We’re coming out of the holiday season, and I found this year to be no different in that I find myself in conversations at a friends or extended family holiday party being asked what the heck I actually do when I get to work… It’s so understandable! When does the public really interact with research scientists? It’s not like being a dentist or a florist, someone who interacts with patients or customers. And it’s not the kind of savvy, stylish job that the leading ladies in movies tend to have, like being a PR rep or magazine columnist. The scientists in movies are always walking around a sterile lab in white coats developing the mutant spiders in Spiderman or some other ridiculous sci-fi scenario.
Like these ‘quintessential’ scientists, I do wear a lab coat on occasion (usually when I want to protect my clothes from getting holes burned into them by a strong acid). But I actually spend a lot of time at the computer. I research, design, and calculate my experiments. I enter, analyze, annotate, parse, graph, and present data. I read and write scientific articles. I correspond with my collaborators. I blog! Etc etc. Given the hours I log on the computer (especially as of late), I thought it would be fun to make a top ten list of my ‘go to’ applications or programs, but ranking them proved to be difficult. So in no particular order here are a few…
Graph Pad Molarity Calculator – My dad always said, “measure twice, cut once”. When it comes to mixing any of my solutions, I triple and quadruple check my calculations. This quick calculator is useful for proofing your work.
Evernote – I like to read articles on my ipad, and this app syncs my pdfs of journal articles between my ipad, laptop, and desktop (along with any comments or highlighting I made).
EndNote – You can import citations from online articles to a reference library in a matter of seconds. Then you can use this library to add citations in your writing, and change the output format to match any journals specifications.
1There is a program named Papers that combines some (but not all) useful aspects of Evernote and EndNote. But with Endnote and Evernote, I find it sort of superfluous. Comment below if you disagree or have another favorite!
Caffeine – Stops your mac from going to sleep, which is helpful when running especially long commands.
Keynote – I still use Microsoft Office Word and Excel, but I find Keynote to be so much faster than PowerPoint. I like the alignment tools when moving figures and that everything is basically click and drag. I have even drawn some diagrams in Keynote that were taking way too long in Adobe Illustrator (but I suppose that might change if I was better at Illustrator).
R – I hate to say I even like this program? The user interface is so much more complicated than JMP or Excel or SPSS, but I need it so it’s definitely a go-to program for me. The R Cookbook and Stack Overflow are necessary companions to R.
Waze – Ok so it’s not really a scientific tool. But I live in Boston, and traffic is a nightmare. For public transport, I like CatchTheBus. I don’t find CatchTheT to be that helpful since the trains run pretty frequently.
Doodle – Also not exactly a scientific tool and it tends to be overused, but it is the only sane method for scheduling a meeting around 8+ different schedules.
Ok I may have forgotten a few, but these are definitely some major players. I look forward to reading your comments!