by Courtney on March 16, 2014

in Academics

Imagine a world without the letter “R.” Pretty hard, right? (That last phrase, omitting the letter “R,” would read as such: “Petty had, ight?”) It’s pretty obvious letter “R” is a vital letter in the English alphabet. And, as someone whose first and last names depend on “R” for that amazing connecting sound, I’m currently learning how important another version of “R” is.

This semester, I’m taking an independent study course in R Statistics and Bioconductor software with Dr. Newton of the Fontbonne Math Department. This is my third course with Dr. N, and she is great. In fall 2012 when I took her advanced statistics course, we used a program called MiniTab in order to do our statistical work. MiniTab is an awesome program with a ton of great applications – don’t get me wrong – but one setback is that it is very expensive. R, on the other hand, is a free open-access program. Though extremely finicky at times, R can do a lot of the same things that other statistical programs like MiniTab and Excel can do.

Since the beginning of the semester, I’ve been attempting to understand how R works. It hasn’t been an easy process; at first, it took me over forty-five minutes just to input my simple two-column data table into R. And I’m still having a difficult time with saving my work – one time, we had a power outage, so I literally lost over six hours’ worth of calculations and data interpretation.

All in all, I’m happy to be taking this course, even though it is an elective that I don’t actually need in order to graduate. Working with Dr. Newton is great, and revisiting important statistical concepts proves to be a good experience. So though I’ve been saying “ARGH!” a lot while working with R, I’m happy to be taking this course.

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