Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) about?

A:  CSE is about solving difficult real problems from science, engineering, economics, etc. using computational methods.  These methods can deal with very large sets of data (tera bytes) and can be very extensive (Trillions of arithmetic operations).  Applicants can bring in expertise in their chosen disciplines (say biology or civil engineering, etc.) and learn how to use powerful computers, scalable algorithms, and numerical and algebraic mathematics to solve difficult real-life problems (in biology or civil engineering, etc.).  CSE graduates have a prized combination of skills that is very marketable to big employers.

Q: What degrees does CSE offer?

A:  CSE offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computational Science and Engineering. 

Q: What background do I need to have to join the CSE programs?

A: CSE recruits candidates with degrees in science, engineering, agriculture, technology, economics and finance and other degree.  A reasonable level of knowledge in mathematics and programming is expected as well as an interest in solving problems using computers.  We will work with you to identify gaps in your background if any and recommend a plan of study. 

Q: What kind of job opportunities are there?

A: CSE Graduates find employment with government agencies, federal laboratories (NAVSEA, NAVAIR, NASA, NOAA, ARL, NRL, ONRL, etc.) and large multinational firms such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Shell, Caterpillar, Wolfram Research, IBM, Cummins, Raytheon, General Motors, and Exxon Mobile, and in Academia and industry.  They can work in product development and design, management and optimization of systems, market analysis, etc. in a wide range of industries such as transportation, manufacturing, automotive, chemical pharmaceuticals, defense and more.

CSE graduates have a prized combination of skills that allows them to solve difficult problems in their respective fields.

Q: What career path can a CSE graduate pursue?

A graduate with a M.S. or Ph.D. degree in CSE has many career opportunities and choices depending on his/her background, B. S. degree, interests, etc. There are at least two general career paths:

  • A Ph.D. graduate can pursue a rewarding and challenging academic career in a wide array of academic departments.  Academic careers offer the opportunity of continued growth, continual learning, and intellectual and entrepreneurial leadership.
  • M.S. and Ph.D. graduates in CSE can pursue career paths that emphasize the original (B.S.) disciplines of the CSE graduate.  For example, a CSE graduate with a B.S. degree in Chemistry can pursue a career in pharmaceuticals and drug design, where knowledge of chemistry and computational skills are combined.  
  • M.S. and Ph.D. graduates in CSE can pursue careers in developing computational tools, methods, and products, such as new super-computers, new software products (such as Mathematica, Matlab, etc.)

Q: I am a biologist (or physicist, or economist, ...) and would like to use computational methods.  What can CSE do for me?

A: CSE encourages you to maintain a strong interest and expertise in your original discipline.  As a CSE student:

  • You can have a thesis or dissertation advisor from your original discipline (biology, or physics, or economics, ...).  
  • You can take many courses in other departments that are fully counted
  • You can choose your MS Thesis Advisor, or your PhD Dissertation Advisor from another department closer to your discipline.

Q: Is Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) the same or similar to Computer Science (CS). How about Computer Engineering (CE)?

A: These are three distinct fields. There is some overlap, but each discipline has a different emphasis and requirements. CS and CE emphasizes the design of computing resources (computer hardware and software) while CSE emphasizes the use of computing resources to solve science and engineering problems.

Q: What is the difference between CS and CSE?

A: Computer science REQUIRES knowledge of the design and management of the software components of computing resources. This is NOT required in CSE. Typically a computer scientist is trained in language design, compiler design, web design, etc. CSE does not train students in such designs but expects a working knowledge of programming languages, compilers, etc. On the other hand, CSE REQUIRES knowledge of the algorithmic and mathematical aspects of solving large computational problems (either involving large datasets or intensive computations). This is NOT required in CS.

Typically a computational scientist and engineer must understand the mathematical and algorithmic aspects of dealing with linear algebra, large and sparse matrices, large graphs, solvers or linear and nonlinear systems of differential and algebraic equations, numerical and computer-algebra methods, etc.

In addition, CSE typically has an INTERDISCIPLINARY component, in which a CSE graduate may be required to understand a specific discipline (e.g. biology, chemistry, civil engineering, economics, etc.). For instance a computational biologist is a biologist who can solve problem in biology using computational methods.

Q: What is the difference between CE and CSE or CS?

A: Computer engineering REQUIRES knowledge of electrical systems and circuitry, such as VLSI and RF circuit design. This is not required in either CS or CSE. CE graduates are not required to know the algorithmic and mathematical aspects of interdisciplinary computations and are not required to know compiler and web-design and other aspects of software management of computing resources.

Q: Can a CS graduate join CSE? Does it make sense to do so?

A: Yes a CS graduate can join the CSE program and can have an advisor from CS. Whether to do so depends on the student’s interest. A CS graduate who is interested in the mathematical and algorithmic aspects of solving large computational problems is encouraged to consider the CSE program. If the CS graduate is interested in a specific application, such as bioinformatics, then CSE is perhaps the more logical choice as the program is designed to accept and encourage courses from across campus.

Q: Is a CSE graduate required to be interdisciplinary and to know a discipline in science and engineering, such as biology, chemistry, mechanical engineering etc.?

A: No. The interdisciplinary aspect is encouraged but not required.  A CSE student may choose to remain in the core of CSE, thus developing knowledge and expertise in the discipline of solving large computational problems using combinations of mathematics, algorithms, and high-performance computing. The CSE program however encourages students from varied backgrounds to join the CSE program and develop interdisciplinary knowledge.

For more information about the Computational Science and Engineering programs at NC A&T

Dr. Marwan Bikdash, Director and Professor, bikdash@ncat.edu

Dr. Dukka KC, Assistant Professor and Graduate Coordinator, dbkc@ncat.edu

Ms. Lydia Leak, Executive Assistant, lrleak@ncat.edu

Phone: 336-334-7437

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