Boise State’s growth in graduate programs is unparalleled. In less than four years, the university has added doctoral programs in biomolecular sciences, materials science and engineering, educational technology, public policy and administration, and nursing practice.


In February, a new Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and behavior was approved by the State Board of Education, and in the same month the university was officially classified a doctoral research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.



The momentum continued in June when the State Board of Education approved the new Ph.D. in computing — the university’s 11th doctoral program.


Boise State’s highly successful undergraduate programs have helped build research and advanced degrees that are answering the call for innovation in Boise and the state of Idaho. Doctoral programs hold great promise for students at all levels, alumni, donors and friends of the university, as well as industry and business.

Dr. Dianxiang Xu standing in front of the Clearwater Building in downtown Boise.
Dr. Dianxiang Xu is helping lead Boise State’s newest Ph.D. in computing in his department’s new building in downtown Boise.



Approved by the State Board of Education in June, Boise State’s newest Ph.D. in computing will combine computer science, computational science and engineering, and cybersecurity.


Research like that being done by Dr. Dianxiang Xu holds great possibility for Boise’s tech industry. Xu is focused on two areas related to security — finding and fixing breaches in software systems and setting up access to software that prevents security attacks.


“Most software systems are connected to the Internet or a mobile device and that creates so many security vulnerabilities in software systems,” he said. “We are looking at how we can minimize those in the software development process, as well as the best ways to test for and monitor security attacks. And because software systems are becoming more complex, access control is also getting more complicated, so access control qualities are critical.”


Xu has four active National Science Foundation grants and a diverse research team made up of undergraduate students, master’s students, post-doctoral researchers, faculty members and soon-to-be Ph.D. students. The department also has recruited four new faculty this year focused on cybersecurity.

“You need researchers at all levels of expertise,” he said. “Post-docs are focused on exploring new research ideas, master’s level and Ph.D. students implement the research, undergraduates are involved in programming and testing new tools we develop. In this environment, everyone can contribute and everyone also can learn something that will be helpful for their career.”

More than 50 faculty members from across campus will help advise in this newest Ph.D. program.


“The ability to add program tracks that are cutting-edge and current with what’s happening in computing is one of the things that’s really exciting about the way we set up our Ph.D. program,” Andersen said.

Dr. Dianxiang Xu standing next to a student pointing to a computer.
Faculty lead, Dr. Dianxiang Xu with a graduate student

“As department chair, my first priority is our undergraduate curriculum, and this Ph.D. program becomes the facilitator for making that curriculum the best possible. When you think of the top computer science programs in the country, I can’t think of one that doesn’t have a Ph.D. program associated with it. It’s good for our students, and it’s good for industry and our economy.”


– Dr. Tim Anderson Department Chair, Computer Science

An Industry Perspective
One of Boise State’s hottest high-tech programs has moved into two floors of the Clearwater Building in downtown Boise. Recently constructed at City Center Plaza by The Gardner Company, the building gives students unparalleled access to internships and industry partners. It also houses three labs: the CS 121 lab, the KOUNT Tutoring Center and the Metageek Lab.




Nottingham noted that having a Ph.D. in computing program in Boise that addresses relevant challenges — such as cybersecurity and data analytics — is imperative for his industry.


“We are very supportive of this program at Boise State University,” he said. “Adding a Ph.D. program means Boise State researchers have developed or are developing advanced capabilities in this area. They also will be doing more cutting-edge research, and that is a great source and catalyst for future breakthroughs and innovations.


“Additionally, this will ultimately enable Boise State to develop expertise and competencies that strengthen their curriculum and programs, which means they will produce future employees with the background and fundamentals needed to help businesses innovate, disrupt and lead in key growth areas.”


Nottingham said awareness and importance of cybersecurity is growing exponentially, as breaches in security can damage a company’s brand and have major financial impacts. Data analytics is equally important. With exploding digital content comes a massive amount of big data that must be successfully managed.


“Data analytics has become an imperative to enable businesses to optimize and grow, and in many cases it is required simply to survive,” he said. “The opportunities here are so big it is hard to quantify in a simple answer. The need for advanced thinking, research and capable employees in this area is vitally important for businesses in almost all industries around the world.”


Nottingham said he sees opportunities for HP Inc. and Boise State to collaborate and partner on future research projects, and believes the new Ph.D. in computing represents a significant milestone relative to the growing capabilities of local universities.


“Having solid university partners with a strong, capable pipeline of future employees is imperative to growing our tech industry in Idaho,” he said. “This is actually a common thread with any and all states that have grown successful, high-tech business sectors.”