hen Julien Clifford walked onto the campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi four years ago, he was a
young man in search of a degree. By the end of the first week, he was a geomatics major.
It all happened with a chance conversation. Curiosity brought him into the campus’ Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying
and Science (CBI), a geospatial science research organization focused on developing technological solutions for coastal
environments. After a seemingly casual chat with the Institute’s director, Clifford walked out a geomatics major.
“The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted to be involved in science,” says Clifford, a Houston native. “I originally
thought that would take me to mechanical engineering, but after learning about the diversity of the geospatial surveying
engineering program, I was sold. I was blown away by how dynamic surveying is.”
Indeed, since enrolling in the GIS/Geomatics program, Clifford has been challenged by a veritable “buffet” of academic
subjects. In addition to core surveying classes such as plane measurement, Clifford has also studied history, physics, GIS,
survey technologies such as GPS and LiDAR, and law specific to the legal aspects of spatial information and Texas land
Particularly indicative of the reality of today’s surveying profession is the program’s equal emphasis on software solutions
and fundamental surveying techniques. In Clifford’s view, this is a holistic approach that has been both surprising and
“It quickly became clear that to be a good surveyor, you need to possess a mind-boggling array of knowledge and skills,”
says Clifford, who, along with being a full-time student, is a research assistant at CBI. “Along with understanding and ap-
plying the core concepts of surveying, you need to know the legal aspects of surveying properties and engineering and
trigonometry. You also need to be aware of all the tools out there to know which ones are best for a particular job. That
requires you to be an active learner, which is exciting—and a bit overwhelming.”
Above all, however, Clifford has learned that the most important skill for a successful surveying career is problem solving—
a talent that he has had to quickly develop as he has moved from the classroom to the field.
A Day in the Life:
In Search of a