"I was majoring in math but minoring in environmental studies, and as part of that there was a single GIS class offered, and that one class was the basis for me choosing a Master's degree.
I still have a hard time defining GIS to people – I normally just say mapping, but that doesn't really even begin to describe it. Not only can you make maps, but you can do statistical analysis to see how phenomena are related spatially. There's so much information you can find in a big dataset that hasn't been explored before.
The big thing we're developing right now is a parcel-based land use model, which will be a companion to our travel models. It will help us make educated guesses about which highways and transit lines will be used the most as the region’s population changes, and see where problem areas will be in terms of congestion and crowded trains. After the model is up and running, not only will it let us come up with our own base assumptions about future population, but it'll allow us to analyze hypothetical scenarios. It's a huge amount of data, and the first time we've done something to this extent. There'll be so many opportunities to explore and to take projects in interesting directions based on what we find in the data.
I like working in the public sector and CMAP is always working on fascinating new projects. There's always new data to look at, new information to uncover, and new ways for me to use my skills to help the people of the region."
Noel graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with his Bachelor's, and completed his Master's degree in GIS at the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, Noel loves to explore the local Chicago food scene and is always on the lookout for authentic Cantonese food that can replicate what he ate during his childhood in Hong Kong.