USC

Austin Chow

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Growing up in the hinterlands of Los Angeles has been straight and utterly mundane. Did I want to become a doctor based on my parents’ values and desires? Yes, maybe. Was that pipe dream going to come true? No. Little did I know at the time, my passion was found elsewhere, followed by an unforgettable experience. In retrospect, I do not have any regrets.

After leaving life sciences and the biology field, I found a new passion in design and architecture. Exploring the plethora of majors within the Dornsife College, I discovered the GeoDesign program.  However, due to some resistance from my parents, I could not switch out of the STEM field easily. Luckily enough, the GeoDesign program has an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes the spatial sciences, architecture, and urban planning all in one easy package of which appeal to both my mom and dad, who had studied art and engineering, respectively.

I knew very little about geographic information science (GIS) when I first started. To my surprise, GIS encompasses many parts of our lives that are most readily known, including Google Maps, postal service logistic routes, and even finding the closest coffee shop to you. 

I am currently on track to graduate with a B.S. in GeoDesign in May of 2019 and a M.S. in Planning in May of 2020. During my undergraduate career, I have explored many facets of the potential uses of GIS which includes working at a landscape architecture firm and a real estate company. I was also given a great opportunity to work with the USC Auxiliary Service Director of Design, Jerry Wingate. Currently still working in that department, I have been able to explore architecture, planning, and interior design through real world projects for the university. Other than GIS, I participated in various clubs on campus, played on the Varsity Rugby Team my freshman year, and am also working as a supervisor at the USC Bookstore. 

During the school year of 2017 - 2018, I had the chance to work with Rich Windisch, Joanna Wang, GIS specialist Beau MacDonald, and Director John Wilson on a research project exploring the uses of rain barrel applications among single family homes within the City of Los Angeles. Through analyzing rainfall patterns, sorting zoning regulations, and calculating economic savings through LADWP rates among different temperature zones, we found that the aggregated savings among neighborhoods were tremendous. Ultimately, working together as a neighborhood could create great benefits to the citizens as well as the environment. Our work received the first place prize from the USC Arnold Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

In the summer of 2018, I am continuing work with the Spatial Sciences Institute in creating an interactive wayfinding map for the Allan Hancock Foundation Building (AHF) as well as a static digital signage for information on various departments housed in the building. I will be exploring the uses of ArcGIS Indoors to utilize GIS in creation of a pathfinding solution for the complex building.

As a senior, I hope to continue my passion by exploring the many uses of the skills I have acquired. I strive to work for a planning team within theme park design or real estate development, bringing the unique values of GIS into these fields. Personally, using GIS is like storytelling, creating the integration between science and art. As that storyteller, I want the user to explore patterns not seen with the naked eye. I want to bring the excitement out of the work that I do, creating and designing projects that many will get to experience. As GIS evolves and grows, new technology within GIS will benefit the users and ultimately the community who are in contact with the burgeoning field.

I am grateful for the experience that I have achieved through the Spatial Sciences Institute. The friends and faculty that I have met through this program have made my undergraduate career an unforgettable one.

In my free time, I enjoy playing golf, cooking, exploring new restaurants, watching Netflix, stock trading, and playing rugby.

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