Why should you learn to program? In my (limited) experience in the world of marine science, fisheries, and ecology, programming is more and more becoming part of the expected tool set. Consequently, many grad students in these fields are struggling up the learning curve.
There are a lot of good reasons to learn to program. Many are mentioned in this recent Twitter conversation, prompted by a question from Dan McGlinn: how to justify teaching biology undergraduates R or Python instead of Excel? Most of the responses to this question focused on the ways R (or Python) is a faster and more powerful tool than Excel. Which is absolutely true: programming tools are far more flexible, powerful, and reproducible than spreadsheets. It has been seven years since I first learned to program, and it has been seven years since I last tried to use Excel for any data analysis. But with some perspective on it now, I think the best thing programming has done for me is the confidence it has given me to play with mathematics.
In school I was pretty good at math, but it was never totally easy for me (my anxiety dreams, to this day, are all about being unprepared for 11th grade pre-calc). This began to change, imperceptibly at first, Continue reading