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UW Honors Experiential Learning

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Project Description

Teaching an Intro to MATLAB Course to Neuroscienctists

Student Name
Mackenzie Andrews

Experiential Learning Category


Associated UW Course (if applicable)


Summarize your proposed experiential learning activity, including the primary focus of your activity, your intended actions, and
the expectations of your supervisor and/or organization/partners.

I will design a comprehensive Introduction to MATLAB course focusing on data handling and analysis skills
relevant to researchers in the eld of neuroscience and pharmacology. This course will o er an introduction to
MATLAB to researchers who are interested in using MATLAB for data analysis who have no or limited experience
with MATLAB software. I will teach the course to researchers in the UW Pharmacology Department as well as
graduate students in the Neuroscience Department primarily from the Chavkin Lab. The course will have weekly
lessons building towards complete analysis of collected data. I will also o er individual mentorship to researchers
with speci c goals. My supervisor will help schedule and book spaces for the course.

Explain how your activity demonstrates the values of the Honors Program Experiential Learning area you selected. Rather than
reiterating our definition, outline how your activity embodies this definition.
MATLAB is a robust and high e ciency tool for performing data analysis on large data sets. My activity is aimed
towards making this tool accessible to researchers in UW Pharmacology and Neuroscience with the goal to
increase the e ciency and breadth of data analysis available to researchers. If my course is successful, it will
provide a build-able basis in MATLAB skills which will lead to a sustained increase in data analysis e ciency. In
order to carry out this activity, I will be utilizing a number of MATLAB training resources and collaborating with
members of the Chavkin Lab to design the course to be as relevant and useful as possible for the speci c goals of
the researchers taking the course.

How and why did you select this engagement? What skills or experiences do you hope to gain from it?
I've worked in the Chavkin Lab in UW Pharmacology performing data analysis for 2 years. I am familiar with how
much the utilization of MATLAB can increase the e ciency and breadth of the types of analysis that can be
performed on complex data. A recent e ort to learn MATLAB by researchers in the department failed due to the
lack of relevance and convenience of the course. By designing a relevant course, I hope to increase the ability for
researchers to perform their own data analysis in a time e cient manor. Through this activity, I hope to gain

experience in event planning, course designing/breakdown, and teaching/leadership. In addition, I hope to gain
communication skills to present and teach information in a clear and helpful way.
p p y

How does this activity connect to your concurrent or past coursework? How does it speak to your broader education goals and
I am double majoring in neurobiology and bioengineering. Through BioE, I have gained much experience with
MATLAB for signals processing, data handling, data analysis, and gure generation. Through neurobio, I have
learned analyses that are relevant and useful for publications in the eld and how best to represent those
analysis. I have been using both of these skill sets to perform data analysis for the Chavkin Lab. Through this
activity, I will be combining my skills and experience into a relevant intro course so that other researchers can
utilize MATLAB. In the future, I hope to continue in the eld of Computational Neuroscience, so teaching this
course will give me more experience in the eld of Comp Neuro and strengthen my resume.

How will your activity contribute to the larger goals of the organization/your partners?
As technology advances, data sizes are increasing and the types of analyses required to handle that data are
becoming more complex. Many researchers in the eld use Excel as their primary data processing tool; however,
as data sizes increase, a more robust tool is needed to perform analysis. By making MATLAB an accessible tool for
researchers, I will help to increase the e ciency of data analysis as well as increase the types of analyses that can
be performed which will increase the complexity of questions that researchers can ask about a set of data. These
outcomes will help keep UW Pharmacology/Neuroscience up to date with the advances in technology and allow
researchers to be more independent and e cient with their data analyses.

Estimated hours per week: 8

Estimated project start: 06/20/2017

Estimated project end: 08/20/2017

May we share excerpts from your application and final reflection to use as examples?


First name Charles
Last name Chavkin
Title/A liation Principle Investigator
(if applicable) UW Pharmacology
UW NetID (if
applicable) cchavkin

Final Reflection

Project Title
Teaching an Intro to MATLAB Course to Neuroscienctists

I was successful in designing a comprehensive introduction to MATLAB course focusing on data handling and
I was successful in designing a comprehensive introduction to MATLAB course focusing on data handling and
analysis skills relevant to researchers in the eld of neuroscience and pharmacology. The course was focused on
building a build-able basis in MATLAB skills which will hopefully lead to a sustained increase in data analysis
e ciency. In order to carry out this activity, I designed 5 modules each containing a number of lessons relevant to
the topic. For example, the rst module taught was "File Read." This module had lessons to teach how to read in a
number of le types such as .txt and .xls, and also showed basic data handling skills such as how to organize read
data. In order to build this module, I wrote easily followable MATLAB script that was thoroughly commented so
the user could learn how to apply the script given to their own data analysis problems. In addition, I wrote sample
text and excel les so that everyone could see the same output during the lesson. I built all further modules
(Conditionals, Loops, Plotting, and Statistics) in the same fashion.
The course met approximately every other week. The materials for that meetings module were made available to
download the night before. During this time, half an hour was spent discussing the module and the remaining
time (30-45min) was spent discussion individual projects in an 'O ce Hour' style setting. I feel like the structure of
the meetings was the greatest aw in the potential e ectiveness of the course. On a number of occasions, only a
couple lab members were able to make the meeting time and there was a lack of priority in pursuing the course
material. Regardless of this aw, I still believe that the course provided helpful reference information for the lab
members to refer to and build o of once they are ready to adopt MATLAB for their more advance data analysis
In designing, building, and teaching this course, I learned a number of skills and lessons that I will be able to apply
to my own education and career. To begin, while thinking about how to best teach the course, I was able to re ect
on how I had been taught MATLAB and determine which strategies worked or did not work for me. This re ection
process made me critically think about my own learning strategy and the potential learning strategies of others.
In implementing the course, I had to consider which MATLAB skills would be most important in the setting in
which the students of the course would be using the material. This took knowledge of both MATLAB and the lab
environment that the material was aimed towards. In addition, I took a poll prior to the course to determine the
nature of the projects the students were interested in to get a better idea of what the modules should focus on.
This type of collaborative course building approach works well for small courses and would be helpful to see
implemented in higher level university elective courses. Finally, I learned that I need to improve my advertisement
and planning skills. While I brought up the discussion of course meeting times at our weekly lab meetings, I
believe that I could have been better about sending out reminders about the meetings. I also could have made
more of an e ort to advertise the course to student and faculty members outside of my lab.
Overall, I am proud of the material I generated for this course and the input I was able to o er to my colleges. In
the future, I will put more e ort into learning planning and communication skills to make sure that the course is
more e cient and available to all who may be interested in learning MATLAB.

Submitted on
Oct 02, 2017

Final Evaluation


Submitted on
Oct 03, 2017

This experience was very important for Mackenzie's professional development. Communication skills,
organizational skills, and motivational skills are key for success in teaching in both academic and non-academic

settings. She describes her frustrations, but I am sure that she sees these as the learning opportunities that they
are. Mackenzie has an admirable determination to succeed in every task she tackles.


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