The World in Perspective

Bharath Ganesh Babu

Assistant Professor of Geography

“Anything that exists in space can be mapped,” says Assistant Professor of Geography Bharath Ganesh Babu. “And we can learn new things about a given space, just by mapping it. Visualizing data in map form not only identifies where things are but also helps us understand how things relate to one another.”

Professor Babu, who teaches courses in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, helps Valpo students master mapping technologies that are increasingly important as geographically specific data proliferates.

The enormous market penetration of GPS-enabled smart phones, for example, provides a multitude of data points that allow GoogleMaps and others to assess traffic flow. Location-based Tweets offer a promising tool for epidemiologists tracking the path of disease outbreaks.

“But it takes more than just computer programming to use these tools effectively,” says Professor Babu. “You need to know what data is useful as well as how to present the data in a way that makes sense to the intended audience — what symbols will be understood and what might cause problems. You need to understand the cultural dimensions of the information.

“You need the kind of perspective that geography teaches.”

“Geographers look at the world at different scales, with different layers of information. We look at the nuts and bolts, but we also look at the big picture,” Professor Babu explains. “So many of the world’s problems come from ignoring that larger perspective. My students benefit from learning technical skills, but they also benefit from expanding their own perspective.”

In his advanced GIS and remote sensing courses, Professor Babu says, students spend the entire semester doing original research: they write a research proposal, collect data over the course of the semester, conduct spatial analyses, and present their findings.

“Sometimes their research really makes a significant contribution to geographical knowledge,” Professor Ganesh Babu says, “and I want them to have that experience.”

“I think it really gives them an edge,” he concludes, “because it shows that they can understand how to do research and think independently.”