Hi, I'm Dorris.

I'm interested in GIS, R and all things related to data!


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From Academic Geography to the Library. How did that Happen?

I started out being a health geographer and my focus was on GIS for public health applications. My dissertation research revolved around women veteran’s health issues in terms of access and overall satisfaction with the Veteran’s Health Administration. I was also interested in health communication and ways we can improve disseminating evidence-based health information to the general public along with specific groups such as educators and community groups. All of this culminated into HER Map which is a suite of web mapping apps which identify health and education resources for women veterans.

While going through my program, I underwent a number of experiences and was able to take advantage of some opportunities. Some of these were to take additional courses on instructional design which really got me interested in process of the creation of learning materials. In addition, I became interested in outreach. How can we publicly engage various publics on geography? Due to this, I became highly involved in community geography, a growing sub-discipline along with coordinating various outreach endeavors such as integrating a service learning component in a lab section of an Advanced GIS class and organizing GIS Day.

Doing this outreach resulted in me engaging with a diverse array of people which ranged from municipal goverments, community organizations, faculty members from different departments and the university library. Actually, I did a lot of engagement with the library. First it started off as collaborating to organize GIS Day. Then, I ended up doing a summer internship in the library. Well, that was the point of no return because I was officially sucked into the library vortex! I am currently the GIS Librarian/ Social Science Data Curator of Washington University - St. Louis.



My research for my dissertation revolved around using GIS to assess spatial accessibility to health care facilities for women veterans. Specifically, I looked at how to integrate traditional data sources, such as patient satisfaction surveys, and non-traditional data sources, such as Google Reviews, into spatial accessibility modelling.

Currently, I do GIS consultations, education, and outreach. I assist students, faculty, and staff at WashU on their GIS needs and provide consultations on GIS related projects. I also teach and assist with various workshops on GIS such as QGIS, ESRI StoryMap, and using the leaflet for R package. I am also working on integrating updating the app I created for my PhD research within instructional units in an Intro to GIS class.


I like using R for cleaning up my data and visualizing my data. I also like using R to make websites. I used what I learned in instructional design and technology courses along with banging my head on my desk trying to figure things out with R and created custom modules and educational materials to make learning R less intimidating for a variety of learners.

All the Data Things

I’m interested in many many things related to data. But if I had to give a top three, I would have to say data visualization, data management, data curation.

Data Visualization

I started out being interested in creating data visualizations that assist with health communication and advocacy for public health related issues. But now since I’m working at the library, I have expanded that and I am broadly interested in just data visualizations for communication purposes. Data visualization is integral to data communication. Period.

Data Management

Now I know it’s the one thing people neglect, but it’s important to manage your data! As part of my job, I assist people in coming up with data management plans along with assist in workshops on data management. Eventually, I’ll be teaching a workshop on it and a more specific workshop on data management skills for coding.

Data Curation

I am one of the data curators for WashU and I am a member of the Data Curation Network. What is data curation you ask? Well I help you make the data you worked so hard for to obtain Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusuable (FAIR). If you have a data set that you want to make publicly available, then I can help you get your data ready to be deposited into a repository.

Graduate Students Well-Being and Assistance in Exploring Career Options

While some of the experiences during my PhD program definitely opened up some opportunities to get where I am today, it was overall a negative experience. It definitely took a toll on my mental and physical health in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. I also felt there was a very narrow view of career options for PhD students and a narrow idea of the PhD student themselves which manifests itself on various levels. I’m still recovering from it all, and I hope to talk more about this in some shape or form moving forward. I want to broadly talk about this but also be more specific pertains to the graduate student experience in geography because that’s what I know. In the meanwhile, I will direct people to organizations and other people that can help them!


Interested in seeing my work? Head over to my showcase site to see what I have been working on!

Latest Post

Jun 6, 2019

Summer of Data Science 2019: Week 1!

It’s that time of the year again!!! Summer of Data Science 2019 (aka #SoDS2019)!!! If you don’t know, Summer of Data Science is an opportunity in which you spend the summer to figure out what you want to learn data science wise and make some goals to learn it! You won’t be alone though because others will be committed to learning during this time as well! If you want more information, check out Data Science Renee’s Twitter handle to find out more about it. ...Read More

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Don’t be a stranger! Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions!