Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Practical Computing for Biologists (and Other Scientists)

We are big fans of Steve Haddock and Casey Dunn's book Practical Computing for Biologists, which covers everything we do and more (and is suitable for all kinds of scientists, not just biologists). We were therefore very pleased to learn that they are running a course at Friday Harbor Laboratories this summer. The outline is below, and applications are due on February 1st.

This course covers some of the simple but powerful skills that all scientists should know in a world of increasingly complex analyses. It is based on the book Practical Computing for Biologists, from Sinauer Associates, written by the instructors. This is not strictly a bioinformatics or programming course, although the lessons are applicable to molecular data. The skills are applicable to ecology, neurobiology, zoology — any subdiscipline where gathering and analyzing moderate to large data sets are required. The specific sections include working with text files, command-line operations, scripting and Python programming, creating scientific graphics, working with servers (remote login, software installation), databases, version control, and a bit about the web and data-acquisition hardware. Skills are immediately applicable, and the most common comment we get from class participants and readers of the book is "This would have save me hours just last week," or "I wish I knew about this when I was in grad school!" The target audience for the course is anyone with data: grad students, post-docs, technicians, and faculty. There are no hard pre-requisites, but participants should bring their own computer — preferably one that they use in their daily work.

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