Smartphones for Scientists

Our lives have considerably changed following the wide-spread adoption of internet-enabled smartphones. Today, smartphone owners rely on them as a sophisticated means to communicate with family, friends and colleagues beyond just a simple phone call. Perhaps ironically, a smartphone often receives more attention from its user than do his colleagues, friends and even family.

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Thus, while we should remember to wisely limit our day-to-day smartphone usage, at the lab we can harness its capabilities for our scientific work, productivity and connectivity. The mobile, connected 24/7 to the internet (via either wireless or cellular) empowers scientists with an ever increasing number of applications that aid in buffer preparation, note taking, units conversion, timers of all sorts, chemical calculations, searching databases and much more. 

How can I use my mobile in my day-to-day research?

Since I am commuting more than one third of my work time, I have developed en-route strategies to get the most of my transit time. My main digital tools are my old Dell laptop and iPhone 4S. The laptop is used to prepare my experiments and prepare for the coming day (through my Labguru account), while jotting notes and to-do tasks via the mobile device (via Evernote and Wunderlist). 

When I am at lab, I use the mobile camera to document all the interesting things that happen while experimenting and are hard to describe in words: Weird colored bacteria pellets, viscous protein elution, impromptu gel imaging sent to my PI for discussion and so forth.

The mobile voice recorder serves to capture ideas popping into my mind while on the go – now I can send ideas to my PI directly through the new voice recorder embedded within Whatsapp. The voice recorder is great when I want to capture ideas when we have team meeting regarding our current project.

You must be all too familiar with the departmental seminar trend – the speaker hasn't even completed their first sentence and the audience is already either scrolling through their emails or playing their favourite game. I use the mobile to capture ideas (via the camera when possible) or to search for unfamiliar terms (although there are some seminars where I am highly tempted to check my email…).

The mobile calendar aids me in accessing my calendar when I am in the process of reserving equipment slots for a coming experiment or a protein prep. I just look at the equipment diary (yep, old fashioned diary!), find a slot that fits my agenda, jot my name and mobile number and then schedule it into my mobile calendar, right there. EASY!

Oh, of course since all mobiles today have dedicated MP3 players, when I am alone in the lab (early in the morning) I pump up tunes through my headphones to make my experiments cheerier.  Doing science can be so much fun!  

What's your mobile favorite apps and features that make your science easier and more productive?