Online Programs Administration and Faculty

The Geography and Geographic Information Science Department (GGIS) has been a home for pioneering research and world-renowned faculty, with our graduates becoming leaders in both academia and industry. As one of the nation’s top public academic and research universities, we have extensive resources, enabling our students to learn the skills needed to solve today’s problems. We are using those resources to expand that reach with the Online Master’s and Certificate programs in CyberGIS and Geospatial Data Science and provide support to students at a distance. We look forward to having you join us!

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Dr. Anand Padmanabhan

Research Associate Professor and
Online Program Faculty Adviser

Anand Padmanabhan is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS) and the Online Program Faculty Adviser for the GGIS Department. 

Dr. Padmanabhan has research interests in advanced cyberinfrastructure, geographic information science and systems (GIS), cyberGIS, distributed and high-performance computing, and geospatial data science. He is involved at the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies at UIUC and served as an investigator for several projects funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Padmanabhan is an accomplished researcher, publishing many peer-reviewed papers.

Heather Miller

Heather Miller

Online Program Coordinator
and ESE Program Instructor

Heather Miller is the Online Program Coordinator for the School of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE). She provides expertise and support for all certificate and degree programs within SESE to students and faculty, and assists with the day-to-day operations of the programs. 

Ms. Miller applies her expertise from 20+ years of industry experience, and as an Illinois specialized faculty member and former student adviser, in a collaborative role with the Faculty Program Adviser, Dr. Anand Padmanabhan, to provide students support during their online experience at the University of Illinois. She has experience mentoring and advising students and also teaches within the undergraduate Earth, Society and Environment program. 

Julie Sidell

Professor, Department Head

Julie Cidell is a native of the Chicago area with a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota. She has published papers on airport expansion, the suburban logistics landscape, the geography of chocolate, and green buildings. She has worked as a transportation engineer in Boston and taught physical geography in northern and southern California. Currently, she is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where her work focuses on critical perspectives on transportation geography.

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Raechel Portelli

Teaching Assistant Professor

Raechel Portelli is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science. Her research expertise is in object-based image analysis, geovisualization, and the history of remote sensing. Her research addresses the computational and cognitive/visual analysis of high spatial-resolution imagery. She is especially interested in how imagery can be used to craft narratives about historical landscapes.

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Michael Minn

Teaching Assistant Professor and
PSM Faculty Advisor

Michael Minn is a Teaching Assistant Professor and the PSM Faculty Advisor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science. He has research interests in urban futures, the energy-transportation nexus and open-source GIS software. Dr. Minn teaches multiple courses within the department, is a frequent presenter at conferences, serves as a reviewer for publications and participates on departmental and campus committees.

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Shaowen Wang


Shaowen Wang is Professor and Head of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science; and Affiliate Professor of the Department of Computer Science, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He has served as Founding Director of the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies at UIUC since 2013. He served as Associate Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications for CyberGIS from 2010 to 2017.He has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and edited or co-edited several books and proceedings.

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Chunyuan Diao

Assistant Professor

Chunyuan Diao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science. Her research interests include remote sensing, GIScience, and biogeography. Her current research projects focus on computational remote sensing of terrestrial ecosystem dynamics at local to global spatial scales, and daily to decadal temporal scales. Dr. Diao works with varying types of ecosystems, including natural (e.g., forest), human-dominated (e.g., agriculture), and disturbed (e.g., species invasion) ecosystems. Current research foci include computational remote sensing, multi-scale land surface phenology, intelligent agriculture, and invasive species and biodiversity.

Muhammad Umar

Teaching Assistant Professor

Muhammad Umar is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science. He has a research interest in Fluvial dynamics, remote sensing, process modeling, and general GIS.