GIS Workshop: Visualizing and Analyzing Health Data

May 30-31, 2024 | Livestream, virtual

Registration is open! Join us for the next GIS Workshop on May 30-31, 2024. 

The GIS Workshop is a two-day intensive workshop that will introduce participants to the fundamental concepts and hands-on techniques of health data visualization and analysis using publicly available open-source GIS programs. 


Subscribe for updates  scholarship dates, deadlines, and announcements.

Jump to: Overview  | Audience and Requirements | InstructorScholarships  | Location | Testimonials  | Registration Fees | Additional Information

GIS Workshop Overview

Summer 2024 dates: Livestream, online training May 30-31, 2024; 10:00am - ~4:30pm EDT

This two-day intensive course aims to introduce participants to the fundamentals of data visualization using the open-source QGIS program and building towards the introduction of foundational spatially-centered approaches to identifying relationships and associations among population and environmental variables. Led by Dr. Jeremy R. Porter and Dr. Joel Capellan two of the highest-rated teachers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the authors of many celebrated geospatial analysis publications and books, this workshop will integrate lectures with hands-on application. The workshop emphasizes the use of open-source software packages and publicly available environmental and demographic data as an example of potential applications of these data with spatially centered visualization and analytic techniques.  The workshop is comprised of 4 components 1) visualization, 2) geo-processing, 3) cluster analysis, and 4) relationship identification.  Within each component, a lecture is followed by an opportunity to put the methods learned into practice.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be familiar with the following topics:

  • Principles of data visualization and analysis
  • Sources and techniques for the acquisition and management of spatial data
  • Methods and techniques for the visualization of spatial data
  • Techniques for the identification of statistical spatial (and spatio-temporal) clusters
  • Techniques for the incorporation of spatial information in more traditional regression methods of association and relationship identification among variables.

Audience and Requirements

Investigators at all career stages are welcome to attend, and we particularly encourage trainees, students, and early-stage investigators to participate. There are three prerequisites/requirements to attend this workshop:

  1. Each participant must have an introductory background in statistics.
  2. Each participant must be familiar and have a basic understanding of R.
  3. Each participant must have a laptop with QGIS, saTScan, GeoDa, R, and R-Studio downloaded and installed prior to the first day of the workshop. All of the packages listed are available for free download and installation on Mac, PC, and Linux devices. Personal laptops will be used for multiple workshop sessions.

If you have any specific questions about prerequisites/requirements, please email us.


Jeremy Porter, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Porter is a Lecturer in the Environmental Health Sciences Department with his primary duties being associated with teaching and advising in the area of Public Health GIS and Spatial Statistics. Additionally, he is a Professor at the City University of New York and holds appointments in multiple departments and institutes throughout the university, where he is currently the Chair and Director of the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences Department at the CUNY-Graduate Center. He regularly serves in consulting capacities with a number of government, non-profit, and for-profit entities on research exclusively focused on the development and implementation of spatial methods.

Joel Capellan, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Capellan is an Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Department, and is also an Assistant Professor of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan University. Substantively, Dr. Capellan specializes in mass casualty events and lone-actor violence. Methodologically, he specializes in spatial data analysis and multi-level modeling.


Scholarships are available for the GIS Workshop.


The GIS Workshop is a livestream, remote training that takes place over live, online video on May 30-31, 2024 from 10am EDT - 4:30pm EDT. Please note this training is not a self-paced, pre-recorded online training.


"This training opened my eyes to what can be done with Geospatial analyses and the kinds of data that are freely available to enhance current datasets." - Postdoctoral fellow at University of Hawaii Cancer Center, 2023

"Amazing workshop! I especially enjoyed learning QGIS and GeoDa. 10/10 would recommend to colleagues and peers who are interested in research with data visualization or geoprocessing." - Student at Columbia School of Social Work, 2023

"This workshop was absolutely fantastic! As a newcomer to GIS analysis and visualization, I found the content incredibly accessible and it provided me with a transformative perspective on my data. The instructors and staff were truly outstanding, going above and beyond to support our learning journey. The abundance of invaluable resources, including detailed PDF tutorials, example data sets, and code, have equipped me with everything I need to begin to extend these methods and concepts to my own research. Last (but definitely not least), the course and online logistics were flawlessly executed, making it a seamlessly organized and engaging experience. Without a doubt, this workshop deserves an A++ rating!" - Postdoc at University of Pittsburgh, 2023

Additional Testimonials

"Great introduction to GIS. A lot of valuable resources to further explore GIS on my own." - Faculty member at San Diego State University, 2022

"The faculty and staff of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University have put together a comprehensive and powerful introductory course on the use of spatial statistics in public health. The intensive training was well designed and extensively annotated so that professionals can get a quick start to conducting open-source GIS and spatial analysis for a variety of multidisciplinary approaches to common health concerns." - Faculty member at Georgia College, 2022

"Great course for both beginners and those with more experience but that want to expand their knowledge of GIS and its capabilities." - Postdoc at EPA, 2022

"This workshop provides an opportunity to see how spatial data analysis is done. There is plenty of support offered and the instructors know how to explain the concepts." - Faculty member at Friends Seminary, 2022

"The GIS workshop introduced me to taking flat tables of data and bringing them alive by mapping them onto space (and time). We learned just enough of the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings, and then dove into the software.  Hang on tight, it's quite a ride." - Faculty member at Mercy College, 2021

"This was the best virtual short course I have taken. The instructors were very knowledgeable and the pdfs were extremely helpful as we worked through the sessions. I also really appreciate that the instructors pre-recorded each session for future use - a lot of information was covered and I know I will take advantage of the recordings when I need a refresher as I try to apply what I learned." - Postdoc at Northwestern University, 2021

"This was an excellent quick crash course on GIS theory and practice.  The examples and course materials are something I will keep coming back to." - Postdoc at University of Cincinnati Department of Emergency Medicine, 2021

"Great workshop! I appreciated how hands on it was, and the up to date open source applications that were taught."- Student at Ryerson University, 2021

"Great instructors, well-organized, and well-presented material. Breakout rooms were organized by skill/experience level so most students learned at a similar pace, and the Workshop team also provided pre-recorded lab sessions and annotated code that will be extremely helpful to continue explore software and review what was learned." - Academic Staff member at Maine Medical Center, 2020

"This is an excellent experience which balances theory and application of GIS analysis. All of the analysis is done on open source platforms." - Faculty member at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, 2020

"It is a very useful and impressive training for people who want to switch from ESRI products to open-source GIS tools. Dr. Jeremy Porter is an awesome lecturer and he answered all of the questions promptly." - Postdoc at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2020

"The GIS Workshop is a great and practical way to learn about using GIS and R. The content is practical and everything is presented in a very user-friendly manner."- Student at Cornell University, 2020

"This is a great workshop for exposing beginner population health researchers to the power of QGIS and R programming. I am excited about taking what I have learned and applying it to my current research endeavors!" - Postdoc at Children's National Hospital, 2020

"Very great introduction to spatial analysis. Very responsive, helpful, and engaging professors and TAs." - Staff member at CDC, 2020

"This workshop was so helpful in learning about the publicly available GIS resources and much of the spacial theory behind the statistics." - Jennifer R., Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, 2019

"Great (and fast) overview of QGIS - make sure you come ready to dive in and stay focused." - Philip Cheng, Assistant Scientist at Henry Ford Health System, 2019

"This workshop helped me learn how to put my spatial data to work and how to access publicly available data to improve my research, all while producing aesthetically pleasing visualizations." - PhD Student at Case Western Reserve University, 2019

"Outstanding, intense, hand-holding approach that provides a strong foundation for a GIS novice on the language and how/where to start mapping.  Excellent materials are provided for further review on your own." - Anonymous Faculty member, 2019

"This workshop was an excellent introduction to GIS methods, conceptually and practically. I was truly impressed by what the instructors were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and with a large group of students with varying levels of prior experience with GIS. I got a lot out of the workshop and will certainly be using the resources that were provided for my own projects (e.g., step by step instructions from the labs)." - Kate H., PhD Student at the University of Pittsburgh, 2019

"One of the best GIS workshops I have attended! It did an excellent job of covering the most important aspects of spatial analytics -- all the way from visualizing the data (mapping) to analyzing it statistically and making sense of the output." - Runa B., Environmental Health Scientist at the Louisiana Department of Health, 2019

"The GIS Workshop was such a great experience. Instructors were very helpful and friendly, and everything was explained in a clear manner. It wasn't too rushed and the hands-on lab section was really helpful. The small size of the class was key as well." - Staff Member at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2018

"This was an excellent introduction to GIS, R, and GeoDa. The workshop was well organized and the instructor is dynamic, charismatic, and presents the material in ways that are easy to understand." - Faculty member at California State University, Northridge, 2018

"The use of time was optimal and the topics covered were more comprehensive than I had imagined possible in two days. I feel confident walking out of this program that I will be able to troubleshoot and build on the foundations learned here." - Andrea H., Non-profit NYC research organization, 2018

Registration Fees

This fee includes course material, which will be made available to all participants both during and after the conclusion of the training. 

  Early-Bird Rate (through 4/10/24) Regular Rate (4/11/24 - 5/23/24) Columbia Discount*
Student/Postdoc/Trainee $995 $1,195 10%
Faculty/Academic Staff/Non-Profit Organizations/Government Agencies $1,195    $1,395 10%
Corporate/For-Profit Organizations $1,395 $1,595 NA

*Columbia Discount: This discount is valid for any active student, postdoc, staff, or faculty at Columbia University. If paying by credit card, use your Columbia email address during the registration process to automatically have the discount applied. If paying by internal transfer within Columbia, submit this Columbia Internal Transfer Request form to receive further instructions. Please note: filling out this form is not the same as registering for a training and does not guarantee a training seat.

Invoice Payment: If you would prefer to pay by invoice/check, please submit this Invoice Request form to receive further instructions. Please note: filling out this form is not the same as registering for a training and does not guarantee a training seat.

Cancellations: Cancellation notices must be received via email at least 30 days prior to the training start date in order to receive a full refund, minus a $75 administrative fee. Cancellation notices received via email 14-29 days prior to the training will receive a 75% refund, minus a $75 administrative fee. Please email your cancellation notice to Due to workshop capacity and preparation, we regret that we are unable to refund registration fees for cancellations <14days prior to the training.

If you are unable to attend the training, we encourage you to send a substitute within the same registration category. Please inform us of the substitute via email at least one week prior to the training to include them on attendee communications, updated registration forms, and materials. Should the substitute fall within a different registration category your credit card will be credited/charged respectively. Please email substitute inquiries to In the event Columbia must cancel the event, your registration fee will be fully refunded.

Additional Information

The GIS Workshop is hosted by Columbia University's SHARP Program at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Jump to: Overview  | Audience and Requirements | InstructorScholarships  | Location | Testimonials  | Registration Fees | Additional Information