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Introduction to UNIX for Biologists

Course description

Introductory course to using the UNIX environment and to using the UNIX-terminal for processing biological data. This course is organized by the national bioinformatics infrastructure NBIS in collaboration with Geneco and PlantLink.
The terminal interface in UNIX, the environment on which the operating systems Linux and Mac are built, is a central tool for processing and managing biological data. It inherently provides a variety of programs and commands for performing text-file manipulation, and is frequently the main platform for more advanced bioinformatic tools. Large processing clusters like UPPMAX are also often based on a UNIX environment.

Basic knowledge of how to navigate, manage data and perform data processing in UNIX is a highly useful and versatile skill for anyone working with biological data. It is also a crucial skill to have when working with command-line based bioinformatic software.


To apply for the course you are required to fill in a basic application form at Google forms . This course allows for a limited number of participants, and places will be filled primarily on a first-come-first-serve basis. Researchers on all levels (PhD students, post-docs, PIs) are welcome to attend


November 9 - 11, 2016. 9:00 - 16:00 daily. The course will be held in the Biology building, Sölvegatan 35, Lund. Room: Will be announced.



No previous knowledge in UNIX is required. The target audience is biologists with no previous background in working with UNIX. If you have limited experience with UNIX and have worked occasionally with the UNIX terminal, the course will likely still be useful for you as it includes more challenging non-mandatory exercises

Course Content

The course will cover the following topics:

  • Background and introduction to UNIX
  • Navigation and file management in the UNIX file system
  • Working with bioinformatic data (fasta, fastq, GFF) using UNIX commands
  • Linking multiple UNIX commands together using streams and pipes
  • Processing multiple files in a single command
  • Proper handling of file permissions and project structure in a UNIX environment
  • Automate tasks in UNIX using Bash scripting

Goal of the Course

This course both aims to provide a fundamental understanding of the UNIX environment, what it can do and how to use it, as well as providing a basis for more advanced courses using UNIX-based tools. After the course, the student should feel comfortable navigating in the UNIX environment and should be able to perform basic processing and to extract information from biological data.

Preliminary schedule

Note that this schedule only is the planned outline, and might be subject to change both before and during the course.

  • Day 1: Introduction to UNIX, the file system, how to manage files and basic processing commands
  • Day 2: Using streams, linking commands through pipes, pattern matching and more processing commands
  • Day 3: Variables, Loops and introduction to scripting


Biology Building, Sölvegatan 35, Lund. Room: Will be announced.


Custom tutorials written for this course.

Course Organizers


A first come, first serve, principle applies. The course will take a limited number of participants.

Deadline for application: November 4, 2016

Please apply for the course using this Google form .

Course Fee

The course will be free for researchers associated to either Geneco or PlantLink. Other participants are welcome for a fee of 1200 Swedish crowns (approximately 130 €).

Page Manager:


General questions

Helena Westerdahl
Associate professor

Telephone: +46 46 222 36 69
E-mail: Helena.Westerdahl [at]

Questions regarding GENECO courses

Bengt Hansson
Associate professor

Telephone: +46 46222 49 96
E-mail: Bengt.Hansson [at]

Questions regarding administration, economy and other practical issues

Christina Rengefors
Project assistant
Department of Biology

Telephone: +46 46 222 96 14
E-mail: Christina.Rengefors [at]