Geospatial (GIS) Specialist

Northwestern University

Chicago, Illinois

Job Summary:

The Geospatial Specialist/Cartography assumes responsibilities encompassing the design, implementation, and support of geospatial initiatives. Leveraging an advanced proficiency in geospatial skills, methods, and analysis, the specialist supports and collaborates with faculty, and staff researchers. This role plays play a crucial role in analyzing and visualizing spatial patterns of disease transmission, identifying hot spots, and providing insights to support public health interventions. You will utilize your knowledge of geographic information systems (GIS), statistical analysis, and epidemiological methods to create informative maps and spatial analyses that contribute to the understanding and management of infectious diseases, chronic conditions, and other health-related issues.

Demonstrating expertise in both proprietary and open-source applications, databases, and infrastructure, including cloud-based systems, the position contributes to the seamless execution of projects. Set overall objectives in consultation with project deadlines. Review work for fulfillment of objectives and overall compliance with policy and procedures. Demonstrate autonomy in completing the majority of activities.

Please note: Work in an open office area with three other staff members and several student assistants.

Specific Responsibilities:

Geospatial Analysis Support

  • Consults with users to define detailed requirements, analyze research needs, consider current and future research implications, and translates these into action able geospatial research projects. These research projects have technical requirements, necessitate the validation of solutions, and the Northwestern research enterprise.
  • Serves as subject matter expert in regard to content, processes, and procedures
    associated with complex technical and functional geospatial system.
  • Be responsible for collecting and cleaning data to create maps or tabular data that will enable research teams to perform both exploratory and confirmatory data analysis on qualitative data sets.
  • Provides direct researcher assistance with geospatial modeling, analysis and map making. Identifying and assisting with the use of software including but not limited to, ArcGIS ArcPro, ArcGIS Online, and QGIS. They work closely with the researcher to determine the best approaches, ensuring that approved solutions are implemented in a timely and correct fashion.
  • Provides input into the creation and maintenance of test scripts, implementation project plans, roll out communications and training materials related to geospatial technology.
  • Develop data visualizations including but not limited to: static and web maps, dashboards, and applications, to assist non-technical collaborators in interpreting and creating models to simulate disease transmission dynamics, forecast outbreaks, and evaluate intervention strategies.
  • Collaborate with researchers on finding the appropriate techniques and potential alternatives for achieving research results.
  • Understanding of data and data structures and the ability to utilize publicly available and open-source data for analysis and mapping.
  • Schedule, organize, and promote geospatial services.
  • Collaborate with Research Computing and Data Services colleagues, school/ college partners, other IT groups, the library, and other university data science groups to provide integrated support for the research computing and data needs of Northwestern researchers.
  • Maintain and update information on library webpage and on Libguides related to GIS services. Works with the team to contribute to the creation of accurate documentation of process, procedure, and system/application configuration related to geospatial projects.

GIS Instruction

  • Teach a range of geospatial courses and workshops for the Northwestern research community.
  • Provide in-class instruction as a part of existing courses in a range of disciplines across the University.
  • Proficiency in instructing geospatial analysis, theory, and methods ranging from introductory to advanced levels across diverse disciplines and contexts. Collaborate closely with faculty members in the development of instructional content


  • Performs other duties as assigned.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s or higher degree in Geography or relevant social science, an appropriate combination of education and experience will also be considered.
  • General computer proficiency with emphasis on competence with geospatial (GIS) software and methodology. Knowledge of best practices for the gathering, analyzing, identification of gaps in geospatial analysis and techniques (adhering to approved methodology and documentation of standards in the discipline’s field). An interest in interdisciplinary work. Experience identifying appropriate research methods and analysis to be mapped onto appropriate GIS technology.
  • Ability to perform geospatial analysis, understanding of basic statistical analysis
  • Experience with critical thinking, data modeling, database design/ data structure, debugging, decision making, judgment, metadata creation and management, problem solving, troubleshooting, use-case analysis.

Minimum Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities.)

  • Communication – communicates effectively one-on-one, in small groups, and in public speaking contexts; writes precise, well-organized emails, letters and proposals while using appropriate vocabulary and grammar.
  • Computer proficiency – Successfully uses multiple software programs independently. Software may include Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and email (Outlook).
  • Customer Focus – Regularly monitors customer satisfaction; provides suggestions to improve quality and value to the customer
  • Dependability – Effectively performs duties and responsibilities; displays attention to detail; supports organizational policies; anticipates demands/pressures of assignments and adjusts accordingly
  • Initiative = Exhibits energy and desire to achieve; sets ambitious goals and acts decisively; takes action that no one has requested to improve or enhance job results and avoid problems.
  • Organization – Plans, organizes and schedules in an efficient, productive manner; anticipates contingencies and pays attention to detail; targets projects or initiatives that require special attention and focuses on key tasks when faced with limited time and/or resources.
  • Quality/Compliance – Striving for excellence with our work processes and outcomes, honoring University policies and regulatory requirements.
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Preferred Qualifications: 

  • Graduate degree (master’s level or higher)
  • Experience working in a higher education research settting
  • Experience conducting research and publishing in peer review journals

Preferred Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities)

  • Advanced degree/training in GIS software
  • Geospatial analysis skills
  • Familiarity with statistical modeling and methods related to the social sciences
  • Familiarity with Python, Javascript (JS) and R
  • Understanding of cutting-edge technologies (ML, AI) and their applications to geospatial technologies, methodologies and research
Category GIS Analyst , GIS Developer