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Terrence Bell provides practical skills through ‘Learning to Apply R to Microbiome Data’ workshop

Posted: April 12, 2018

Dr. Terrence Bell, Assistant Professor of Phytobiomes in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, hosted a two-hour workshop entitled Learning to Apply R to Microbiome Data on March 30th, 2018.
Learning to Apply R to Microbiome Data Workshop Presented by Dr. Terrence Bell

Learning to Apply R to Microbiome Data Workshop Presented by Dr. Terrence Bell

Dr. Terrence Bell, Assistant Professor of Phytobiomes in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, hosted a two-hour workshop entitled Learning to Apply R to Microbiome Data on March 30th, 2018.  In attendance were thirty-four graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty members, all with varying degrees of comfort working with the R statistical language.  Participants were provided with reproducible R scripts to present microbiome data in various formats, and were guided to external resources to enhance their self-teaching. The group worked through the scripts during the workshop, using data produced in Dr. Bell’s lab, with an informal Q&A throughout that touched on microbiome concepts, analysis approaches, and data organization. 

Dr. Carolee Bull, Director of the Microbiome Center, commented, “This is exactly the kind of workshops we had in mind when we started the Microbiome Center.  This information will help those that are already conducting microbiome research and give those just starting a leg up.” 

Dr. Bell plans to present similar workshops in the future, both at Penn State’s University Park campus and elsewhere. “Working effectively in R allows people to create graphs that accurately and specifically convey the story of their data,” says Dr. Bell.  “Although there is a bit of a learning curve to this software, it is not as steep as many people think.  My background is not in computer science, and I think this helps me identify learning strategies for scientists who need computational skills, but lack formal training.”  

To provide students with a more immersive experience in microbiome data analysis, Dr. Bell has started teaching a new course (offered each Fall): PPEM 440 – Environmental Microbiomes: Concepts and Analysis Tools.

For upcoming workshops and other news, follow @psuPPEM on Twitter and Facebook.