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Alumnus wins award for top geography dissertation in the nation

ASU geography program recognized for 3rd time in past 4 years, showcasing successful research environment

ASU geography alumnus Ziqi Li won the J. Warren Nystrom Award.

May 17, 2021

Ziqi Li, an Arizona State University alumnus with a PhD in geography from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, was awarded the 2021 American Association of Geographers J. Warren Nystrom Award for his paper "Computational Improvements to Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression.” 

The Nystrom Award recognizes the best paper based upon a recent PhD dissertation in geography based on originality of ideas, potential contribution to the advancement of knowledge in particular subfields of the discipline, and clarity and effectiveness of written style.

Li's winning paper is from his dissertation "Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression (MGWR): Computation, Inference, and Application," in which he advances the field by enabling large-scale, fine-resolution statistical analysis of multiscale, spatially varying processes for both physical and social systems.

“Each element of his dissertation was first class and there are thousands of researchers already using the developments described in his thesis,” said Stewart Fotheringham, Regents Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and PhD adviser to Li. “Consequently, Ziqi is a highly deserving recipient of this award — he was a fantastic graduate student.” 

The competition held and presented at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting attracts recent graduates from the approximately 300 geography programs across North America. Li’s receipt of the distinction signifies the third time in four years an ASU geography alumnus has won the prestigious award. 

“This is a remarkable achievement,” said Fotheringham, who also is the director of ASU’s Spatial Analysis Research Center (SPARC). “The Nystrom has been awarded annually for over 40 years and most geography programs have never produced a winner.

“These successes should act as an inspiration to all our students who will hopefully apply for the competition when they graduate. Also, it should provide them with the knowledge that they are in one of the best places in the country to undertake a PhD in geographical sciences.”

Recent recipients of the award also include ASU PhD geography alumni Marynia Kolak and Qunshan Zhao

“I feel so proud to receive the Nystrom award as an ASU alumnus,” said Li, who now is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Winning this award encourages me further to pursue an academic career. I also feel extremely honored because my PhD adviser Dr. Stewart Fotheringham also received this award 40 years ago in 1981.”

The freely available Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression software that integrates the improvements in Li's dissertation can be downloaded from

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