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WIU Professor, Students Publish Research in International Journal

May 4, 2017

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MACOMB, IL – A member of Western Illinois University's Department of Geography faculty and two of his students have published their research in the international and interdisciplinary academic journal Cartographica.

Associate Professor Yongxin Deng published "Population Surface Generation: Separating Urban and Rural," which was co-authored by WIU geography graduate student Adam Frantz, of Chesterfield, MO, and 2016 WIU geography and geographic information systems (GIS) graduate Alexis Araoz, who continues to work in the GIS Center, based at Western Illinois University.

The article, which was published in the Canadian-based journal's Spring 2017 issue, addresses parameter choice issues of population density mapping in rural areas.
Deng said Frantz and Araoz were students in his upper-level GIS classes, which are offered for both graduate and undergraduate students.

"Both classes were assigned a project so each student had to use GIS to solve a real-world problem," said Deng.

At the same time, Deng asked for Frantz's help, which served as Frantz's course project, on preparing and analyzing data in Deng's population research.

"We worked for a while and realized it might be too much for one person to handle," said Deng. "We asked Alexis to help and she was very willing to join."

Deng said this allowed Frantz and Araoz to conduct real-world research using GIS. The work, which was conducted over several semesters, makes three major contributions, Deng said, including:

• Making the parameter choices of population density mapping more objective

• Making numbers of density maps match the real number of people they represent

• Separating urban and rural areas on a mixed mapping situation

The source data for the research came from the WIU GIS Center.

"This research allowed us to remap population with higher accuracy and precision," said Deng. "The students were held to a higher standard; they had to do a professional job."

He added it is rare for students, particularly undergraduates, to have their research published in an academic journal.

"Publication in an international journal is hard for a professor to achieve," said Deng. "For students to perform well in this case they must be great learners. The tricky part is communication of all of the technical details about how and why to do things. They have to be able to perform almost like a very precise machine. They both did a great job."

For more information on the WIU Department of Geography, visit

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