January 2012

“I (finally) have an iPad … Now what?”

The top 10 applications that could benefit
your work as a researcher


The iPad is by far the top-selling tablet computer ever, and I’ve noticed more and more lately that professors, hospital business people and trainees are carrying them around to meetings and seminars. If you recently bought one (or received one as a present) but haven’t found all the great apps yet, here are a few to get you started. I find these most useful, and they will likely appeal to a broad audience.

Store and retrieve information


Evernote: This app helps you “remember everything.” This amazing, free application lets you capture notes on your phone (iOS or otherwise), laptop or desktop, or iPad (of course) and have them automatically synced to all devices. Notes can be text, pictures, webpages, audio – your imagination is the limit! For instance, I’ve used Evernote to capture tables of data from papers that I might want to refer to later and tagged them with terms that I’m likely to search for that might not be in the title of the paper.

online_iPadApps_simplenoteSimplenote: For an even simpler note-synching application that focuses on text-only notes, try Simplenote. It’s a clean, fast interface that syncs with the desktop application Notational Velocity. In fact, I like it enough that I use it to take brief notes in courses and meetings.


Get organized

online_iPadApps_agendaAgenda: The built-in calendar app on your iPad is fine, but I like the look and feel of Agenda for iOS much better. It’s been described as elegant and intuitive, and I’d add “pretty powerful,” too. Get your calendars from wherever they currently may be hosted (Google, MS Exchange, Mobile Me or just start fresh), and see all of them color-coded in daily, weekly, monthly or yearly view.

online_iPadApps_milkRemember the Milk: Stay on top of your busy research program, coursework and personal life with this fun, free task-list app. Make lists, tag tasks, add notes – go crazy; it does it all! As would be expected, it syncs with your phone and is even location savvy (on the phone). The super cute icon is just a bonus!


Read up!

online_iPadApps_iAnnotatePDFiAnnotate PDF!: Read, search, annotate and share PDFs. For example, mark up those journal articles you are reading with notes about all their research flaws or about things to look up later. You can also sign all the necessary forms and other annoying paperwork you’ll receive in graduate school and beyond. It’s Dropbox-friendly too! However, you’ll want a stylus for this app.

online_iPadApps_InstapperInstapaper: Don’t you hate it when you’re surfing the Web and find a great article but don’t have time to read it right then? If you’re like me, you might keep it open in a tab to read later, but sometimes this can backfire. Instapaper lets you save websites with a single click for reading later from any Internet-enabled device, and, as a bonus, it strips out all the advertising and annoying page contents other than the text you want to read. You can also download the pages for offline reading. I love this while traveling on non-wifi-enabled airlines!


Pubmed on Tap: When you want to search the literature for the answer to your burning question, try PubMed on Tap. Free full-text articles are always available, and if your institutional library offers access to articles from off campus using EZProxy, that’s supported, too, for the non-open-access journals. Save articles to your personal library for later perusal, and you can even open the PDFs you have downloaded in iAnnotate PDF! using the “open in …” button.

online_iPadApps_HHMIHHMI Bulletin: This iPad-only app is a hidden treasure in the app store. It’s a beautifully rendered general scientific magazine published quarterly. Everyone’s bound to find something of interest, and the graphics are pretty amazing too. A great read for the bus/train/plane or just on a day in lab when you don’t have too much to do.


At the bench

online_iPadApps_promegaPromega: I’ve tried out many life science companies’ free apps, and I have to say Promega’s comes out on top for usefulness. It includes lots of useful information about general molecular and cell biology protocols including videos and animations, some useful calculators (conversions galore!), a restriction enzyme tool, and in case you need anything else, quick links for contacting Promega by various methods.

online_iPadApps_invitorgenDailyCalcs: This free little app from Invitrogen does what it says – calculations – and has some useful cell culture references if you’re new to the area or even if you’re experienced at cell culture. Do you know offhand the surface area of a well of a six-well plate? This app has the info if you need to calculate plating densities based on other sizes of plates. (Answer: 962mm2)




Bonus (No. 11)

online_iPadApps_jbcASBMB has an app for the Journal of Biological Chemistry (unsurprisingly called JBC) where you can browse the current issue, previous issues and special collections. Read science to your heart’s content wherever you might be!


That’s a small sample of the 325 apps I currently have on my iPad. I hope you found something new to try!

online_iPadApps_AngelaAngela Alexander (angela.alexander1@gmail.com) is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a blogger at http://thecancergeek.wordpress.com.

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