RICHARDSON, Texas (Feb. 9, 2005) – The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) next fall will begin offering one of the nation’s first Ph.D. degrees in geospatial information sciences (GIS) – an important, fast-growing new field that melds data collection, mapmaking and spatial analysis.
The new degree program, approved late last month by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will expand an existing, well-respected GIS program at UTD that offers both an M.S. degree and graduate certificate in the field. In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the program, the Ph.D. degree will be offered jointly by three of the university’s schools – the School of Social Sciences, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Simply put, GIS mapping involves the collection and manipulation of a wide variety of data that apply to a specific location on the Earth’s surface, resulting in a “smart map” of a given geographic area that can be overlaid with an enormous amount of relevant information. An area of study that has emerged only over the past decade, GIS includes elements of many academic disciplines, including geography, computer science, engineering and geology, as well as various social, policy and applied sciences.
“Powerful new technologies have emerged in recent years to collect, store, manage, analyze and utilize information regarding the features of the Earth’s surface and to combine these with other types of environmental, social and economic information,” said Dr. Ronald Briggs, a professor of geography and political economy who coordinates UTD’s GIS program. “These technologies, which include geospatial information systems, the global positioning system and satellite-based remote sensing, are used in many ways, from digital maps in rental and delivery vehicles, to the management and maintenance of municipal infrastructure, regional agriculture and forest lands, to the policing of communities and even the conduct of modern warfare.”
“The objective of our Ph.D. in GIS will be to develop individuals capable of advancing this exciting field by developing new knowledge or capabilities relevant to it – graduates who should be attractive to the burgeoning geospatial technology industry.”
Unlike programs at other schools in which GIS is offered as a concentration within traditional geography, geology, environmental science or engineering programs, the new UTD doctoral program will be devoted solely to the GIS field, focusing on advancement of related technology, its associated theory and the enhancement of its application in a variety of areas. It will draw on the expertise of faculty members from disparate fields of study, including geologists, geophysicists, geographers, criminologists, hydrologists, economists, social scientists, statisticians and computer scientists, among others, and expects to add several top-level scholars in the next several months.
According to Briggs, the program will be the first of its kind in Texas and a pioneer on the national level due to its interdisciplinary structure.
“There are few, if any, programs across the country equivalent to the UTD program,” Briggs said. “The key differentiating feature is an applied, interdisciplinary focus that will bring together students with a variety of backgrounds and interests to focus on the application and development of what is both a new technology and a new science.”
UTD has been involved in GIS education and research for about a decade. Eight years ago, it pioneered a graduate certificate in GIS, which, to date, has been earned by more than 125 individuals. Two years later, the university introduced an innovative M.S. degree in GIS, 40 of which have been conferred so far.
In 2003, UTD was one of 12 universities in the United States selected to house an Oracle Center of Excellence for Spatial Data Management – a collaborative program involving technology giant Oracle Corporation and leading academic institutions designed to advance concepts, technology and expertise for managing spatial data.
The new Ph.D. in GIS will bring the total number of degrees of all levels offered by UTD to 115, and the number of doctoral degrees to 27.
For additional information about the new doctoral degree, please contact Briggs at 972-883-6877 or [email protected].
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 14,000 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s web site at www.utdallas.edu.