There are apps for converting between weights, volumes and areas, for converting currency and even to calculate your split of the tip at a bar; but what about apps for scientists? An iOS device, like an iPhone, is almost constantly on your person, so why not get some apps for helping you out in the lab? Here are some of the best free apps for your perusal.
If you work in a molecular microbiology lab, or do anything with DNA, then chances are you've had to use restriction enzymes of some sort. But how do you find out the appropriate buffer and temperature combination you need, or work out those often-crucial double digests?
In steps New England Biolab's super handy iPhone app to the rescue. NEB Tools allows you to work out which buffer and enzyme combinations can be used from its enormous library, along with instant enzyme properties. Never again will you need the NEB catalog, or even the website, as all the information you need is in the palm of your hands.
NEB Tools - Free
Working out molarities, concentrations, dilutions and formula weights can be a time consuming pain, especially if you're not used to doing them on a regular basis. Invitrogen feels your anguish and has an app to help you out.
The Invitrogen DailyCalcs app combines a molarity calculator, a stock dilution calculator, a formula weight calculator, a unit converter and even some handy cell culture reference material for a plethora of different vessels and plates. Frankly put, it's one of the most useful apps to have on your iPhone for just quickly working out those simple daily calculations with a minimal amount of effort and brainpower.
Invitrogen DailyCalcs - Free
With Invitrogen and NEB on the scene, Promega couldn't be left out could it? Its app for the iPhone contains more biomath calculators, including DNA and protein conversions, a dilution calculator, a temperature converter and a pretty handy melting temperature calculator for primers. The app also boasts a series of protocols and instructional videos that are pulled down from the Promega website, which could be handy if you're a bit stuck. While the standard calculators aren't as good as the Invitrogen app, the oligo melting temperature and DNA converters make this a worthy install on their own.
Promega - Free
QIAGEN, the master of ready-made assay kits, also has a universal iOS app. The app features some of the same biomath calculators as the others, including unit converters, dilution, molarity and percentage solution calculators, as well as a centrifugal force calculator and an alligation alternate calculator, just in case you need to work out a solution concentration only knowing the mass ratio of two solutions given in percentage form. There are also DNA and protein calculators and a primer concentration calculator on-board just in case.
It's pretty safe to say that the QIAGEN app has almost every calculator you could ever want in the lab. But if that wasn't enough to get you to download the free app, QIAGEN has also thrown a long list of buffers into the mix. Whether you're doing electrophoresis or attempting a Southern blot, there's a recipe list for almost any buffer you're likely to need.
Finally, the app also comes packing a whole host of video tutorials, primarily focused around using QIAGEN kits of course, but should you be looking to speed up your PCR or set up some RNAi experiments, there's a video for you.
If you only download one of the apps from this little list, I recommend it be the QIAGEN app, as there's almost nothing you can't do regarding general molecular microbiology or biochemistry with this app (short of it actually doing the experiment for you).
QIAGEN App - Free
If all you're after is a quick and easy dilution calculator, Dilution fits the bill nicely. Almost the antithesis of the QIAGEN app, it's a no frills dilution calculator that's ad-supported. Just type in your numbers, select the required units and press calculate. Simple and effective.
Dilution - Free
Everyone knows the secret to a good experiment is a good, well-optimized protocol; after all, any idiot can follow a list of detailed instructions. That's where Protocolpedia's iPhone app comes in. The app connects to a database of protocols uploaded by academic institutions from around the world. Almost every standard lab-based biology experiment is represented here, from Southern blotting to bacterial transformation -- it's all there. The application lets you search or browse via category, and it even has a 'live forum' for asking questions of other Protocolpedia users if you get stuck.
The app also has a couple of biomath calculators worth mentioning, with molarity and dilution calculations covered, plus an oligo resuspension calculator and a PCR mastermix calculator.
If you're ever in need of a protocol for an assay that no one in your lab has done before, the Protocolpedia app is certainly worth a download.
Protocolpedia - Free
While the current king of the journal library applications is undoubtedly EndNote, the free desktop journal organizer Mendeley also has an iOS app. The universal Mendeley 'Lite' (there is only one version available in the App Store) allows you to wirelessly sync your journal library, complete with PDFs of all the articles. Using your free Mendeley sync account, you can download and read journals on your iPhone and iPad without having to lug around reams of paper. It's handy, free and well worth a download. It's great on your iPhone, but even better on an iPad.
Mendeley - Free
That's your lot for today, but if you've got a favorite free app (or paid alternative) that helps you get through your day in the lab, whether it's a unit calculator or a journal reader, let us know in the comments.