Students in the 28-unit M.S. in GIST program:
- Take three core courses;
- Select three electives, in one of four tracks:
- Spatial Data Acquisition and Integration
- Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization
- Spatial Application Development
- Spatial Thinking
- Complete a master’s thesis.
The online M.S. in GIST can be completed in as few as five semesters or 20 months. The USC GIST master’s program operates year-round through fall, spring, and summer semesters. Consult this GIST class schedule or USC Schedule of Classes for when these courses are offered.
CORE COURSES (12 units)
TRACK 1: SPATIAL DATA ACQUISITION AND INTEGRATION (12 units)
TRACK 2: SPATIAL DATA ANALYSIS AND VISUALIZATION (12 units)
TRACK 3: SPATIAL APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT (12 units)
TRACK 4: SPATIAL THINKING (12 units)
SSCI 594a (2 units) and SSCI 594b (2 units): Credit on acceptance of thesis. Graded CR/NC.
The Capstone Experience: The GIST Master’s Thesis
The GIST master’s thesis gives students the opportunity to design and produce an original, independent, professional work on a compelling topic of their choice. Students work closely with a faculty advisor who serves as the thesis committee chair and two committee members from among the GIST faculty to produce an abstract and the thesis, with individual support from writing faculty in USC’s Writing Program.
Thesis topics have ranged across the full suite of geographic information science and technology, including novel applications of GIS as well as implementations of web and mobile technology. Specific projects span a wide range of fields, including architecture, biogeography, business, geology, history, human geography, public health, natural hazards, planetary sciences, and sustainability. Read more about past GIST master’s theses.
Students have produced thesis projects of publishable and award-winning caliber. For his thesis, Chris Weidemann developed a novel geospatial application called Twitter2GIS to analyze what locational information Twitter users may inadvertently give away and investigated how third parties could make use of this information. His study was published in the International Journal of Geoinformatics this past June.
In another thesis, Samuel Krueger mapped the location of urban amenities in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and calculated centrality scores, which identified a strong urban core running from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles. The path, which he dubs “The Wilshire/Santa Monica Corridor,” is named for the two main arteries along which the city’s center is concentrated, scientifically dismissing writer Dorothy Parker’s characterization of Los Angeles as “72 suburbs in search of a city.” The Los Angeles Times covered his findings.
Krueger’s thesis also earned him two prestigious recognitions, one as first place winner of the UNIGIS 2012 Academic Excellence Award. The UNIGIS International Association is a global network of higher education institutions dedicated to enhancing the competence of geographic information science and systems professionals. The award recognizes the top master’s thesis from entries across the UNIGIS international network, of which the USC Spatial Sciences Institute is a founding member. He also won the North American Regional Science Association’s 2012 Graduate Student-Author Paper Competition. As part of that honor, his paper will be considered for publication in the academic journal Papers in Regional Science.
These are just two examples of how our students learn the fundamental science of spatial thinking and analysis, and are enabled to implement and apply that science through technology to produce new discoveries and knowledge.
Program Learning Outcomes
We expect our graduates to be distinguishable from graduates of other programs in how they think about and use the principles of geographic information science and the technologies that implement that science into their professional work. Our graduates will:
- Design and implement well-formed database models using appropriate design techniques and relational database software.
- Design and implement strategies for capturing or sourcing geospatial data and accompanying metadata for one or more GIS projects.
- Conduct work tasks in such a way that they achieve at least three of the following:
- Explain complicated geographic patterns and relationships using the theoretical concepts that form the basis of both commonplace and advanced methods of spatial analysis.
- Generate geographical information by processing digital remotely sensed data and critically evaluating its use for special one-of-a-kind applications.
- Design and develop cartographic and other kinds of visualizations for a multimedia, Internet-enabled world.
- Program small-scale, one-of-a-kind GIS-based applications using the Python and/or Java programming languages.
- Identify and describe the role of people and technology in organizing, planning, monitoring, and controlling GIS projects.
- Critically evaluate the potential impact of data quality on spatial analysis and decision making outcomes.
- Plan, design, and execute a series of advance science and/or policy relevant GIS-based projects.