MSU designated geospatial sciences center of academic excellence

Contact: Jim Laird

STARKVILLE, Miss.--Federal officials have affirmed Mississippi's flagship research university as one of the nation's leading institutions for geospatial sciences instruction and research.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have designated Mississippi State as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Geospatial Sciences.

The new pilot program is designed to "keep America on the leading edge in the application and use of geospatial sciences for national security, military planning and operations, homeland security and disaster management, earth sciences, and global security issues in energy, health and the environment," according to the NGA. (For more, see

The designation is well-deserved recognition of the outstanding faculty, staff and students pursuing geospatial sciences-related study, teaching and research interests at MSU, said Bill Cooke, head of the university's Department of Geosciences.

"We have a dozen full-time geospatial faculty at MSU and many more faculty and instructors who teach or incorporate geospatial science into their research activities," Cooke said.

NGA and USGS announced the designation at the GEOINT 2015 Symposium in Washington, D.C., on Monday [June 22].

"The College of Arts and Sciences is proud that Mississippi State University has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences. We are particularly proud of Professor Cooke's leadership in geospatial sciences and his assistance in securing this very prestigious designation," said R. Gregory Dunaway, the college's dean.

"We look forward to many of our faculty and students benefiting from being a center of excellence," he said.

A key component of the CAE designation is encouraging student research, and Cooke said that many geospatial-related theses and dissertations have been completed at MSU, and "the pace for completing geospatial-based research is rapidly accelerating."

Since 2012, faculty and student collaborations have resulted in peer-reviewed journal publications on glacial retreat and climate change, forest management, fuzzy logic spatial models, wildfire risk prediction, and hurricane damage predictions, among others.

Other investigations at Mississippi State include visualization techniques for inland flooding, deploying unmanned aerial systems for hydrologic modeling of coastal watersheds, precision agriculture applications for efficacy of herbicide and fertilizer use, as well as one tracking bicycle activity, Cooke said.

"At MSU, geospatial science extends well beyond departmental boundaries," he said.

While the geosciences department is a hub for geospatial education and research, many additional credit hours are available campus wide in the College of Forest Resources, the departments of Plant and Soil Sciences, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. The university also offers a geospatial and remote sensing certificate program on campus and online.

Students and researchers also have access to robust resources, including:

-- 30-seat and 10-seat labs running GIS and remote sensing (RS) software.

-- Two additional servers housing "thin-client" versions of GIS and RS software used for distance learning geospatial coursework.

-- MSU's Geosystems Research Institute, a top 10 parallel computing environment with a full suite of GIS and RS software.

-- Two GIS labs with a total of 52 machines in the forestry department.

"A wide variety of hardware and software is available to students and faculty," Cooke said.

For additional information about Mississippi State's geospatial and other geoscience-related activities, visit

As the state's flagship research university, MSU is a recognized leader in a number of fields, and well known for productive partnerships, real-world impact, and offering undergraduate and graduate students unique research opportunities. In FY 2013, MSU's research and development expenditures totaled $206 million -- representing nearly half of all R&D by higher education in the state, according to National Science Foundation data.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 12:00 am