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Department of Computer Science

The UNC Department of Computer Science was founded by Turing Award winner Dr. Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. in 1964. It is the second oldest free-standing computer science department in the United States.

In 2020, the ShanghaiRankings Consultancy’s Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked our department #17 in the world and #11 in the U.S. for computer science. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked our graduate program in the top 25 of graduate computer science departments.

The department is housed in Sitterson Hall and Brooks Building, a connected two-building complex built with infrastructure to address the specific needs of a computer science department.

Our Culture

Our founder, Fred Brooks, compared the role of a computer scientist to that of a toolsmith. “A toolmaker succeeds as, and only as, the users of his tool succeed with his aid. However shining the blade, however jeweled the hilt, however perfect the heft, a sword is tested only by cutting. That swordsmith is successful whose clients die of old age.”

One of the department’s earliest projects was a collaboration with researchers in the Department of Chemistry to model molecules. Since its founding the department has sought research collaborations and teaching avenues that will augment the work done by those in other fields.

One word used often by our alumni to describe UNC Computer Science is “collegial.” Faculty and students work together to solve real-world problems. Students are equal collaborators in projects, and faculty are mentors rather than supervisors.

Doctoral Program

The doctoral (Ph.D.) program includes work in specialized areas, preparation for teaching, and active involvement in advanced research.

A doctoral candidate proposes an individual program of study, typically 12 to 15 hours in the primary concentration. Previous course work can be used to satisfy much of the program of study. The candidate must satisfy the program product requirement, teach a course, participate in the technical communication seminar, pass an oral examination in the proposed dissertation area, and submit and defend a dissertation that presents an original contribution to knowledge. The normal time needed to complete the degree by a full-time student is five years. For more information, please visit our Graduate Degree Program Requirements page. If you have questions that aren’t answered by that page, please email

To apply to our graduate program, see Graduate Admissions.

Our Research

Researchers in the Department of Computer Science undertake research in a variety of areas, including:

  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
  • Computer Architecture
  • Computer-Supported Collaborative Work
  • Computer Vision
  • Geometric Computing
  • Graphics
  • High-Performance Computing
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Machine Learning and Data Mining
  • Medical Image Analysis
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Networking
  • Real-Time Systems
  • Robotics
  • Security
  • Software
  • Theory

For a more exhaustive list of our research areas, visit the Research section of our website.

Some of our current research projects include capture and display for 3D telepresence, deep learning for natural language processing and computer vision, systems and vision software for autonomous cars, 3D reconstruction of environments from photos, statistical tools for analysis of gene measurements, and more. To learn more about individual research groups and their projects, visit the Research section of our website or check individual faculty members’ home pages (listed on the People page).