Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

A Better Way to Teach Programming to Scientists

This year's SIGCSE conference on computer science education featured a very cool paper by Robbins, Senseman, and Pate, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, called "Teaching Biologists to Compute using Data Visualization". In it, they describe CS 1173: Data Analysis and Visualization using MATLAB, which introduces students in the life sciences to programming using a problem-first approach. Like the media-first approach that Mark Guzdial and his colleagues introduced at Georgia Tech, this rewards students right away—they don't have to wade through a "CS first" morass of data types and arcane rules about Boolean expressions for three or four weeks in order to get to the useful bits. Given another year, I'd have rewritten our intro to Python this way...

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