Fullbright Scholar Martin Lacayo-Emery in Lugano, Switzerland.
Fullbright Scholar Martin Lacayo-Emery in Lugano, Switzerland.
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SDSU's top-ranked geography department attracted graduate student Martin Lacayo-Emergy. Now, as one of six SDSU Fulbright Scholarship recipients for 2008, he is conducting research at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Information visualization

Lacayo-Emery's specialization is information visualization. This emerging field within geography turns documents or large amounts of data into graphics to enhance comprehension. His own research uses 'self-organizing maps,' in which computers display information, such as words, in ways that are typically reserved for locations. By placing similar concepts near each other, this mapping creates a visual way to search for information.

Lacayo-Emery hopes to incorporate findings from his work abroad into the thesis he's required to produce for his masters of science in geography.

Life-changing experiences abroad

While focused on his research, Lacayo-Emery is enjoying first-hand exposure to another culture.

"The appeal of being abroad is experiencing how things differ from home. I'm gaining perspective on my own values and resources, and feel more appreciative for what I have," Lacayo-Emery said. "I would tell every SDSU student to go abroad as often as you can, for as long as you can."
Lacayo-Emery uses English for his academic work, but is studying German to help acclimate himself to Swiss life. "I’m really enjoying how Zurich is cosmopolitan, while maintaining its Swiss sensibilities," Lacayo-Emery said. 

Support from department and mentor

A rising star with infinite professional opportunities, Lacayo-Emery is quick to acknowledge the role of SDSU's renowned graduate program in geography for his success in securing a Fulbright grant. He also credits his advisor and professor, André Skupin, for whom he served as a teaching assistant and researcher.

"Dr. Skupin took an active and personal interest in my education. He helped me receive two of the three travel grants I obtained to present at conferences during my first year," Lacayo Emery said. "His help, combined with the department's reputation and the exposure my research had through those conferences, allowed me to make the connections necessary to receive a Fulbright Award." 

It's too early to say what's next for Martin Lacayo-Emery. He says perhaps a doctorate, if his research goes well. And, definitely, more travel abroad.

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