Geographic Information Science

Section 1



The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS) at the University of Illinois offers a graduate program leading to both the Master's and Ph.D. degrees with specialization in Geographic Information Science (GIScience). The program emphasizes how digital geographic information is created, analyzed and used in examining economic, ecological, physical and social phenomena at a variety of spatial scales. Students can specialize in: (1) GIScience methods and theory in areas such as: geographic information systems, dynamic modeling, remote sensing, interregional modeling and spatial analysis; or (2) the application of GIScience methods in economic, health, urban, or environmental geography. For application information, contact:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science
Computing Applications Building
605 East Springfield Avenue
Champaign, Illinois 61820


Revolutionary changes are taking place in how we process, analyze and model geographic information. The Geographic Information Science program examines the nature of digital geographic information, the tools and methods for analyzing and modeling such information, and the value of geographic information for understanding economic, environmental and social transformations at the local, regional, national and global scales. We emphasize methodological training in GIScience as the foundation for using geographic information to understand these changes and for developing innovative new tools to analyze and explore geographic information in the decades to come. Students also gain a critical awareness of the roles of geographic information and GIScience in society and the strengths and limitations of GIScience tools and technologies.

Program Emphases

GIScience methods and development

  1. dynamic systems modeling
  2. input-output analysis
  3. Cyber GIS
  4. parallel and distributed computing
  5. spatial data analysis

Economic geography and regional science

  1. economic impact analysis
  2. regional economic development
  3. transportation modeling
  4. health and health care
  5. access to services and employment

Environmental applications

  1. dynamic modeling of ecological systems
  2. dynamics of watersheds and fluvial systems
  3. remote sensing analysis of land cover disturbance and change


The Department of Geographyand Geographic Information Science has two state-of-the-art laboratories for teaching and research in GIScience. The teaching laboratory consists of 30- networked workstations equipped with a wide variety of software for GIS, image processing, air photo interpretation, and spatial/statistical analysis. The second computer laboratory is devoted to student and faculty research projects and course projects. This lab contains 14-networked computers connected to the main departmental computer network and equipped with a common suite of GIScience software. In addition to the two laboratories, students have access to an array of input/output devices, including a large-format, color plotter. Campus-wide facilities include the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, a world-class facility for supercomputing.

CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information Laboratory(CIGI), founded by Dr. Shaowen Wang, includes a number of faculty, staff, and students from multiple institutions who have diverse disciplinary expertise such as Computational and Information Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Hydrology, Plant Biology, and Statistics. The CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information laboratory develops cyberinfrastructure (CI) capabilities to advance GIScience and geospatial problem solving. Current research focuses on the following themes:

  • Computationally intensive spatial analysis and modeling
  • Parallel and distributed computing
  • High-performance and collaborative GIS
  • Large-scale geospatial problem solving
  • Grid information systems and interoperability
  • Cyberinfrastructure-based geospatial problem-solving environments and applications

Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) is a state-of-the-art facility for urban and regional systems analysis. Formed as a joint venture between the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the University of Illinois, the laboratory has developed complex urban and regional analytical models to provide policy-makers with the capability of making informed decisions. A longstanding focus is the development of regional econometric input-output models. Such models have been completed for several Midwestern states and metropolitan areas and for regional economies across the globe, including regions in Indonesia, Austria, Japan, and Brazil. Many graduate students are funded to work on these projects and acquire hands-on experience with urban and regional models and applications.

Program Prerequisites

Applicants to the GIScience program are expected to have completed: 1) a course in GIS or cartography; 2) an introductory statistics course.

Master's Program

Students must meet all GGIS requirements for the Master's degree including GEOG 471 (Recent Trends in Geographic Thought), and GEOG 491 (Research in Geography). In addition, students must take GEOG 379 (Principles of Geographic Information Systems) and at least three additional courses from the GIScience core. With permission of the faculty advisor, students may substitute GIScience-related courses offered in other departments. GIScience students are strongly encouraged to pursue the Thesis option for the Master's.

Ph.D. Program

For admission to the doctoral program in GIScience, a completed Master's degree with thesis is required. Students must meet all Departmental requirements for the Ph.D. degree including GEOG 471 (Recent Trends in Geographic Thought), and GEOG 491 (Research in Geography), or their equivalents. The GIScience program also requires GEOG 479 (Advanced GIS), or GEOG 480 (Priciples of GIS), or the equivalent, and additional graduate coursework in one or more specialized areas of GIScience, including at least one 500-level course. Students are encouraged to take GIScience-related courses in fields such as computer science, agricultural economics, econometrics and atmospheric sciences.

Core Courses

  • GEOG 412: GIS and Society
  • GEOG 439: Health Applications of GIS
  • GEOG 460: Analysis and Interpretation of Aerial Photography
  • GEOG 467: Dynamic Simulation of Natural Resource Problems
  • GEOG 468: Biological Modeling
  • GEOG 469: Spatial Ecosystem Modeling
  • GEOG 473: Map Compilation and Construction
  • GEOG 476: Applied GIS to Environmental Studies
  • GEOG 477: Introduction to Remote Sensing
  • GEOG 478: Techniques of Remote Sensing
  • GEOG 479: Advanced GIS
  • GEOG 480: Principles of Geographic Information Systems
  • GEOG 481: Modeling Earth and Environmental Systems
  • GEOG 489: Programming for GIS
  • GEOG 556: Regional Science Methods
  • GEOG 570: Advanced Spatial Analysis

    Participating Faculty

  • Marilyn O'Hara Veterinary Medicine

    For information on admission to the department, including financial aid opportunities, email For information on specific areas of research concentration, contact a participating faculty member. Information about the department in general, as well as the professional activities of individual faculty members, may be obtained