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Alumni Profile: Sarmistha Chatterjee

Could you give a little background about yourself?

I grew up in a city named Chandernagore, in West Bengal, India. I came to the United States to pursue my doctoral studies and a career in Geography in 2012. I started my Ph.D. at UD in 2013 after taking a transfer from the Kansas State University where I completed my first year. My Ph.D. advisor from Kansas State University joined the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pennsylvania so I moved with her and joined the University of Delaware’s Geography [and Spatial Sciences] department. During my doctoral work, I took some Geographic Information Science (GIS) courses at UD to support some analytical work for my dissertation.

Chatterjee Alumni Profile

What made you want to pursue the Certificate of Geographic Information Science?

I developed my interest in GIS while doing my masters in New Delhi at the Delhi School of Economics, but when I moved here for my Ph.D., I found a larger scope of working with GIS data. I was modeling small dams for my dissertation and seeing what the relationship was between people living there and why they created those small dams, which damaged the ecology of the area. For a study like that, there was no other way that I could learn about them without mapping them and without doing some geospatial analysis. So, the certificate was to support my dissertation but eventually, it also helped me to get a job.

To get the GIS certificate, you typically have to do 12 credits of courses, that includes statistical and GIS classes. There are multiple professors who offer these courses, and many of them are offered within the Geography department at UD.

During this certificate course I got the chance to learn from educators, like Gerri Miller from the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), a GIS company. I also came to know about the summer internship opportunity with Esri, which I later turned into a permanent position after my graduation.

Could you talk about your career now?

I started my career at the Esri headquarters in Redlands, California in June 2016 as an intern with the Spatial Analyst Team. After my graduation from UD, I joined Esri in February 2017 as a Spatial Analysis and Data Science Product Engineer.

I work on all suites of ArcGIS software for the Spatial Analyst extension. A typical day at work would mean to do a lot of things, and no two days are same, and that is what I love about this job. Depending on where we are in the software development cycle, we design the software, develop it and then start testing the functionality. As we find bugs, we analyze them, and get it fixed. Eventually, we document the new and modified analytical methods in the software and then release it. Besides this, I also create sample models and use cases and write technical blogs about different applications using our software.

What was your favorite part about being a doctoral student at UD?

The department was immensely helpful and supportive, especially with supporting international students. There were professors and other graduate students who I directly worked with like Dr. DeLiberty, Dr. Clarke-Sather, Dr. Veron, and so on. I took their classes, and they were really friendly and helpful. But there were also professors like Dr. Hanson, Dr. Levia, and Dr. Leathers whose classes I’d never taken but even then, they would take an interest in the students and they would want to come and talk to you. It was academic and professional, but I also think that was a very personal bond I developed with the department and that really helped, especially being an international student when you don’t have family here. It’s very important to have a very good work culture and work environment, and I think that was a very big support I got at UD.

Any advice for current students?

There are lots of good opportunities for internships and voluntary work, both in the industry and in academia. All of these would add good experiences and values to your ongoing work. It will also open up areas for professional development and job networking, and I would highly recommend them to all graduate and undergraduate students currently working in GIS and spatial analysis. If you are interested to work in the GIS field, there are great resources for that at different levels. For example, Esri offers summer internships to about 100 students every summer, and it is a great resource for students who would like to pursue a career in GIS and geography. Go Blue Hens!

 

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