Biological Data Analysis: Homework 1

Due Thursday, Feb. 16

You must type this and all other homework assignments. Do not e-mail the assignment to me; turn it in early (at 322 Wolf) for a foreseeable absence, or turn it in late after an unexpected absence from class.

1. Do not print your results from question 1; instead, enter the data in this spreadsheet and e-mail the spreadsheet to me by 8 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Everyone in the class is going to collect data on a number of people, so that we can combine it and have a giant data set to use both for homework assignments and for in-class demonstrations. Two of the variables, which arm is on top when you cross your arms, and which thumb is on top when you clasp your hands, have sometimes been considered simple genetic characters. This is not true. Another character, the length of time a person can stand on one leg with their eyes shut, is strongly associated with survival in older people. There were some surprising results when we analyzed this kind of data last fall, and it will be interesting to see if we get the same results this spring.

You are going to collect data on at least 8 people, so that we will have a large, fun dataset to analyze throughout the semester. You can include yourself as one of the 8 people, but you must get someone else to measure your balance time. Don't include anyone who has been asked these questions by someone else in this spring's BISC643 class; you may include people who were measured by the fall 2016 class. Enter the following data for each person:

E-mail the spreadsheet to me ( as an attachment. You must e-mail it by 8 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16.

2. Choose an article from the lab you're in (if you're in a lab) or from your favorite scientific journal. It should be a regular-sized article (not a brief note) in a specialized journal (not Science, Nature, or PNAS). If you don't have a lab or a favorite journal, I recommend you go to Web of Science and do a topic search for your favorite biological topic. Read through the paper and identify at least six variables that are analyzed in the paper. For each variable, provide the name of the variable (such as "LAM"), and if it's not obvious from the name, give a short explanation of what the variable is (such as "length of the anterior adductor muscle scar on a mussel shell"). Then say whether the variable is a measurement variable, a nominal variable, or a ranked variable. If a measurement variable has been converted to a nominal variable, or if the percentages from a nominal variable have been analyzed as if they were a measurement variable, mention this. You must have at least six variables; if you don't have six, do more than one paper.

3. Give the citation information (authors, year, article title, journal, volume, page numbers) for the article or articles you've used.

Mmmmm, bonus: Everyone who finds an article with a true ranked variable (not a measurement variable converted to a ranked variable for a non-parametric test) gets a donut at the next class.

Return to the Biological Data Analysis syllabus