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The University of Texas at Dallas
Graduate Admissions

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), Denis J. Dean (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), John Ferguson (Geosciences), 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), Fang Qiu (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences),  Michael Tiefelsdorf (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences)
Assistant Professors: Yongwan Chun (Economic, Political and Policy Sciences), Weili Wu (Computer Science)
Clinical Assistant Professors: Stuart Murchison (Economic, Political and Policy Science)

Powerful technologies have emerged in recent years to collect, store, manage,  analyze, and communicate 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  remote sensing, are used in many ways, including the production of digital maps in vehicles, the management and maintenance of city infrastructure, agriculture and forestry, the policing of communities, and the conduct of  modern 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 the Department of Geosciences) and the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. This unique structure reflects geospatial information science’s origins as the confluence of 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 bachelor’s or master’s 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).  These students may choose to pursue research projects that advance existing geospatial information sciences practices within that application area.  Alternatively, students may opt to pursue research that expands the technological or theoretical base of all the 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. UT 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  in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and at the NASA Center for Excellence in Remote Sensing in the Department of Geosciences. The University’s 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 computer workstation is available for every student. All major industry-standard GIS and remote sensing software is available. The University is an Oracle Center of Excellence for Spatial Data Management and a member of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).

Admission Requirements

The University’s 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 bachelor’s 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 applicant’s 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 to  GISC 6317 Computer Programming for GIS,  CS 6301 and CS 6311Computer Science I & II, ,  MIS 6322 Developing Business Applications with Visual Basic, MIS 6323 Object Oriented Systems, or their equivalents, and (iii) at least one course in inferential statistics through to regression analysis equivalent to GISC 6301 Geospatial Data Analysis Fundamentals,  EPPS 7313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics, or GEOS 6313 Data Analysis for Geoscientists. Graduate courses taken at UT Dallas to meet these prerequisites may be counted as electives toward the 75 credit hours required of 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 student’s designated advisor and/or the GIS Doctoral Program Director prior to registration in every semester. Students generally will not have a faculty advisor when they first enter the Ph.D. program, but every student is required to select (with consent of the potential advisor) an advisor from the advising faculty before they complete 20 credits after admission.

Degree Requirements

The University’s 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 a Specific Application area or Technical field (12 SCH), evidence research skills through successful completion and defense of a Ph. D. dissertation, and take  related electives as necessary  for a total of 75 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)

Students must earn a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 across the following five courses:

GISC 6381 GIS Fundamentals
GISC 6382 Applied GIS
GISC 6384 Spatial Analysis and Modeling
GISC 6385 GIS Theories, Models and Issues
GISC 7310 Regression Analysis with Spatial Applications

Geospatial Specialization Area

Students must select 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 6317 Computer Programming for GIS
GISC 6388 GIS Application Software Development
GISC 7363 Internet Mapping and Information Management
*MISC 6326 Database Management Systems

II. Spatial Analysis and Modeling

CS 6312 Data Structures
*ECON 6309 Econometrics I
*ECON 6310 Econometrics II
*ECON 6314 Structural Equation and Multilevel (Hierarchical) Modeling
*ECON 6315 (POEC 7370) Time Series Econometrics
*ECON 6316 Spatial Econometrics
EPPS 7364 Demographic Analysis and Modeling
EPPS 7368 Spatial Epidemiology
*GEOS 6313 Data Analysis for Geoscientists
*GISC 6311 (ECON 6311) Statistics for Economists
GISC 7360 GIS Pattern Analysis
GISC 7361 Spatial Statistics
*EPPS 7313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
*EPPS 7316 Advanced Regression Analysis


III. Remote Sensing and Satellite Technologies


GEOS 7322 GPS Surveying Techniques
GEOS 7324 3-D GIS Data Capture and Ground Lidar
GISC 6325 (GEOS 6325) Introduction to Remote Sensing
GISC 7366 (GEOS 7366)/ Applied Remote Sensing
GISC/7365 (GEOS 7365) Remote Sensing Digital Image Processing
GISC 7367 (GEOS 7327) Remote Sensing Workshop
EE 6360 Digital Signal Processing
EE 6363 Digital Image Processing


IV. Customized Geospatial Specialization (15 SCH)


Identified by the student with approval in advance by the Director of the 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 student’s masters degree. These hours may be transferred from another institution, or taken at UT Dallas in an existing master’s program area and may be applied toward a master’s 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 ( Variable SCHs)

All students must complete the following two classes as part of the research and dissertation requirement :

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

In addition, students must complete sufficient additional research and dissertation credit hourse to bring the total number of SCHs they have earned within the UTDallas doctoral program (or transferred into the UTDallas doctoral program) to 75, the minimum required to earn a doctorial degree. Additional research and dissertation SCHs above and beyond those required to reach the 75 credit hour minimum may be required at the discretion of the student’s Ph.D. advisor. Additional research and dissertation SCHs can be earned through any of the following classes:

GEOS 8V29 Research in GIS
GISC 6387 GIS Workshop
GISC 6389 GIS Masters Project
GISC 7367/GEOS 7327 Remote Sensing Workshop
GISC 8V29 Research in GIS
*EPPS 6310 & 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 their advisor or the GIS Doctoral Program Director.

Exams and Qualifiers

Doctoral students must complete GISC 7389 Geospatial Information Sciences PhD Research Project Qualifier according to uniform guidelines established by the GIS program. 

After meeting the Research Project Qualifier, doctoral students 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.

Doctoral students must have GPAs 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 must petition the GIS faculty for an exemption for extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control.

Defense of Dissertation

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


Last Updated: October 21, 2011