Doctor of Philosophy in Geospatial Information Sciences


This degree program is jointly offered by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (specifically in the Department of Geosciences) and the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, and is administered by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.


Professors: Carlos Aiken (Geosciences), Brian J. L. Berry (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Ronald Briggs (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Daniel Griffith (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Paul Jargowsky (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), James Murdoch (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Edwin Sha (Computer Science), Robert Stern (Geosciences)
Associate Professors: Tom Brikowski(Geosciences), John Ferguson (Geosciences), Fang Qiu (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences),Michael Tiefelsdorf (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences)
Assistant Professors: Karen Hayslett-McCall (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Weili Wu (Computer Science)

Powerful new technologies have emerged in recent years to collect, store, manage, and analyze information regarding the features of the Earth's surface and to combine these with other types of environmental, social and economic information. These technologies, which include geographic information systems (GIS), the global positioning system (GPS), and satellite-based remote sensing, are used in many ways including digital maps in vehicles, the management and maintenance of city infrastructure,regional agriculture and forest lands,the policing of communities, and the conduct ofmodern warfare.The PhD in Geospatial Information Sciences aims to develop individuals capable of advancing this field by developing new knowledge or capabilities relevant to it.

The degree program is jointly offered by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences,the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (specifically in the Department ofGeosciences) and the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. This unique structurereflects geospatialinformation scienceísorigins as the confluence of work in multiple disciplines including geography, computer science, engineering, geology, and various social, policy and applied sciences. It is anticipated that many students will enter the program with a bachelorís or masterís degree (and/or work experience) in an application area (such as public administration, geology, or economics) or in a technical specialization (such as engineering, computer science, or statistics) with the intent of advancing existing practice with geospatial information sciences in that application area or expanding the technological or theoretical base for geospatial information sciences.

Mission and Objectives

The mission of the Doctor of Philosophy in Geographic Information Sciences program is to cultivate innovative researchers capable of advancing the frontiers of knowledge in the geospatial information sciences through improved theories, new technologies, innovative methodologies, sophisticated quantitative analyses, and integrative applications. U.T.Dallas Doctoral graduates will find employment in research departments of public and private organizations and in major academic institutions. Specifically, program graduates will:

         demonstrate their knowledge of the fundamental theories and concepts underlying the geospatial sciences

         master the advanced methodologies and/or quantitative analyses used in at least one of three geospatial specialization areas: [a] computing and information management, spatial analysis and modeling, or [c] remote sensing and satellite technologies.

         produce innovative research that advances theory or methodology in the geospatial sciences

         participate at academic conferences, publish in peer-reviewed journals and find employment in research departments of public and private organizations and in major academic institutions


Students have access to state-of-the-art GIS computing facilities housed at the Bruton Center in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and the NASA Center for Excellence in Remote Sensing in the Department of Geosciences. The Universityís extensive instructional computing facilities, including those in the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, are also available. Facilities are open extended hours including evenings and weekends. Enrollment in hands-on courses is controlled to ensure that a station is available for every student. All industry-standard GIS and remote sensing software is available. The University is a an Oracle Center of Excellence for Spatial Data Management and a member of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).

Admission Requirements

The Universityís general admission requirements are discussed here.

The PhD program in Geospatial Information Sciences seeks applications from students with a baccalaureate, Master of Arts, Master of Science or professional masters-level degree in any field relevant to geospatial information science including, but not limited to, computer science, economics, engineering, geography, geology, management information systems, marketing, natural resource management, public affairs and public administration, statistics, and urban and regional planning,. Applicants will be judged and evaluated by the existing admission standards as set forth by the University in its Graduate Catalog and by the standards set forth here by the Geospatial Information Sciences program. A bachelorís degree from an accredited institution or its equivalent and fluency in written and spoken English are required. A grade average of at least 3.25 in undergraduate and graduate course work, and a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1150 on the GRE are desirable. An analytical writing score of at least 4.5 in the GRE is considered desirable.

Students must submit transcripts from all higher education institutions attended, three letters of recommendation, and a one-page essay outlining the applicantís background, education, and personal objectives as they specifically relate to a Ph.D. in Geospatial Information Sciences.


The following pre-requisites/co-requisites will also be required for admission to the PhD program: (i) college mathematics through calculus, (ii) competence in at least one modern programming language equivalent toGISC 5317 Computer Programming for GIS, or CS 5303 and CS 5330 Computer Science I & II or MIS 5321 Computer Programming or MIS 6322 Visual Basic or MIS 6323 Java, or their equivalents, and (iii) at least one course in inferential statistics through to regression analysis equivalent to GISC 5313 Geospatial Data Analysis Fundamentals orPOEC 5313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics or GEOS 5306 Data Analysis for Geoscientists. Graduate courses taken at U.T.Dallas to meet these pre-requisites may be counted as electives toward the 90 credit hours for students entering the Ph.D. program directly from a B.A. or B.S. degree, but they shall not be considered substitutes for any other specified course.


Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of this doctoral program, to ensure adequate preparation and appropriate course sequencing, every doctoral student is required to consult with the studentís designated advisor and/or the GIS Doctoral Program Director prior to registration in every semester.

Degree Requirements

The Universityís general degree requirements are discussed here.

To receive the PhD in Geospatial Information Sciences, students must complete the Geospatial Science Core (15 SCH) to achieve a mastery of appropriate Geospatial Information Science technologies and theory, have a Geospatial Specialization Area (15 SCH), have aSpecific Application area or Technical field (12 SCH), evidence research skills through successful completion and defense of a Ph. D. dissertation, and takerelated electives as necessaryfor a total of 90 semester credit hours. In addition, students must satisfy a set of exams and qualifiers. Other courses may be substituted for those listed below with the written permission in advance of the Director of the GIS Doctoral program.

Geospatial Science Core(15 SCH)

GISC 6381 GIS Fundamentals
GISC 6382 Applied GIS
GISC 6384 Spatial Analysis and Modeling
GISC 6385 GIS Theories, Models and Issues
GISC 5316 Regression Analysis with Spatial Applications or POEC 5316 Advanced Regression

Geospatial Specialization Area selected from one of the following, with a minimum of 15 SCH. Courses selected must include at least three at successively advanced levels.

I. Geospatial Computing and Information Management

CS 6359 Object Oriented Analysis and Design
CS 6360 Database Design
CS 6364 Artificial Intelligence
CS 6366 Computer Graphics
CS 6375 Neural Nets and Machine Learning
CS 6378 Advanced Operating Systems
CS 6V80 Spatial Data Management
CS 6381 Combinatorics and Graph Algorithms
CS 6384 Computer Vision
GISC 5317 Computer Programming for GIS
GISC 6388 GIS Application Software Development
GISC 7363 Internet Mapping and Information Management
* MISC 6326 Databse Management Systems

II. Spatial Analysis and Modeling

CS 5343 Data Structures
*ECON 6309 Econometrics I
*ECON 6310 Econometrics II
*ECON 6311 Statistics for Economists
*ECON 6314 Structural Equation and Multilevel (Hierarchical) Modeling
*ECON 6315/POEC 7370 Time Series Econometrics
*ECON 6316 Spatial Econometrics
*GEOS 5306 Data Analysis for Geoscientists
GISC 7360 GIS Pattern Analysis
GISC 7361 Spatial Statistics
GISC 7363 GIS Network Modeling
GISC 7364 Demographic Analysis and Modeling
GISC 7368 Spatial Epidemiology
GISC 7384 Advanced Raster Modeling
*POEC 5313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
*POEC 5316 Advanced Regression Analysis

III. Remote Sensing and Satellite Technologies


GEOS 5322 GPS Surveying Techniques
GEOS 5324 3-D GIS Data Capture and Ground Lidar
GEOS 5325/GISC 6325 Introduction to Remote Sensing
GEOS 5329/GISC 5329 Applied Remote Sensing
GEOS 5326/GISC 7365 Remote SensingDigital Image Processing
GEOS 7327/GISC 7367 Remote Sensing Workshop
EE 6360 Digital Signal Processing I
EE 6363 Digital Image Processing
IV. Customized Geospatial Specialization(15 SCH)
Identified by the student with approval in advance by the Director ofthe GIS Doctoral Program.

* may not be used in conjunction with certain other courses. Consult GIS Doctoral Program Director

Application Area or Technical Field (12 SCH)

Twelve semester-credit hours of specialized course work in an application area or technical field relevant to GIScience.Normally, these will derive from the studentís masters degree. These hours may be transferred from another institution, or taken at U.T.Dallas in an existing masterís program area and may be applied toward a masterís in that area.

Application area examples: planning, public affairs, criminal justice, health and epidemiology, geoscience, forestry, hydrology, marketing, real estate, economics, civil engineering.

Technical field examples: statistics, computer science, software engineering, management information systems, image analysis, operations research/location science, instrumentation.


Research and Dissertation (24 to 48 SCHs)

Which must include:

GISC 7387 GIS Research Design
GISC 7389 GIS PhD Research Project Qualifier

And may include:

GEOS 8V21 Research in Remote Sensing, GIS and GPS
GISC 6387 GIS Workshop
GISC 6389 GIS Masters Project
GISC 7367/GEOS 7327 Remote Sensing Workshop
GISC 8V29 Research in GIS
*POEC 5310 & 6342 Research Design I & II
GISC 8v99 or GEOS 8v99 or CS 8v99 Dissertation

Other Related Electives (0 to 24 SCH)

Students may choose up to 24 SCHs in related electives with consent of the GIS Doctoral Program Director.

Exams and Qualifiers

  • Ph.D. Research Project Qualifier

The student must register for and complete GISC 7389 Geospatial Information Sciences PhD ResearchProject Qualifier according to uniform guidelines established by the GIS program.

  • Grade Point Qualifier

The student must have a GPA of at least 3.25, and preferably 3.5, in courses taken at UT-Dallas at the time they register for GISC 7389 Ph.D. Qualifier, or they mustpetition the GIS faculty for an exemption for extenuating circumstances beyond the studentís control.

  • Qualifying Examination and Defense of Proposal

After meeting the Research Project Qualifier, thestudent must (1) demonstrate through a general exam his/her competency in the area chosen for their dissertation, and (2) successfully present and defend a dissertation proposal through an oral examination, according to uniform guidelines established by the GIS program.

Defense of Dissertation

A dissertation must be prepared and defended successfully following the procedures established by the Dean of Graduate Studies.