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Alumni Posts


by Alumni Posts 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.


Alumni Posts

Minitab to the Rescue!

by Alumni Posts on December 1, 2012

in Academics

To date, I think I’ve highlighted each class that I’m currently taking , excepting advanced statistics.  For a third-year biology major like me, it is sort of strange to be in advanced statistics, which is a 300-level math class.  Dr. Newton is helpful and fun, and I’ve made some friends in the class, but it’s still strange to be among a group of people who’ve all taken calculus 3 and “diff-e-q” (whatever that is) and a bunch of other math classes with fancy names.

But last week was, for me, probably one of the most interesting weeks I’ve had in that class.  You see, we use a computer-based program called Minitab on which we run statistical analyses.  Last week – yes, just one week before the end of the semester – I realized that the statistician’s term “reponse” parallels the biologist’s term “dependent variable” and that the statistician’s “predictor” is the same as the biologist’s “independent variable.”  I had been reading along and comprehending the material all semester long while we were doing problems about the diets of “gummy ewes” and various types of beets in Australia, but it never really clicked until last week.  Well, better late than never right?!

Though I probably won’t use Minitab or some of the math-based skills I learned from advanced statistics, I think it was still worth taking this class.  I was exposed to the methods that statisticians will use to analyze my future research-based data, and I made some friends along the way. 

You say “toe-may-toe,” I say “toe-maah-toe.”  You say “reponse,” I say “dependent variable.”  It’s really all the same in the end.


Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.