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Celebrating Student Achievements 2023–2024

The Belltower is framed with spring flowers on a warm May afternoon. Photo by Becky Kirkland.

This past academic year brought a lot to celebrate at the Center for Geospatial Analytics! Below is a sampling of the outstanding work accomplished by the Center’s graduate students since last July. Congratulations to all!

Doctoral Students

  • Published 12 peer-reviewed articles, including first-author papers in Global Environmental Change, Scientific Reports, Journal of Environmental Management, Environmental Earth Sciences, and International Journal of Mass Emergencies & Disasters.
  • Participated in NC State University’s Graduate Research Symposium, the College of Natural Resources’ Graduate Research Symposium, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, IALE-North America Annual Meeting, European Geosciences Union General Assembly, GeoVet Conference, Ecological Society of America Meeting, GRASS GIS Community Meeting and more.


  • Jenna Abrahamson won first place for her poster in the Natural Systems category at the CNR Graduate Research Symposium.
  • Rebecca Composto won the Center’s Creativity in Teaching Award.
  • Christopher Dunstan won a UConn Sports Analytics Symposium Travel Award and received an internship with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (Breakdancing Team).
  • Xiaojie Gao received an Honorable Mention in the Graduate Student/Postdoc Graphics category of the 2023 NC State Envisioning Research Contest.
  • Caitlin Haedrich and Associate Director Helena Mitasova received a DELTA Exploratory Grant. Caitlin also won the Center’s Beacon Award and was on the team (GeoForAll GRASS GIS Team) that won the Center’s Collaboration & Innovation Award.
  • Eli Horner received an internship with the Pacific Northwest National Lab and an Ecological Forecasting Initiative 2024 Conference Travel Scholarship.
  • Jamie Huerta received an internship with NOAA/University of Michigan.
  • Kate Jones won the Center’s Gladys West Award.
  • Gwen Kirschke won a Howard McCarley Student Research Award from the Southwestern Association of Naturalists and a Graduate Student Fellowship from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
  • Brit Lahingas received an Ecological Forecasting Initiative 2024 Conference Travel Scholarship.
  • Margaret Lawrimore received an IALE-NA Travel Award.
  • Erin O’Connell‘s team won second place in the Machine Learning for Agriculture category of N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative’s three-day Machine Learning Hackathon.
  • Uchenna Osia received the Stu Shea USGIF Scholarship.
  • Christina Perella received a NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award to attend the IALE-NA conference.
  • Deja Perkins won the Center’s Advocate Award.
  • Pratikshya Regmi was selected for a six-day immersive training organized by CSDMS (Community Surface Dynamics Modeling Systems) at University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Ariel Saffer received an Ecological Forecasting Initiative 2024 Conference Travel Scholarship.
  • Felipe Sanchez won a College of Veterinary Medicine Travel Award, and a Comparative Medicine Institute – Division of Emerging & Infectious Disease Scholarship.
  • Andrew Shannon received a GSA Travel Assistance Award from the NC State Graduate Student Association.
  • Titilayo Tajudeen was named a 2023–24 SECASC Global Change Research Fellow and won a 2024 Graduate Scholarship from Women in GIS.
  • Laura Tomkins received an Outstanding Presentation Award at the American Meteorological Society Weather and Forecasting conference.

Popular Press and Engagement

  • An NC State story about Jenna Abrahamson’s internship with the Pacific Northwest National Lab was featured on the front page of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science homepage under University Research News.
  • During October 2023, Rebecca Composto and Associate Director Eric Money taught two GIS lessons at Lakewood Montessori Middle School in Durham, NC.
  • Deja Perkins delivered a TedxNCState Talk entitled “If You Don’t Have a Seat, Make Your Own Table.”
  • In April 2024, Titilayo Tajudeen, Emma Butzler, Pratikshya Regmi and Rebecca Composto volunteered at a K-12 STEM and Resource Fair for Students with Disabilities and their families.
  • Research by Ariel Saffer, Faculty Fellow Laura Tateosian, and MGIST student Yi-Peng Yang was covered by SciTech Daily, Potato News Today, List23, and Irish Mirror.
  • Research by alum Elyssa Collins, Director Ross Meentemeyer, and Research Scholar Georgina Sanchez was featured in a press release by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and covered by Newsweek.

Professional Master’s in Geospatial Information Science & Technology (MGIST) Students

  • Over the academic year, 26 students collaborated with 21 community/industry partners to develop geospatial solutions as part of their service-learning capstone experience. 
  • Each semester, graduating students competed in a poster competition to showcase their service-learning projects: Dallas Hoffman won in Spring 2023, Kim Garrett in Fall 2023, and Andrea Sato in Spring 2024.
  • Alum Kelsey Mills received the Governor’s Award for Excellence, the highest honor a state employee can receive.
  • Kim Garrett was named NC State’s 2024 Esri Innovation Program (EIP) Student of the Year. She was also selected to be the graduate student speaker at CNR graduation in Fall 2023.
  • Research by Ph.D. student Ariel Saffer, Faculty Fellow Laura Tateosian, and MGIST student Yi-Peng Yang was covered by SciTech Daily, Potato News Today, List23, and Irish Mirror.

Geospatial Graduate Student Organization (GGSO)

The GGSO is a university-recognized community that supports all graduate students affiliated with the Center, both on-campus and online. Led by students for students, the GGSO advances networking in the geospatial community, provides a platform for research and offers social events. This year, the GGSO:

  • Organized a three-part coding bootcamp series, “Introduction to Python Programming,” at the beginning of the academic year in partnership with NC State University Libraries, to pilot a program within CNR that offers more support for learning to code. More than 20 graduate students and staff members from across CNR attended the workshop series.
  • Planned and coordinated a week-long series of professional development events for GIS Week 2023, including a kickoff networking event, three workshops and two research roundtable lunches; collaborated with Center leadership to co-host a special GIS Week Geospatial Forum lecture and hands-on studio.
  • Hosted seven Lunch & Learn workshops, four of which were led or co-led by Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. students.
  • Organized a “CGA Weekly Writing Hour” in Fall 2023 and weekly “Geospatial Graduate Student Study Hall” in Spring 2024.
  • Hosted a variety of social events intended to bring together members of the CGA community
  • Created a survey for its membership, to help organize events, better foster a community between on-campus and distance education students and learn more about the student body.
  • Added a representative to the College of Natural Resources DEI committee who helped to create and distribute the new CNR financial well-being survey.