Portrait of Song Gao

Spotlight: GeoDS Lab@UW–Madison

Information provided by Professor Song Gao, director of the Geospatial Data Science Lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (GeoDS Lab@UW–Madison)
Nov. 28, 2022


Please briefly introduce yourself and your lab.

I am Song Gao, currently an associate professor and the director of the Geospatial Data Science Lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Describe the overall 5–10 year vision and/or mission of your lab.

In the GeoDS Lab, we conduct research throughout the life cycle of large-scale georeferenced data collection, access, storage, management, analysis, modeling, and visualization by utilizing spatial statistics and machine learning approaches. We will focus on privacy-preserved machine learning and its applications in GeoAI. 


GeoDS Lab@UW–Madison


Professor Song Gao: song.gao@wisc.edu

GeoDS Lab@UW–Madison logo

What distinguishes your lab from others working on GeoAI topics?

Our lab focuses on the research topics of novel GeoAI methods development and integration with the study of human behavior and social sensing. 

How does your lab's work address real-world problems?

We work with multiple GIS industry partners to work on real-world problems such as in mobility, usage-based insurance, location of businesses, and public health domains. 

Whom do you collaborate with (people and/or organizations), and in what ways? Do you consider your lab/work to be interdisciplinary? If so, how?

Our lab work is highly interdisciplinary. I am affiliated in the NSF-funded multi-institutional AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE), which has influenced my recent work and thinking. Our team consists of members from various departments: Geography, Computer Sciences, Statistics, Agriculture, Urban Planning,  Science Communications, etc.

Do you consider your lab diverse? In what ways? Are there ways in which you would like to become more (or less) diverse?

Our lab is diverse in research topics, but I would like to strengthen its diversity by recruiting more students from various countries and regions. 

What is one thing you wish your [colleagues, students/postdocs, or anyone else] knew about your lab, but don’t (in general)?

Our lab members love to go skiing together in the winter!  We have a good work–life balance. 

What are some notable examples of student/postdoc research topics in your lab?

As an example, we have been developing end-to-end deep learning methods to advance privacy-preserving location intelligence, which has been used in the insurance and public health domains.

What backgrounds, in terms of education and/or experience, are useful to have for students/postdocs in your lab?

I look for students with STEM educational backgrounds, and programming experience during their undergraduate study is useful. 

What kinds of jobs have students/postdocs in your lab secured after graduating/finishing?

My students have secured both industry and academic jobs after graduation, and they have also done summer internships in industry. My recent PhD student works at Google X as an AI research scientist.   

What are you looking for in a student/postdoc, and how can they reach out to you?

Students can send me an email (song.gao@wisc.edu) about their interest with a CV. 

What do you offer these students/postdocs in return, so to speak?

I will try my best to support the students/postdocs with resources and mentorship, working together on challenging research topics, and help them become independent researchers/scholars and understand one or more sub-topics in depth in the GeoAI domain.