Yiming Wang WRSA Award

SPPD Doctoral Student Wins Award for Best Paper in Regional Science

By Ben Dimapindan

Yiming Wang with Faculty Yiming Wang, center, with Professors Eric Heikkila, left, and Tridib Banerjee

USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development doctoral student Yiming Wang recently won the Springer Award for outstanding paper in the field of regional science for his essay, “Decomposing the Entropy Index of Racial Diversity: In Search of Two Types of Variance.”

Wang, who is working toward a Ph.D. in Policy, Planning, and Development, was presented with the award Feb. 23 at the 49th Western Regional Science Association Annual Meeting in Sedona, Ariz. His paper will be published in The Annals of Regional Science, the association’s official journal.

The WRSA, founded in 1961, is an international multidisciplinary group of university scholars and government and private-sector practitioners dedicated to the scientific analysis of regions, according to the association’s Web site.

Wang’s paper examined segregation and integration patterns among various ethnic groups in Los Angeles.

“When people talk about segregation and integration, they may not necessarily realize there are many complex sides related to the ideas,” Wang said. “Essentially, I’m using a scientific approach to reveal the underlying complexities related to this word ‘segregation’ — what do we mean by segregation? How can we measure segregation? What’s the significance of segregation to society as a whole?”

“Basically, my analysis shows that people, regardless of their ethnicities, tend to exhibit very similar moving behavior within Los Angeles County,” he added.

Wang also explained that although his paper is a Los Angeles-based study, it has much broader applications.

“New York, Chicago and L.A., all of these big metropolitan areas are typical in the sense of ethnic integration, the increase in racial diversity,” he said. “Even in other parts of the world, like in China, there are African immigrants into Guangzhou, so this kind of integration – not only in a sense of race, but also in a sense of culture and social integration – has been happening.”

In addition, SPPD Professor Eric Heikkila noted that Wang’s accomplishment is “a very high distinction” because the Springer Award is geared to junior faculty — post-graduate scholars who are not more than five years beyond completion of their doctoral dissertation.

While working on his Ph.D. at SPPD, Wang is a lecturer of spatial analysis and geographic information systems at Cardiff University’s School of City and Regional Planning, the largest planning school in the U.K.

“What we try to do in our Ph.D. program is to transition people from being students to being faculty,” said Heikkila, director of SPPD’s International Initiatives, who is chair of Wang’s thesis committee. “And not only has Yiming begun to function viably as a faculty member at Cardiff University already before completing his Ph.D., but he is doing so in an outstanding manner.”

“The WRSA conference has at least 300 participants from all over the world,” he said, “so it clearly reinforces that SPPD is a place where the highest standards are in effect, and people, like Yiming, are performing at outstanding levels.”

Wang attributes a large part of his professional advancement to the “very healthy scholarly environment” at SPPD.

“I’m made in China and refined in SPPD,” he said. “Faculty members here really take care of students — they’re willing to spend a lot of time showing you how to do research, where to publish and even how to do an interview in the job market.

He added that the diverse sense of community at SPPD contributed strongly to his learning experience.

“SPPD features collaboration across the fields,” Wang said. “In many of my doctoral classes, I can learn from not only the instructors, but also people in my cohorts. We study different things, but we talk about our research to each other and learn from each other; that’s a key feature of the school.”

In 2009, Wang also won the Tiebout Prize at the WRSA Conference for the best paper submitted by a graduate student.

Photo by Dan Avila