5 Best Mobile Apps for Research Scientists

The Apple iPhone was voted recently as one of the 10 greatest modern inventions ever, all while being hailed as “changing the universe” due to allowing us to have everything we need at our fingertips.  The iPhone’s sister device, the iPad, has further pushed the technological envelope while easing basic tasks such as email, note-taking, reading, and other endless applications that could only be done at a computer.  One area where the iPad can have a tremendous impact in its utility is academia and the research setting—helping to increase productivity, creativity, planning, and even streamlining daily tasks. While there are many niche, specialized, helpful apps for a wide range of scientific disciplines, and an even bigger subset for science fans, few apps can truly be called indispensible for researchers.  Below are five that any academic research scientist could and should have on their iPad:

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1.  Notebooks for iPad Application

Science is inherently a field of ideas and thoughts.  Nearly every experiment, hypothesis and result starts out as an idea, or a brainstorm among collaborators.  And with the mobile nature of iPads, one of their benefits to researchers is the ability to record new ideas, take notes at seminars, and get feedback from group meetings anywhere.  But what is the ideal app to group together as many features as possible for an academic setting?  The winner by far is the flexible, feature-driven Notebooks for iPad app.  Utilizing a traditional notebooks motif, this app allows you to create as many sub-folders as you’d like, and keep them separate or meld into one document.  You can also import data from external sites (and even bookmark it for later!), establish task lists, and export and merge into other documents not on your iPad.  As one of the most versatile note-taking apps available for the iPad, every graduate student should plan to make this one of their first purchases for the tablet.  ($8.99)

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2.  Lab Solver Application

If there’s one thing a scientist in any discipline is doing, it is repeated calculations.  Whether you are making buffers, figuring out how to set up a serialdilution, calibrating data, or doing simple calculations and conversions in SI Units.  No more calculations on scraps of paper, referencing back to figure out Avogadro’s number, or messing up experiments because you forgot to move the decimal over one place.  They are small details, but ones you no longer need to fret over.  With your iPad by your side, this often tedious aspect of experimental design will now be an afterthought. ($1.99)

3.  Labguru iPad Application

Labguru

Organization is one of the primary cornerstones of running a successful laboratory on any level, and the ability to transfer laboratory management to a mobile device is literally a game-changer for professors, lab managers and other personnel.  Labguru, an exciting new cloud management system in the largely stagnant world of management tools, is now available for iPad.  The ability to implement its plethora of organizational and management features – from tagging and archiving, to digital filing systems, to sample collection management – from a mobile device provides labs with the tools to stay operational and well-structured year-round.  Just imagine the power of keeping a lab’s projects running remotely, getting a notification on your iPad to put in a critical order, improving lab-wide communication and even scheduling experiments while on vacation! (FREE!)

4.  Lab Values Pro

Since we don’t want to exclude medical students (or research scientists based in a medical setting) from our list, this app is ideally suited for the iPads of medical professionals.  This 3 in 1 application provides all the quick referencing that a medical professional would want at their fingertips, including suffixes and prefixes.  References can be edited, link to major reference websites and can even be accessed without an internet connection.  It is also the #1 rated medical application on iTunes.  ($2.99)

5.  Dropbox Application

Named one of the 10 Apps You Should Download for iPad2 by Wired Magazine, Dropbox seems to be a universal favorite among graduate students in survey after survey on blogs and research forums.  Supplanting the need to cary flash drives or any external photocopies, Dropbox is essentially a virtual, synced file folder where you put files you want to access with any device.  So if you download 10 papers throughout the day that you’d like to read when you get home, but hate the thought of printing them out (or worse yet, worry about forgetting!), simply put them in your Dropbox right from your Mac, and when you open up your iPad later that night… there they are! It also works for videos, pictures and music. (FREE!)

Did we miss an app that you can't live without? Please let us know your thoughts - leave a comment below!