PhD Courses in Denmark

Introduction to programming in R for biologists

PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE at University of Copenhagen

Aim and content

Please note that to apply, you have to both apply via this site AND send an email. Please see the information on how to apply at the bottom of this page.


Programming (particularly in R) has become an essential tool in biological research, including PhD projects. But biology degrees often do not include an actual introduction to programming. The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to programming, which is accessible and designed for biologists in the field of Ecology and Evolution.

Learning programming can be useful for biologists for several reasons:
• Knowledge about programming is very helpful when using R (including for data analysis)
• Programming is a widely useful skill
• Programming is fun and for everyone!

The course will focus on the following:
• Key programming concepts
• Programming procedures
• The R programming language and the RStudio environment
• How programming is used in biological research

See the course website for further details.

Formel requirements

Participants may or may not have used R/RStudio before. Participants are expected to have no or little prior knowledge about programming.

Learning outcome

• Key programming concepts, including variables, types, data structures, functions, loops, control statements, and debugging
• Script development approaches
• The R programming language and the RStudio environment
• How programming is used in biological research
• Creating variables and manipulating them via subsetting and substitution
• Constructing and using functions
• Constructing and using loops and control statements
• Error correction and debugging
• Efficient script development, including using pseudocode, commenting, and structuring by functions
• Creating and using well-structured scripts, from planning to coding and execution
• Using programming to store, manipulate and simulate biological data

Target group

The course is mainly aimed a PhD students in the field of Ecology & Evolution and particularly Behavioural Ecology. Others are also welcome apply (see the course website for more information).

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, exercises, and group work.


Main lecturer: Dr Josefine Bohr Brask (University of Copenhagen)
Guest lecturer: Dr Erin Siracusa (University of Exeter)
Assistance: Prof. Elodie Briefer (University of Copenhagen)



Please see the course website for more information about the course:


There is no course fee.


The application procedure is described below. Please note that applying for the course does not guarantee you a place (as those from the target group have priority). You will be notified shortly after the course application deadline (or earlier) about whether your have got a place.

To apply for the course, you need to do two things:

1) Apply via the university platform by clicking on 'Apply' above.

2) Also send an email to with the following information:

• Your academic level (for example PhD student, postdoc, Master student, etc.)
• The topic of your PhD (or other research if you are not a PhD student)
• Dietary preferences (For example ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’, ‘gluten-free’, etc.)

• Your experience with R/RStudio/programming (for example ‘I have no experience with any of this’, ‘I have run statistical tests in RStudio using code made by other people’, ‘I have made my own scripts in R but have not had a proper introduction to programming’ ‘I code in Python but have not used R’, or something else (you are welcome to provide more detail than in the examples)).