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UC Geography Grad Student Wins 1st Place at National Conference

Beginner’s luck? Qiusheng Wu earned top honors in his first-ever paper session with the Association of American Geographers.

Date: 7/16/2010
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Melanie Cannon
Qiusheng Wu, a first-year master’s student in the Department of Geography, earned first place in a paper session at the annual meeting for the Association of American Geographers.

“The Geographical Information Science (GIS) Specialty Group Honors Student Paper Competition is a fierce contest among the top master and PhD students in the field of GIS in the nation,” says Hongxing Liu, geography professor and Wu’s advisor. “Winning the first place in this competition represents the highest national recognition bestowed on our graduate students.”

Qiusheng Wu.
Geography graduate student Qiusheng Wu uses remote sensing and GIS to study hurricane-affected areas.

Even more impressive about the recognition is that Wu arrived in the U.S. just over a year ago from his home country of China. He transferred to UC after one semester at Texas A&M University, and the AAG conference marked his first time ever presenting in English at a professional conference.

“I was just happy to present because it was my first time doing so,” Wu says. “I was so surprised that I won the first-place prize.”

His presentation, “Object-Oriented Representation and Analysis of Coastal Changes for Hurricane-Induced Damage Assessment,” discussed using remote sensing and GIS to record changes on the hurricane-affected Texas coasts.

“We’re using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) remote sensing data acquired before Hurricane Ike to get a detailed topography of the land. After the hurricane’s landfall, the USGS flew the LiDAR again to get another topography model. Then we compare to the two models to see how many buildings or trees were destroyed, or how much beach sediment eroded,” Wu explains.

The technology is much more advanced than it was only a few decades ago, when coastal geomorphology data was only available by physically surveying the land. Now a LiDAR sensor installed on an airplane can capture centimeter-level details about hurricane-induced coastal geomorphologic and sediment changes.

The goal, he says, is to provide an expedited approach to hurricane damage assessment and recovery planning.

“What we’re trying to do is improve the algorithms and software tools to make the information extraction from raw LiDAR measurements more efficient in less time,” Wu says. “This information is helpful for coastal residents and local governments’ post-hurricane recovery efforts.”

To earn such an acknowledgement as a new graduate student is significant, says Professor Liu. “I expected him to receive an award from the competition. However, winning the first place still gave me a pleasant surprise, given that the competition was very intense and his competitors include top students from other leading universities in the nation.”

“Qiusheng Wu is an intelligent and hard-working student,” Liu continues.

Wu soon hopes to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal, and will continue studying in the department until he receives his PhD in geography with a focus on GIS and remote sensing.

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