stefan ilic

I worked with Dr. Marynia Kolak as a member of the Healthy Regions & Policies Lab, which includes many projects dedicated to promoting the accessibility and literacy of geospatial data. The projects that I worked on mainly involved the collection, compilation, and manipulation of census data, as well as visualizing the data using software friendly for geospatial data. I was also introduced to the process of creating metadata, which is a vital component of making data both reproducible and accessible.

At the beginning of my research, I was mostly collecting census data at the tract level for Champaign County and using the data to create new geospatial variables, such as calculating the percentage of the foreign-born population per census tract and calculating the economic hardship index per census tract. Data wrangling and cleaning necessitated that I become more familiar with programs like Microsoft Excel. I also used the statistical programming language known as R, which allowed me to visualize the new data that I created through its various packages and libraries that were made specifically for mapping shapefiles and other geospatial data formats.

The latter half of my research experience entailed creating metadata that accurately reflected how the data was processed, where the data originated, and what the variables within the data mean. I created the metadata using a document editor, but the challenging part was following the correct template and structure for the metadata. Apart from creating metadata, the kinds of techniques that I used while working on the project were not entirely different from those used in some of the classes that I have taken, but applying those techniques to a particular goal as part of a research lab, as well as incorporating new skills in metadata creation, gave me a new perspective into the world of geospatial research.

I don't have a specific career in mind, but this experience has definitely shown me an important application of geospatial data science. I also enjoyed applying some of the knowledge that I learned in previous classes and using that knowledge to achieve a common goal as part of a group project that does not end with my contribution.