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Georgia Southern graduate student earns masters in newest graduate program

Graduate student Zachary Wu

Graduate student Zachary Wu had never studied in the United States before coming to Georgia Southern two years ago. At commencement on May 10, Wu will become one of the first-ever graduates at Georgia Southern to receive a master of science in applied geography as part of the program’s inaugural graduating class.

Wu, who is from Chengdu, China, overcame many obstacles on his way to obtaining his degree. One major setback was speaking English only as a second language.

“Moving to the United States was a new page for me,” said Wu. “I am not a native speaker and at the very beginning, it was a little tough. People are nice in Georgia. They tolerated my mistakes and helped me to improve my English and get used to living in Statesboro. My friends, adviser and other professors at Georgia Southern helped me a lot. I really appreciate that.”

Despite having a large course load and working as a teaching assistant, Wu still found time to get some experience in his field.

Wu worked on a project to detect and extract roadside traffic signs using geographic information systems (GIS) and machine learning techniques. He presented the results from the project at the 2018 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGSPATIAL conference in Seattle where he published a conference proceeding.

“It was great presenting my work at the 2018 ACM SIGSPATIAL conference in Seattle,” said Wu. “I was lucky to have met a lot of researchers and companies. I prepared a lot and based on computer vision, my workflow can detect and extract traffic signs from images and videos with image recognition.”

Wu also worked as a GIS intern at the Beaufort – Jasper Water & Sewer Authority in South Carolina in the 2018 Fall Semester.

In the past two years, Wu won a number of awards, including SouthEastern Division of the American Association of Geographers Poster Graduate Honor, Savannah GIS Day Competition Winner in 2017 and 2018, Georgia Southern University Graduate Student Research Support, Project Development Award and Travel Award from the Applied Geography Specialty Group in the Association of American Geographers conference 2019, Best GIS student award in 2019 and Esri Development Center Outstanding Student of the Year 2019.

Wu, who plans to work for a technical company after graduation, said his internships and awards can all be traced back to one word.

“Confidence,” he said. “Confidence helped me to not be afraid of overcoming challenges.”

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving nearly 26,500 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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