Skip to content
Learning Research Updates

Journal Article: Activity: Teaching Coding in R through Discipline-Focused Problem-Solving in an Analytical Chemistry Course

July 21, 2022
ND Learning


Weaver, Simone, G. Alex Ambrose, and Rebecca Whelan. 2022. “Activity: Teaching Coding in R through Discipline-Focused Problem-Solving in an Analytical Chemistry Course.” Journal of Chemical Education.


Students completing undergraduate majors in chemistry are not typically required to undergo formal training in computer programming or coding. As a result, many chemistry students are graduating without skills in understanding, writing, or manipulating computer code. This skills gap places students at a disadvantage, considering the widespread and ever-increasing use of computers to acquire, analyze, and present data in chemical industry and research. We hypothesized the following: (1) we could introduce coding to the analytical chemistry curriculum in an accessible and discipline-focused manner and (2) tasks based on adapting existing code would be accessible even to novice coders. Presented here is an activity that teaches students to use R, a widely used programming language designed for data analysis and statistics, within the user-friendly RStudio integrated development environment. The activity uses peptide charge as a motivating bioanalytical chemistry topic. The origin and importance of peptide charge are discussed in the four modules that comprise the activity. Applications relevant to chromatography and mass spectrometry are discussed. Students complete tasks of increasing difficulty, with earlier modules supporting later ones. The activity has been taught to advanced undergraduate and first-semester graduate students. In all iterations, anonymous survey data collected using a Likert-scale questionnaire reflected that most students were not familiar with R or coding generally before completing the activity. Students reported finding the activity enjoyable, efficient, effective, and easy to use. The majority reported that they would use R/RStudio as a scientific tool in both chemistry and nonchemistry projects in the future. The activity is freely available at


Access the full paper here.