New program funded by National Science Foundation brings multiple TAMU colleges together

Apr 15, 2016

The National Science Foundation has funded a grant on Cyber-HealthGIS (Geographic Information Science) at Texas A&M University (College Station) for the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The 10-week program invites undergraduate students from all disciplines who are interested in pursuing research in technology, geospatial analysis, mapping & visualization, and human health. The program will also bring in 5 faculty experts from around the country each summer to act as project mentors for the students involved.

“We hope to provide students with interdisciplinary research experiences that get them interested in pursuing graduate degrees and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) – particularly with respect to GIS, Health, Computing, and Engineering”, says Geography Assistant Professor Dr. Daniel Goldberg, the program’s Principle Investigator.

The program will bring together 10 undergraduate students for each of the next three summers, with 1/3 coming from Geography & GIS, 1/3 from Computer Science & Engineering, and 1/3 from Public Health & Pre-Med programs. Students from allied STEM disciplines with interests that match the program are also being sought.

“The University has 27 other REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) and summer research programs, but this is a unique one in that it spans Geosciences, Engineering, and Public Health – and it also fits in with the TAMU One Health Initiative”, Dr. Goldberg explains.

Some of the research projects students will undertake include: tracking disease outbreaks using social media, applying hazard simulation and supercomputing for disease spread and food accessibility analysis during natural disasters, and combining very large heterogeneous data sets to investigate food deserts on national and global scales. 

This REU research program blossomed out of the Coalition for Healthy Active Living (CHAL), an initiative led by Dr. Tracy Hammond, director of the Sketch Recognition Lab in the Computer Science & Engineering Department and CoPI of the REUSite, to develop an interdisciplinary Cyber-HealthGIS program using seed funding from the College of Engineering. 

“I’m excited about this REU because Computer Science is often developed within a box – where students are not aware of how their research really affects the people around them. This program provides a great opportunity for Computer Scientists to start using their skills in a way that can better affect the entire world”, Dr. Hammond notes.

Dr. Goldberg echoes this sentiment, “There’s a catch phrase Geographers always use – ‘spatial is special’. If you don’t know where people are, then you can’t truly make advances that improve health and well-being. Everything happens somewhere; location is the key to health.”

More information can be found at:

By: Andrew Vernon ‘06