Interview with IDEAS' New Data Clinic Instructor

July 2017

Our first data clinic will be run by Ana Bento. Ana is a postdoctoral research associate with Pej Rohani at the Odum School of Ecology and the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases. A population ecologist by training, her research focuses on trying to understand the eco-evolutionary, demographic and environmental drivers of seasonal epidemics, primarily in childhood diseases.


Ana recently sat down with IDEAS Program Coordinator, Abigail Butcher, to discuss the upcoming data clinic being held August 18-19, 2017.


When did you begin learning to program?


I started learning C as a teen in school, and R in college. Along the way, I picked up other languages (PERL, Python, JavaScript).


How important is it for a scientist to learn programming?


You can think of it as a tool, it’s essential for accessing and managing data, statistical analysis, and simulation and numerical modeling. In addition, programming helps facilitate open reproducible research.


What computational skills do you believe are essential for a developing scientist?


Whatever programming language you learn first will help you moving forward. It helps you form your ideas––gets you to think in a different way. It helps you develop more creative nuanced questions. Also, as with any language, it helps you communicate with others. The more languages you learn the easier it is to get into a new one.


Tell me about the data clinic that you will be running in August 2017. What is its purpose and who is the intended audience?


Incoming students who may or may not have any programming experience will be best served by this data clinic. This course will be introductory, student-centered active learning. We will cover the basics, followed by hands on computing exercises. At the end the students should be able to write their own scripts. They will also be able to share their scripts with others to encourage reproducible science.


Do you have any materials to point interested students toward in preparation for this data clinic?


Yes! Hadley Wickham and Garret Grolemund’s “R for Data Science” is an excellent introduction. Andrew Beckerman and Dylan Childs’s “Getting Started with R. An introduction for Biologists” is also a wonderful primer to the world of programming.


Will you hold “office hours” or be available by appointment, if students have follow up questions?


Reni Kaul will be my teaching assistant for this course. Students will be able to contact us via email. We will also create a forum on eLC so that students can post questions. Other data clinics will happen during the academic year.

Ana Bento


Interested student can learn more about our upcoming data clinic here. Registration is free, but space is limited.


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