Section I Overview

The first four chapters give necessary background. The first chapter is background to the book: what it covers and why I wrote it. The next three chapters are background material needed for the statistical modeling and machine learning methods covered in the later chapters. However, although I’ve presented that material as background, I believe that the review of modeling and statistics (in Chapters 2, 3 and 4) might be valuable to readers, whether or not they intend to go on to the later chapters.

Across Statistical Modeling and Machine Learning on a Shoestring


This is a guidebook for biologists about statistics and computers. Much like a travel guide, it’s aimed to help intelligent travelers from one place (biology) find their way around a fascinating foreign place (computers and statistics). Like a good travel guide, this book should teach you enough to have an interesting conversation with the locals and to bring back some useful souvenirs and maybe some cool clothes that you can’t find at home. I’ve tried my best to make it fun and interesting to read and put in a few nice pictures to get you excited and help recognize things when you see them.

However, a guidebook is no substitute to having lived in another place— although I can tell you about some of the best foods to try and buildings to visit, these will necessarily only be the highlights. Furthermore, as visitors we’ll have to cover some things quite superficially—we can learn enough words to say yes, no, please, and thank you, but we’ll never master the language. Maybe after reading the guidebook, some intrepid readers will decide to take a break from the familiar territory of molecular biology for a while and spend a few years in the land of computers and statistics.

Also, this brings up an important disclaimer: A guidebook is not an encyclopedia or a dictionary. This book doesn’t have a clear section heading for every topic, useful statistical test, or formula. This means that it won’t always be easy to use it for reference. However, because online resources have excellent information about most of the topics covered here, readers are encouraged to look things up as they go along.

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