The other day, I wrote that I wanted to make things easier for my students by using the kinds of software that they were likely to have on their computers and the kinds that they are likely to see in the business and biotech world when they graduate from college. More than one person told me that I should have my students install an entirely different operating system and download OpenOffice to do something that looks a whole lot harder in Open Office than it is in Microsoft Excel ... Read more
The NASA Earth Observing System is an incredible resource for both science and education. One of the amazing things about it is all the different kinds and quantities of data are assembled together into pictures that even grade school kids can immediately comprehend. How do they do it? Each of the EOS satellites delivers a terabyte or more of data per day from many different instruments. How do they take satellite imagery, rainfall statistics, temperature information, and other kinds of data and assemble these data into meaningful pictures ... Read more
Three (or more) operating systems times three (or more) versions of software with bugs unique to one or systems (that I don't have) means too many systems for me to manage teaching. Thank the FSM they're not using Linux, too. (Let me see that would be Ubuntu Linux, RedHat Linux, Debian Linux, Yellow Dog Linux, Vine, Turbo, Slackware, etc.. It quickly gets to be too exponential.) Nope, sorry, three versions of Microsoft Office on three different operating systems are bad enough. This semester, I'm teaching an on-line for the first time ever. The subject isn't new to me. I've taught ... Read more
Here's a fun puzzler for you to figure out. The blast graph is here:
The table with scores is here, click the table to see a bigger image: ... Read more
Do different kinds of biomes (forest vs. creek) support different kinds of bacteria? Or do we find the same amounts of each genus wherever we look? Those are the questions that we'll answer in this last video. We're going to use pivot tables and count all the genera that live in each biome. Then, we'll make pie graphs so that we can have a visual picture of which bacteria live in each environment. The parts of this series are: I. Downloading the data from iFinch and preparing it ... Read more
This is third video in our series on analyzing the DNA sequences that came from bacteria on the JHU campus. In this video, we use a pivot table to count all the different types of bacteria that students found in 2004 and we make a pie graph to visualize the different numbers of each genus. The parts of this series are: I. Downloading the data from iFinch and preparing it for analysis. (this is the video below) (We split the data from one column into three). II. ... Read more
What do you do after you've used DNA sequencing to identify the bacteria, viruses, or other organisms in the environment? What's the next step? This four part video series covers those next steps. In this part, we learn that a surprisingly large portion of bioinformatics, or any type of informatics is concerned with fixing data entry errors and spelling mistakes. The parts of this series are: I. Downloading the data from iFinch and preparing it for analysis. (this is the ... Read more
For the past few years, I've been collaborating with a friend, Dr. Rebecca Pearlman, who teaches introductory biology at the Johns Hopkins University. Her students isolate bacteria from different environments on campus, use PCR to amplify the 16S ribosomal RNA genes, send the samples to the JHU core lab for sequencing, and use blastn to identify what they found. Every year, I collect the data from her students' experiments. Then, in the bioinformatics classes I teach, we work with the chromatograms and other data to see what we can find. This is the first part of a four part video series ... Read more
I love the way you show me secret things. All I do is type: Select * from name_of_a_table And you share everything with me. Without you, my vision is obscured, and all I see is the display on the page. In fact, this was the push that finally made me decide to learn SQL. In our bacterial metagenomics experiment, I realized that my students could use FinchTV to enter their blast ... Read more
yep, I've become a videoblogger, at least sometimes. See the first video below. Be kind in the comments, this is a new thing for me. This video introduces the different blast programs, discusses word size, and how blastn works, the blastn score and the E value. The treatment is light and not too in depth, but as I said, it's an introduction. ... Read more

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