Billo applies Excel program to science

Better Chemistry Through Computing

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

To a book market flush with such titles as Windows 98 for Dummies and The Internet for Busy People , Assoc. Prof. Joseph Billo (Chemistry) has added his own specially-tailored manual for the computer-literate: Excel for Chemists .

Billo's guide shows scientists and engineers how to use the popular Microsoft Excel business spreadsheet software for all types of chemical research applications.

The book has proven so popular with scientists since its release last year by Wiley-VCH Publishers that it is now in its fifth printing.

After nearly 30 years as a college teacher, Billo is carving a new niche for himself as a computer guru to scientists across corporate America. He has been invited to lead training seminars by such organizations as the American Chemical Society, the National Cancer Institute, Procter & Gamble, Shell and Texaco.

"Geoscientists, petroleum engineers, biochemists - they've all used this book," said Billo, who said the primer grew out of lessons he had taught students in his analytical chemistry class.

Developed as a business tool for calculating profits and losses, Excel software contains "all sorts of mathematical tools of use to scientists," said Billo.

But while previous training manuals on the software had been geared to engineers and other professionals, he said, none had been specifically trained at chemists.

That breach has been filled by Billo's manual. "There are a lot of chemists, and they seem to love it," he said.

Assoc. Prof. Joseph Billo (Chemistry).

The demand from scientists for training in the ins and outs of Excel has also led Billo to accept more than two dozen invitations to teach the two-day course he has designed, "Excel for Scientists and Engineers."

"By word of mouth, scientists in industry have asked me to go and teach them the intricacies of this software," he said. "Some training providers will you show you how to use Excel to set up your own pizza shop. My audiences don't want to know that. They want to know about curve-fitting," he said, referring to the graphing of a theoretical equation, one of Excel's scientific uses.

Billo said multiple non-linear regression analysis, deconvoluting ultraviolet-visible spectra and other forms of scientific data recording can be handled by the business accounting software, as well.

While scientists have long realized the power of Excel for analyzing chemical data, Billo said, his 454-page "how-to" manual with accompanying software disc has been snapped up as a handy guide.

"The book doesn't contain a whole lot of originality," he said, with a smile, "but it is selling like hotcakes."

Billo, a faculty member at Boston College since 1969, is planning an advanced guide to Excel programming as a follow-up.

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