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Shaowen Wang

Shaowen Wang

Professor and Head | Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science

Imagine a day when real-time data can be used to detect tornadoes and predict severe storm tracks with pinpoint accuracy.

Those are just two of the ambitious challenges the National Science Foundation has issued to some of the brightest minds in higher ed as part of its $75 million Harnessing the Data Revolution initiative.

In fall 2021, it was announced that a fifth of that funding, spread out over five years, will be funneled to I-GUIDE (that’s the Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment), led by Shaowen Wang, who heads up the UI’s Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science.

It’s just the latest high honor for the Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar and founding director of the UI’s CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies, who arrived in 2007 after earning his Ph.D. in geographical information science from Iowa.

The China-born Wang, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Tianjin University and a master’s from Beijing-based Peking U, took us for a virtual tour of some of his most memorable places and spaces on and around the UI campus.

The spot that reminds me most of home

The Illinois Terminal reminds me most of home as I loved to take train rides when I was a child.

I grew up in the northern region of Shanxi Province in China, where a major regional railroad passes through my hometown.

Where I was when I got great news

I was in my office at the National History Building running a Zoom meeting when I got an email notification from the National Science Foundation that our proposal for the national Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment will be recommended for funding.

I was super excited that I-GUIDE will help put Illinois on the map of the NSF's Harnessing the Data Revolution initiative.

My go-to entertainment venue

Foellinger Great Hall in Krannert Center.

The first place I’d take a newcomer I wanted to impress

I’d take a newcomer to the grand staircase in NHB, which spans the second to fourth floors. It was recovered from the original NHB and brought up to current building code with the help of glass panels.

On the third floor, I’d show the School of Earth, Society, and Environment core atrium, a venue with chairs, whiteboards, computer screens and worktables for students to gather and collaborate.

The atrium has stunning skylights and LED lighting.

Where I went on my UI job interview

I was interviewed in Davenport Hall and gave my job talk in the Russell Seminar Room. My host took me out to Radio Maria for dinner.

The one structure that should never be messed with, no matter how old it gets

The Alma Mater.

The place I can’t wait to revisit once the pandemic is in the rear-view

I cannot wait to visit the city of Datong in China to see my mother.

Favorite place to think

The Japan House gardens.

Favorite place to grab a bite to eat

My favorite Campustown place to eat is Kungfu BBQ. I often take to-go orders from C-U La La Noodle.