Thirty Years of Spatial PhDs

2020 marks the 30th year that the University of Maine has been conveying PhDs in Spatial Information Science and Engineering (and the degree’s predecessor, the PhD in Surveying Engineering).

During that timeframe, 62 students have graduated and entered highly successful careers. Over half of them work or worked in academia at such institutions as Penn State, the University of Maryland, Harvard Medical School, Bowdoin College, SUNY ESF, and The University of Melbourne. Among those in industry include those working for ESRI, Oracle, Intelligent Automation, Inc., and Root Insurance Company.

The 62 PhDs who completed their degrees have broad disciplinary backgrounds. This diversity is a hallmark of the PhD program, as students get exposed not only to a single grown discipline, but interact and often collaborate with peers whose methodological thinking and professional languages differ significantly. The disciplinary breadth is well captured by the undergraduate or graduate degrees that the students obtained before starting in the PhD program (degrees with similar names have been grouped together).

Disciplines of Undergraduate and Master’s Degrees
American Civilization
Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Computer Engineering
Computer Science
Data Processing
Electrical Engineering
Engineering Physics
Information Engineering
Information Systems Engineering
Library Science
Mechanical Engineering
Political Science
Spatial Information Science and Engineering
Surveying Engineering

Forty-four percent of the 62 PhDs had a background in Surveying Engineering or closely related fields, such as geodesy, photogrammetry, and land surveying. Next closest are those with backgrounds in Computer Science (9%), GIS or geoinformatics (7%), geography (6%), Civil Engineering (6%), Electrical Engineering (4%), Mathematics (4%), and Planning (3%).

The 62 doctoral graduates came from 45 different institutions where they obtained their undergraduate degrees. UMaine is by far the strongest feeder into the MS program with 29 students. Second strongest with eight students is Anna University in India. This University has a long-standing undergraduate program in GeoInformatics, which is a good fit for many facets of the MS in Spatial Information Science and Engineering.