Recipient of USGIF’s Maxar Scholarship for Diversity and Innovation in GEOINT, Kriesjo Quimzon spoke with trajectory about his career in the U.S. Air Force, what GEOINT means to him, and how he’s bringing the fields of geospatial data and economics together.
Kriesjo Quimzon is a current master’s student in the Spatial Data Science program at Penn State University. He found GEOINT while trying to bring together his academic background in economics and his professional career in the U.S. Air Force.
Your academic path started in the field of economics. When did you learn about GEOINT, and what made you decide to switch to this field?
Growing up, I was really interested in geography and maps. After community college, I joined the Air Force, became an airborne linguist, and found an interest in area studies. When I left active duty to return to school, I got an economics degree, thinking I’d do something business or finance related. But as I got into the field, I became more interested in the data analysis side of economics. I was looking into different fields I could incorporate into my military career and interest in area studies. I stumbled into GIS and geospatial technologies and got a second Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and Environmental Studies. And I really liked it because of how much data analysis and data processing was involved. Now, I’m going to Penn State for its Spatial Data Science program. I got into GEOINT while trying to connect all of my different backgrounds.
How will your intended thesis draw from both economics and GIS?
My goal with my thesis is to incorporate economic data and geospatial data. While pursuing my economics undergraduate degree, I noticed that economics focuses a lot on traditional theoretical models—using equations to make predictions for certain factors such as GDP or income. But there was no incorporation of the spatial aspect, which was puzzling because any economic dataset will have a spatial aspect or some geographic data associated with it. I want to incorporate those two things—the geospatial data and the economic data—and see how, for example, urban growth occurs over a landscape. With the Spatial Data Science program I’m in now, I also want to explore if I can use machine learning or a deep neural network model to make those economic predictions over the geographic landscape. I’m trying to do something different from the traditional economic field, add value, and advance the field.
What do you think is next for geospatial technology in the next 5-10 years?
I definitely think it will be the advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence methods. We have so many different sensors now—not just in space but on Earth, too—and there’s so much data from all these sensors that we’ll need to develop a lot of deep data and imagery processing methods. I think that’s where it’s headed—updating many of these methods. And also probably incorporating artificial intelligence methods for data ingestion and analysis into our daily lives.
You seem to have a strong interest in geospatial training and education. Do you have teaching ambitions?
I really like training and teaching people. In my military job, I’ve always been a trainer or instructor. I haven’t been able to teach anything specifically GEOINT or data analysis related yet, but at least for the satellite operations side, I’ve been an instructor for programs such as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the 19th Space Operations Squadron. What I really like about teaching and guiding people is seeing people learn new skill sets. It’s very rewarding to break down complex subjects and teach people. And it’s motivating to see them learn from the ground up and increase their knowledge. Not only that, but once they become proficient in their position, they’re able to add new insight based on their own background. After I get my master’s degree, I’d like to eventually get my Ph.D. and teach or continue researching, tying in all of my different backgrounds.
What is the value of geospatial education to you?
There’s so much value to it in different terms. On the professional side, I’m currently full-time in the military, and they always push for further education. But besides just getting the credentials, continuing education helps you learn new methods and techniques that you can incorporate into your job and daily life. Seeing what is happening in the field and learning to incorporate some of the widely used and proven techniques helps increase efficiency, insight, and innovation, no matter what you’re doing. In general, I think geospatial education really enables you to broaden your skillset and knowledge.
Photo credit: Andrea Fackler