Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Pre-Assessment

One of the recurring problems in our bootcamps is that at any point, about 1/4 of people are lost, and 1/4 are bored. The only fix we can think of is to let people self-assess before arrival to determine whether this is the right thing for them or not (and to let instructors know more about who they're going to be teaching). We've used variations on the questionnaire below a couple of times with useful results; we'd appreciate feedback on:

  • what else we should ask (please give us the actual question, rather than simply, "something about such-and-such")
  • what we could take out
  • how intimidating you think this might be to people who aren't confident in their skills—we'd really like to not frighten away the people who need us most

1. Career stage:

  • Undergrad
  • Grad
  • Post-doc
  • Faculty
  • Industry
  • Support staff

2. Disciplines:

  • Space sciences
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Earth sciences (geology, oceanography, meteorology)
  • Life science (ecology and organisms)
  • Life science (cells and genes)
  • Brain and neurosciences
  • Medicine
  • Engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical)
  • Computer science/electrical engineering
  • Economics
  • Humanities/social sciences
  • Tech support/lab tech/support programmer
  • Admin

3. Platform:

  • Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • Windows

4. A tab-delimited file has two columns: the date, and the highest temperature on that day. Produce a graph showing the average highest temperature for each month.

  • could do it easily
  • could struggle through
  • wouldn't know where to start
  • Language/tool I would use: ____________

5. Write a short program to read a file containing columns of numbers separated by commas, average the non-negative values in the second and fifth columns, and print the results.

  • could do it easily
  • could struggle through
  • wouldn't know where to start
  • Language/tool I would use: ____________

6. Check out a working copy of a project from version control, add a file called paper.txt, and commit the change.

  • could do it easily
  • could struggle through
  • wouldn't know where to start
  • Tool I would use: ____________

7. In a directory with 1000 text files, create a list of all files that contain the word Drosophila, and redirect the output to a file called results.txt.

  • could do it easily
  • could struggle through
  • wouldn't know where to start
  • Tool I would use: ____________

8. A database has two tables Scientist and Lab. The Scientist table's columns are the scientist's student ID, name, and email address; the Lab table's columns are lab names, lab IDs, and scientist IDs. Write an SQL statement that outputs a count of the number of scientists in each lab.

  • could do it easily
  • could struggle through
  • wouldn't know where to start
  • Tool I would use: ____________

ASSESSMENT

Dialogue & Discussion

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