Mention geography and most people think of things like states, capitals, mountains and rivers.
NIU geographer Wei Luo gets even more fundamental, spending a great deal of time also pondering time and space.
Using geographic information systems, remote sensing, computer modeling, statistics and machine learning to ponder those factors, Luo has built a career that traverses physical science, social science and the humanities.
Luo gained international acclaim for applying his methods to a detailed study of the surface of Mars. His research, funded by NASA and published in 2009, created a global map of valley networks of the red planet and provided evidence that they were carved by rivers eons ago, and that a third of the planet was covered by oceans.
Back on terra firma, in 2003, Luo, working on research funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, devised a methodology to more accurately assess access to health care in America.
Another line of research has analyzed how language spreads and evolves across time, space and cultures.
“All of this adds up to a remarkably diverse set of accomplishments that clearly indicate both Dr. Luo’s technical abilities and his exemplary creativity in applying those talents to diverse, interdisciplinary topics,” said Victor Baker, a professor of geosciences and planetary sciences at the University of Arizona.
Throughout his 18-year career at NIU, Luo has attracted more than $1.2 million in funding for his research and has published more than 30 papers, many of them in the top journals of his field.