Associate Professor Kevin Mulligan
Department of Economics and Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Kevin Mulligan, a popular professor of geography at Texas Tech, is in step with the times: He has had to reinvent himself at least once in his career. When Mulligan came to the university in 1998 as a visiting professor, his specialty was physical geography. Mulligan was attracted to Texas Tech because of its location in a semi-arid environment and its excellent resources in wind science and engineering.
Over the next few years, however, the field of geography underwent a fundamental transformation. Geographic Information Systems -- also known as GIS -- began to exert a profound influence on research geography and many other disciplines in the social and environmental sciences. "The discipline changed and I had to learn it all over again," he says. "But it has been very rewarding."
A simple definition of GIS is computer mapping, Mulligan explains. The idea of the layering of information is also central to understanding GIS: these computer systems can be used to organize social or environmental data into map layers. The layers of information can then be overlaid to study the spatial relationships inherent in the data. And the beauty of GIS is that computer systems can be used to map almost anything - tornados, elderly populations, disease, water wells, aquifers, or even real estate.
"Just think of who uses maps," Mulligan says when asked about the job market for students specializing in GIS. All kinds of city, county and state agencies are constantly in need of different maps. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has identified the geospatial sciences as a huge priority.
Asked if he is passionate about his work, Professor Mulligan doesn't hesitate: "Yes. GIS is the ultimate merger between geography and computers. It is taking geography into the 21st century."