Degree Programs

The Media Arts and Technology Program (MAT) is an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental graduate degree program that offers the Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Media Arts and Technology. In addition to departmental requirements, candidates for graduate degrees must fulfill the university degree requirements described in the UCSB General Catalog Graduate Degree Policy page.

Master of Science

The Master of Science (MS) program provides advanced training in Media Arts and Technology. The master's program typically takes two full-time academic years to complete. The goal of the first year of MAT's intensive interdisciplinary curriculum is to provide a common foundation of aesthetics, history, and technology in the core areas of electronic music and sound design, visual and spatial arts, and multimedia engineering.

The second-year electives allow students to focus on their area of research. All candidates are expected to complete an advanced project or thesis in the second year. The project option involves artistic production and/or media research supervised by MAT faculty. The thesis option involves the writing of an extended research paper.

Unit Requirements

The MS degree requires a minimum of 48 units of graduate level core courses and elective courses. 36 units must be upper-division or graduate level. No more than 12 units total of the following courses may be applied: MAT 293 (Internship in Industry), MAT 299 (Independent Study), or MAT 596 (Directed Research).

Units from the following courses may not be accredited to the degree: MAT 502 (Teaching in MAT), MAT 597 (Independent Study for PhD Exams), MAT 598 (MS Thesis/Project Research), and MAT 599 (PhD Dissertation Preperation). A cumulative GPA of 3.0 must be maintained and receive at least a B in core courses.

Degree Requirements

Each student's area of emphasis and course list is determined in consultation with a MAT faculty committee, consisting of three UC ladder-rank faculty members (i.e., Assistant, Associate, or full Professor). Two of these members, including the chair of the committee, must be MAT faculty. Optionally, a fourth member can also serve at the discretion of the degree committee chair. This person can be a Lecturer or anyone from inside or outside UCSB. The committee is nominated by the degree committee chair in consultation with the student and is approved by the graduate dean.

More information about the degree requirements can be found in the program description in the UCSB catalog:

UCSB General Catalog - Media Arts & Techology, Master of Science

UCSB General Catalog - Media Arts & Techology, PhD

Thesis or Project Plan

A master's degree may be earned in each of the three areas of emphasis according to two plans; thesis or project.

  • Plan 1 (thesis)
  • Under the thesis plan, a student must submit an acceptable thesis, completed under the supervision of an MAT faculty member and approved by the student's committee. A thesis is a substantial work of research or production that is a novel contribution to the field. The thesis must meet the filing requirements of Graduate Division. The student will give a public lecture based on the thesis.
  • Plan 2 (project)
  • Under the project plan, a student must submit an acceptable project, completed under the supervision of an MAT faculty member and approved by the student's committee. The project will consist of a digital media work resulting in a prototype, installation, or performance. An academic paper, typically 30 pages in length (or 9000 words), will describe the project, and the student will make a public presentation of the work. A draft of the paper will be made available to the student's degree committee at the time of the pre-presentation, which takes place two weeks before the final presentation. The project and documentation will be evaluated by the student's committee.

PhD Program

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Media Arts and Technology prepares students for academic research and teaching positions, for research and leadership positions in industry and government, and for leadership positions in relevant artistic fields. The MAT Ph.D. curriculum provides a common foundation of the field's aesthetics, history, and technology through rigorous coursework, seminars, and active participation with the faculty. Each Ph.D. student participates in interdisciplinary projects and performs innovative research, under the supervision of a faculty advisor and committee, leading to a dissertation that exhibits significant and novel research in the student's area of specialization.

There are three main requirements in order to complete a Ph.D. in Media Arts and Technology: coursework, the qualifying exam, and research leading to a doctoral dissertation (including the dissertation proposal and the dissertation defense). The student advances to candidacy after completion of the coursework requirement and the qualifying exam.

Degree Requirements

Students entering directly into the PhD without a master's degree must first meet the equivalent course requirement of the MAT master's program, which is 48 units of non-thesis-related upper-division (100 series undergraduate) and graduate courses. In addition, they must successfully complete a master's thesis or project and present it publicly. Students who enter the PhD program with an MS or MA in a discipline other than MAT are required to take or place out of the MAT core courses. MAT PhD graduates will be expected to have broad knowledge in all fields of digital multimedia and have a deep and current understanding of at least one of these areas. The MAT PhD is not a unit-count degree; rather, it is awarded upon demonstration of academic excellence and performance of original research. Students will complete an individual program of study determined in consultation with their PhD committee. This will typically include a mix of MAT elective courses, seminars, directed reading for research, and dissertation research. Specific course requirements shall be identified on a per-student basis, under advisement with each candidate's doctoral committee. It is the responsibility of the student's advisor, in consultation with the PhD committee and the MAT graduate advisor, to ensure that the candidate has achieved the appropriate breadth and depth from coursework and independent study. In order to proceed to dissertation research, Ph.D. students must pass a thorough qualifying exam, after completing their coursework.

The Ph.D. dissertation is a novel and substantial research work that makes a significant contribution to the field. The dissertation is done under the supervision of an MAT faculty advisor (degree committee chair) and the doctoral committee, consisting of three UC ladder-rank faculty (i.e., Assistant, Associate, or full Professor), at least two of whom must be from MAT. Optionally, a fourth member can also serve at the discretion of the degree committee chair. This person can be a Lecturer or anyone from inside or outside UCSB. The committee is nominated by the degree committee chair in consultation with the student and is approved by the graduate dean.

The committee must approve a dissertation proposal that describes the proposed research and presents a comprehensive plan for the dissertation. After the dissertation is completed, the committee evaluates the dissertation and the candidate's presentation at the dissertation defense; the committee's approval indicates that the candidate has successfully defended the dissertation.

The Qualifying Exam

The MAT qualifying exam is a rigorous comprehensive exam, with both written and oral components, that typically takes place at the end of the second year of the PhD program. The qualifying examination will be designed and administered by at least three ladder faculty (i.e., Assistant, Associate, or full Professor), at least two of whom must be MAT-affiliated faculty (0% or greater). Recommendation of the appointment of additional committee members is at the discretion of the department.

Consistent with the interdisciplinary nature of the Media Arts and Technology area, the qualifying exam shall consist of three parts: (a) media arts, demonstrating knowledge of the history, theory and discourse, and practice of advanced media arts; (b) media engineering, demonstrating theoretical and technical mastery of media-related science and engineering; and (c) dissertation-specific, demonstrating adequate preparation for research in the knowledge areas particular to the candidate's dissertation topic, under advisement with the candidate's committee. This may require special preparation in research skills appropriate to the anticipated dissertation topic.

The result of a qualifying exam may be pass, conditional pass (some deficiency must be corrected as determined by the committee), or fail (the exam must be retaken within six months). A second failure will result in a recommendation for dismissal from the PhD program.

Passing the qualifying exam and the basic course requirements advances the student to candidacy. Once advanced to candidacy, students are typically expected to complete the degree within three years.

Dissertation Proposal

The next step after the qualifying exam is the dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal consists of a document and a public presentation. It should be substantial enough to already reflect your engagement in the research, and demonstrate its feasibility. It should describe the dissertation topic, summarize the relevant background literature and state of the art, and present a comprehensive research plan for the dissertation, to be approved by the committee. There is no set time after the qualifying exam to present the dissertation proposal, but it usually takes from a few months to a year to prepare.

The details of scope and size should be worked out between a student and his or her advisor. It can vary from as few as 15 pages (little work already done) to as many as 100 pages (most of the work already done). The key things are that the candidate clearly articulate what the main problem and challenge is, how it will be approached (including any preliminary work), what the main uncertainties are, and what should be expected of the final product.

Once advanced to candidacy, students are typically expected to complete the PhD degree within four years. Some students who have a clear idea of their dissertation topic and a focused plan can finish in substantially less time. When the dissertation research is complete and the dissertation is written, the student presents the dissertation defense, a public lecture based on the dissertation. The dissertation must be approved by the committee; it must also meet the filing requirements of the Graduate Division. The PhD is granted when all degree requirements are met.

Dissertation Research

A dissertation is an original, rigorous, and significant contribution to knowledge in the field of Media Arts and Technology. The composite nature of Media Arts and Technology requires sufficient creative latitude in the form of the dissertations pursued. It is anticipated that some dissertations will be content-driven (initiated from artistic or theoretical investigations) while others will be technique-driven (proceeding from scientific and technological investigations). In either case, rigor will be ensured by requiring that both the qualifying exam and the dissertation address all the aspects necessary for a completed work in this field, namely formal and conceptual issues, critical and discursive issues, and scientific and technological issues.

Originality shall be demonstrated by a) showing extensive knowledge of current theories and practices in the field, including their history, discourse, and prospect, and b) either addressing a known problem in the field in a new way, or addressing an emerging or new problem that the field has yet to fully recognize. Rigor shall be demonstrated by establishing clear and comprehensive research methods, stating a clear and well thought out hypothesis, carrying out thorough research experimentation to test that hypothesis, and carefully and thoughtfully evaluating the results.

In accordance with Academic Senate regulations, a PhD committee consists of at least three UC ladder-faculty members. Two of the committee members must be affiliated with MAT, and the committee chair must be in MAT. In special circumstances, non-UCSB faculty may be proposed as members. The chair of this committee advises the student on a course of study and directs the dissertation research. The committee is nominated by the program chair in consultation with the student and is approved by the graduate deans.