October Alumni of the Month: Jon Nordling
Name: Jon Nordling
Year of Graduation: 2012
Employer/Job Title: Faculty Research Assistant, University of Maryland
Current Graduate Program: MPS/GIS
Why did you want to be a GEOG/GIS/ENSP major?
While mainly studying computer science, I discovered that I wanted to use my programming skills to positively impact people, the environment and learn how to be a global thinker. I did not want to program video games or write software for corporate companies or just become a “code monkey,” a trivial or repetitive programmer. I wanted to be more dynamic - build tools and spatially visualize data as a means of solving real world problems. While continuing to study computer science, I dramatically shifted my focus to the GEOG department where I was allowed to explore outside the box, and begin my GIS journey. I mainly wanted to be a part of this program because I knew that GIS is the future and one of the most powerful and influential tools one can have.
What internships or independent research did you do as a GEOG/GIS/ENSP major?
During my time as an undergrad I became very involved with the research faculty. My first internship was with Dr. Tatiana Loboda, for whom I was writing programs for MODIS burn areas. My next internship was with the NASA Land Cover Land Use Program (LCLUC), where I was building web applications for their science team members. From there I was building web applications, spatial visualizations and databases for a number of projects like the Central African Regional Program for Environment (CARPE), GOFC-GOLD, and VIIRS Active Fires. I also started GeoODK, which is an open source project that focuses on geospatial solutions for mobile data collection, which is being used across the globe. As I am finishing up my graduate degree, I am working on the GEOGLAM team developing a tool to facilitate the GEOGLAM crop assessments by providing an interactive interface to compare time series products and allow annotation of data sets provided by the Crop Monitor Group.
What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success while they are still undergraduates?
The main recommendation that I have for any student would be to try to use the tools, people, and resources in the department. There are so many dynamic and diverse people that will provide great input and assist in your studies. Another recommendation that I have would be to take at least one programming class - learn the power of computing. We live in a world where there are no shortages of problems, we must challenge ourselves and strive for a more educated and sustainable society. My last recommendation would be to make the classes fun. I found taking a personal interest in the classes and the topics allowed me to really thrive and be successful.
What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success after graduation?
My suggestion after graduation would be to consider graduate school. During undergrad, you really only skim the surface of topics and concepts; Graduate school will allow you to focus on a topic and become a master of that topic. Also, take some time off and explore - spend time in other countries and find the problems you want to help solve in today’s world.