I’m not a scientist, but I had a go… Student during work experience

During the last few days Daniel Zheng was visiting me and had a chance at working on some problems using graph theory and networks. Here is what he has to say about this week…


I’m now coming to the end of my placement, having finished writing the (surprisingly complicated) Octave/Gnuplot script to plot a graph of collaboration networks for Medicine during the year 2007. I’ve definitely learned a few things, such as not to be afraid of command-line software, basic operations in Octave and MATLAB® and that it is much more satisfying creating a graphic diagram completely from scratch, especially when it involves hours of typing repeated commands. Computers are very interesting when you can interact with their underlying, fundamental workings, and I can now see how lucky we are today to have beautifully polished operating systems that don’t spit out pages of error messages when you forget that the file name begins with a capital.

I’ve actually really enjoyed the last few days, and I think it’s given me a taste of what university maths & physics might be like; hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing for four years so its nice to be sure I’ll like it! Learning these sorts of computer skills is also likely to strengthen my application for those exact courses, and I do feel like I’ve stretched the boundaries of my own knowledge (if not, as correctly predicted, that of the wider scientific community). Most of all, though, I’m incredibly grateful to Dr Rogel-Salazar for giving up his time and his office space to teach me all of this, for troubleshooting my computer when things went wrong, and (of course) for getting me free food at the faculty barbeque. It’s been a very intriguing and different experience to what I’m used to at school, and hopefully he’ll continue to provide this great opportunity for others like me; anyone who can, should definitely give it a go.

Anyway that’s enough from me, so I’ll be off now…


3 thoughts on “I’m not a scientist, but I had a go… Student during work experience

    • You are right, there are tons of tools to do this and other kinds of diagrams. Octave and Gnuplot were not mandatory, but they gave us the opportunity to explore other areas that might be of interest to an A-level student thinking of applying for physics or maths courses in University. For example, Daniel had some fun plotting functions in 2D and 3D, wrote some programmes using logic statements and loops, i.e. a brief introduction to programming… Besides, he only had five days…
      Now, when he says “surprisingly complicated” he means a few lines of actually not that intricate code that let him visualise some adjacency matrices.

      Do you use Graphviz yourself?

  1. Ok, I understand — Octave and Gnuplot are great for that. It’s very nice of you to have the time and patience to let young students have this first taste. Were you scouting for talents? I have used Graphviz in the past but for nothing directly related to work. I used to do dependency trees and something like mindmaps to help me think.

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