Highlights of Careers of Geographers Panel

As part of GEOG 197 (Careers in Geography), Professor Jennifer King organized a panel titled “Careers of Geographers”, which took place on March 25th. Professor King noted the intentionality of calling the panel “Careers of Geographers” not “Geography Careers”. She gave an example about how if you searched on LinkedIn for jobs with the keyword geography, you will get a limited number of results. Not because an education in geography has limited career options, but the jobs geographers do are not always described as “geography” jobs.  Geography is broad and interdisciplinary, and an education in it gives you a valuable skill-set that can be applied to many careers.


While Professor Jennifer King facilitated, the panelists were Professors Susie Cassels, Keith Clarke, Qinghua Ding, and Somayeh Dodge.


Professor Cassels studies population and health. She earned her undergraduate in math at UCSB. After graduating, she was a math tutor and then did statistics for fisheries. She credits her meandering in her early career to eventually finding geography and her career as a researcher and professor. She emphasized that it is okay to not have a clear idea of what you want to do and keeping your paths open. Also, exploring things without an end goal can open your perspective, which she learned from her time studying abroad in Indonesia. There she studied traditional Gamelan music, but through the experience became interested in global issues in population and health.


Professor Keith Clarke studies GIS and geoinformatics, geoanalytics and urban and regional science, & population and health. He knew he loved geography and maps early on. In the UK, high school is more specialized and Professor Clarke took geography classes as part of his main curriculum. He loved studying geography and was good at it, so he furthered his education in Geography from his Bachelor’s degree through to his PhD.


Professor Somayeh Dodge studies GIS and geoinformatics. She originally wanted to study art and design, but was pushed to study engineering by her parents. While an undergraduate student, she specifically chose to study survey engineering since she felt that within engineering as a whole it, was closest to art and design. After earning her MS in GIS Engineering, she worked in industry for a while before deciding to pursue academia. Many PhD programs she was interested in would not accept advanced degrees from Iran, but she kept looking and applying and got her PhD in Geography with a specialization in GIS at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Professor Dodge says that she enjoys the social aspect of being a professor from teaching and helping students. She joined the ranks of the UCSB Geography department faculty this past fall.


Professor Qinghua Ding studies atmospheric and climate science, and ocean science. His parents were both meteorologists, and he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in that field as well. He liked math and physics in his studies, but thought that meteorology was a more practical application of math and physics.


The professors talked about what careers their students have pursued after graduating. Some examples included: public health research, urban planning, housing policy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sanitary District, Direct Relief (a local company that works on global aid), conservation planning, data science, Environmental Protections Agency,  NASA, United States Geological Survey, GIS of autonomous vehicles, golf GPS software, & basketball spatial analysis.


The professors also has some advice for undergrads. Professor Ding recommended the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) since it exposes you to research, working with a Professor builds professional relationships, and can potentially give you a reference in the future. For people interested in graduate school, what he looks for in an applicant is someone who is very driven and interested in what they would study. Do your research about who you want to work with, and think about why you really want to work with them specifically.


Professor Clarke recommended learning a programming language, as it is a useful and widely applicable skill. He also noted not to ignore skills you learn by osmosis in college- working in groups, presenting, writing, and effective communication. Additionally, Professor Clarke invited anyone to add him on LinkedIn since he as a large network of contacts.


Professor Dodge said that being a professor has taught her to deal with rejection. You apply to lots of PhD programs, post docs, faculty positions, and grants- and frequently you are not going to get them. But learning to be resilient and understanding rejection is part of the process will make you stronger and lead you to opportunities.


Professor King reminded the audience that faculty are not scary people, and are genuinely interested in supporting students. Reaching out for doing research, getting advice, or help when you are struggling academically is welcomed and part of a professors job!


Thank you to Professor King for setting up this informative panel and for all the panelists sharing their wisdom.

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