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About | Computing Skills for Biologists


Welcome to the companion website of the book Computing Skills for Biologists – A Toolbox by Stefano Allesina and Madlen Wilmes, published by Princeton University Press.

This website provides information on setup of the tools introduced in the book, access to the code as well as exercises and solutions. Furthermore, you will find additional material, updates and errata. Please contact us if you find issues in the book or would like to suggest new topics for the book or website.

You can request an exam copy or buy the book directly from our publisher.

We would also love to hear from readers and instructors who use the book in their classroom.

About the Book

Computing Skills for Biologists – A Toolbox is ideal for students and scientists who want to improve their computational skills, as well as instructors who want to present the computing tools that are essential for biological research in the twenty-first century. Both novice and experienced scientists will increase their efficiency, by learning how to build automated and reproducible pipelines for biological data analysis, visualization and publication.

We introduce a set of languages and tools to enable you to pick the appropriate tool for each task at hand. Specifically, you will learn how to use bash scripting, Python, Regular Expressions, R, LaTeX and SQL. The book presents fundamental computational concepts such as finding and using available software packages, writing your own functions, and constructing well-documented pipelines. By introducing version control and debugging, we furthermore emphasize reproducibility and organization of your work so it is easy to repeat, trouble-shoot and share.

Stressing practice rather than theory, the book’s examples and exercises are drawn from published biological data, and ask the reader to solve cogent problems spanning a wide breadth of biological disciplines, including ecology, genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology. The book uses free software and code that can be run on any platform.

All about the book and its creation

About the Authors

Stefano Allesina


Stefano loves science — and good espresso. His laboratory at the University of Chicago is focused on the theory of ecology, studying food webs and the stability of ecological systems. He’s also interested in the budding field of “Science of Science", for example analyzing big data to learn how should we write papers, and even measuring the prevalence of nepotism in Italian academic hires — which made him a persona non grata in certain circles.

Computational Skills for Biologists – A Toolbox morphed out of the course “Introduction to Scientific Computing for Biologists" which he created to bring the members of his lab up to speed with the computational skills required to produce accurate, reproducible (and fun!) science.

Madlen Wilmes


Madlen gets excited about plants and microbes. She also enjoys learning new things, and teaching others what she learned. That’s why she wanted Stefano to write Computational Skills for Biologists – A Toolbox with her — so others would have an easier time than herself to learn how to code and be an efficient scientist.

As a data scientist, web developer and science writer, she employs her computational toolbox every day to turn data into knowledge.

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