Katherine Ho has always enjoyed maps. Throughout her childhood, she and her family visited multiple national parks in the western half of the United States. Ho recalls receiving maps of these parks at each stop, and as a "really nerdy kid" she was also drawn to the maps in the "The Lord of the Rings."
While taking a geographic information science course as an elective at the University of Oklahoma, Ho realized there was an opportunity for her to apply this interest to her career and switched her major to GIS.
"I didn't ever know that it could be a career, and I just thought it was a fun thing that I liked," Ho said. "It was really nice that GIS course happened to be one of the classes I took."
In this major, which is located within the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, Ho learns how to use spatial data to help make decisions. For example, someone with a GIS degree might help a restaurant decide where to open a new location by mapping out current locations and looking at some demographics, she said.
This year, Ho serves as the president of the OU GIS club, and she has also worked at the Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling, or CASS, since October. One aspect Ho enjoys is that it is an interdisciplinary research organization, meaning people from across all different majors contribute to the work. Ho works under Dr. Laura Alvarez on hydrology-based research, and one of the other students she works closely with is a computer engineering major. The organization also utilizes drones for atmospheric monitoring projects, so Ho has been exposed to that area of science as well.
"It's really a mixed bag of different perspectives and skills, so it's cool to work with other people and see what they're doing," Ho explained. "I didn't know anything about drones or anything before I started working there, so it's been a crash course to learn how drones work and how the sensing process works, but it's been super fun."
The senior from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will start OU's Master of Science in geography program next fall and wants to research natural resource management. She said this interest also stems from her family's national park trips.
"Just being exposed to that a lot as a child and doing all the hiking and seeing the natural environment made a big impact on me," Ho shared. "I think they're really important and as much as we can protect but still allow people to see and learn from all of this country's natural resources would be really great."