Geographic Information Science

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS) at the University of Illinois offers a graduate program leading to both the Master of Science (MS) and PhD degrees in Geography with a 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, inter-regional modeling and spatial analysis; or (2) the application of GIScience methods in health, urban, physical, or environmental geography.


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

  • space-time integration in GIScience
  • satellite remote sensing
  • CyberGIS
  • parallel and distributed computing
  • multi-scale and distributed GIS

Spatial Analysis

  • geospatial big data analytics
  • collection and analysis of GPS data
  • spatiotemporal modeling and analysis
  • agent-based modeling
  • geostatistical modeling and landscape analysis
  • spatial accessibility modeling

Environmental applications

  • vegetation and climate change
  • dynamics of watersheds and fluvial systems
  • land cover disturbance and change
  • health and health care
  • urban travel and mobility
  • GIS and society

GIS Facilities

The Department of Geography and 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.

CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies, is internationally-renowned for research in GIScience. It's mission is to empower advanced digital and spatial studies through innovation of CyberGIS technologies and applications. Founded and run by Dr. Shaowen Wang, and housed in GGIS and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the center addresses diverse GIScience challenges including: computationally intensive spatial analysis and modelling, cyberGIS, cyberinfrastructure-based geospatial problem solving environments, computing and data-intensive applications and sciences, and high performance and collaborative GIS.


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

MS Program

Students must meet all GGIS requirements for the Master of Science degree including GEOG 471 (Recent Trends in Geographic Thought), and GEOG 491 (Research in Geography). With permission of the faculty advisor, students may substitute GIS-related courses offered in other departments. GIScience students are strongly encouraged to pursue the Thesis option for the Master's.

PhD Program

For admission to the doctoral program in Geography with a specialization in GIScience, a completed Master's degree with thesis is required. Students must meet all Departmental requirements for the PhD 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 (Principles of GIS) or 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 GIS-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 440: Business Applications of GIS

  • GEOG 460: Aerial Photo Analysis

  • GEOG 467: Dynamic Simulation of Natural Resource Problems

  • GEOG 468: Biological Modeling

  • GEOG 473: Digital Cartography & Map Design

  • 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 570: Advanced Spatial Analysis

Participating Faculty

  • Julie Cidell
  • Chunyuan Diao
  • Shakil Kashem
  • Mei-Po Kwan
  • Sara McLafferty
  • Shaowen Wang

Affiliated Faculty

  • Surangi Punyasena, Plant Biology

For information on admission to the department, including financial aid opportunities, please contact Matt Cohn. For information on specific areas of research concentration, contact a participating faculty member.  For application information, contact:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science
Room 2044 Natural History Building
1301 W. Green Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: +1(217) 333-1880