Posted April 8, 2014
Idaho State University biological sciences Assistant Professor Ken Aho has written a biology textbook “Foundational and Applied Statistics for Biologists Using R” and companion software that helps biologists to better understand the basics of the statistics they use in their studies.
Aho said he spent thousands of hours writing the recently-published 596-page textbook and creating the software that goes along with it, in between teaching a full load and completing research during the last six years that he has been at ISU.
“Biologists need to understand the basics of what they’re doing with their statistics, to better understand the inferences they’re making with their data,” said Aho, who has a master’s degree in statistics and a doctoral degree in biology.
He said that it is more important than ever for biology students to have a firm grasp and understanding of statistics.
“They need a good, working knowledge of statistics to be marketable and to find jobs in their fields,” Aho said. “The biostatistics job market is increasing dramatically and there are powerful mathematical tools to help understand complex problems and systems like global climate change. If used correctly these tools provide an unprecedented means to understand our world. However, if they are used poorly they may produce misleading results, leading to distrust in science.”
The accompanying software, written in the “R” freeware language and environment, complements the textbook.
“I developed the software simultaneously because I am a visual person,” Aho said. “It elucidates and describes the ideas I am talking about. Some people see an equation and become terrified, but the software and graphics help them understand the equations and statistics visually.”
The new textbook and software is in use in the classes Aho teaches and it has received strong reviews from his colleagues.
“This is a monumental work that I expect will become a mainstay for teaching and reference in our field,” said Colden Baxter, ISU associate professor of biological sciences. “The accompanying software program he developed contains hundreds of methods for teaching statistics and biological research.”
For more information on the textbook, visit http://idahostateu.com/ahotextbook.