For the career I have chosen it is important to understand how to use, interpret, and manipulate the data that is collected. So where and how am I going to learn? I think I have found a variety of ways to up my knowledge.
On Wednesday I went to a post-doctoral presentation of a fellow student who did work over the summer on the effects of temperature and bacterial infection on the hatching’s of several different song bird species. On Thursday I went to a chalk talk in which four doctoral students presented finding of research they had completed. On student (computer science) spoke on how, over the summer, she developed new algorithms that discerned whether a lesion was melanoma or not. Math to find cancer. Who knew. Then a math student talked about the algorithm he used to encrypt computer data. The final two were biology students who studied the phenomena of female mantids eating the head off of the male mantid during mating along with the fact that mating appears to be continuing even thought the male has no head. This experiment was a complicated, multi-step process that involved growing mantids and their food for a period of months. And now they are planning on replicating the experiment trying to remove the bias that was created when it came to be that the home grown mantids were tame creatures and exhibited behavior that was quite different from a wild mantid. An example: they could be fed by hand (via tweezers) whereas a wild mantid exhibits a fighting stance when approached with tweezers.
Of course all the students included their statistical data in the presentation. As they would show the data, they were careful to explain each graph, what it represented, how the calculations were made (to be honest the math and computer science people did not do this, it would have been way to complicated for the audience to understand) and what they were able to extrapolate from the data. For me it was a mini-lesson in data analysis. A big thank you to all those students.
Yesterday in Ecology class the lab groups presented the results of our Simple Ecological Study and there were detailed discussions after each presentation. This again was something that added to my knowledge of what I can do with statistics. I may at some time even come to understand statistics. Does anyone understand statistics? Every exposure in context, like discussions following a presentation, I get one more tiny little itty-bitty piece of statistics. Each opportunity to play with an excel program provides more insight into how to present my data and what that data really means. At this rate I should know what I’m doing in graduate school.