A Message from the Chair, Dr. Chris Justice

September, 2017

As the new academic year gets underway with new students and activities, we can be encouraged by our recent progress. Our Spring 2017 graduation included 92 undergraduates, 2 Masters of Science, 27 MPS GIS, 3 graduate certificate, and 11 PhD graduates. For a small Department this is truly outstanding. The achievements of our graduates as well as our current students and faculty continue to be high. 
Our undergraduates were hired all over the D.C. Metro region and country, with placement in NOAA, Environmental Quality Resources (EQR), IBM, Viasant Inc., CityYear, MDA Information Systems, and many more. We also have several students continuing on to graduate school at UMD, Cornell University, and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign to name a few. Students worked in multiple internships, from campus centers like the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and UMD Facilities Management, to city, state, and federal agencies including Baltimore Parks and Recreation, NOAA, and the EPA. Our undergraduate Geography Club is thriving, hosting map-a-thons, volunteering with homeless youth, and helping within the community. The club partnered with transportation app Moovit to host a map-a-thon during Maryland Day, which was filmed by mtvU.
Our Ph.D. students had a successful academic year, conducting fieldwork, publishing papers, and attending conferences. Several of our outstanding Ph.D. students received notable awards such as the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (Suzanne Marselis and Wenlu Qi), Best Poster Presentation NASA AFSC Workshop (Tony Chen), NASA ASFC Travel Award (Tony Chen and Jiaying He), Ann G. Wiley Dissertation Fellowship (Ana Sanchez-Rivera and Honglin Zhong), and the Fulbright Fellowship (Diana Parker, who is now conducting field work in Indonesia), among many others. 
Our faculty continue to be successful with their research, resulting in more than 40 publications so far in 2017, including papers in the highest ranked journals. For FY17, faculty members have submitted 120 proposals with a current success rate of 40% and several pending decisions to be made, which in these times of reduced federal funding is an impressive record. Exciting new research grants include: Matt Hansen ‘All Eyes on the Amazon’ funded by Stichting Hivos, Netherlands and Tatiana Loboda ‘Evidence and Action for Malaria Elimination in Myanmar UMB/NIH. This year Dr. Julie Silva will be on sabbatical, hosted by the NSF National Socio-economic Synthesis Center (SESYNC), giving her an opportunity to further her research and complete publications.
The MPS GIS continues to grow with a total 172 students. In the Fall 2017, MPS China accepted its first cohort of 9 students as part of the joint partnership with Nanjing Normal University. The students will spend the first year at NNU then complete their degree the following Fall at UMD.  Jack Ma and Kristen Bergery visited NNU at the end of August to attend the opening ceremonies for the School of Geography and MPS program. Staring Winter 2018, MPS GIS will begin a partnership with the NOAA Office of Coast Survey. The first cohort of 13 students will complete a combination of courses over one year to supplement NOAA's Cat-B training certification.  These students are full time employees of NOAA who will attend our courses at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring while they complete work related to different aspects of nautical cartography.  
The Center for Geospatial Information Science (CGIS) is busy with its active research program on big geospatial data, geospatial data visualization, mobility and spatial trajectory analytics, geosocial data analytics, and open source geospatial data modeling. The CGIS has funded research projects from NIH, NASA, the US Federal Highways Administration, Maryland State Highways, and the University of Maryland and is working with collaborators from many different research units across campus. Come see the CGIS and find out more about this Center at its open house planned for November 1, 2017. 
The new MPS in Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) program has been launched by the CGIS this fall and offers students an exciting opportunity to expand their skills in GIS and learn about the applications, analytic methods, and mission support for the rapidly growing area of GEOINT. As part of this program we are very pleased that Dr. Micah Brachman has joined us as lecturer in the MPS in GEOINT program. Dr. Brachman has extensive experience with GIS and was previously working at the Army Geospatial Center prior to joining the CGIS.
With spring came the retirement of two longtime members of the department, Guoqing Sun and Mila Zlatic. Dr. Sun spent roughly 18 years with us as one of our earliest and longest-standing Research Faculty members, responsible for a major part of collaborations on microwave remote sensing with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Zlatic’s 10+ years of lecturing in Human Geography were focused on her interest in urban geography and socio-political change and reflected her love of teaching. She also organized our geography field courses in Croatia and China. We have recently had the pleasure of welcoming several new faculty and staff: Assistant Professor Christina Prell, Research Coordinator Vicky Berry, and Assistant Research Professors Laura Duncanson, David Lagomasino, and SeungKuk Lee. 
In light of recent events at the University and the country as a whole, the University and our Department are making clear our commitment to diversity and inclusion, open--mindedness and civility. A hearty welcome back to all and best wishes for our new academic year.


- Chris