Project SP15d: Human perceptions of space

Project SP15d: Human perceptions of space
Researcher: Mark Simpson
Position type:
GIS, visualization, cognitive research

 Application deadline: 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 1, 2014

Application URL:

Position description

What makes the layout of one building more confusing than another? How do people understand the layout of a city, or a building, or anything? What makes them pick a place to go over another?
The goal of this project is to collect a comprehensive set of measures that can be used to objectively evaluate spatial characteristics of any space (cities, buildings, pillow forts, etc) that will help us understand how humans understand space cognitively. Our current research has focused on a series of techniques called space syntax, which has shown surprisingly effective at predicting human movement in urban environment by ignoring distance in favor of complexity (meaning that how many times you have to turn to get somewhere is more important than how far it really is). We want to put these and other measures to the test using controlled virtual environments and real-world open source data. We want to answer questions like: Do people Tweet where space syntax says they should on Open Street Map-derived map of a city? Is one spatial measure better than another at predicting how lost people become in a virtual environment?

Desired qualifications

Specific duties will vary with project needs (you will need to be able to think on your feet and act independently), but could include any of the following:

  • Creating maps and visualizations of spatial measures
  • Collecting geographic data from the web
  • Running spatial analyses
  • Creating virtual environments

This is a project led by Dr. Alexander Klippel. You will be working with a multinational team.


Minimum Qualifications:

  • Ability to learn new software packages on the fly
  • ArcGIS: Completion of GEOG 361 and GEOG 363 with a B or higher 
  • Statistics coursework or experience (e.g., completion of STAT 200)
  • Experience working with Microsoft Excel

Desired Qualifications:

  •  An interest in psychology and/or spatial cognition would be a bonus
  • Completion of GEOG 364 preferred but not mandatory
  • R statistical programming language a plus (e.g., GEOG 464)
  • Experience reading journal articles a plus

Candidates must be willing to contribute 40–120 total hours of work toward the project over the semester, resulting in 1–3 credit hours applied to the transcript. There is no monetary stipend attached to this assistantship, although the experiences gained in this work will be immediately valuable when applying for graduate school or full-time employment.   


To apply

Prospective candidates should submit application to by 5:00  p.m. on Monday, December 1, 2014.
A complete application must include:
1. All required fields of online form:

2. A one-page cover letter identifying the position for which you're applying and stating your interest in conducting research, your academic preparation, the skills you hope to gain from this experience, and contact information of two references.

  • Upload a PDF document named as follows: FirstinitialLastname_letterMMYY.pdf (e.g. jvender_letter1114.pdf)

3. A resume

  • Upload a PDF document named as follows: FirstinitialLastname_resumeMMYY.pdf (e.g. jvender_resume1114.pdf)