The Information Sciences Institute (ISI) of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering provides a stimulating environment for graduate study and research, joining rigorous academic theory with real world practice.

As a PhD student at ISI, you will have the opportunity to work on projects of national and global significance, surrounded by a diverse, engaged, and collaborative community, committed to changing the world through technology.

At ISI, we know that solving tough technical challenges requires solutions that cross disciplines and offer diverse perspectives. That’s why our work is informed by a commitment to a multidisciplinary approach, spanning research areas and departments across USC and beyond, providing our students with exceptional breadth and depth of expertise.

So, who are we looking for? We’re seeking intellectually curious, creative thinkers and passionate innovators, eager to tackle the most crucial questions in computer science and engineering. Want to know more? Please contact us at [email protected].

  • Cutting-edge Technology

    ISI researchers are tackling issues at forefront of technology innovation, including quantum computing, natural language processing and advanced cybersecurity.

  • History of Excellence

    Established in 1972, ISI researchers conceived key Internet technologies, pioneered natural language understanding by computer, and created the first VLSI fabrication foundry.

  • Real-world Experience

    Build professional skills such as problem-solving, research efficiency, strategic thinking and communication.

  • Strong Financial

    Over the past year alone, ISI’s new research awards exceeded $125 million from more than 20 government, foundation and corporate research sponsors.

U.S. News

USC is ranked among the top 25 national universities.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

USC's Viterbi School of Engineering is ranked among the top 20 engineering schools nationally.


USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Why Complete Your PhD at ISI?

  • A prestigious reputation

    One of the nation's largest and most technologically diverse university-affiliated computer research institutes, ISI’s pioneering contributions have helped create some of the most ubiquitous, enduring technology advances of our time. As part of the University of Southern California (USC), ISI also benefits from the international reputation and valued partnerships of a premier global university.

  • Learn from engaged experts

    Learn from and work alongside the foremost minds in computer science and engineering surrounded by a diverse community of faculty, researchers, and students at undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral levels. ISI PhD advisors hold appointments in multiple departments, including computer science, electrical engineering, industrial systems engineering and Keck Medicine of USC.

  • Get hands-on

    At ISI, we are thinkers and doers. Our researchers and students thrive in a hands-on, multidisciplinary environment. Explore new technologies, tackle large real-world projects and build complex systems—our work at ISI bridges theoretical research and prototyping of innovative devices, offering a dynamic, varied and personalized experience.

ISI offers an intellectually stimulating yet supportive environment for doctoral students. I have the freedom to explore my own research interests, gaining both solid theoretical training and valuable experience designing real-world applications.

Emily Sheng, PhD candidate

Career Opportunities

Our recent graduate students have accepted positions at major research institutions and leading technology companies, including:

ISI PhD Advisors

ISI PhD advisors combine scholarship with industry experience, fostering intellectual partnerships with our outstanding graduate students. Many cross disciplines, providing students with a multifaceted perspective.

Muhao Chen

Natural Language Processing, Information Extraction, Data-driven Machine Learning

Ewa Deelman

Data-Intensive Scientific Computing - Tools and Management

Yolanda Gil

Artificial Intelligence, Scientific Discovery, Collaboration and Crowdsourcing

Jonathan Habif

Quantum optics, Quantum information, and Photon-starved Sensing and Communications

Filip Ilievski

Commonsense Reasoning, Natural Language Processing, Trustworthy AI, Knowledge Graphs

Akhilesh Jaiswal

Hardware for Artificial Intelligence, Computing using Spin, Photons, Emerging Non-volatile Devices, Smart Sensors, Hardware Security

Carl Kesselman

Large-scale Information Systems, Socio-technical Systems, Biomedical Informatics

Xuezhe Ma

Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Deep Representation Learning

Xiang Ren

Natural Language Processing, machine learning, knowledge graph

Academic Disciplines

ISI's researchers delve into diverse fields including:

  • Microelectronics architecture
  • Big data
  • Satellites
  • Scientific workflows
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Autonomous robots
  • Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence
  • Knowledge Representation and Intetgration
  • Social media
  • Cloud computing
  • Chip design
  • Quantum computing
  • Medical informatics
  • Trusted electronics
  • Space science

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is ISI located?
ISI is headquartered in Marina del Rey, California, in the heart of “Silicon Beach”—home to technology giants like Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Electronic Arts and Google. We also offer PhD research opportunities at our Arlington, Virginia, and Greater Boston research offices.
As an ISI student, which department will grant my doctoral degree?
ISI is an interdisciplinary research institute that brings together researchers and research efforts spanning many academic disciplines and USC departments. ISI’s PhD students apply to their USC department of primary interest, and receive their degree from that department. Most students who work with us are enrolled in PhD programs within USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, such as Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Systems Engineering. Students may also work with primary or co-advisors at other USC schools and departments, such as physics, medicine or public policy. If you have additional questions, please fill out the form and we'll be in touch.
What is the application deadline?
The application deadline for Fall 2023 admission is December 15, 2022.
Where can I learn more about application requirements and apply?
Please visit the USC Viterbi Graduate and Professional Programs applications page.