Computing Skills for Biologists: A toolbox

Computing for BiologistsStefano Allesina and Madlen Wilmes
Princeton Press, £35.00

The computational skills a modern biologist requires are multifaceted, making it difficult to recommend a single text to support student learning. Allesina and Wilmes have risen to this challenge, providing a text which is pitched perfectly for the beginning student and provides a useful reference for the rest of us.

From a target audience perspective Computing Skills for Biologists is an informative and valuable tool. The contents provides clear chapter headings and subheadings making the book easy to navigate even for one with very limited computing experience. Each chapter begins with a ‘What is..’ section that gives a simple description of the tool that chapter covers.

It makes no assumptions of prior knowledge, making it ideal for a novice. Commands are displayed in an easy to read manner similar to how a user would view it on their own computer, and they are explained well, which is not always the case in academic books. While the statistical computing chapter doesn't cover statistical methods but complements texts like Crawley’s ‘Statistics: An Introduction using R’ as it explains the mechanics of manipulating data with R.

Whilst the tools and skills taught throughout the book are by no means exhaustive they provide an excellent starting point for anyone about to step off into the world of computational biology, and provide answers to many of the simple questions one may feel too embarrassed to pose to ones teachers.

Dr David Martin FRSB and Laura Pugh