Meet Wenjie Wang, the Scholarly Common’s GIS Specialist

Headshot of Wenjie Wang, wearing a black suit with a blue shirt and blue striped tie. Standing in front of trees.

This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Wenjie Wang, Geographic Information Science Specialist at the Scholarly Commons. Welcome, Wenjie!


What is your background and work experience?

I worked as a Data Specialist at the Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) in the University of Connecticut for five years. MAGIC is located within the Library’s digital scholarship lab, Greenhouse Studios, I worked alongside digital humanities and digital scholarship colleagues with a focus on utilizing geospatial data, GIS applications, and spatial data analysis techniques to contribute to projects within Greenhouse Studios as well as to support researchers at MAGIC. I have had the opportunity of working within diverse environments and my experiences have been enriched by working with students, faculty, staff, and the community from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

 

What led you to be a GIS specialist?

In my former role as a teaching assistant for Geography courses, I realize that introducing GIS tools and methods to students in the geography class is always a challenge, as students have very different educational and technological backgrounds. Many students lack the core comprehension of geospatial concepts, have not used or even heard of GIS software before. With MAGIC receiving over 5 million online users a year, I truly understand how important GIS could be in students’ research. I think my interdisciplinary interests can put me in a strong position to bridge conversations between individuals from diverse backgrounds and I can help them use GIS as a tool in their research.

 

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I created maps to provide a quick and user-friendly way for communities to reflect on the differences in child outcomes across the local communities in Connecticut. My knowledge of GIS was utilized to analyze data and create maps to help match proven school readiness solutions with unique needs faced by communities for the organization. This is my first big project and it is very meaningful. I learned a lot from this project, so it is my favorite project so far.

 

What are some of your favorite resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I would like to recommend two data resources: IPUMS and TIGER/Line Shapefiles. IPUMS provides census and survey data, including tabular U.S. Census data, historical and contemporary U.S. health survey data, Integrated data on population and the environment, and much more. TIGER/Line shapefiles contain features such as roads, hydrographic features and boundaries. These resources are very useful for researchers who just start to use GIS since they are free and easy to handle.

 

If you could recommend one book or resource to researchers who do not have GIS background, what would you recommend?

Because many researchers just want to use GIS as a tool in their research field and they don’t have plenty of time to learn GIS, I would like to recommend Esri Training Web Courses. The courses are free and short. Through these entry level courses, researchers can easily learn what is GIS, how a GIS works, how to analyze and manage GIS data, and so on. After that, they will be able to know what kind of GIS technologies and data is useful in their research. And then they can focus on learning these parts.

 

What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?

I would like to say GIS is not just making maps. GIS can help us make detailed and informative maps, but GIS can do much more than this. The most important part of GIS is its ability to help us think spatially and answer our questions. I hope I will be able to help researchers to understand GIS can be used as a tool in both problem solving and decision-making processes in their research.

 

Interested in contacting Wenjie? You can email him at wenjiew@illinois.edu , or set up a consultation request through the Scholarly Commons website.

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Our Graduate Assistants: Abigail Sewall

This interview is part of a continued series introducing our graduate assistants to our online community. These are some of the people you will see when you visit our space, who will greet you with a smile and a willingness to help! Say hello to Abigail Sewall!

What is your background education and work experience?

Before coming to graduate school, I was working as an administrator in standardized testing for a few years. I am a fountain of useless knowledge on most national standardized tests such as the GRE, SAT, and LSAT. The aspect of my job that I liked the most was talking to people and guiding them through what was inevitably one of the most stressful days of their life. I feel like the unique customer service environment of that job oddly enough prepared me well for working at a reference desk, especially during those stressful times of the semester where people are in panic mode. Before I worked in standardized testing I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder in Spanish Literature and Political Science. I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis in comparative politics on trust in the police in Latin American countries. Through this process I had to learn to do large scale data analysis using a large public opinion survey database. It was a challenging project but I got a lot of help from the library.

What led you to your field?

My love of libraries developed as an undergraduate. I loved working on research projects because it gave me an opportunity to talk to one of the librarians, explore the collections, and discover the seemingly endless resources available in the library. The library really enriched my academic experience in such a profound way I wanted to be able to share that experience with others and help make the magic happen. Librarianship is a great intersection of my interests because it is both an intellectually challenging field and performs a valuable service to the community.

What are your research interests?

Where to begin? I am currently really interested in Twitter data literacy. I use Twitter every day and I find it to be a rich source of political and social discourse. I like to see how text data extracted from the popular micro blogging platform is used to address a variety of research questions. I’ve done some research on institutional archiving of Twitter data, which allowed me to consider some of the ethical and cultural implications of collecting and storing social media data. I am now working on learning how to scrape data from Twitter using Python. Experimenting with Python has been interesting because I don’t come from a technical background but I am finding I make slow but sure progress with it. I am excited to see where it takes me and I may even try building my own Twitter database.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on as a Scholarly Commons GA was developing resources for using US Census data for students and researchers. In the process of making our LibGuide on the Census I learned a lot about the census questionnaire and how researchers use census data. It was also a lot of fun to help my supervisor with the US Census workshop because I love instruction and it was a great opportunity to show my expertise.

What are some of your favorite underutilized Scholarly Commons resources that you would recommend?

Our LibGuides! We have dozens of guides on a variety of subjects such as software tutorials, data discovery, digital humanities, and more. Each guide has been thoughtfully assembled by one of our librarians or GAs and contain links to resources, advice, and information to suit all of your research technology needs. I taught myself how to use SPSS using our SPSS tutorial LibGuide and would highly recommend it to anyone! Check out all of our guides on our webpage!

What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?

I think it is important for people to recognize that libraries are always a reflection of the community they serve. All the services we offer at the Scholarly Commons address a specific need of the scholars and students at our university. We provide a space for collaborative work, software and technology available no where else on campus, and instruction to supplement the resources in our unit. I hope in my career that I will be able to continue to serve the needs of my community, whatever they may be.

 

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It Takes a Campus – Episode Two with Harriett Green

Image has the text supporting digital scholarship, it takes a campus with icons of microphone and broadcast symbol

 

 

Resources mentioned:

SPEC Kit No. 357

University of Illinois Library Copyright Guide

 

For the transcript, click on “Continue reading” below.

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Blogs for All: Making Accessible Posts in WordPress

As blogs continue to provide a low barrier to entry for authors to distribute content in all avenues from academia to entertainment, it is important to make sure that blog posts are just as easy to access for readers. Here at Illinois, our blogs are run through publish.illinois.edu, a WordPress-based publishing service. As we try to improve our services for all, especially our remotely available services, I wanted to use this week’s Commons Knowledge post to discuss improving accessibility in WordPress. Within the platform, making more accessible blog posts isn’t difficult nor does it require much time; however, building these practices into our workflow allows for posts to be accessible—not just for some, but for all.

Wordpress logo - a gray W in a circle

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Illinois Digital Humanities Projects That Will Blow Your Mind

We are living in a moment where we get to discover the exciting possibilities of working, learning, and sharing on digital formats. I have decided to use this as an opportunity to appreciate the ways in which others have already embraced the power digital platforms to enhance their research. In this post I will highlight three amazing digital humanities projects that researchers right here at the University of Illinois contributed to. For each project I will provide a link to their official web page, a brief description of the project, and the name and department of the UIUC researcher who contributed to this project. Prepare to be wowed by the amazing digital work to have come out of our University research community.

Owen Wilson mouthing the word wow

“Prepare to be wowed”- Owen Wilson

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GIS Resources for Distance Learning and Working from Home

Planet Earth wearing a doctor's maskThe past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone as we’ve all sought to adjust to working, attending school, socializing, and just carrying out our daily lives online. Here at the Scholarly Commons, we’ve been working hard to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible for those of you relying on specialized software to conduct your research or do your classwork. That’s why this week we wanted to highlight some resources essential to anyone using or teaching with GIS as we work through this period of social distancing. 

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Introducing the Illinois Open Publishing Network: Digital Publishing from the University of Illinois Library

The face of scholarly publishing is changing and libraries are taking on the role of publisher for many scholarly publications, including those that don’t fit the mold of traditional presses. Initiatives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working to address strides in digital publishing, increasing momentum for open access research, and the need for sustainable publishing models. This year alone, The Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN) has released five new open-access multi-modal scholarly publications. IOPN represents a network of publications and publishing initiatives hosted at the University Library, working towards high-quality open-access scholarship in digital media. IOPN assists authors with a host of publishing services—copyright, peer review, and even providing assistance in learning the publishing tools themselves and strategizing their publications in what for many is a new mode of writing.

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Scholarly Commons Software: Open Source Alternatives

Hello from home to all my fellow (new) work-from-homers!

In light of measures taken to protect public health, it can feel as though our work schedules have been shaken up. However, we are here to help you get back on track and the first thing to do is make sure you have all the tools necessary to be successful at home.

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Exploring Data Visualization #18

In this monthly series, I share a combination of cool data visualizations, useful tools and resources, and other visualization miscellany. The field of data visualization is full of experts who publish insights in books and on blogs, and I’ll be using this series to introduce you to a few of them. You can find previous posts by looking at the Exploring Data Visualization tag.

Painting the World with Water

Creating weather predictions is a complex tasks that requires global collaboration and advanced scientific technologies. Most people know very little about how a weather prediction is put together and what is required to make it possible. NASA gives us a little glimpse into the complexities of finding out just how we know if it’s going to rain or snow anywhere in the world.

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