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Learn About MATLAB @ BC

Global sea surface temperature anomalies illustrated using MATLAB (read more below)

MATLAB, one of several scientific computing systems used at BC, offers a versatile programming environment widely utilized both in teaching and research.

MATLAB, developed by MathWorks, is a high-level technical computing language and interactive environment for algorithm development, data visualization, data analysis, and numeric computation. In many instances, people can use MATLAB to solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran.

A notable characteristic of MATLAB is its versatile and user-friendly environment which helps beginners create quick programs (without much programming experience), and allow advanced programmers to create large and complex application programs.

Over one million people use MATLAB worldwide, and about 1200 MATLAB-based books in 26 languages are available.

MATLAB is used in a wide range of applications, including:

  • Signal and image processing
  • Communications
  • Control design, test and measurement
  • Financial modeling and analysis
  • Computational biology.

MATLAB is designed to reduce programming effort, software development time, and maintenance costs. Boston College has a site license for MATLAB, giving broad access to students, faculty and research staff in many departments throughout BC. Information Technology Services (ITS) provides MATLAB consultation, training, and support for all major operating systems.

People at BC use MATLAB for many reasons, including:

  • Its broad usage by other BC faculty and staff;
  • The availability of resources and technical support; and
  • Its widespread use in academia, government research labs, and the private sector.

The figure at the top of the page uses MATLAB to demonstrate the global ocean sea surface temperature (SST) monthly average inferred from observations. The map illustrates the spatial distribution of SST anomalies during the month of December 2009 using MATLAB and data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dozens of add-on toolboxes (collections of special-purpose functions) extend the MATLAB environment to solve problems in specific application areas.

What People Are Saying about MATLAB...

Scott Slotnick, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department: "If you can describe an analysis procedure in words, you can code it in MATLAB. We use MATLAB to bypass the constraints of standard procedures, so that we can develop more accurate models of psychological and neural processing."


Stella Yu, Assistant Professor in Computer Science says "I use MATLAB extensively in my teaching and research.  In fact, all the members in my lab use MATLAB to process images, program human vision experiments, and implement computer vision algorithms."


Douglas Edmonds, Assistant Professor in the Geology and Geophysics Department: "My students and I regularly use MATLAB to view and quantitatively analyze data.  We also use MATLAB to code numerical models.  These models are used in research applications to predict the growth and evolution of river deltas and other sedimentary systems."