Does anyone know the restrictions one might face if they are a graduate student in a computer science program (let's say doing theory) and they become interested in taking a course from the mathematics department or become interested in working on mathematics problems? Is this something where you need to full on change departments or is it generally more acceptable?

  • 5
    I think this is highly dependent on your specific program and institute.
    – Bitwise
    Dec 6, 2014 at 0:10
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    Math and computer science are inter-related. I don't think you'd expect a human to calculate a prime with 60K digits, after all. If your area of research covers math, it would probably be advised you understand the math behind it.
    – Compass
    Dec 6, 2014 at 0:27
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    Um...if it's a sane department, there should be no barriers at all. After all, theoretical computer science is mathematics.
    – JeffE
    Dec 6, 2014 at 4:33
  • I have a Ph.D. in Math from Penn State, and during my program I was taking courses in physics, philosophy (including honors courses), religious studies (including honors courses), and dance. There was only one case when I had to pay $600 for one credit myself. I'd say, this opportunity was one of the main highlights of my education, that I actually could go and study whatever I was interested in. Of course, nobody told me that I could; but nobody prevented me either. P.S. I forgot, I was also taking computer science courses, had a one-semester assistantship in CS, and coauthored a CS article.
    – user14102
    Dec 6, 2014 at 6:36
  • I think it really depends on what you work on...if you are doing compilers while studying differential geometry then it can become a problem, but then if you are working on machine learning and studying random matrix theory then I think you have a better chance, so you may want to consider studying things that are close together not far away no matter how appealing it looks to you - just experience as an undergrad who had done analysis while working on a FPGA related project...quite tedious on both ends
    – Fraïssé
    Dec 7, 2014 at 6:55

2 Answers 2


This is frequently very easy: the boundary between mathematics and computer science is pretty blurry, especially for the more theoretical side of computer science. In many universities, you will even find classes that are shared between math and computer science departments.

I suppose that If you are a masters' student, you might run into problems fitting in the classes that you want to take if there are a lot of other program requirements. For Ph.D. students, however, there are typically less constraints.


It depends somewhat on your advisor, and less on departmental policies. If you can convince your advisor that you need to take some math courses to be more comfortable in your research, its unlikely you would be prevented from doing so by the dept.

Of course, if your advisor wants you to focus on research and not take any additional courses, that may be an issue - but you can still take the class informally (non-credit).

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