The Monty Python* that is and by Python I mean the programming language.
Coding was never something that I use to think would be a part of my life! How naive I was! I learnt to use R for statistics during my Masters course which I *surprise surprise* found quite fun (especially when it worked how I expected it to) then during my last year in Australia having a working knowledge of programming became very quickly and clearly a skill I knew I would require to be a successful and competent scientist in the future of marine and conservation science. Initially, I became familiar with MATLAB as it was the main programming language used by my department. However several conversations with a very talented coder and friend led me to Python; it is free, it has wide applicability, and it is growing in popularity as the go to language.
Python is also meant to be an “easy” programming language to learn! Image: XKCD
So now I’m home in London and I decided that the one big skill I wanted to improve and become more confident in this year was my coding abilities. I knew I would like a structured course and not just self-led learning for code and luckily I came across Udemy having a sale on this course: Complete Python Bootcamp as well as a second course: Learning Python for Data Analysis and Visualization both heavily discounted (~£7 each) and decided to take the plunge. I mean a course for less than the price of two take-out coffees what’s not to like! They also both has good reviews!
I am 40% into the first course, doing one or two lectures a day during the week, and really enjoying it. I feel like I’m understanding concepts that before were both daunting and confusing as well as learning how to write neat annotated code. The first few sections were a good refresher of concepts that I already understood from mathematics or other programming languages I had come across, and now we are starting to get into the more meaty topics with writing your own Functions and soon creating Methods!!
I believe that at the end I will be a better prepared scientist and be able to contribute more to research in the future. Being able to code myself without the reliance on others will be both liberating and dare I say it exciting! I already feel an innate sense of pride at understanding concepts and applying learnt skills to different coding problems.
As I have been learning I was quite interested to come across this article on the BBC saying that in a blind test code written by women was preferred! Which is an interesting turn of events especially as traditionally it as been a rather male dominated domain (note: the study is awaiting peer-review). *FIST PUMP*. I recently came across PyLadies an “international mentorship group with a focus on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community” which I am very excited to explore and then was thrilled to see they have a London Meetup group which, I hope I can join for an event in the not too distant future!
So now here I am learning a new language and doing tasks with computers that I never thought would be part of my life and boy am I glad that I am. The sense of accomplishment when you can code is up there with one of the best feelings! There are lots of free resources out there to try including: codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, Learn Python The Hard Way, the Python website tutorials and even Google has a free introductory Python course!
Do you code? Which language is your preferred one? Any tips for the fledgling coder? Let me know in the comments below!
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