PhD Mathematical Sciences

The PhD in Mathematical Sciences at Portland State University is a research degree. It aims to develop student's ability to conduct and share original research. The program is flexible, learner driven, and provides participants with a structured environment, professional guidance, and advising support.

Mathematical Sciences at PSU encompass a wide range of specialties. Traditionally at PSU, students often engage in multidisciplinary research work and take graduate courses in other departments. The program prepares one for academic professions as well as a broad range of non academic professions. Mathematical Sciences form an integral part of emerging fields such as computational medicine/biology, artificial intelligence, information security, and e-sciences. In today’s data-intensive world, Mathematical Sciences allow one to answer questions and solve problems in areas as diverse as economics and finance, government and law, the arts and music, medicine, weather and air quality forecasting, climate modeling, and national defense in addition to its traditional application in the physical sciences. The program is flexible, learner driven, and provides participants with a structured environment, professional guidance, and advising support.

The program accommodates a broad range of interdisciplinary partners. Students choose a main concentration within the Mathematical Sciences as well as a secondary concentration. This secondary concentration can be chosen within the Mathematical Sciences or alternatively, within the natural sciences, social sciences, or engineering. Typical examples of secondary concentrations outside of Mathematical Sciences include Computer science, Engineering, Physics, Biology, Economics, Systems Science, Finance, Urban Studies and Planning, Public Health and Medicine.


Where our doctoral program graduates are currently employed or were employed just after graduating.


Program Prerequisites

Applicants for admission to the Mathematical Sciences PhD program will be expected to have completed an undergraduate degree with the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in Mathematics or Statistics containing an adequate background in Computer Science. Applicants with degrees in related disciplines will be considered provided the applicant demonstrates a strong mathematical proficiency. Admission to the program requires that the department find the applicant prepared to undertake study leading to the doctoral degree in mathematics.

University Minimum Admission Requirements

In addition to program prerequisites, applicants must meet the university's minimum admission requirements including English language proficiency.

Application Deadline

This program admits once per year for fall term only.  Applicants seeking financial support should apply by February 1st for priority consideration. Applications will not be accepted after March 24th.

Application Instructions

Cost and Funding

Refer to the University Student Finance web page for tuition and financial aid information.  

The department offers a limited number of Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships, Fellowships, and Scholarships. Applicants desiring a teaching assistantship should apply to the graduate program by February 1st for entry the following fall quarter. Program applicants are able to indicate their interest in an assistantship as part of the online program application. 

Student Handbook

For additional details please read the PhD in Mathematical Sciences Student Handbook and the general rules in the Graduate Studies section of the University Bulletin.

For students admitted to the program prior to fall 2018, please see former program description with supplemental rules.

Program Forms

PhD Progress Planning Form

Comprehensive Exam Proposal

Graduate School Forms

Degree Requirements

I. Planning a PhD in Mathematical Science Program

Upon admission to the program the student will be assigned an academic advisor providing support for the student's examination schedule and program of courses.  After satisfactory completion of the qualifying and comprehensive examinations, a dissertation committee headed by a thesis advisor will be appointed to supervise the remainder of the student's program.

Summary of the procedures for doctoral degrees.

II. Course Requirements

A minimum of 81 credit hours distributed as follows:

Approved graduate level courses - 42 credits

a) Primary concentration: Mathematics and Statistics courses at the 600 level - 18 credit minimum.

b) Secondary concentration: courses at the 600 level in Mathematics and Statistics or courses at the 500 and 600 level offered in another discipline - 9 credit minimum.

c) Other courses in Mathematics and Statistics at the 500 and 600 level, including MTH/STAT 601 (non-dissertation research) - 15 credits. For students entering the program with a Master’s degree, up to 9 credits can be transferred from graduate Mathematics or Statistics courses offered in other universities.

Mathematical/Statistical Literature and Problems course (Math/Stat 501) - 3 credits

This requirement can be waived in full or partially in case of a Master’s thesis or a similar exercise performed in another university. When a partial waiver is provided, the candidate is asked to perform an oral presentation of his Master's thesis or similar exercise under the rules of the Math/Stat 501 course.

Doctoral seminar (MTH 607) or Internship (MTH 604) - 9 credits

Dissertation (Math 603) - 27 credits

Moreover, the candidate will be expected to participate in colloquiums and research seminars presented in the department.

III. Examinations

Qualifying examinations 

These exams are intended to verify that the student has the prerequisites for high-level mathematical courses and also to verify that the student has the basic capabilities and interest in mathematical research. This examination consists of two Master’s level written examinations offered in the Fariborz Maseeh Department of Mathematics and Statistics (“the department”), as well as defending a Math501/Stat501 Mathematical/Statistical Literature and Problems course. In both cases, this course consists of reading critically a research article and presenting it in writing as well as orally in front of a mathematically literate audience. The qualifying examinations are to be completed before the end of the second year after enrollment in the program, so that the student may engage early-on in the study of higher level mathematics and in research.

Comprehensive examinations 

This is an oral exam conducted by an examining committee composed of three or more PSU faculty members, a majority of whom holds a primary appointment in the department. The scope of the exam is determined by a syllabus prepared by the candidate’s examining committee. The syllabus reflects the primary as well as the secondary concentration of the candidate. A student may receive from the examining committee a grade of unconditional pass, conditional pass (with conditions specified by the examining committee), or fail. A (strict) majority of votes in favor of either pass or conditional pass is needed for the student not to fail the exam. The candidate is allowed to stand for this exam at most twice, and must pass this exam within five years after entering the program to continue.

IV. Dissertation

Upon the successful completion of the course and examination requirements, the student proposes for approval by the Mathematical Sciences PhD committee and subsequently by the Graduate School, a dissertation committee. This committee comprises a research adviser who is a faculty member in the department, at least two other faculty members, and a representative from the Graduate School. Additional faculty members may also serve on the dissertation committees. Overall, at least half of the members of the dissertation committee must be member of the department. The dissertation committee must also satisfy the rules dictated by the Graduate School.

V.  Advancement to Candidacy

With guidance from the dissertation committee, the student will prepare a thesis proposal and presentation. The goal of this presentation is to inform the committee of the intent of the dissertation and receive their critical comments. Upon subsequent recommendation of the dissertation committee, the student is recommended for advancement to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

VI. Thesis Defense

After preparation of the written dissertation, and with the approval of the dissertation committee, the PhD degree candidate will present their work in a dissertation defense culminating in their research activities.

VII. Residency

A minimum of three consecutive terms in this program must be spent in full-time residence at Portland State University.