Vets Who Code

vets who code group picture

Photo Credit: Michelle Jonika

Dr. Heath Blackmon of Texas A&M Biology has created a program designed to give veterans the chance to learn valuable coding skills needed in modern day STEM fields, called “Vets Who Code”. The two day program provides in-person training and certification in coding and data analysis by professionals in the field of academia. Vets Who Code was created to help make undergraduate veterans more competitive in today’s STEM fields where coding and data analysis are valuable and necessary skills, but not always accessible ones. Many companies are built on teaching coding over the internet, but in person learning is a highly effective way to teach the skills needed to succeed in a STEM career, thus the creation of the program at Texas A&M University in Biology.

According to the Student Veterans of America, STEM degrees are more difficult for veterans to pursue due to the prerequisites needed, such as pre-college math, which can push graduation past what is covered in the GI bill. This can lead to veteran students being rushed through their education and missing the opportunity to take classes in coding that can help them be more competitive in their field. This is where short but effective programs like Vets Who Code can give an advantage to students already full on classes, a short weekend course at the end of a semester that can provide an effective introduction to coding and data analysis.

“Being able to code even a little bit and being able to visualize data, these are skills that transcend any one field and can help a student get the job that they really want. As an Air Force vet myself this is one of the most rewarding things that I have been able to do at Texas A&M”
Dr. Heath Blackmon, Director and Founder of the program.
This year’s program featured 13 Aggie Student Veterans learning to code in the open source program R used for statistics, modeling, and graphing data. The first day of the training focused on basic coding skills. On the second day students used these skills to make a linear model predicting the value of beta (fighting) fish based on location, color, size, and their parent’s value. For their final challenge, the students deployed web based application that use R and allow a user to estimate the cost of a fish based on the characteristics that impact value. This intensive workshop with real-time data analysis and coding helped train veterans to give them an advantage when applying to STEM fields.
coders in a classroom

Photo Credit: Heath Blackmon

profile photo of heath blackmonVets Who Code is sponsored by Texas A&M Biology, for more information on the program and how to apply please contact Dr. Heath Blackmon at, and to learn more about using coding for biological research, checkout Dr. Blackmon’s research page.