‌Computer Science (CS) Program

The Computer Science (CS) program trains students to create computational infrastructure and apply computational methods to a variety of areas and become world-class researchers and thought leaders in the field of computer science.

Computer Science program offers specializations in six distinct directions (called “Tracks”), each of which leads to a frontier of computing:

  • Artificial Intelligence,
  • Computer Systems,
  • High Performance Computing,
  • Theoretical Computer Science,
  • Visual Computing,
  • Computational Biosciences.

The Computer Science program's main areas of research include big data;  bioinformatics; and visual and extreme computing.

The Computer Science​ program boasts superb facilities and resources. In particular, students have access to the latest supercomputing and visualization facilities. This combined with the superbly equipped experimental laborartories, experimental studies at KAUST will be almost unconstrained by physical resources.


Program Guide

The KAUST program guide contains important information for students studying at KAUST. All CS students should read the General Information and the Computer Science parts of the program guide to get familiar with the academic rules of the CS program. For example, the program guide contains procedural information on how many credits you need to graduate, the composition of a defense committee, the qualifier, ... 

KAUST CS Program Guide


CS Placement Test


CS Qualifying Exam

The following information concerns students that joined KAUST in the Academic year 2020 - 2021. The qualifying exams requires students to pick three courses from different categories. The following is a categorization of courses into 7 different categories. For each listed course, the category is given in the second column of the table, e.g. the first category is Mathematics and the last category is Cybersecurity. Courses that are denoted as Planned are not yet approved, but will possibly be offered in the Spring of 2021. Please read the Program Guide for details about the qualifier. We only list instructors that are affiliated with the CS program in this table.

Code Area Title Instructor
AMCS 211 1. Mathematics Numerical Optimization Wittum
AMCS 212 1. Mathematics Linear and Nonlinear Optimization  
AMCS 251 1. Mathematics Numerical Linear Algebra  
AMCS 253 1. Mathematics Iterative Methods of Linear and Nonlinear Algebra  
AMCS 255 1. Mathematics Advanced Computational Physics Michels
AMCS 271 1. Mathematics Applied Geometry Pottmann
AMCS 308 1. Mathematics Stochastic Numerics with Application in Simulation and Data Science  
STAT 220 1. Mathematics Probability and Statistics  
STAT 240 1. Mathematics Bayesian Statistics  
STAT 250 1. Mathematics Stochastic Processes  
STAT 270 1. Mathematics Statistical Design of Experiments  
CS 331 2. Theory & Algorithms Stochastic Gradient Descent Methods Richtarik
AMCS 343 2. Theory & Algorithms Fast Solvers for Large Systems of Equations Wittum
CS 213 2. Theory & Algorithms Knowledge Representation and Reasoning Hoehndorf
CS 260 2. Theory & Algorithms Design and Analysis of Algorithms Moshkov
CS 249 2. Theory & Algorithms Algorithms in Bioinformatics Hoehndorf
CS 322 2. Theory & Algorithms Applied Ontology Hoehndorf
CS 370 3. Visual Computing Geometry processing Pottmann
CS 247 3. Visual Computing Scientific Visualization Hadwiger
CS 248 3. Visual Computing Computer Graphics Viola
AMCS 272 3. Visual Computing Geometric Modelling Pottmann
CS 379 3. Visual Computing Human-centric Visualization Viola
EE 354 3. Visual Computing Introduction to Computer Vision Ghanem
AMCS 312 4. Computer Systems High Performance Computing Keyes
CS 240 4. Computer Systems Computing Systems and Concurrency Canini
CS 244 4. Computer Systems Computer Networks Shihada
CS 245 4. Computer Systems Databases Kalnis
CS 337 4. Computer Systems Information Networks Shihada
CS 341 4. Computer Systems Advanced Topics in Data Management Kalnis
CS 344 4. Computer Systems Advanced Topics in Computer Networks Shihada
CS 345 4. Computer Systems Advanced Topics in Distributed and Networked Systems Canini
CS 380 4. Computer Systems GPU and GPGPU Programming Hadwiger
CS 220 5. ML & AI Data Analytics Gao
CS 229 5. ML & AI Machine Learning Zhang
CS 320 5. ML & AI Probabilistic Graphical Models Gao
CS 323 5. ML & AI Deep Learning for Visual Computing Ghanem
CS 340 5. ML & AI Computational Methods in Data Mining Zhang
Planned 5. ML & AI Special Topics in Federated Learning Richtarik
CS 361 5. ML & AI Combinatorial Machine Learning Moshkov
B 322 6. Bioinformatics Computational Bioscience and Machine Learning Tegner
Planned 6. Bioinformatics Machine Learning for Genomics and Health Tegner
Planned 6. Bioinformatics Modelling and Simulation of Biological Systems Wittum
CS 230 7. Cybersecurity Computer Systems Security Canini


The following document is used for students that joined KAUST in the Academic year 2020 - 2021.

CS Students FAQ

The following are questions that are often asked by current students inside the CS program.

Q: Where do I find academic forms like add/drop, MS thesis application ect..

A: Most of the forms are on the Registrar web site, under “Student Information”: You can find other program specific forms on the Program Web site, either EE, AMCS, CS or STAT, under the “Study “ tab. As an example:

Q: Where do I find the Student Handbook


Q: What do I have to do if I am appointed as a Teaching Assistant (TA)?

A: You will need to fill out a TA form that you can find on the Program web site above. Fill it out, get the instructor and your superverisor signatures and email it to your GPC. You will then be added as a TA on Blackboard.

Q: How can I audit a class?

A: You need permission via email from the class instructor first,  then you can ask your GPC to be added as an Audit on Blackboard.

Q: How do I change my course registration?

A: With the approval of your academic advisor, you can change the courses directly through your portal. If it is after the drop/add deadline, you will need to fill out an add/drop form and email it to your GPC. If you are dropping a course and adding Directed Reseach instead, this has to be approved by the Dean.

Q: I am trying to drop a course online and to swictch it to another one but it won’t     let me because it says I will be down to 9 credits. What to do?

A: 1st, add the course you want , then drop the one you need to drop.

Q: What is the minimum number of credits for semester

A: 12 for all semesters except 6 maximum for the summer

Q: If it is my last semester and I  need less than 12 credits to graduate  for my MS, can I only register for less than 12 credits.

A: Yes you can, but not less than 9 credits.  Will you need approval from your GPC and Associate Dean.

Q: Is the summer a mandatory semester?

A: Yes

Q: Who is my Academic advisor and can I change advisors?

A: All Master student’s advisor is the Program Chair of your Program. If for any reason you want to change advsior, talk to your GPC.

Q: How and when do I apply for a Master Thesis?

A: The minimum GPA to apply for a MS Thesis is 3.2. Applications start mid Spring semester for a start in the Summer. In some rare occasions, some students can start in the Spring. To apply, you need to find a supervisor first then fill out a MS Thesis application form and email it to your GPC. Once approved you van then register for MS Thesis credits (CS/EE/STAT/AMCS 297)

Q: If I satisfied the mandatory Garduate Seminars while I was a Master student, do I have to repeat once I switch to Phd?

A: No

Q: I am trying to register for a course that requires a pre-requisite that I do not have. What do I do?

A: Meet with the instructor of the course to see if you may waive the pre-requisite based on your past knowledge. If the instructor decides to waive it for you then he/she needs to email the Registrar’s Hepdesk so they can register you. No need to Cc your GPC.

Q: What is the process if I want to withdraw from KAUST?

A: Please visit the registrar and he will inform you of the steps to take.

Q: How do I add or Drop classes after the deadline?

A: Go on the Registrar web site and fill out an Add/Drop form, get the signatures and email it to your GPC. To add Directed Research, The Dean’s approval is required.

Q: If I took some extra 300 level courses during my Master’s degree, can they be counted towards my Phd course requirements?

A: Yes, only if they did not count towards your Master’s degree. For these courses to be counted towards your PhD, a waiver form signed by your advisor is required.

Q: What is the difference between 297/397 (Dissertation Research) and 299/399 (Directed Research) and when to take one vs the other one?

A: Students register for directed research courses (399) when the research is not directly relevant to the dissertation, or when students are exploring research options. These are generally taken prior to dissertation research. Students register for dissertation research (397) when they are researching and writing their final PHD dissertation. Student generally register in the same course continually each term as they complete their dissertation.

Q: How is my stipend computed?

A: Incoming MS and MS/PhD : 20K

MS who roll over to PHD: 25K

MS/Phd who finished their MS degree  and start the PHD: 25k

Incoming Phd: 25K

30K: For PHD who have successfully completed 30 credits after the MS, you are at a good academic standing, have passed the qualifier exams and satisfied the Phd course requirements.

Q: Phd students have to take a certain number of 300 level courses. Can these course be taken outside of the Program.

A: Always check with your advisor before you chose any courses. If he authorizes you to take any outside of your Program, a waiver has to be filled out.

Q: If I started a thesis and registered for Thesis credits, can I decide later to drop the thesis and will my Thesis credits be converted to Research credits.

A: You can always withdraw from a Thesis but your credits wil not be converted to Research credits. A W in front of your Thesis credits will be on your transcript.

Q: If I am done with my 24 credits of courses work, and if I do not want to do a Thesis to finish my 36 credits, what are my options?

A: You can register for additional courses (200 or 300 level), Directed Research (6 credits maximum), IED an or Internship in the summer (6 credits maximum).

Academic Information 

Student Handbook


Class Schedule Fall 2020-21


KAUST is a graduate-level research university that provides its students with modern and challenging graduate courses and state-of-the-art research facilities, some of them unique to KAUST. Besides the individual research groups of the professors, KAUST has aggregated the expertise of scientists from different disciplines in 10 Research Centers where students can work on devising novel solutions for addressing global challenges in the areas of food, water, energy, and environment. Students at KAUST benefit from access to, and training in, the Core Labs - centrally organized facilities offering such services as device and material fabrication, analysis, characterization, and supercomputing.

KAUST is an international environment, with its faculty, scientists, engineers, staff and students representing more than 100 different nationalities. English is the official language of studies, research, and administration. KAUST takes pride in its cultural diversity, and intercultural tolerance is an indispensable attribute of each community member.

KAUST follows the North American graduate education system. For students coming from a different academic tradition it is advisable to pay special attention to terminology that may sound unfamiliar. In case of doubt, ask your Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) or Academic Advisor or the Registrar’s Office.

Graduate Degrees

Each program offers two types of degrees - Master (M.S.) degree (options with or without Thesis) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Students with a B.S. who are interested in a research career are encouraged to apply directly to the Ph.D. program, whereby admission to the actual doctoral studies is conditional to successful completion of requirements of the respective M.S. program. Degrees are designed to prepare students for careers in both industry and academia. The placement tests conducted shortly after the arrival of students at KAUST help identifying and providing any supplemental training.

Master Degree

Studies towards the M.S. degree generally take between one and two years to complete. Upon successful graduation, students may receive an offer to continue studies in a Ph.D. program which can take a further two to four years. To obtain an M.S. degree, students have to earn 36 credits: 1/3 for core courses that provide in-depth competence in the main discipline of studies, 1/3 for elective courses that give breadth to the education, potentially including courses from other disciplines, and 1/3 for research experience which is typically acquired by research for the Thesis work. Students interested in entrepreneurship or careers in industry may earn part of the required credits from internships with local or international companies and from certain transferable skills training offered by the Innovation and Economic Development (IED).

Doctoral Degree

The Ph.D. program is an exclusively full-time program, meaning that students are required to reside at KAUST for a minimum of three and a half years for entering with a B.S. degree and two and a half years if entering with an M.S. degree. It is highly advisable that future students identify and get in touch with their prospective advisors prior to applying to KAUST. Ph.D. students are required to select and complete 2-4 advanced specialized courses befitting their specialization. They should also attend the graduate seminar, Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) and one summer session. Upon successful completion of the coursework, the students are admitted to the qualifying exam. The Ph.D. degree is awarded once students have completed all course requirements and passed the Ph.D. Thesis defense.

Other Training opportunities and requirements

Enrichment in the Spring and Fall

Enrichment in the Spring and Fall are educational programs with the purpose of enriching and inspiring students by exposing them to the latest research and technology developments outside their field of studies. KAUST offers its students an annual Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) and Enrichment in the Spring Program. The events consist of an array of keynotes, discussions, and masterclasses given by prominent external speakers as well as exhibits that intermingle science, technology, art and the social aspects of life. All students must mandatorily attend one WEP event.

Graduate Seminars and Distinguished Lectures

Besides the regular academic courses, students are required to attend graduate seminars as well as talks by internal and external speakers at the Program and Division level seminars. The seminars also present an opportunity to find out about the research carried out in CEMSE and to get in touch with the potential research supervisors. In addition to those seminars, the university offers a rich calendar of workshops, technical training, and lectures given by distinguished scholars from around the world. The upcoming events related to CEMSE are listed in the Events Calendar.

Innovation and Economic Development

 The Innovation and Economic Development (IED) department offers dedicated training to students interested in entrepreneurship, including

Skills Lab (English Language Support)

Further transferable skills training in English, writing, and communications are available via the Skills Lab program.

Office of the Graduate Affairs

For more information regarding generic services and training offered by KAUST, the students are advised to consult the Graduate Affairs Office.


All students at KAUST must acquire substantial research experience in order to graduate, which usually happens via the M.S. and Ph.D. thesis work. The nature of research may be theoretical, experimental, or a combination of both. Students carrying out theoretical research can benefit from access to KAUST high performance computing facilities offered by KAUST Supercomputing Lab (read more about Shaheen Supercomputer and Ibex Cluster). Students focusing on lab-based research have the opportunity to devise their own experiments in amply equipped laboratories and put their ideas to the test led by the university's motto "Through inspiration, discovery." The quality of research by CEMSE students has been recognized by various awards such as the Marconi Young Scholar Award, and the American Statistical Association ENVR Award, selection to attendance of Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings, to mention just a few.

Publications and conferences

As a rule, research results are published and/or patented. CEMSE students are expected to publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and/or high-level conferences. All research publications and conference contributions must be submitted to the of KAUST library which makes them broadly accessible within and outside KAUST. Students are also strongly encouraged to create own ORCID – a unique digital identifier that tracks all publications of a researcher regardless of his/her career moves. Students can attend research conferences and workshops in their field of studies which present excellent opportunities to expand their network of research contacts, initiate new collaborations with international researchers and potentially find the next employment after the graduation.

Academic Forms for Students

Procedures, Policies, and Guidelines for Students