Adventures In Spatial Epidemiology

Today marked day one of the five-day intensive graduate course that I am co-teaching1. The course is titled Geographical Epidemiology, and further information about it can be found here. I always love the first day of class because it can provide a sense of the enthusiasm of the students, and thus how the course might play out.

I can honestly say that I was stoked for several reasons today:

  • The number of people who had enrolled in the course far exceeded my expectations. It makes me happy to know that so many people want to extend their education, specifically in the area of geo-statistics, and geo-epidemiology.

    Sudoku challenge number 1
  • The range of students is quite broad. We have Masters and PhD students, Vets, Public Health specialists, Geographers, and more. It’s fantastic that so many people can come together under the umbrella of one course. I’m looking forward to learning more about everyone, what they do, and how they might use the course learnings in their own lives.
  • The students were involved and seemingly excited from the get go. This is a huge bonus in my books. As a teacher, I feed off of the enthusiasm of the students. If they aren’t interested, it becomes a draining exercise very quickly. Thankfully today was the opposite. I left class feeling rejuvenated.

My job today was to cover the first two labs. The first lab – introduce the students to R. The second lab – introduce the students to mapping in R. Neither of the topics are overly difficult, but if one hasn’t seen R before it can all be a bit overwhelming. I hope I presented the material in a way that was accessible.

I have to note two things in particular that made me smile while I was teaching, both of which have to do with R.

  • I was able to introduce the class to the R package called googleVisThis package allows the user to interface directly with Googlevisualization software. The results are pretty spectacular. I won’t go into detail about the package here – as I’ll be writing a separate post about it in the near future. But believe me when I say it is wicked-awesome-cool, and I’m looking forward to using it with some of my presentations.

    Sudoku challenge number 2
  • In the process of introducing the class to R, I inadvertently stumbled on the R packaged called Sudoku. Of course, once I got home I had to investigate this further. I quickly learned that it is a package used by R to generate, play, and solve Sudoku puzzles. I had assumed this when I saw it, but really had no idea. Being the nerd that I am, I had to play with it. And by that, I mean I had to generate some Sudoku puzzles – several of which I’ve included in this post. I’ll post the solutions later in the week for those of you who might want to try to solve them. I’m not sure how difficult they are as I’ve not attempted them yet.

Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the week and getting to know the students better. Who knows what crazy collaborative projects might come out of all of this.


Sudoku challenge number 3
Sudoku challenge number 4

1 Along with Olaf Berke, David Pearl, Zvonimir Poljak, Julie Horrocks, and Rob Deardon.


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