2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
    Jun 23, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Geospatial Science and Engineering (Ph.D.) - Geography Specialization

Location(s): Brookings Main Campus

Blue rectangle with triangles.

Apply Now Request More Information

Roof of the World form Landsat imagery courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and U.S. Geological Survey

Program Coordinator/Contact

Xiaoyang Zhang, Professor/Graduate Coordinator
Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences and Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence
Wecota Hall 115, Box 506B

Program Information

The Geospatial Science and Engineering (GSE) Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary program that combines advanced coursework with cutting-edge research to advance the field of geospatial sciences. The focus is on transforming geospatial data into relevant information through acquisition, processing, characterization, analysis, and modeling in order to understand geographic patterns, processes, and relationships at scales ranging from landscapes to the globe. To achieve these aims, the geospatial sciences integrate the geographic disciplines of cartography, geodesy, geographic information systems, and remote sensing with elements of mathematics, statistics, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and engineering. The resulting array of geospatial concepts, methods, technologies, and datasets are used to address a wide range of pertinent questions about the functioning of the biosphere and its implications for sustainability of natural resources, agricultural productivity, biodiversity, environmental quality, and human welfare in a rapidly-changing world. 

The program consists of faculty from the Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence and the Image Processing Laboratory in the department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. Other participating departments include Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Geography, and Natural Resource Management. Current faculty research interests include quantitative remote sensing, sensor design and calibration, land cover and land use change, geography, hydrology, landscape ecology, climate change, and fire science as well as applications of geospatial technologies in agriculture, meteorology, natural resource management, public health, and other fields. The program seeks highly motivated students with strong backgrounds in the geospatial sciences or a closely-related field to complement these efforts.

Course Delivery Format

Program coursework is offered in classroom, laboratory, and field-based settings.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Problem solving: Demonstrate proficiency in the application of appropriate geographical technologies and techniques to address issues in the physical and/or human sciences.
  • Written communication: Communicate geographic ideas clearly and effectively (e.g., maps, writing, oral presentations, posters, photos, flowcharts, tables, graphs, and illustrations).
  • Creative thinking: Apply observations from laboratory and/or field experiences to analyze problems and offer solutions.
  • Critical thinking: Demonstrate foundational and specialized knowledge in both the physical and human sciences and their interconnectedness at local, regional, and global scales.
  • Critical thinking: Interpret the ethical consequences of global issues concerning the environment to strengthen commitment to local, national, and global citizenship.
  • Creative thinking: Demonstrate the ability to collect, organize, analyze, and synthesize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial-temporal context.
  • Inquiry and analysis: Explore complex local, regional, and global issues using a geographical perspective to formulate questions and draw informed conclusions that are based on critical scientific analysis and interpretation of information.

Available Options for Graduate Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy 60 Credit Plan
  90 Credit Plan

Core Requirements

60 Credit Plan

90 Credit Plan

Additional Admission Requirements

Admission to the GSE program is competitive and limited by the availability of personnel, facilities, and funding necessary to provide quality graduate education. GSE is an interdisciplinary program with participating faculty members from several departments. The scope of the geospatial sciences is broad, and individual faculty members will only advise students within their particular area of specialization. Financial support for students is provided by individual faculty members through their research grants or other funding sources. Students can also bring their own funding, which could be obtained through a fellowship program or through the support of their employer. For these reasons, the application process is highly competitive, and meeting the minimum standards does not guarantee admission. In particular, the critical criterion for admission into the PhD program is that a GSE faculty member must agree to serve as the student’s advisor.

Before applying to the program, prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty to identify prospective advisors, discuss their research interests and educational goals, and determine if graduate research assistantships are available. Prospective students may also contact Dr. Xiaoyang Zhang, the program coordinator, for additional information.

All applications must meet the admission criteria of the Graduate School before being accepted into the GSE program, and formal offers of graduate assistantships will not be made until students have been officially accepted by the Graduate School.

GRE: Required
TOEFL: 71 Internet-based
TOEFL Essentials: 7.5
IELTS: 6.0
Duolingo: 100

Two letters of recommendation from persons acquainted with the academic ability and professional competency of the applicant should be sent directly to the GSE graduate coordinator.

Applicants must provide a written describing their research interests and academic goals in pursuing a Ph.D. and identifying one or more faculty members as potential advisors. The letter of intent should be submitted with the other application materials.

General Requirements

Graduate students must consult with their advisor before registering for graduate coursework.

For additional information refer to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements .