Advanced Network Analysis
  • PSC 211. Advanced Topics in Neuroimaging – 2 units
  • PSC 209A Introduction to Programming: Matlab
  • SOC 207A. Methods of Quantitative Research
  • SOC 208. Topics in Advanced Quantitative Methods in Social Science
*footnote: The DE's Committee on Educational Policy will review all ad-hoc petitions, which should be directed to the Chair of that Committee: ​Shelley Blozis (Chair, Committee on DE Educational Policy). Courses from non-DE-affiliated programs will be considered, but are less likely to be approved. The Committee is also unlikely to approve introductory stats classes (usually 200s series) for the category "Computational & Mathematical & Statistical Foundations", except GEO200, which focuses on spatial applications.