Tools for Life Scientists

In this post, you will find some great tools that I have been using since the beginning of my PhD. You may be familiar with most tools; but, I am sure you will find some tools that you have not heard before. Also, even the title mention “Life Scientists”, you will find some tools useful for any work.

Antibody search

As a life scientist, you may have encountered the same antibody from different supplier failed your blot or staining. If you have no clue how to pick the correct antibody, benchsci is the place to go. You can filter an antibody published in any journal based on cell type, host, specificity, clone ID and so on. If you have struggled in getting a fluorescent signal or a good blot, give benchsci a try!

Collaborative manuscript editing

I have long been waiting for an effective communication tool in scientific writing. There we go! Manuscript.io is a free, web-based, real-time collaboration platform for your manuscripts. You can include mathematical equations, figures and codes from your Jupyter notebook. It also allows importing markdown and LaTeX, as well as references from CrossRef, PubMed and Datacite. But, my long await turned into disappointment because of my no-physical-supervisor PhD experience. If your supervisor is around, please encourage them for collaboration in your manuscript writing!

Where to submit your manuscript

You now have written your manuscript, but you’re not sure where to submit it. You’re also afraid to be a prey for predator journals. Elsevier JournalFinder helps you find the best match for your article. Not to mention, it uses a specific vocabulary engine to match your article with journals. But before jumping in, please read its user guide thoroughly! Also, don’t forget to get your persistent digital identifier at ORCID.org before submission.

More than a text editor

If you are looking for a more advanced text editor, then Atom is your best friend! It is an open source and freeware text and source code editor for almost all platforms. Atom comes with support for many programming language syntax including C++, Bash, Java, etc., and you can do more if you integrate Atom with Kite. Kite is an AI coding assistant to increase your productivity.

Colour palette for presentations

I give great importance to my presentations regardless of its audience. Even for our internal group meetings, I put a lot of effort to deliver a concise and clear presentation. During one of my recent internal group meeting presentations, my co-supervisor could not find a gap on my talk and was eager to ask me at least one question, but then he could only criticised the colour palette that I used for charts that not being colour-blind friendly. Until that day, I had never thought of this could be an issue, but his criticism made me find a colour-blind palette and re-create all of the figures for the future presentations. So, I found this cool website, coolors.co, that can generate colours of your choice.

Digital labbook

Benchling is a digital platform for industries to improve productivity and data integrity by directly populating Notebook entries with results from instrument runs. However, I use Benchling as a digital laboratory notebook since they have a free option for Academics. So, spend less time taking notes by hand, and more time for asking scientific questions and carrying out experiments.

Stunning illustrations

I had long been waiting for a platform to draw scientific illustration. Despite myself had worked as a graphical designer in a web design company, I had the problem of inconsistency of items in my scientific figures over time. I came across with a platform, biorender, formed by three professional illustrators for scientific community to create stunning (and consistent!) graphics for their works. I have been using biorender for almost two years and I can’t believe how much the platform has been improved since then. So, if you need a beautiful graphical abstract for your next paper, give biorender a shot!

Safer file transfers

When your data contain sensitive data such as patient identifiers, and you want to eliminate the risk of data breeching during data transfer, you can try the cross-platform file encryption app Encrypto. Just drag and drop the file(s) you want to protect and let Encrypto do the rest for you.

Markdown editor

Nowadays, we all know what markdown is. To be honest, I no longer open a blank Word document for note taking since I discovered Typora. It is a cross-platform minimalistic markdown editor with seamless live preview and export options. You can almost export (or import) files to any format, including PDF, docx, OpenOffice, LaTeX, MediaWiki, Epub.

Access paid journals for free

It can sometimes be very frustrating when your institution does not have an access to a journal or article you want to download. Kopernio is the browser-plugin tool for you which works on numerous academic websites to help you get full-text PDFs. Luckily, I never had an access issue to an article but I used Kopernio to automatically save full-text articles to my cloud space just with a click.

Looking for new opportunities?

Everyone needs a crisp-clear, sharp, modern-looking and concise CV or resumé for their prospective job application. I discovered this powerful website for you to build a professional-looking CVs/resumés with few clicks and you don’t even need to sign up for it. Ladies, gentlemens and LGBTQI+s, please salute flowcv!

Nice start! Now, you don’t know where to send your new, professional-looking CV. Well, John Hopkins collates post doctoral positions for you. All you need to do is visit and look up for the best position fits you all around the world!

Don’t read articles only!

I am aware that in academia, we read as many articles as possible to keep up with the research of interest around the globe. But, I also try to read as many non-academic books as I can during my me-time. If you are environmentally-conscious who do not buy hard copies of books like me and owns an e-reader, you need Calibri to convert the e-books into the file format that your e-reader supports. Being a freeware and open source software, it does not only convert books into various formats but it also allows you to manage your e-library.

Listen to podcasts

Well, not every researcher has time to read books, especially those working in the wet-lab. So, podcasts are your company when you are on your feet in the lab to listen to talks about various topics. I have tried many other podcast apps and I found Pocket Casts more useful that satisfies my needs. It also has a web player that you can sync the episodes with your phone.

Final words

I have listed all of my favourite apps/platforms for best of my productivity for researchers. Some apps may not directly be related to science, but at some point, they have helped my productivity during my PhD. I now work as a researcher and I still use plenty of these. I hope you will find some of them matching your needs as well! Have a productive research life!

Disclaimer

I believe in openness and accessibility of information, so aforementioned apps/websites/platforms do not for advertorial purposes. Some may be paid some may not, but I have (and will have) no income from listing them out here on my website.