Resource Spotlight: Wolfram Mathematica, A Symbolic Computation Platform with Computable Knowledge

Resource Spotlight: Wolfram Mathematica, A Symbolic Computation Platform with Computable Knowledge
Jenny James Lee
December 2, 2015

Drexel’s Student Learning Priorities [DSLPs] and shifting trends in scholarly communications have resulted in increased data needs for the Drexel community. In the Libraries, we are engaging in a number of efforts to explore new data-handling tools for use both in the classroom to promote data literacy and in the research setting to handle data management and sharing.

This month the Wolfram Mathematica software was a focus of discussion among Liaison Librarians. Wolfram is well known for its Alpha search engine that fuels Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. Alpha is freely available on the web at

Several Liaison Librarians are exploring trial subscriptions to Wolfram Mathematica to see how it fits alongside our other research support tools, such as EndNote and geographic information systems (GIS) software. Wolfram resources may be useful in a number of Drexel settings, such as allowing design of class-specific, interactive simulations, and new options in research data analysis.

Wolfram Mathematica software offers a deep range of programming capabilities that are remarkably easy to use. As a conceptual programming language, Wolfram Mathematica uses intuitive, high-level commands reminiscent of Microsoft Excel’s functions such as SUM, or COUNT. Wolfram Mathematica interprets user input and offers several possible analyses from which to choose.

Of particular interest are features that solve a vexing challenge for faculty who want “reusable learning objects” in the form of data-driven, interactive, online simulations. The software excels in generating interactive, 3-D visualizations of data-driven scenarios that can be downloaded using the Wolfram CDF or “computable document format” player. To see examples of simulations that cross every discipline and download the free CDF player see

Are you looking to move beyond one-dimensional visual aids for expressing data-driven concepts in the classroom? Would your research benefit from tapping into a computational knowledge engine? Contact your liaison librarian or Tim Siftar to learn more.