San Diego State University (SDSU) offers a doctoral degree in Computational Science in collaboration with Claremont Graduate University (CGU). The program involves graduate level courses and research projects under the supervision of SDSU faculty from the Departments of Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, and Biology with cooperating faculty from CGU. The PhD degree is awarded jointly by the two institutions.
The Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) graduate program is a new educational initiative at San Diego State University. There are presently only a handful of graduate programs nationwide, whose character and organization resemble that of CSE; however, we predict that this program of study will elicit considerable interest in the years to come.
Computational science is enjoying a tremendous popularity these days. Computer modeling and simulations play a pivotal role in virtually every area of pure and applied research. Numerical computation is often regarded as the only viable option to achieve progress on a variety of complex problems for which existing analytical techniques are inadequate. An obvious goal of the CSE program is, therefore, the training of science professionals capable of effectively utilizing modern computing facilities and appropriate computational methods.
It would be quite misleading, however, to regard Computational Science merely as a collection of tools and algorithms. More importantly, in our view, the CSE graduate program addresses the growing need for more versatile and broadly educated researchers than those produced by typical graduate programs in the traditional scientific and engineering disciplines. This need is particularly evident in some areas of industrial and applied research, and has also been pointed out by a number of "task forces" in charge of identifying the main shortcomings of graduate training in the sciences and in engineering.
While retaining the essential, highly successful research-oriented character of any other doctoral program in a scientific discipline, the CSE PhD program emphasizes interdisciplinary studies over specialization, thereby preparing its graduates to contribute effectively to research and development in the modern industrial setting.
Why a PhD Program
By and large, doctoral programs in the sciences are structured to train primarily future academic professionals. However, it is fairly well documented that only about a third of all PhDs in science and engineering eventually find permanent employment in academia. Even less frequently do science PhDs find an occupation related to the particular subject of their graduate training, or even in the same discipline, or general area of science . At the same time, however, average unemployment rate for science and engineering PhDs has been consistently below the national average, to indicate that such graduates can successfully seek employment outside their immediate field of expertise. This is doubtless due to their general aptitude at tackling complex tasks, which is in turn a direct outcome of their training in research. Examples abound; to cite only one, the recent wave of PhD physicists who found employment in the financial industry.
Concurrently, the last decade has witnessed profound changes and restructuring of traditional industrial Research and Development (R&D). Many industrial and corporate laboratories, that had been at one time heavily engaged in cutting edge basic research, were refocused to have a greater and more immediate impact on production, allow firms to be competing on several fronts at the same time, make a more efficient use of internal resources and keep up with rapidly changing technology. This process has naturally favored skilled but broadly educated scientists, capable of working beyond the traditional boundary of their own field, typically within multidisciplinary teams. These qualities are at odd with the narrow focus that characterizes graduate student research in science doctoral programs across the nation. Graduate students are under pressure to produce individual original contributions within a very well delimited field. They are practically never encouraged to explore the possible relevance of what they are learning to other areas of research, or even to familiarize themselves with research themes or terminology from other disciplines.
These issues are particularly important in computational science, as the great generality of its methods and techniques makes them relevant to virtually any research work. Yet, very seldom are PhDs in scientific disciplines or engineering, even those who have performed computational work for their thesis project, capable of quickly exporting methods and applications to other fields without substantial retraining. The PhD program in CSE aims at accomplishing the above goal by pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to graduate training.