I was at a conference this weekend where a biologist was describing how he had bred generations upon generations of flies to look at the evolution of their cognitive functions. He had mutated the initial population to contain individuals with certain genotypes and wanted to see how they changed in the end. But once he got the mess of data, he didn’t know what to do!
He sent the data to a computational lab and the results they found thrilled him. The technique they use? Singular Value Decomposition (SVD). Seriously, it must have taken them all of 10 seconds to do. SVD is a basic technique that everyone in science should know. Seriously, graduate students need a more rigorous “mathematical techniques” course. Here is an intuitive description of what SVD is and how it works; if you don’t know it, read it! Then learn about PCA (pdf). It will do you good.