Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back in the classroom

I think it is wise for "educated" people to have to return to the other side of the classroom now and then. When we do this we are reminded that, even though we went to college for almost a decade, we still only know a teeny little bit about one subject. This is how I feel this week as I attend a course on Computational Phyloinformatics at NESCent in Durham, NC. The goal of this course is to teach biologists how to use large datasets and write our own scripts to improve our abilities to infer phylogenies. The prerequisites for the course are to have a solid understanding of phylogenetic inference methods and to have some programming skills.

I have some experience programming in PERL, mostly to write/edit portions of the USS evolution code Rosie blogs about often, but also to facilitate my laziness when dealing with many files and their contents. I've also written a few functions for statistical analysis in R. Even though I still struggle with programming, I was just beginning to feel as though I had a solid grasp on it. That was until I started this course. We are only two days into it, and only just finished the refresher, and my head is full of new information, so full that I am having difficulty digesting it all. I've learned many new things about the PERL language and hope to learn even more. It sure hasn't been easy, and will probably only get more difficult, but I will take solace in the fact that my skills will be better after the course than they were before, even if I still have a lot to learn.

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