View the Project on GitHub uiuc-cse/matlab-sp14

A Short Course for Engineers

MATLAB is one of the most common programs used in numerical computation for engineering applications today. This short course is designed to introduce you to the fundamentals of the language and syntax through engineering exercises and physical models.

This course is not an introduction to programming, nor is it intended to replace courses such as CS 101 which introduce programming concepts. We will discuss aspects of basic programming, but this course is strongly oriented towards accomplishing basic practical tasks which engineering students and researchers may encounter.

Examples and applications will be of broad interest to engineers, and will attempt to exemplify good practices for general problem solving. Our time constraints will not permit the in-depth motivation of the numerical methods selected for inclusion. We recommend taking a numerical methods course or reading a good book on the subject if you would like the details and criteria of applicability of many of these methods. (We warmly recommend Acton or Press et al. if you are in search of a text.)

Course Notes & Exercises

We will use the Etherpad to share complicated snippets of code and text during class. The Post-It notes are to indicate either your completion of a task (green) or your need of assistance (pink).

First Session (3--4 February) • for those new to programming

Monday, 3 February

We will introduce the MATLAB environment and the basics of using variables, operators, and functions. We will also write some short functions and scripts as practice.

Pre-course survey. Please complete this so we know what your expectations and background are and can adapt accordingly.

In-class exercises

Tuesday, 4 February

MATLAB is well adapted for numerical applications. In this session, we will examine how to set up systems of equations and differential equations. We may also look at curve fitting and the PDE Toolbox.

In-class exercises

Spring example


First-order ODEs and systems of ODEs: radioactive decay chain notes

ODE Handout


CSE Handout. A one-page summary of common functions and expressions in MATLAB.

Cody. Mathworks' game-ified interface for learning MATLAB.

Best practices for programming MATLAB by Mathworks Principal Developer Loran Shure. See the comments section here as well.

Programming style guidelines by Richard Johnson. This summary was later expanded into a book, The Elements of MATLAB Style, reviewed here.

Clean up your code. Tips for improving code readability and style.

Cornell CS 321 MATLAB Coding Standards. This outlines best practices with respect to declaring new functions and outlining what they do.

This material includes recommendations by Jerry Brusher of Mathworks.


Neal Davis and Rishabh Narang developed these materials. This content is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License


If you have any questions about course availability, concepts, or content, please contact Neal Davis, Training Coordinator for Computational Science & Engineering, at davis68 at illinois dot edu.