Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to learn to code?

Coding (perhaps like most things) is all about perspective.

My academic appointment is the Department of Physiology in the Medical School at the University of Kentucky. Only a few people in the department know how to program and, as a result, most of my colleagues think I'm 'pretty good with computers'.

My collaborators in Engineering and Chemistry across the street are always polite but think I code like a Geico Caveman.

Why do so few physiologists code? I used to think it's because biomedical scientists didn't think it was useful but I've changed my mind. I now think that our students don't code because they've never been taught. They've typically taken lots of courses in biology, chemistry, and genetics, but nobody has shown them how to write code, or how to break a task down into little steps so that they can create an algorithm.

What's the best way of helping these students get started?

I've blogged about how I  learned to program before but my advice won't work for everybody and I'm always looking for new resources that I can tell students about.

Today, I came across the MATLAB OnRamp. This resource has actually been around for several years but I hadn't seen it before and it looks interesting. If you have any experience with it, or can suggest better ways of getting started in scientific computing, please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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