LSU SRP Data Management & Analysis Core and Research Experience & Training Coordination Core Lead Statistical Workshop

Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) team members co-led a workshop on the R programming language for health-related research on June 7 and 14, 2023. R is a popular and highly flexible analysis tool that allows researchers to discover more with their data.

The workshop provided a total of 6 hours of instruction and guided practice. More specifically, the “Introduction to R for Health Research: A Beginner's Guide” workshop offered hands-on experience in RStudio, a graphical user interface for R.

Speaker delivering presentation

Dr. Luan Vu presents the workshop "Introduction to R for Health Research: A Beginner's Guide" on the LSU Vet Med campus. Photo Credit: Luan Vu.

The LSU SRP team members among the workshop instructors were:

  • Luan Vu, PhD, LSU SRP Project 1 Team Member; Assistant Research Professor, LSU Department of Biological Sciences;
  • Qingzhao Yu, PhD, LSU SRP Data Management and Analysis Core Leader; Professor of Biostatistics and Interim Associate Dean for Research, LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health;
  • Ruikun Zuo, MPH, LSU SRP trainee; PhD student in biostatistics, LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health;
  • Donald Mercante, PhD, Data Management and Analysis Core Investigator; Professor of Biostatistics, LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health; and
  • Tammy Dugas, PhD, LSU SRP Research Experience and Training Coordination Core Leader and Project 2 Leader; Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Yu elaborated on the usefulness of this workshop for a broad spectrum of researchers: “Learning R can be incredibly useful for researchers across various disciplines. R provides powerful data analysis and data visualization tools and helps increase the reproducibility and transparency in research.”

The workshop aimed to provide an understanding of R data preparation techniques and to familiarize students with R functions and libraries that can be used to perform these tasks. The course covered the following four sections:

  • Introduction: Using R in Medical Research, Case Studies, R syntax, RStudio
  • R Basics—Data Preparation
  • Statistics and R
  • Data Visualization

Dr. Vu agreed with his colleagues regarding the usefulness of R and this workshop for researchers: “Diving into R unlocks a world where data tells stories, demanding dedication but bestowing immeasurable research rewards. The course not only introduced participants to the advantages of utilizing R in the medical sciences field but also aimed to inspire researchers to adopt R for their respective investigative pursuits.”

Illustration made with R studio

Example plot created in RStudio: an alluvial diagram illustrating the relationships among COVID-19 vaccination/infection status, sex, age, body mass index, race, and other underlying conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, across cases.

Credit: Dr. Luan Vu

Attendees with a wide variety of prior experience levels, including those with no previous experience with this programming language, were able to practice working with real-world datasets. Over 50 people attended the workshop online or in person at LSU Health in New Orleans or at LSU Vet Med in Baton Rouge.

There are plans for additional methodological educational offerings in the future. “We learned from the process of preparing and teaching the R course and are getting ready to provide more educational chances for LSU SRP trainees in the near future,” Dr. Yu commented.