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weatherwiz

MATLAB

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Wasn't sure which forum was appropriate for this topic but I'm looking for some input/advice from others who have experience in MATLAB and I'm also curious as to what sort of background with regards to courses you may have taken which helped prepare you to understand MATLAB and how to write programs.  

At my school, as part of the new meteorology program which was revamped a few years back, a course called Oceanography is now a required course for the program.  As part of this course we use MATLAB during lab assignments.  Outside of I believe Calc II and Physics II, the pre-req for the course is a computer programming class which involves writing codes using java script or a Visual Basic course.  

I took the course which involved the java script my first semester and it was total hell.  I never like to complain about teachers or professors but that was my worst experience ever.  We did hardly no programming during class and would just go over PP slides which talked about things, gave definitions, and the background behind them (examples include for loops, while loops, if then statements, etc).   What made maters worse was the homeworks...nearly impossible for us not having any experience with programming.  When myself and several students went to the tutoring center they couldn't believe the difficulty of these assignments and said they didn't come across this level of work until their like 5th level of programming.  Virtually, the class offered no value of preparation for moving forward with any type of programming classes.  

In Oceanography, our first major assignment is to construct a calculator which will return surface ocean flux values when a user inputs a density value.  There was no guidance given for his except just go and do it.  

I know there are such books as MATLAB for dummies and such but truthfully I've never had a tremendous amount of success with those books.  For anyone who has MATLAB experience and perhaps struggled greatly with it what options approaches did you take to really understand programming and how to just write codes and such with no problem?  

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I'm a software engineer, not a meteorologist, but I echo the above comment -- try to learn Python instead if possible.  Super useful language in the real world.  Matlab is a rare breed rarely encountered outside of academia to say the least, at least in software development.  Can't speak whether or not meteorologists write Matlab code in the wild, but I kind of doubt it.

 

But, to answer your question about pre-reqs, I struggled mightily with my Matlab oriented classes in college because I lacked CS fundamentals.  Highly recommend you take a semester or two of Intro to CS (some schools crunch this into 1 semester, others take 2).  It will probably be lower level and more straight forward than your JS class.  You'll learn the basics of loops, conditionals, variables, functions, etc., and this will help with Matlab considerably.  You'll also do some object oriented stuff and learn some basic data structures and algorithms, which is great practical knowledge for the real world, aside from Matlab.  

 

Also, looping back to what I mentioned about my prior struggles with Matlab, Matlab oriented courses are often tough not only because of the programming involved, but the applied math as well.  Programming courses offered by non CS departments are usually poorly taught and just suck in general, IMO.  I say that as a math major-turned-software engineer who cut his programming teeth writing numerical programming software for applied math courses.  If I could do it all over again, I would have focused more on taking courses in data structures, algorithms, and Java/Python as far as languages go.  Those courses are generally easier and are more valued by employers at the same time, so they're a win/win.  That said, I'm a software engineer and not a meteorologist, so take this advice with that in mind....

 

That said, if you have to take this Matlab course to get your degree, then I guess you just have to suck it up.  

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Thanks alot for the input!  Once I get some free time I will begin and look into Python.  Unfortunately, I do need MATLAb to graduate.  I need to use MATLAB for the Oceanography course I'm in now and will use it for Remote Sensing in the Spring, and finally Instrumentation next Fall.  It just really sucks b/c we're not provided with much of a background and are just thrown into this and basically told do it.  Before it was a requirement for the program, past students who took it all ended up with incompletes.  It would be so awesome and beneficial if we were actually taught and taught well.  

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On 9/17/2017 at 9:14 PM, weatherwiz said:

Thanks alot for the input!  Once I get some free time I will begin and look into Python.  Unfortunately, I do need MATLAb to graduate.  I need to use MATLAB for the Oceanography course I'm in now and will use it for Remote Sensing in the Spring, and finally Instrumentation next Fall.  It just really sucks b/c we're not provided with much of a background and are just thrown into this and basically told do it.  Before it was a requirement for the program, past students who took it all ended up with incompletes.  It would be so awesome and beneficial if we were actually taught and taught well.  

Ill see if I have a copy, PDF, that a fellow student made to help us better understand MATLAB but luckily it was just introduced to us in instruments and was not really used. We had to go about with learning FORTRAN and Python. Python was probably the easiest to learn and have heard it would be more so used down the road havent had to do much but im not in forecasting or working with models im currently just an observer.

 

One thing I will say is that I recommend going for a masters once you are done because not many will take consideration of you with a BS unfortunately. Currently in the process of doing so myself. As well as trying to diversify yourself so by taking courses normally people would not take and learning more coding languages.

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19 hours ago, so_whats_happening said:

Ill see if I have a copy, PDF, that a fellow student made to help us better understand MATLAB but luckily it was just introduced to us in instruments and was not really used. We had to go about with learning FORTRAN and Python. Python was probably the easiest to learn and have heard it would be more so used down the road havent had to do much but im not in forecasting or working with models im currently just an observer.

 

One thing I will say is that I recommend going for a masters once you are done because not many will take consideration of you with a BS unfortunately. Currently in the process of doing so myself. As well as trying to diversify yourself so by taking courses normally people would not take and learning more coding languages.

That would be awesome!!

I really appreciate this information and advice!  I always wanted to go for my masters and I even considered doctorate but I've re-thought the doctorate, at least for now.  As far as masters is concerned, how math intensive is a masters program?  Calculus was such a struggle and doing anything more math intensive might kill me lol.

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2 hours ago, weatherwiz said:

That would be awesome!!

I really appreciate this information and advice!  I always wanted to go for my masters and I even considered doctorate but I've re-thought the doctorate, at least for now.  As far as masters is concerned, how math intensive is a masters program?  Calculus was such a struggle and doing anything more math intensive might kill me lol.

Unfortunately I dont have the PDF version just the written copy, 70-80 pages long, so if I can figure out a way to get that into PDF from work ill gladly set it up and send it to you. As far as I know the masters program, depending on what you go for, is not heavily math based you will probably have to do some deriving of sorts and maybe some upper level math but as far as I know there wont be a math class you would have to take but again it depends on what you end up going for in your masters program. Many of times they list the courses you will have to take under the program and you can always talk with an advisor about those courses if you are unsure. Math is rough in some aspects but I would see how you do for the rest of your degree program now and see if you can do so further on but yes masters seems to be the way to go for now and then you can always work for your doctorate.

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On 9/20/2017 at 0:07 PM, so_whats_happening said:

Unfortunately I dont have the PDF version just the written copy, 70-80 pages long, so if I can figure out a way to get that into PDF from work ill gladly set it up and send it to you. As far as I know the masters program, depending on what you go for, is not heavily math based you will probably have to do some deriving of sorts and maybe some upper level math but as far as I know there wont be a math class you would have to take but again it depends on what you end up going for in your masters program. Many of times they list the courses you will have to take under the program and you can always talk with an advisor about those courses if you are unsure. Math is rough in some aspects but I would see how you do for the rest of your degree program now and see if you can do so further on but yes masters seems to be the way to go for now and then you can always work for your doctorate.

This is such great information, thank you!  I'm on pace to graduate next fall so I'm really starting to think harder about my options.  Initially, I didn't have a major interest in broadcasting, however, after taking a broadcast course last year and this year as well I really enjoy it.  I don't know though if I could get into broadcast...I don't really have a good voice for TV and some words I struggle to pronounce clearly.  Perhaps this is me just being self-conscious b/c when I post my videos and such they seem to get good reviews.  My current thinking is perhaps apply for TV jobs (I am willing to move anywhere) and after a period of time if I don't get anything I'll get right into masters.  If I do land a job, however, I will still pursue masters and do it online.  

As for masters though I really like researching and am big into severe weather.  I have several projects I've started over the years but I don't have the time now to really further those projects.  I love studying patterns and one thing I want to do (and I want to do this for senior research) is explore the importance of the upper-level jet placement and severe weather in the northeast.  I also have a strong interest on long-range forecasting and how the stratosphere influences the stratosphere.  I guess my dream ideal job would be like working somewhere where you just compose research and write papers and such.  Not sure if something like that exists but its something to explore.  

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On 9/21/2017 at 4:23 PM, weatherwiz said:

This is such great information, thank you!  I'm on pace to graduate next fall so I'm really starting to think harder about my options.  Initially, I didn't have a major interest in broadcasting, however, after taking a broadcast course last year and this year as well I really enjoy it.  I don't know though if I could get into broadcast...I don't really have a good voice for TV and some words I struggle to pronounce clearly.  Perhaps this is me just being self-conscious b/c when I post my videos and such they seem to get good reviews.  My current thinking is perhaps apply for TV jobs (I am willing to move anywhere) and after a period of time if I don't get anything I'll get right into masters.  If I do land a job, however, I will still pursue masters and do it online.  

As for masters though I really like researching and am big into severe weather.  I have several projects I've started over the years but I don't have the time now to really further those projects.  I love studying patterns and one thing I want to do (and I want to do this for senior research) is explore the importance of the upper-level jet placement and severe weather in the northeast.  I also have a strong interest on long-range forecasting and how the stratosphere influences the stratosphere.  I guess my dream ideal job would be like working somewhere where you just compose research and write papers and such.  Not sure if something like that exists but its something to explore.  

Basically you would like to be a research scientist hands on in the field.

I was never much into being a broadcaster even though and just as you have experienced, getting many people who have told me it might be something to think about, just never had interest. My advisor actually helped me out with a job after I was done with school he knew a former student who had been working as a weather observer for an airport and snuck in my name which really helped been paying on the loan debt and trying to at least gain some work experience while doing so, been at it for about 2 years part time between 2 airports. It is not exactly as I thought it would go but am more than fine with how things have happened for now, but will continue to further myself in education and then hopefully one day forecasting for NWS?? I have noticed as well with many applications that job experience will also help greatly help with a masters as well when applying.

If you are trying to go for weather works or accuweather you can get in there with a bachelors it will be almost like a competition, work experience helps though. It is tough out there and many would like to see something different from the norm of a B.S. in Meteorology since many have been entering the field. I myself would like to go down a similar path as you with studying long range forecasting and understanding of our climate state so we can better predict different aspects of weather with a better lead time and accuracy. 

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On 9/25/2017 at 8:59 AM, so_whats_happening said:

Basically you would like to be a research scientist hands on in the field.

I was never much into being a broadcaster even though and just as you have experienced, getting many people who have told me it might be something to think about, just never had interest. My advisor actually helped me out with a job after I was done with school he knew a former student who had been working as a weather observer for an airport and snuck in my name which really helped been paying on the loan debt and trying to at least gain some work experience while doing so, been at it for about 2 years part time between 2 airports. It is not exactly as I thought it would go but am more than fine with how things have happened for now, but will continue to further myself in education and then hopefully one day forecasting for NWS?? I have noticed as well with many applications that job experience will also help greatly help with a masters as well when applying.

If you are trying to go for weather works or accuweather you can get in there with a bachelors it will be almost like a competition, work experience helps though. It is tough out there and many would like to see something different from the norm of a B.S. in Meteorology since many have been entering the field. I myself would like to go down a similar path as you with studying long range forecasting and understanding of our climate state so we can better predict different aspects of weather with a better lead time and accuracy. 

That's awesome you were able to get into the field that way!  That's really awesome you took that offer b/c once you get that experience in the field (no matter what it is) that can really help separate you from others.  If I had to pick a dream job it would be forecasting at the SPC.  I think it would also be awesome to perhaps work along side Dr. Forbes.  I would also like to explore GIS and certainly try to better myself with MATLAB and python and such.  Programming and coding is a horrific pain but if you can learn it...that's a massive plus.  

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When I eventually got to needing it, I found Matlab to be a fairly easy transition since I had some experience with Visual Basic, QBasic, and TI calculator Basic. 

However, when I started at Georgia Tech, all the engineering students took a CS intro class that used some Godforsaken language called Scheme.  They were prototyping a class for engineers that used Matlab but they only offered it to a select few.  Scheme was awful and useless.

By the time I got to upper-level major classes that used Matlab they all assumed we'd had a Matlab class already.  I found programming Matlab to do math stuff to be infinitely easier than trying to do it by hand. 

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