PhD candidate Marynia Kolak wins innovation award for web mapping application

As part of her dissertation, Marynia Kolak has partnered with public health providers and community members in the city of Chicago to develop a web application to support public health planning and evaluation.

Marynia Kolak

Geography PhD candidate Marynia Kolak

The web interface, called “Healthy Access, Healthy Regions,” will offer several ways to understand and explore the many health-related datasets needed for well-rounded community health assessment.  It’ll include tools to engage both the public and in-house analysts – from dynamic data-linked web maps to data visualization tools.

Kolak learned recently that her project had been selected from a very competitive applicant pool as a recipient of the the Concordium Award for Innovations with Data.  The award, sponsored by nonprofit AcademyHealth, will give Kolak the opportunity and funding to present her work at Concordium 2016, a conference focused on innovation and strategic developments to improve health.

Kolak was one of three recipients of the award, and the only one of the three who’s a student rather than a working professional.

Specific goals of the project are to generate interactive asset maps that support needs assessments, dynamically identify areas for treatment based on risk assessments, and ultimately assist in the evaluation of policies and interventions.

Additional features of the project: 

  • Its open spatial systems framework can be scaled and updated in the future with further contributions, with location (and time) used as keys for joining data.
  • By improving how data is accessed, cleaned, and shared in a dynamic environment, analysis and understanding are also improved.
  • Data and the resulting explorations, visualizations, and analysis are more easily shared, validated, confirmed or challenged, and ultimately improved in a transparent, open process.

While pursuing her doctorate, Kolak works as a research specialist at the Center for Spatial Data Science at the University of Chicago.  Along with her collaborators in Chicago, she also works with ASU’s Visual Analytics and Data Exploration Research Lab (VADER) in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. 

Kolak's dissertation committee includes School of Geographical Sciences faculty Luc Anselin and Sergio Rey, Julia Koschinsky of the University of Chicago, and Ross Maciejewski of ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering.

Learn more about “Healthy Access, Healthy Regions” on its University of Chicago Center for Spatial Data Science project page.  Code for the project is shared at

health risk indicators interface

The “Healthy Access, Healthy Regions” web tool will allow for exploration of access to health services (image at top of page) and health risk indicators (shown here).