BIOL 330/L Design and Analysis of Experiments

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As taught by Paul Wilson

Syllabus F2010

In fancy terminology, this is a class on the scientific method as executed by biologists. There will be some general philosophical discussion of how biologists go about using data, but these moments when we look at the big-picture will be supported by many hours of rather mundane (and I think easy) work in which you will practice handling data. Practicing data analysis makes it tangible, and I believe is the best way for most people to learn to be scientists. You will learn the statistical methods that are the most common in biological research. This will allow you to better understand many primary research reports such as are published in scientific journals and such as are presented at scientific conferences. The following phrases will carry meaning for you:  P value, null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis, type I error, type II error, critical value, goodness of fit test, sign test, test of independence, contingency table, normality, homoscedasticity, mean, median, sum of squares, degrees of freedom, variance, standard deviation, standard error, confidence limit, paired design, t-test, two-sample design, ANOVA, correlation, covariance, sum of products, regression, dependent versus independent variable, binomial distribution, logistic model, R2, etc.  You will also learn how to extract meaning from many commonly presented graphs and tables. Aside from learning to be a consumer of biological research, you will learn how to analyze your own data and design your own experiments, as long as they are fairly simple. Obviously, there is much more to the analysis of biological data than can be fit into one course, but the basics that I will cover are useful to many physiologists and ecologists, less so to geneticists and systematists who often need other methods. I would like the course to be very practical, so I’ve set aside a large amount of time at the end of the semester for you to practice what you’ve learned.  If it were a class on driving cars, this would be the time spent practicing how to drive after you’ve learned the rules of the road and what the controls on the automobile are supposed to do. I want you to be excellent drivers, careful and effective.  The lessons for the last month of class will be designed as practice after I have had an opportunity to meet you and understand your interests and aptitudes.

I have written a short book for you: A Repertoire of Biostatistics: lean lectures and exercises to build intuition. The lessons are integrated this with the problem sets that we will help you do during lab. You can buy the book in the bookstore.