GIS-T Student Paper Contest Award | Spotlight

Reflections by “Owen” Bin Mo (CSULA geography graduate student):

Picture of “Owen” Bin Mo. (Credit: Metro/Gayle Anderson)

“Growing up in Southern China, I was fascinated by things geographical. For me, the discipline has become much more than just rivers, mountains, and places; forming a bridge, as it does, between the human and physical sciences. It was through the CSULA Geography program that I came to understand the processes of spatial analysis, urban planning, transportation, and also learned about many related environmental and social issues. My experiences at Cal State L.A. will provide me an opportunity to collaborate with other professionals to serve our society and to improve the overall quality of life.”

A research study on the L.A. Metro
takes CSULA student for a victory ride

For his research paper, geography major receives
$500 national transportation award

Pictured: CSULA geography major “Owen” Bin Mo (seated) with CSULA Professors (standing, l-r) Hong-lie Qiu, John Kirchner, and Ali Modarres in the CSARS (Center for Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing) GIS Lab.
Pictured: CSULA geography major “Owen” Bin Mo (seated) with CSULA Professors (standing, l-r) Hong-lie Qiu, John Kirchner, and Ali Modarres in the CSARS (Center for Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing) GIS Lab.

Originally developed as his graduate research study, CSULA student “Owen” Bin Mo’s paper was recently presented a $500 GIS-T Student Paper Contest award by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASHTO).

The paper, entitled “GIS Network Analysis for Finding the Potential Metro Rail Ridership by Access Modes in Los Angeles County,” includes U.S. Census data along with complex modeling scenarios complete with intricate maps, tables and transportation predictions. For a video version of Mo’s GIS presentation, go to

Photo credit: Metro/Gayle Anderson.
Pictured: (l-r) Metro’s Countywide Planning and Development Director Chaushie Chu, Transportation Planning Manager Falan Guan, CSULA geography major “Owen” Bin Mo, and Spatial Analysis Project Leader Jesse Simon.

According to the Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) press release, “AASHTO representative Raquel Wright congratulated Mo for his win and said his paper stood out among other national entries. The paper was reviewed by a four-person committee where their ‘discussion reflected on each paper’s topic and its significance to current transportation problems.’”

Mo began developing the study while interning for the Metro’s Systems Analysis and Research Department, focusing on learning about the Metro’s growing transportation system and brainstorming on methods to enhance the system.

Mo, who was a guest panel speaker at a recent Graduate Student Recognition Reception, will be earning his master’s degree in geography at Cal State L.A. this June, with an emphasis on GIS and transportation planning.

Adding to his accolades, Mo was one of three first-prize winners of the Graduate Student Paper Competition at the statewide California Geographical Society’s Spring Conference, held recently in Fullerton, CA.

Definition: GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, is a collective field of study that deals with Geo-Spatial and Computer Cartographic management of data, allowing the creation of maps and related graphic materials that have wide applicability in government as well as private businesses. Widely used in planning, its popularity has grown dramatically and has many variants. Major transportation companies, for example, use it for logistics routing and scheduling, while people in retailing, for example, can use it to determine the location and distribution of customers—past buyers or potential future buyers, based on whatever economic or demographic factor is of interest. According to Professor Kirchner, “GIS is not an easy technology to master, but with a GIS focus in geography, students are finding immediate employment, with excellent salaries.”

CSULA Geography Professor John Kirchner said, “I first met Owen just over four years ago when he took my GEOG 155 Cultural Geography course. He wasn’t a geography major at the time, but soon became one, telling me how excited he was to find a discipline he could identify with. And, so began a journey of academic discovery for this initially very shy student, who gained confidence and got better and better as he continued toward his B.A.”

“By the time he took my senior GEOG 457 Transportation course,” Kirchner said, “he became the top student in the class. Along the way he took GIS courses from Professor Hong-lie Qiu, and learned about ways to apply digital technology in the study of geography. Now, as a graduate student, he continues to integrate GIS and transportation, and is working on a thesis closely related to the recent papers that have brought him national acclaim.”

In the upcoming spring issue, Cal State L.A. TODAY will include a feature about CSULA alumnus Art Leahy, who is the chief executive officer of Metro—the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. (Be among the first to be notified when the issue is posted online, become a TODAY Facebook fan by logging on at

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