|Hi Professor Norman!
I thought you might be interested to know that the final project from CS 106 led to a math research paper that I'm now submitting to be published in a journal! I wanted to say thank you for a great introduction to writing computer code. I did not expect to enjoy writing code, but once I saw what I was able to do (with relatively little experience) with my final project, I became much more interested. I spent most of interim and Spring semester working on the code for this paper with Professor Kapitula.
I wrote the code first in Python but ran into a few complications that MATLAB could easily solve. I found the switch to writing in MATLAB very easy because you taught your class in such a way that we learned what was going on 'behind' the code and we learned to teach ourselves how to write code.
Anyway, all that just to say thank you. I'm now at the University on Kansas starting my PhD in applied mathematics, which I'm sure will require lots of programming, so I'll be expanding on what began in your class for many years!
I did indeed have success with my CS106 project. My research over the last four summers has dealt with galaxies and clusters of galaxies. One of the difficulties we encounter is figuring out which galaxies are clustered together. While they may appear clustered on the sky, if we don't know how far away they are, we can't be sure they are actually clustered. The NASA Extragalactic Database (NED) is a large online database that has pretty much any data ever taken by anybody. So we queried NED for data on how far away all our galaxies are. However, the data that we get back from NED is in a rather unusable form; there is lots of extra information, duplicate information, and information on galaxies that we don't care about.
This is where my CS106 project came in. I used python code to take the raw NED download, and to turn it into something useful. My code dealt with the many complications of filtering out the uninteresting and duplicate data, and turning the data into a format that we could use.
I then actually used the data I got from NED this summer. We had distance data on around 1000 galaxies, and due to my CS106 work, we were able to add in information on about 500 more (really rough numbers, but regardless, we had an increase of around 50%!!).
The information that we gleaned form NED helped us better identify which galaxies were actually part of the clusters we were studying, and has worked a way into a paragraph of my paper in prep. So my python code was actually really scientifically useful; I was able to make progress on my research while learning in class. Moreover, my python skills helped my other coding skills, and have helped in other coding endeavors.
I just wanted to tell you thank you for your wonderful teaching last fall. I didn't realize how handy my computer programming skills would be, but I currently have an internship at an insurance company and on the first day they were having me learn a computer programming language called SAS. I have never used it before, but I picked it up quite quickly because I understand if statements, for loops, and all that fun stuff. I have recalled things from CS 106 everyday that have helped me to do my job well. I would be lost without you!
You may not remember me, but i took your CS 106 class in the fall of 2012. I was but a lowly, junior status biology major. I graduated in the spring and i’ve since moved on to Fort Collins, CO in june to become but a lowly master’s student in Molecular Weed Science at Colorado State University where i do lots of DNA work (genomics n’ such).
Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I was able to put my python coding to practical use. I used my skills to write a simple program pull strings of DNA from sequencing readouts, then organize and quantify such files. I was able to come to the rescue of a colleague of mine. I was really proud of my python skills, and my colleague was super grateful.
Anyways, i just wanted to let you know that I was glad to say that i took your class as a non-major and I’M USING IT IN GRAD SCHOOL. Cool stuff. You do great work at Calvin, sir. Keep it up!
And please advertise to biology students! Many folks in that department (without the exposure to the caliber of research possible at an R1 institution) may not realize the incredible value of coding, algorithms, and general CS exposure.
Thanks again for doing what you do.
MS Candidate, Molecular Weed Science
Dept. of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management
Colorado State University