This fall semester I joined the Digital Center Intern Program(DCIP) as an instructor intern. My internship is primarily focused on developing lesson plans for and hosting weekly R Open Labs. This internship allowed me to try different teaching approaches and explore different topics about R. It was an intellectually challenging and rewarding experience. The highlights of my experience were discussing with people from diverse academic backgrounds about how to use R to help their research. I learned a lot about applications of statistical analysis from these discussions and it felt wonderful to help people.
At the beginning of the semester, I started R Open Lab as a very structured instructional session and covered the basic usage of R. Later on, after talking with other librarians, I decided to make the open lab more free-flowing and put more emphasis on discussion instead of instruction. I found that, by getting participants more engaged in conversation, I was able to better understand their needs and help them with their research.
The internship offered a great opportunity for me to see for myself how R and statistics could be used as a tool for research. For example, one of the open lab’s regular participants used R to conduct sentiment analysis to gain insights about stress measurement and management in medical research. Another participant used R to extract information from Russian literature and conducted text analysis to understand the political situation at different times. It never occurred to me that statistics are so broadly used in different fields until I talked with these people.
Considering the participants’ interest and needs, I am planning to talk more about plotting, data cleaning and data scraping in the next semester. Since people coming to the open lab often have completely different levels of understanding of R, I am hoping to encourage more peer learning at the open lab next semester.
This internship motivated me to gain a deeper understanding of R and enhanced my teaching skills. It is an amazing program and I had an incredibly fulfilling experience. I really look forward to the future work in the program and I hope to do better next semester.