Name: Matt Pagan
Position title: GIS Research Assistant, which means I make maps, work on DHS GPS datasets, and help develop and maintain our GIS infrastructure that allows us to share our geo data.
When not working, favorite place to visit: 333 W. Camden St., Birdland, MD
Favorite type of cuisine: Is pizza a type of cuisine?
Last good book you read: Maphead by Ken Jennings. One of my life goals is to get on Jeopardy: I have tried out thrice to no avail—as a kid, a teen, and a college student—but I hope my increased knowledge of world geography from working here at The DHS Program will finally get me over the hump. Anyway, this book is essentially 200 pages or so of the greatest Jeopardy champion of all time geeking out about maps, so, yeah, right up my alley.
Where would we find you on a Saturday? There’s nothing like sleeping in on Saturday, but I guess if I’m awake, you might find me at the movies, making music, or just hanging out, having fun.
First time you worked with DHS survey data: My first day on the job.
What is on your desk (or bulletin board/wall) right now? My Oriole Bird magnet and 2014 AL East pennant, a flower made out of pipe cleaners bestowed upon me by Sunita, a dozen or so post-its of increasing age and decreasing relevancy, and many, many maps.
What is your favorite survey final report cover? The 2013-14 Democratic Republic of the Congo DHS. I am a bit biased: this was the first survey I worked on!
Favorite chapter or indicator, and why? I think the household characteristics chapter is pretty cool; one indicator I am especially interested in is whether or not households have mobile phones. It’s intriguing to know what kind of spread mobile networks have in less connected countries—I hope this will continue to be developed into a powerful method for reaching out and helping people as more robust tech finds its way into all parts of the world.
What’s your favorite way to access The DHS Program’s data? I have to get a plug in for SDR, where you can grab shapefiles with DHS indicators pre-loaded, but I use the API the most—it’s the fastest way to answer 95% of the questions I have.
What population or health issue are you most passionate about? Why? I came to The DHS Program with very little background in demography or health, so I don’t have any issue in particular—I find myself fascinated (and sometimes sobered, sadly) by all the different issues we touch on in our surveys, and I am excited to continue learning more. If there is an issue that surrounds DHS that I am passionate about, it is open data: any information system (including GIS) is only as good as the data put in it, and equitable access to accurate data is key to making all the cool technology we have relevant to users worldwide. This is certainly a topic that is bigger than just population or health, but I am glad that The DHS Program plays a part in providing free and accessible data for researchers working in those fields.
What are you most looking forward to about your new position? The chance to hone my cartography skills, being able to use my extensive ArcGIS knowledge, and the opportunity to work with a great team.
What has been your biggest surprise so far? How nice and accommodating everyone here at The DHS Program has been to me. I came into this position with plenty of technical knowledge but no experience in the public health domain, and yet I’ve never felt out of place while I learn more from everyone here. One other surprise: the amount of free food people bring in here is insane. It has truly been a nourishing experience for the mind and the body.
What do you look forward to bringing to The DHS Program (job-related or not!)? GIS know-how, my information systems background, map nerdery, a keen eye, boisterous laughter, that Baltimore charm, millennial sensibilities, up-to-date pop-culture references.