GEOG 485:
GIS Programming and Software Development

Instructor Information

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Spring-1 2019 (January-March) - James O'Brien

Fall-2 2018 (October - December) - Jan Oliver Wallgrün


Instructor for Spring-1 2019 (January-March)

James O'Brien

Teaching Assistants: Three very talented teaching assistants, and former students will be assisting with the grading of your assignments (a grader will be assigned to you during the first teaching week once enrollments are finalised).

Email: Please use the course e-mail system (it ensures your emails don't get caught up in any spam filters). I check e-mail regularly and will do my best to respond to questions at least once per weekday and once on weekends unless I notify you otherwise. If Canvas is down you can try jameso@psu.edu.

Office hours: By appointment.

James O'Brien
James O'Brien

I got involved in GIS in 1993 but via a slightly different path perhaps to most people. A year earlier I'd been introduced to GIS at a university promotional event where it was described as "Computing and Environmental Studies." Intrigued at how the two could be combined, I went along, listened, liked what I heard and selected GIS as my undergraduate degree.

That degree, combining GIS with a solid background in Computing Science, led to me being employed as a computer programmer, hardware technician, cartographer and a few other things along the way. I obtained a Ph.D. at Penn State (01-04) and followed that up with a year in Australia doing financial management before returning to Penn State for a one year Post Doc working on the final year of the Human Environment Regional Observatory project. With that project completed, I moved to Kingston University in London, UK as a Senior Lecturer in GIS and then as a Principal Lecturer teaching ArcGIS customisation, spatial databases, GIS & Hazards, Mobile GIS and Geoweb Development (which used ArcGIS Server), Project Management and a few other things.

After 4.5 years doing that, I was enticed back to Australia to join the Risk Frontiers research centre which was then at Macquarie University and is now an employee-owned R&D company - where I work as part of a team using GIS (and a range of other tools) to model the spatial distribution of natural hazards (and their associated losses) like fire, flood, earthquake, and cyclone (hurricane) for insurance companies and government agencies. As the Chief Geospatial Scientist, I spend a lot of my days designing and building spatial tools for analysis particularly using Python but also a range of other languages. I'm based in Sydney, Australia but don't let the 12(ish) hour time difference to the East Coast of the US concern you; I'm getting up when the majority of you will be starting work on the class :) This will be my 24th time teaching Geog 485, and as always, I'm really looking forward to it.

Introductions for Spring-1 2019

Now it’s your turn to introduce yourself (you don't have to post pictures!). Please return to Canvas and post a brief introductory message to "The Lounge" discussion forum describing:

  • Your name and current occupation
  • Any experience with Python (remember, none is required for this course)
  • Any experience with other programming languages (none is required for this course)
  • Any questions or concerns you have about Python or this course (optional)

Instructor for Fall-2 2018 (October-December)

Jan Oliver Wallgrün

Teaching Assistants: Three very talented teaching assistants, and former students will be assisting with the grading of your assignments (a grader will be assigned to you during the first teaching week once enrollments are finalised).

Email: Please use the course e-mail system (it ensures your emails don't get caught up in any spam filters). I check e-mail regularly and will do my best to respond to questions at least once per weekday and once on weekends unless I notify you otherwise. If Canvas is down you can try wallgrun@psu.edu.

Office hours: By appointment.

I have been working as a researcher and instructor at the Penn State Geography department, but a few years ago moved back to Germany where I am originally from. I am a computer scientist by training with my master and Ph.D. both being in Informatics. However, I have been working in the areas of GIS and GIScience for a decade now. In my residential courses at Penn State, I have been teaching introductory courses to GIS and GIScience, geospatial data management and spatial databases, and object-oriented programming for GIScience. I am still conducting research in affiliation with the Penn State GeoVISTA Center focusing on problems of spatial and spatio-temporal modeling and reasoning, as well as the interpretation and processing of human descriptions of spatial knowledge such as natural language descriptions or sketch maps. I am also interested in algorithmic problems of spatial data integration, matching, and query processing as a basis to build "intelligent" spatial retrieval and assistance systems.

Introductions for Fall-2 2018

Now it’s your turn to introduce yourself (you don't have to post pictures!). Please return to Canvas and post a brief introductory message to "The Lounge" discussion forum describing:

  • Your name and current occupation
  • Any experience with Python (remember, none is required for this course)
  • Any experience with other programming languages (none is required for this course)
  • Any questions or concerns you have about Python or this course (optional)