Heaton Research

I am Starting a Ph.D. in Computer Science

I’ve since completed this degree, you can read about that here.
I also have a YouTube video about getting the degree from Nova Southeastern University.

I am starting a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), in
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A doctorate level degree is something I’ve considered on-and-off
every since I earned my masters degree. I am very interested in Artificial Intelligence,
and have read numerous peer reviewed articles as I constructed Encog and wrote several
books on AI. As I learn more about AI and Data Science I am beginning to see the
frontiers of human understanding in these areas. I would really to add a small bit to
this understanding.

My goal for doing this is really to become involved in research– both independently and
through my employer. I currently work in “industry”, and I do not plan on changing that.
I have worked as an adjunct professor, on a part-time basis. Full-time academia is not
something I am seeking in a Ph.D.

My Criteria for a Program

For my “day job” I work as a data scientist for a large insurance company. I am very
active in the open source community. I am a techie! I love to program. I love to
figure things out! This is why I have such a passion for AI and data science. There are
a number of degrees that offer a blend of management with technology. I have such a
degree for my masters. These degrees are fine, and offer a good balance. But this was
not what I was looking for in a doctorate. I did not want to research how technology
is applied to business. I want to research technology itself. Much as I have been
already through open source contribution.

My criteria for a program were as follows.

  • I want a doctorate level degree
  • I do not want to move away from St. Louis, MO USA to pursue this degree
  • I want exposure to peer reviewed publication
  • I do not want to quit my job, or reduce to half-time while I pursue my degree
  • I a degree that focused on technology, rather than management of technology

I began my search late in 2013. I evaluated a number of state schools, private
universities and even the “for profit” institutions. Most of the “for profit”
guys only had the management based degrees. I really could not find computer science/engineering.
There salesmen did try quite hard to convince me, and still call me. But I really want
a degree that ends with the word “engineering” or “science”, not “management” or
“administration”. There is nothing wrong with such degrees, and I have great respect for
them. I have certainly managed people before and worked in administration. But I don’t
want to publish/research on “management” or “administration”.

So I applied to NSU, and after a few months, was accepted.

Why NSU?

NSU is a 2nd tier non-for-profit private university located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
They have a traditional campus, with students living there. They also have a number of
“distance learning” options. I am pursuing a “distance degree”, and need to visit their
campus four times a year. There are certainly worse places to visit than Ft Lauderdale.
This also works well, as my wife is pursuing a masters degree in Spanish. Miami is very
close to Ft. Lauderdale, and is a hub of Spanish speaking culture.

There are essentially three phases to a Ph.D. from NSU.

  • Course work, for breadth of knowledge (32 credits)
  • Guided research (8 credits)
  • Dissertation (24 credits)

I like the approach of guided research before dissertation. The courses cover topics that
sound interesting to me.

Nova seems to be active in research. They are in the process of building a super computer,
named Megalodon. You can also see some of their dissertations here. Some of these
dissertations, particularly in the area of computer science, sound like topics similar to
what I might like to pursue.

I will start this fall. I am beginning with two classes:

  • CISD 760: Artificial Intelligence
  • CISD 750 Database Management Systems

I am looking forward to starting the program, and seeing what the courses are like.
I will travel to Ft. Lauderdale in August, for the first time. I will write more about
this as I continue the process.