SIO 209 Introduction to MATLAB (section 822598), Fall 2014 (1 unit S/U)

syllabus & course information

Instructor: Sarah Giddings, sarahgid at
Class times: Sept 29 – Oct 2, every day, 10am-12pm
Location: NierenbergHall, room 101
Office hours: every day 12-1pm, MESOM 365, or email me to set up an appointment

course summary:

This course will provide a hands-on introduction to MATLAB. No prior experience is necessary. The course will cover variables, plotting, scripts, matrices and other ways to store data including NetCDF, loops, and an introduction to more advanced techniques. Course material including notes, homework, and .mat files will be posted here as the course progresses.

course schedule and links to materials:

* Monday September 29th

Workspace, startup, basic math, matrices & arrays, element-by-element vs. matrix math, symbolic algebra, scripts, best practices, basic plotting, saving figures, saving & loading data

* Tuesday September 30th

Basic statistics, basic fitting, Loading and saving .txt or ascii files, MATLAB dates, indexing, 2D plotting, other figure properties, get and set, characters & strings

* Wednesday October 1st

Functions, if statements, for & while loops, vectorizing code for efficiency, mapping

* Thursday October 2nd

Structures, cell arrays, Native MATLAB NetCDF, SNCtools NetCDF



You do not need any background with Matlab or computer programming. In order to follow along and do the homework, you will need to have access to a computer that runs Matlab. If your advisor cannot provide you with this, check with Lisa Lehmann (COAP only) or try the virtual lab. Worst case scenario, buy a copy of the student version at the UCSD bookstore ($100). You do not need to bring a laptop to class, but I highly encourage it. Code is learned best by practice.

credit & homework:

To get course credit, you must attend all 4 days of class and complete the daily homework. Homework will not be graded, it will be self-check. Again, you learn code best by doing!


There are many textbooks covering Matlab, so you might check out the selection at the UCSD bookstore. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Matlab, Third Edition: A Practical Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving, by Stormy Attaway (bookstore link) (Amazon link). This one is well reviewed and recent.
  • Physical Oceanography: A Mathematical Introduction with MATLAB, by Reza Malek-Madani (bookstore link) (Amazon link). This book seems useful for those interested in using Matlab to solve numerical problems in physical oceanography. For those of you in different fields, look on-line, there are great books for applications to engineering, numerical methods, biology, etc.

Online tutorials:

  • Mathworks (the company who developed Matlab) has an online tutorial as well as a detailed users manual is available.
  • Regular Google searches work pretty well too as there is a very large user community and on-line responses to questions as well as application specific code sharing. Some code you will find through individual websites (e.g., TEOS-10) others you can find on the Matlab code file exchange.

Matlab help files (online and offline)

All of the Matlab help files are available within the program and online help. For functions,  (e.g. the “plot” function), you can use the help command: >>help plot OR >>doc plot.