MATLAB is a technical computing language developed by the Mathworks that is very popular and widely used in a variety of industries including Engineering, finance, risk management, data science, etc.
It is a powerful language which has many extra toolboxes that can be purchased to significantly enhance and expands on the capabilities of MATLAB.The team at the Mathworks are constantly developing and improving these toolboxes and the entire software package is updated twice every year.
Also included in MATLAB is Simulink; a block environment package which can be used to run numerical simulations of various processes and systems (think dynamic motion, thermodynamics, etc.) and can also be used for the testing and verification of embedded systems.
You can use MATLAB to develop programs for digital signal processing, wireless communication systems, machine learning, image processing, finance modelling and prediction, control design and many more fields. It is also contains a suite of polished and fairly powerful tools for data presentation and visualisation.
As a very high level programming language, MATLAB has a gentle learning curve and is quite forgiving to newcomers – it is almost impossible to break MATLAB so you don’t have to be wary about getting stuck in and trying new things. The main drawbacks of Matlab is that it is closed source (which means people cannot modify the source code and improve it) and the price is quite expensive, which can add quickly with each individual toolbox purchased. MATLAB is also not as powerful as other programming languages; while the high level nature reduces the time required to develop software, the user is more limited in what they can do.
Matlab’s thriving community provides useful tools, scripts (via the Mathsworks File Exchange or elsewhere) and help for errors and troubleshooting. If you want to get a free student version of MATLAB you will have to check if your University or College offers a free academic version. If your Institution does not provide a free academic licence, then you can purchase a student version of the latest MATLAB release for a considerably reduced price. Of course, you will need to provide your valid student email from your University.