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Masters of Science Program Curriculum
  • The Research Master’s Program
  • The degree requirements for students in the Robotics Research Master's Program at Carnegie Mellon consist of core course requirements, elective courses, and supervised research culminating in a public thesis talk and a Master’s Thesis document.

    The Robotics Research Master's Degree Program is a doorway to a research career, preparing the candidate well for doctoral degree programs as well as research staff positions at companies and government agencies such as NASA, Mitsubishi and Google. The degree emphasizes course and research qualifications equally, ensuring that the student attains both breadth of understanding in Robotics together with specialized depth knowledge in an area of particular interest to the student and faculty advisor. Depth areas are entirely customized to student and faculty joint interests, including for instance Human-Robot Interaction, Haptics, Field Robotics, Robotic Vision, Machine Learning, et cetera.

    The Program is designed to be completed nominally in two academic years as outlined below, with exceptional trajectories as described below for the fifth-year Research Master’s option available to admitted Carnegie Mellon undergraduates, and for Carnegie Mellon staff who are taking courses and conducting research part-time while performing staff duties.

    While there are a limited number of research assistantships available from time to time in the case of faculty with research funding for specific Master’s research directions, these are normally awarded at the time when admissions occurs; therefore Research Master’s enrollees should expect to arrange funding for their tuition costs for the two year duration as there is no guarantee of financial support available. Note also that Master’s student frequently choose to spend the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 at Carnegie Mellon, where they continue to pursue research full-time with their faculty advisor and are usually paid a stipend for living expenses during this time.

    The Master’s Thesis requirement is satisfied through the oversight of the Master’s Committee, formed from faculty and students at The Robotics Institute who read and approve the Master’s Thesis document and attend and approve the public thesis presentation, as described below.

  • Review of Progress

    Satisfactory progress in coursework will be assessed by the student keeping up with the course schedule and passing courses. All courses must be passed with a grade of B-, or better. Elective coursework must be approved by the Master’s program head during the first month of classes in the first semester, and prior to class enrollment in all subsequent semesters. The faculty advisor will assign a pass / fail grade every semester for the supervised research. To oversee completion of the Master’s thesis requirements the student will form a Master’s Committee that will verify the quality of the Master’s thesis in both written and presentation forms.

  • Faculty Advisor

    Master's students beginning in the fall semester must have a faculty advisor by October 30th; those beginning in the spring semester must have a faculty advisor by February 15th. Students must notify the Master’s program head of their mutually agreed-upon advisor-advisee relationship with a chosen faculty member. Note that the faculty must have a faculty appointment in the Robotics Institute, and that a faculty accepting the Master’s advisor relationship is never financially responsible for the Master’s student, except in the relatively rare cases when a research assistantship has been explicitly negotiated.

  • Master's Committee

    The student will form a Master’s Committee consisting of two faculty members and one Robotics Institute Ph.D. student who has completed his or her second year of study, or a Ph.D. student who has successfully graduated from the Robotics Research Master’s program. The committee should include the student's advisor as well as a second faculty member from a different research group or project than that of the student. The Master’s Committee must be formed during the student's first enrolled semester. The Master’s student is expected to hold at least two research meetings with each member of the Committee individually, discussing his or her research directions. The student is also expected to deliver a complete draft Master’s Thesis document to the committee sufficiently in advance of the oral presentation and graduation to enable committee feedback to be taken into account. The draft document must be disseminated at least two weeks prior to the schedule oral presentation. The oral presentation, in turn, must be scheduled well in advance, and must occur on a weekday before May 7 for spring graduation, and before August 14 for summer graduation. On-line forms are used by the Committee members to report on each research meeting with the Master’s candidate and to approve the final Thesis document and Thesis presentation.

  • Course of Study

    The Research Master's Degree requires completion of a minimum of 168 Carnegie Mellon credits. Of the total credits fulfilling the Master’s Degree requirements, at least 84 credits must be comprised of core and elective coursework, and at least 84 credits must be comprised of supervised research. Four core courses and three elective courses are required as part of the 84 credit course minimum as described below:

  • Core Courses

    Four of the courses must be drawn from the "Core Courses", one course from each of the following four areas. Note that this list of core course options is identical to the Core Course list required for the Robotics Ph.D. program at The Robotics Institute. Core courses taken during the Research Master’s program can be used to partially fulfill the Core requirements of the Ph.D. program if the Research Master’s student is later accepted and enrolls in the RI Ph.D. program.

    • Perception:

      vision, image sensors, range data interpretation, tactile and force sensors, inertial guidance, and other sensors. Core courses in Perception are 16-720 Computer Vision, and 16-722 Sensing and Sensors.

    • Cognition:

      artificial intelligence for robotics, including knowledge representation, planning, and task scheduling. Core courses in Cognition are 15-780 Graduate Artificial Intelligence, and 10-701 Machine Learning.

    • Action:

      kinematics, dynamics, control, manipulation and locomotion. Core courses in Action are 16-741 Mechanics of Manipulation, and 16-711 Kinematics, Dynamic Systems and Control.

    • Math Foundations:

      signal processing, optimal estimation, differential geometry, and operations research. There is one core course in this area: 16-811 Math Fundamentals for Robotics.

  • Elective Courses

    The student must take at least 36 credits of elective courses, comprising at least 3 elective courses.These can be drawn from appropriate graduate courses in Robotics and in related disciplines at Carnegie Mellon. Elective coursework must be approved by the Master's program head during the first month of classes in the first semester, and prior to class enrollment in all subsequent semesters.Request approval by e-mailing the program head and cc'ing Barbara Jean Fecich.

  • Supervised Research

    The balance of the units, at a minimum of 84 units, will come from supervised research (16-997), which will be conducted in conjunction with a faculty advisor's research program, working with that faculty on one of the on-going projects of the laboratory to develop a research thesis question, conduct the research and create the material results that can give form to the Master's Thesis document. Supervised research is graded pass/fail, based on the advisor's assessment that the student has learned how to contribute to an original research project. Those students who receive research assistantships are expected to satisfy their supervised research requirement by working specifically on the project from which they receive their funding.

  • Summer Internship

    A summer internship will be an option for students in the Master's degree in Robotics if the work done for the internship advances the research component of the Masters requirements. Students may register for up to 24 units of course credit, 16-990, during the summer while doing an internship at a company, partially satisfying their supervised research units requirement (84 units total). To do so, students must specifically request permission from the program director, justifying how the internship advances the research component of their Masters requirements. Furthermore the student will be required to write a (short) report on his/her activities in order to get credit for the activity.

  • Thesis Document and Presentation

    The student is expected to give an oral thesis presentation in a public venue at Carnegie Mellon. The student is expected to demonstrate the ability to present technical material to a technical audience that is not presumed to have specific expertise in the research area. The Master's Committee should be in attendance, but committee members may designate proxies to evaluate the presentation and fill out the Oral qualifying form.

    The student is also expected to deliver a Master's Thesis describing the supervised research. This should be a document for which the student is the sole or principal author. The thesis should demonstrate a style, organization and clarity that enable researchers in the field to comprehend the problem, method, and results of the research. The Thesis should, at a minimum, contain the following sections and ingredients: Background, Research Question, Related Work, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. There is not a specific page-based minimum length for the Thesis document. Once approved, the Thesis must be archived as a Carnegie Mellon Technical Report. The principal approval for the Thesis document is provided by the student's committee, via the Writing Qualifier form.

  • Carnegie Mellon Staff Enrollees and Undergraduate Fifth-Year Enrollees

    Carnegie Mellon staff can enroll in university courses at reduced or zero cost. While this approach to satisfying some of the courses for the Research Master’s program is appropriate, staff is encouraged to apply and enroll in the Master’s program as early as possible, once they decide to pursue the degree. Before application acceptance, the only Master’s requirement that can be met in advance are Core Course units. Following application acceptance, staff and undergraduates should form their Master’s Committee and mutually select a faculty advisor. This is particularly important for senior undergraduates wishing to begin their Supervised Research units in the summer between senior and Master’s years, as Supervised Research units will not count toward the Master’s degree unless the student has an approved Committee and faculty advisor. Elective courses will only count toward the Master’s degree while the student is enrolled in the Master’s Program. Furthermore, all Research Master’s students must be enrolled in the Robotics Research Master’s program for two academic semesters prior to graduation.

    Carnegie Mellon undergraduates can therefore minimize the time required, enabling a fifth-year Master’s degree, by organizing their schedule to complete all core courses as an undergraduate, conduct Supervised Research in the subsequent summer after senior graduation, and then undertake two semesters of Supervised Research and three elective courses while continuing their Supervised Research. Note that courses at Carnegie Mellon cannot double-count toward multiple degrees, therefore core courses taken as an undergraduate can only be applied toward the Research Master’s degree if they are not used to satisfy any undergraduate degree requirements.