Name: Zan Dodson

Year of Ph.D. Graduation: 2015

Ph.D. Advisor Name: Julie Silva


Current Employment Status:

After finishing a 3-year Postdoctoral Associate position in the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, I've joined the Association of American Geographers as a Director, Program Management and Research.


What do you do in your current job?

I have focused my research on spatiotemporal patterns of opioid use disorder and designing harm reduction focused interventions, as well as modeling the role of land use change in the diffusion of vector-borne disease. I will build upon these lines of inquiry in my new position at the AAG, as well as supporting current activity in capacity building and outreach.


How have the skills you learned in the Ph.D. program helped you in your career?

Formative training in mixed-methods research during my graduate studies taught me how to work across disciplines and work in a team environment. Those skills were honed during my postdoc and opened the door for many interesting research projects.


What drew you to the GEOG Ph.D. program at UMD?

I have a background in Agricultural & Resource Economics and have always been drawn to the interplay between humans and their environment. So, pursuing my Ph.D. in Geographical Sciences at UMD allowed me to study from some of the best minds in remote sensing, spatial modeling, and mixed-methods. For me, it was a bit of a no-brainer to be able to leverage the advanced training in these analytic areas offered through the program at UMD.


What recommendations would you make to current GEOG Ph.D. students for career and academic success while they are still grad students?

Identify a mentor or committee member outside of geography that can help bring a different perspective to your research--especially, if you're thesis research leaves room for a policy-oriented or qualitative component. Gaining skills in both quantitative and qualitative analyses will help pave the way for a strong future in collaborative research and will inevitably create a strong, diverse research portfolio.


What recommendations would you make to current GEOG Ph.D. students for career success after graduation?

Hit the ground running in your first position, whether it be a postdoc or tenure-stream position, to get your research network up off the ground. Don't be afraid to network and reach out to leaders in your niche area of study. Then publish! It is your main cache and will set the stage for external funding and sustained scholarly activity.


What are some of your hobbies and interests?

Spending time with my kids, obsessing over my sourdough, and forest bathing.


Anything else you'd like to add?

Have a strategy for the job market--you do not want to mistime it.