My research group at the University of Florida has close ties with the Geoinformation Program at CUAS. Many CUAS students have visited my lab in Fort Lauderdale throughout the last few years to work on interesting projects involving novel data sources such as Twitter or Strava. This year, however, we decided to change the direction of visits and I applied for the Marshall Plan Scholarship to conduct part of my research in Austria. This program supports academic exchange between Austrian and U.S. universities and I am more than happy to have been one of the 2018 awardees and to have spent an enjoyable three months in Villach.
I have a diverse background in geospatial sciences, and lately, my research interest turned towards understanding user behavior in different online communities. My stay at CUAS was organized around the topic of “Identification of activity patterns for individual users across multiple VGI and social media platforms”. In the era of “big data” there are endless potential data sources on the internet that can be put into use and help us answer a number of research questions. You can think of social media services such as Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, or even popular games like Pokémon Go. These services all have a spatial dimension, which makes them particularly exciting from a geospatial point of view. This is a relatively new and exciting research area that involves diving into previously unexplored territories. On the other hand, this is also one of its biggest challenges. I am currently in the last phase of finishing my PhD. In addition to the challenges originating from my research area, the process of getting a PhD also comes with a lot of stress. One needs to find time to do research, publish papers, present at conferences on top of fulfilling all the requirements that are required for the degree. I found that my visit at CUAS was exactly what I needed to tackle these. Carinthia has a great many things to offer that helped me relax between long hours of work and to start every day refreshed. I enjoyed every bit of my stay. I will never forget my biking trips around Faaker See and Ossiacher See, the random visits of cafés in Velden, or my morning commute to campus along the Drava river. While living in the middle of a major U.S. metropolitan area also has its perks, I believe that productivity levels can benefit from a change in our environment for a short while. The peace and quiet in Villach and the beautiful sight of the Alps certainly increased mine.
All in all, the Marshall Plan Scholarship is an excellent opportunity for students, and I encourage you to apply. Gaining experience in a foreign country, working on interesting projects can boost your future career. You will learn useful skills, make meaningful connections that are all essential for your development. And above all, you will make unforgettable memories.