Did I mention that I love Matlab?
The majority of labs in our field employ Matlab for data analysis. This is not necessarily the case for other fields like business (which seems to favor Excel), the social sciences (which seem to favor SPSS) or astronomy (which seems to be big on IDL). So far, so good.
Of course, Matlab is not without its discontents. Naturally, there are problems and limitations. The more one uses it, the more often one will encounter these. I think is is important to keep perspective. In the material world, perfection is notoriously hard to come by.
With this in mind, I suggest to use Matlab for what it is: A tool. To get done whatever you need or must or want to get done. In that sense, using it exclusively for data analysis is unnecessarily restrictive. A tool as versatile as Matlab can empower many a passion. One of mine is to explore numbers and their properties. I strongly believe that Matlab can pretty much enable anyone to liberate the pursuit of their passion.
Now, it doesn’t have to be Matlab. There are many, many other amazing computational tools. Matlab wasn’t my first language, either. I grew up using different languages (Basic, C, C++) or packages (SPSS, Systat, SAS, Excel), but in the past five years, my computational tool use pretty much converged on Matlab at the expense of almost everything else.
There are many reasons for this, including the delicate balance between versatility and ease of use (which I think Matlab gets just right). Most importantly, in our field Matlab has now established itself as the de facto lingua france of computation. Being able to read and write Matlab code fosters communication and collaboration.
But I digress. The point is that you can use it for whatever you want. I encourage you to do precisely that. The limit is pretty much only your own imagination (and some inherent memory constraints…). I do.