METEO 273: Introduction to Programming Techniques for Meteorology

Course instructors: Section 001: Bicheng Chen; Section 002: Scott Sieron; Teaching Assistant: Lucien Simpfendoerfer, Class meeting times: Section 001: Monday and Friday, 08:00 AM – 09:55 AM, Section 002: Monday and Friday, 03:35 PM – 05:30 PM

METEO 273: Introduction to Programming Techniques for Meteorology (Spring 2017) 

Course instructors:

Teaching Assistants:

Class meeting times:

  • Section 001:Monday and Friday, 08:00 AM – 09:55 AM
  • Section 002: Monday and Friday, 03:35 PM – 05:30 PM

Class meeting location: 126 Walker 

Office hours: Thursday 1:15 PM – 5:15 PM, 607 Walker

Required textbooks: None

Internet materials and links:

Course Expectations 

The objectives of this course are to:

  1. Introduce fundamental programming concepts, such as variables, flow control, syntax, etc.
  2. Become familiar with Linux and MATLAB.
  3. Apply acquired skills in answering simple research questions regarding meteorology or climatology.
  4. Learn and practice good habits in programming. 

After this course, the students should be able to:

  1. Translate a problem into a piece of code to solve the problem.
  2. Debug and fix code.
  3. Read and modify code written by other people to suit their own purposes.
  4. Learn a new programming language on their own.

Course Content 

The course is roughly divided into three parts: 

Introduction to programming (aka doing MATLAB the dumb way)

  • Learn general concepts of programming that apply to most languages
  • Get familiar with the workflow and syntax of MATLAB 

Diving deeper

  • Explore more advanced programing topics
  • Learn good programming practices
  • Get experience in formulating a problem, splitting up the problem into smaller parts, and designing algorithms to solve the smaller problems, as well as managing larger projects

MATLAB programming

  • Learn how to take advantages of MATLAB’s features
  • Visualize data with different types of plots

Course Policies 

Academic Integrity

Students are not to copy any answers from another student or external resources and present them as their own. Students who present other people's work as their own will at least receive as low as a 0 on the assignment, and may receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. 

Students of the class are encouraged to work on exercises and assignments in groups, but evaluated code/results must be uniquely written/produced by each individual.

Quizzes and the final project are entirely individual efforts. Students may communicate with only the instructors and TAs during quizzes and with regard to the final project.

Assessment Policy

Exercises consist of simple programming problems. They are given in the beginning of the semester as practice for newly-learned concepts.

Students will demonstrate their code and solutions to an instructor or TA for evaluation. In order to keep evaluators available for the entire class, codes needs to be evaluated quickly. Code will need to be well-documented and stylized (clear and readable) for quick evaluation to be possible.

Each problem within an exercise will be evaluated as either “pass” or “retry.” Students may repeatedly retry evaluation until the deadline.

Assignments are more extensive programming challenges. They are given in the middle of the semester as practice in problem solving and algorithm development, applying primarily the programming tools and concepts already learned.

Assignments will receive a grade based on whether the code runs and performs the required tasks, the software design, and the documentation and style.

Examination Policy

Quizzes will test the students’ knowledge of the basics of programming. They will be given in the beginning of the semester after new concepts are introduced.

A final project will conclude the semester. This will assess the knowledge and skills which the students have accumulated through the course, and be similar to the assignments in scale and design. Students are not allowed to discuss the final project with anyone other than the course instructors and TAs.

There will be no final exam. 

Grading Policy

The following weights are used to determine the final course grade:

  • Exercises: 10 %
  • Quizzes: 20 %
  • Assignments: 40 %
  • Final project: 30 %

The final grade will reflect the student’s knowledge and skill at the end of the course. Thus, it is possible to receive a higher grade than the weighted average (using the percentages above) by showing mastery of the course material in the final project. This will only be done in such a way as to help the students’ overall scores. No student will receive a lower score than the weighted average using the percentages above.

Standard grade scale will be applied (90% and above A- or A, 80% and above B- to B+, etc.). There will be no grade curving. 


The student is responsible for learning the material in the lectures. Attendance will not be taken and does not affect the final grade. Students must be present at quizzes to receive a score. Please inform the instructor of absences, preferably ahead of time. If you miss a lecture for a legitimate reason (see below), the instructor will be happy to help bring you back up to speed.

This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help: Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

Weather Delays

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If the course format fails to provide for your needs due to a disability, please talk to the course instructor. The instructor will make every effort to accommodate you.

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website ( 

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines ( If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations. 


Nondiscrimination Statement

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment for all persons.  It is the policy of the University to maintain an environment free of harassment and free of discrimination against any person because of age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas.  Discriminatory conduct and harassment, as well as sexual misconduct and relationship violence, violates the dignity of individuals, impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission, and will not be tolerated. 

Direct all inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy to: 

Dr. Kenneth Lehrman III
Vice Provost for Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action Office
The Pennsylvania State University
328 Boucke Building
University Park, PA 16802-5901
Tel (814) 863-0471 

Diversity Statement

I consider this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect.  All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment for every other member of the class.  Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. 

Safe Zone Statement

I am a member of the Penn State Safe Zone Ally Network, and I am available to listen and support you in a safe and confidential manner.  As a Safe Zone Ally, I can help you connect with resources on campus to address problems you may face that interfere with your academic and social success on campus as it relates to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.  My goal is to help you be successful and to maintain a safe and equitable campus.

For more information visit the Penn State LGBTQA Student Resource Center in 101 Boucke Building or at: 

Disclaimer Statement

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes will be posted to Angel.