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Profiles of Geographers

Learn more about geography as a field of study and about geography careers from profiles of geographers working in education, business, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Read about why they chose to pursue geography and how a career can be exciting, meaningful, and successful!

 

March 2021


Bandana Kar, R & D Staff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Education: Ph.D. in Geography (University of South Carolina), M.A. in Geography (State University of New York, Albany), Master of City Planning (Indian Institute of Technology), Bachelor of Architecture (Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology)

 

 Describe your job. What are some of the most important tasks or duties for which you are responsible? I am a research scientist and a Group Lead of the Built Environment Characterization Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. My primary responsibility is to undertake research in the areas of national security and assessing the risk and resilience of energy infrastructures and communities to extreme events by leveraging geospatial and computation sciences. In my role, I interact with stakeholders (i.e., policy makers and practitioners) to identify strategies for translation of research into practice. I also work with educational institutions and students to connect research with education and provide guidance for the next generation workforce.

What attracted you to this career path? My first job in academia allowed me to bring research and education together. This career path has provided me the opportunity to work with stakeholders, and use research to develop data and impact driven solutions to improve resilience of infrastructures and communities that can be used to develop policies to meet national security and climate change needs.

How has your education/background in geography prepared you for this position? Protecting communities and infrastructures from natural and anthropogenic events is crucial from a national security perspective. The spatio-temporal nature of social and physical processes that impact communities and infrastructures requires using geospatial perspectives and Geographic Information Science to address the security concerns and policies. My background in geography has given me the advantage to work with multi-disciplinary researchers in this domain.

What geographic skills and information do you use most often in your work? What general skills and information do you use most often? I often use my knowledge of Geographic Information Science, spatio-temporal analytics and modeling, remote sensing and image processing in my research. I also use my experience and knowledge of geospatial data sets, imagery, social datasets, multi-scale modeling in my research and development work.

Are there any skills or information you need for your work that you did not obtain through your academic training? If so, how/where did you obtain them? Proposal writing, project management, networking and collaboration, applying research to real-life problems and working with stakeholders are essential parts of my work. My academic training did not include any of these components and did not prepare me for how to interact with policy and decision-makers. I learned to write proposals and manage projects during my early years as an academician. My participation as a fellow in the National Science Foundation’s Enabling the Next Generation of Hazard Researchers also provided me the opportunity to network with researchers and collaborate on proposals. My interaction with local agencies (planning, emergency management) as part of my research projects also provided me the opportunity to gain knowledge about transferring research into policies and actions.

Do you participate in hiring, screening, or training of new employees? If so, what qualities and/or skills do you look for? Yes, I am involved in the recruitment of postdocs as well as hiring of early, mid and senior level research and technical staff. Although the skillsets differ according to the positions, we look at the following three traits: 1) the candidate should be curious and proactive such that he/she can undertake problem solving tasks with little dependency; 2) the candidate should be flexible and a team player in order to meet the demands of the workplace that require using different technical skills and working in teams; and 3) the candidate should have excellent communication (oral and written) skills. A candidate must be able to interact with team members and stakeholders and communicate effectively the research to individuals from different backgrounds.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? There are many internship opportunities available for students to work in national labs. I would suggest checking out the following site (https://www.orau.org/) for internship opportunities to get firsthand experience of what it means to work in a lab and in a job like mine. Interested candidates should reach out  to potential contacts who work at the lab to find post-bachelor, post-graduate and internship opportunities. If you are still interested in working at a lab after your internship/short-term staff position, contact senior and managerial staff for openings, as the positions are not always advertised through normal sites.

What is the occupational outlook for career opportunities in your field/organization, esp. for geographers? There are non-academic positions for geographers in national labs, federal/state and local governments, and these positions are rarely impacted by economic crises. Geography students should take advantage of internship opportunities in these institutions prior to graduating, as it will not only provide them with an understanding of the workforce, but also an opportunity to gain experience beyond academic training and network with potential recruiters.

Share Your Experience

The AAG is conducting a new series of interviews with professional geographers to highlight the important work geographers perform in their careers. Once completed, the interviews will be featured on the AAG's website as part of our monthly Profiles of Professional Geographers series. 

For the profiles we seek practicing geographers representing all sectors of the workforce, including those working in private business, government (state, regional, local and federal), nonprofit/NGOs, and education (K-12, community colleges, and higher ed) to showcase the broad range of career opportunities available to geographers.

If interested, please email Mark Revell at mrevell@aag.org or call 202-234-1450, ext. 165.

We hope you will consider participating!  

 

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The geographer profiles within the sections below are from interviews that were conducted before 2012 

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