Taralyn Tan Ph.D. Curriculum Fellow Harvard Medical

There’s nothing spooky about these apps, which could prove invaluable in your research.

Is there an app for that? If there is, you should check if it's in GEN's Best Science Apps first! Every month, 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 most recent list of Best Science Apps. Enjoy!

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

Leica Science Lab ★★★★

Platform: iPad
Cost: Free
+ Wide breadth of downloadable content

The capabilities of modern microscopes and imaging techniques are vast, and well—let’s face it—there are only so many hours in the day to devote to studying microscopy. The Leica Science Lab is an excellent app (to accompany the website of the same name) to facilitate your education on key techniques in microscopy and their applications. It presents a large amount of information in bite-sized articles, videos, and other resources such as lists of relevant literature citations. Users can browse articles by topic (25 in total, ranging from topics like stereo microscopy to ergonomics) or by author. An internet connection or data plan is required to access the information; however, users can download content of interest to their devices.

Leica Science Lab for iPad

NatureTap ★★★★

Platform: iPad/iPhone
Cost: Free (in-app purchase)
+ Beautifully designed, engaging
Slide puzzle not very responsive to touch commands

Be they children or adults, nature lovers will enjoy this beautiful app by Green Mountain Digital. New users get access to the “free birds” sampler, and if you choose to register for a free account (name and email required), you will also gain access to the insects and spiders module. Beyond those modules, there are four additional ones available for purchase (more birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and wildflowers). Each module consists of a set of cards displaying a number of species. Selecting an individual card brings up information for that species including a general description, information for identification, and the species’ range. Beyond the beautiful photos and the species descriptions, each module also offers games such as a photo quiz, memory challenge, and puzzles.

NatureTap for iPad and iPhone

Titration Simulator ★★★

Platform: iPad/iPhone
Cost: $0.99
+ Customizable options with solutions, experiment setup
No description of the theory/calculations behind experiment

I’m sure many of you reading this can remember your first acid-base titrations in chemistry class—the thrill of watching the pH indicator change color, and the fear of opening the stopper too much and flooding your sample with acid (or base). While the physical experience of doing titrations in the lab is really worth experiencing, a viable alternative for educators who don’t have access to the necessary equipment or resources is the Titration Simulator app. This app displays a virtual burette and flask and allows students to “open” the burette to release liquid into the beaker. An image of the flask (showing the pH indicator) is displayed on the left of the screen, as is a close-up view of the volume gradations of the burette. Users can choose whether acid or base is placed in the burette, and can select from four different acids and four different bases.

Titration Simulator for iPad and iPhone

Radioactive Decay Calculator ★★★

Platform: iPad/iPhone
Cost: Free
+ Easy to use, list of radioisotopes and half-lives
The “info” button displays advertisements, not actual help

Do you often work with radiation in the lab? The PerkinElmer Radioactive Decay Calculator app can make your life easier! Elegantly designed, this simple and straightforward app allows users to easily calculate what the radiochemical concentration, molarity, and specific activity of that radioisotope that they just ordered will be on the day when they actually plan to do their experiment. Users simply need only select their radioisotope, specify a calibration date, supply the information for the radioisotope (such as concentration) on that date, and specify the date of use. Units can be entered and displayed as curies or becquerels. In addition to the calculator, the app provides a list of commonly used radioisotopes and their half-lives. Pop-up tutorials are displayed the first time the app is opened, although the app is very self-explanatory even without these hints.

Radioactive Decay Calculator for iPad and iPhone

Organic Chemistry FlashCards ★★

Platform: iPad/iPhone
Cost: $1.99
+ Simple-to-use, brief explanations provided with solutions
No educational background information, a bit expensive with solutions

If you find yourself needing (or wanting) to brush up on your organic chemistry (ah, good ol’ o-chem), the Organic Chemistry FlashCards app may be a useful addition to your study toolkit. The app consists of 17 decks of (unsurprisingly) flashcards covering major topics in organic chemistry such as spectroscopy, electrophilic aromatic substitution, and cycloadditions. While the flashcard decks are easy to navigate and include a fair number of questions, the app unfortunately does not provide any actual educational background material to prepare you to answer the questions in the flashcard decks. Thus, while potentially useful as a study aid, this app is not a standalone organic chemistry educational resource. (But hey, it saves you the trouble of purchasing 3×5 notecards and making flashcards yourself!)

Organic Chemistry FlashCards for iPad and iPhone

iMolecular Draw ★★★★

Platform: iPad/iPhone
Cost: $2.99
+ Intuitive interface, molecules update automatically upon new additions

Both fun-to-use and useful (always a winning combination), the iMolecular Draw app lets users easily draw molecular structures. Rather than requiring that users place each atom individually, the app facilitates the placement of entire functional groups at a time. The best part is that the bonds update themselves automatically; that is to say, your CH4 group, for example, automatically becomes CH3 when a functional group or bond is added to it. The app is cleanly designed and uses pinch-and-zoom mechanics for easy viewing of your workspace. Users can highlight the “select” tool to manipulate individual components of the drawing, such as by rotating or moving specific atoms or functional groups. The completed drawings (along with summary information regarding total number of atoms, molecular weight, etc.) can be saved locally within the app, saved to an FTP server, or emailed.

iMolecular Draw for iPad and iPhone

Want more Best Science Apps? Click here! Also, to suggest an app for Best Science Apps, please send a link to Taralyn Tan ([email protected]).

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