Greg Parcher enrolled at the University of Maryland in 2009 with a football scholarship and an open mind when it came to his future. Now a rising senior at the university, Parcher has literally mapped out that future with an interest in geography and a desire to help the homeland.
"When I got to the University of Maryland I didn't know I would end up a geography major," Parcher said.
After he enjoyed a climate studies course, he met with his adviser and immediately chose to pursue a degree in geographic information systems. Now a starter on the Maryland football team, the Hanover, Md. native balances a 20-hour work week at START with practice and conditioning for the upcoming football season.
Parcher is a member of the Special Projects team at START, focusing on geographic information systems as a member of the GIS Analytical team. Currently, Parcher is working on several projects that involve mapping routes and networks. For one project, he is mapping nuclear facilities and creating maps detailing transportation networks in Europe. For another, he is mapping all possible routes that terrorist organizations may use in conjunction with criminal networks to move illegal substances.
In another project, he is using GIS technology to depict the susceptibility of individual counties in the United States to terrorist attacks. START piqued Parcher's interest when his now-supervisor, Ruth Bluestone, visited one of Parcher's geography courses to introduce students to the terrorism studies minor and internship opportunities at the consortium.
Much of Parcher's GIS curriculum translates directly to his work at START, including the use of ArcMap, a program used to view, create and analyze geospatial data. Additionally, Parcher is able to use the remote sensing skills he has learned in his coursework. Parcher can point to several experiences at START that have improved his skills in GIS.
"The internship experience at START is also great because you get to work as part of team. For a project, I was attempting to locate an underground nuclear storage facility. I couldn't find it on my own, but with the help of my fellow interns, I was finally able to pinpoint the facility," Parcher said.
After graduation, Parcher hopes to use his experience at START to earn a position with a government agency like the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or perhaps a government contractor like Northrup Grumman.
"This internship will give me much of the real-world experience I need," Parcher said.
Now, however, Parcher continues to make the most of his time in College Park. When he can find spare time, Parcher enjoys golfing, going to amusement parks and visiting the beach. He also likes to head home for some well-deserved relaxation.
"My favorite part about staying in College Park is being so close to my parents' house," Parcher said. "Knowing that I can go visit them on any weekend is a good feeling."