Q & A with NSERC USRA Recipient Aaron Leung

1.) Tell us a little bit more about why you were interested in applying for the USRA/VPA research opportunity?

I had just completed the requirements for the Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. I was interested in participating in academic research that brought together GIS, urban issues, and public policy. The USRA opportunity was the perfect pathway to work in a research lab, have a hands-on opportunity to apply my skills and collaborate with others.

2.) Please briefly describe your research project and the types of activities (research, project or field work) in which you were involved  

Dr. Dragicevic found a topic that was in line with my interest in the intersection of GIS and urban issues. With her guidance and the help of Dr. Taylor Anderson, we implemented an agent-based model (ABM) to forecast immigrant settlement dynamics across Canadian cities based on real-world census data and multiple qualitative and quantitative criteria. We researched how an immigrant’s tolerance for dissimilar immigrants may change settlement patterns and create patterns of segregation within cities. This was based on Schelling’s Model of Segregation which hypothesises that a minor individual preference for similar neighbours will lead to a high degree of segregation.

3.) What did you learn as part of your placement?

After taking GEOG 451: Spatial Modelling with Dr. Dragicevic, I was interested in Agent Based Modelling which was outside of the scope of the class. Having the opportunity to work in the Spatial Analysis and Modelling Lab over the summer allowed me to expand my GIS skillset and learn how to use agent-based models through hands on learning. It also enabled me to use the foundation of GIS knowledge that I learned in other classes throughout my undergraduate career and apply it to real-world research. In addition, I learned how to code and gained insight about the publishing process.

        4.) How has taking part in this opportunity benefited you (personally, professionally, etc.)?

We are currently in the process of having two papers published from the research that we did over the summer. This is my first time participating in the publishing process and if we get published it will be a great addition to my academic resume. It has also exposed me to a subfield within GIS and given me skills that may be useful for future academic or professional work.

5.) Any additional comments and/or advice for students interested in applying in future?

Participating in an Undergraduate Student Research Award is a great way to showcase your skills in publishable research and explore research areas that may be a good gateway to Masters research or professional work. If you are nearing the end of your degree, it is an excellent way to bring your skillset together on a topic that matters to you and to work with Geography’s amazing faculty. Thanks to Dr. Dragicevic and Dr. Anderson for the opportunity to work with the both of you!