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Jul 9, 2013

The Best Science Apps

Check out these six essential apps that could save you time and/or money.

The Best Science Apps

This image is from the Promega Colony Counter app, which we gave three stars. Find out more about this app and others below.

  • Is there an app for that? If there is, you should check if it's in GEN's Best Science Apps first! Every other issue, we bring you a list of the best biotech- and biopharma-related apps we think you, GEN reader, would find useful and/or interesting. Here is our list of Best Science Apps from our recent July issue. Enjoy!

    Key:
    Four stars: Excellent
    Three stars: Very Good
    Two stars: Good
    + Strong points
     Weak points

  • OnScreen DNA Replication ★★★★

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    Platform: iPad
    Cost: $3.99
    + Great text content
     The simulation graphics are a bit convoluted

    In recent months I’ve highlighted two excellent iPad apps by OnScreen Science that center around a 3D model of DNA. For the sake of completeness, let me now mention the third and final member of the trio: OnScreen DNA Replication. Using the same excellent 3D DNA model (which can be manipulated and resized with your touchscreen), this app walks users through the process of DNA replication. The “useful stuff” section contains text descriptions of pertinent enzymes and other aspects of DNA replication such as leading and lagging strands and Okazaki fragments. Due to the complexity of the process, the simulation is a bit difficult to follow; however, credit must be given to the attention to detail. Just like the other apps by this developer, the OnScreen DNA Replication app is incredibly educational and fun to use.

  • GrowthCurves ★★★

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    Platform: iPhone
    Cost: Free
    + Automatic graphing capability, can email journal

    The GrowthCurves app is useful for researchers working with cell cultures or bacterial cultures, as it provides an iPhone-portable lab notebook and spreadsheet to record optical density (OD) readings for your cultures at different time points. (Users specify sample names and the date and time of each reading.) The app then takes these readings and automatically generates growth curves for your cultures. In addition to the graphing feature, the app features a calculator with four parameters: doubling time, starting OD, total growth time, and final OD. Users input any three parameters and the fourth is automatically calculated. All of the user’s data is organized into individual projects within the app’s “journal.” The entire journal can be emailed and subsequently emptied

  • Organic Chemistry! Complete ★★★

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    Platform: iPhone/iPad
    Cost: $2.99
    + Nice organization, clear graphics
     Not all reaction mechanisms are annotated

    Oh, organic chemistry reaction mechanisms… They are indeed the bane of many a student’s existence. Yet, they may not be quite so painful if you have the Organic Chemistry! Complete app. This app organizes the major organic chemistry reactions by chemical class (alcohols, alkynes, etc.), displaying each class on the app’s home screen as a notecard pinned to a corkboard background. Clicking on one of these “notecards” displays an overview of all of the reactions contained within that group. In turn, each of these reactions can be selected to display the actual electron-pushing reaction mechanism diagrams. (Note that there is a free version of this app, but it does not include reaction mechanisms.) The reaction mechanism diagrams contain some annotation, but they would benefit from more detail.

  • Educreations Interactive Whiteboard ★★★

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    Platform: iPad
    Cost: Free
    + Very easy to use
     Lessons hosted on Educreations website; can’t be saved 

    Interactive Whiteboard by Educreations is an incredibly useful app for teachers, students, labmates, colleagues, and more. The app is a recordable whiteboard: users hit the “record” button, and then proceed to draw, add text, or add images to create a lesson. The completed lessons are hosted on the Educreations website. App users can register for a free Educreations account in order to be able to share their lessons with other people. Additionally, users can browse public lessons made by others according to subject area. Subject areas include computer technology, science, mathematics, social studies, and others. The app is incredibly easy to use and will surely prove handy when discussing science with your labmates or when trying to explain a concept to students or colleagues.

  • Promega Colony Counter ★★★

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    Platform: iPhone
    Cost: $3.99
    + Handy automatic count feature
     Can't email photos/experimental reports

    Counting colonies on agar plates is not one of the most entertaining lab tasks. If the redundancy of it all has got you down, you can purchase the Promega Colony Counter app. This nifty iPhone app allows you to photograph your agar plates. The app subsequently automatically counts the colonies (albeit imperfectly), thereby providing you with a rough estimate and saving you a lot of work. Users can then, via the touch screen, count the remaining colonies. There is also an option to mask out unwanted colonies. Users can organize multiple plates into sets, and they can view an overview of the saved sets on the home screen of the app. Overall the app provides nice functionality, although one feature that is glaringly missing is the option to email the plate photos and colony counts to oneself. (How else are you going to include the data in your lab notebook?)

  • Pipette Guide 48 ★★

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    Platform: iPad
    Cost: Free
    + Easy to use, can customize many colors
     Only basic template (and 48-well plate) is free

    Just when you thought you’ve seen apps for everything, something comes along to prove you wrong. Allow me to introduce Pipette Guide 48, an iPad app designed to help researchers keep track of their samples when pipetting into a 48-well plate. (I know, the app is very specific… In case you are interested in pipetting aids for other sizes of well plates, you can be comforted that this app’s developer has designed a suite of these pipette guides for different plates. However, only the 48-well app is free.) So how does one use this app? Well, simply place your well plate on top of your iPad, which will display a color-customized plate (sized correctly) that you set up beforehand. Users can customize individual wells of the plate template with different colors to denote different types of samples. Thus, when you begin to pipette, you won’t lose your place or make (as many) mistakes.



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