What can I do before I start?

Incoming students often ask “What can I do before I start the MEDS program to prepare?”

There are no required tasks that admitted MEDS students are expected to complete before starting the program. However, for those of you who are excited to explore the landscape of Environmental Data Science a bit more before MEDS Orientation, here are some completely optional things you can do.

1. Join communities

Yes, you should feel welcome to join even before you start MEDS, and even if you’ve never written a line of code before!

Joining and engaging with data science communities is a great way to build your Environmental Data Science network, stay up to date on new tools, methods, events, and initiatives, learn about professional opportunities, and to get support of all flavors (technical, emotional, etc.).

Here are some places to start:


Eco-Data-Science is a volunteer-driven learning group that has become a model for coding clubs and communities around the world. During the academic year, Eco-Data-Science offers workshops at UCSB on wide-ranging topics in environmental data science topics from text analysis to high performance computing to basic data wrangling in R and Python.

Santa Barbara R-Ladies

Santa Barbara R-Ladies is our local chapter of R-Ladies, “a world-wide organization to promote gender diversity in the R community.” SB R-Ladies hosts ~2-3 events per year, including skill-building workshops, guest speakers, networking events, and more. All are welcome to join and participate, with the understanding that this group prioritizes supporting members from underrepresented genders in the R community.

Central Coast R-Users Group

The Central Coast R-Users Group is a local group that hosts sessions throughout the year to “bring Santa Barbara R users together to exchange information and ideas.” Users and learners of all levels are welcome to join! Past sessions have included guest speakers and visitors, lightning talks, active coding lessons, and much more!

R for Data Science Online Learning Community

The R for Data Science Online Learning Community is a supportive place where you can join groups, ask for help, learn about events and jobs, and network with other learners, teachers, and practitioners in the R community.

2. Stretch your quantitative brain

If your brain is feeling a bit rusty on numbers & equations, you may want to stretch out your math muscles a bit before MEDS starts. Again: this is absolutely not required. We will do some warm-up stretches in EDS 212 (Essential Math in Environmental Data Science), the first course you’ll take in MEDS. However, if you’re really inspired to refresh some math skills before then, focus on algebra basics (e.g. the first four sessions in Khan Academy’s Algebra 1 module).

We will do all of this in EDS 212, but if you’re feeling especially nervous about math in the MEDS program, bringing algebra basics back to the forefront of your brain is a good place to start.

3. Explore job search resources

If you have time and would like to explore job search resources (optional, not required), here are a few books that the Bren Career Development and Alumni Relations Team recommend: