iPhone and research

Ok, so I just got my new iPhone 3Gs. I couldn’t resist. Anyway, my contract on my first generation iPhone was up. So, it was time to reconfigure and explore the huge number of apps out there for the iPhone.

I use the iPhone for a lot of things, directions, finding out what stores are in the area, keeping my grocery list, listening to music, watching shows, browsing the web, keeping my calendar and contacts and a bunch more. Oh, and to make and receive phone calls :).

I’ve read past posts on other blogs about scientific apps for the iphone, I decided it was time to check out what apps there are now.

I’ve found a few I like, some that might work (I do computational genomics now, so I haven’t tried the ones for the bench), and one that has nothing to do with biology (directly anyway), but I am in love with. Follow me below the fold.

First, there are several apps that access pubmed for searching. Ok, so I guess you could just use the browser, but then it’d be ugly and not work quite as fast :).

So, I checked out three (links open up iTunes page for the app):
PubMed on Tap

The first two on the list do basically the same thing (I used the paid version of both, 2.99 and 1.99 respectively). They allow you to search PubMed, obtain full text articles as PDFs (including subscribed journals using your universities proxy), email articles and keep a library of them on your iPhone. The functions worked on both for the few searches I did, I couldn’t test out the university library proxy access to full text, but of course it works with opensource text. And according to the reviews, as of this blog post, PubMedSearch seemed to be sporadically working). As to the interface and ease of use, I’d give PubMed on Tap a 4/5 stars, PubmedSearch perhaps 2.5. It’s worth the extra dollar for PubMed on Tap.

NextBio is somewhat different, it uses the NextBio services database of experiments, clinical trials, news and literature to search. The app is free. If I was a medical researcher or clinician, I can see this app being useful (a search for Huntington’s disease found interesting articles, experiments and trials). As a PubMed search, it isn’t exactly up to the functionality of the two above (couldn’t retrieve full text or email results), so if I was using it just for that, again, I’d go with PubMed on Tap. Though, again, for _my_ purposes. I can see NextBio possibly being very useful for the above mentioned researcher.

There are several apps I found that might be useful for experimental biologists, though I couldn’t really test them out, since I don’t do bench work any longer, but I could see the utility (no review, I did not buy them):

Primer Jot (1.99)
iCut DNA (4.99)
Solutions (0.99)
Molecules (free)
LabTimer (free/2.99, same functions, kind of a shareware model)
Genome (0.99)

Primer Jot is a place to categorize and store information about the PCR primers you are using in your research with melting temperatures, sequence, physical location, etc.
iCut DNA  allows you to search REBASE for restriction enzyme data.
Solutions. I could have so used this one during my Ph.D. I was always making mistakes in creating solutions. It calculates the weight, volume and molarity of chemical solutions, uses the PubChem and Chebi database and does a few things I could have found useful.
Molecules is a 3D protein structure viewing app that allows you to turn the structure, zoom in and more. Cool app. Can’t beat the price.
Labtimer: here’s another I could have used. Ok, so I had a lab timer, but it would have been nice to have anyway. Then I started to think it would be good for a kitchen timer (or cooking different steaks at different doneness so they all come out at the same time ;-)), then I remembered I used a kitchen timer in the lab, then I checked kitchen timer apps on iTunes: 5 in 1 Kitchen Timer
Genome: More of an educational tool than something I could see using often in research, but it has a codon table, translates and transcribes short sequences, etc.

This last made me think though, I didn’t find much in the way of iPhone apps specifically interfacing many of the databases out there. It seems the iPhone (and mobile computing) is ripe for such apps. Of course Illumina had a ‘concept’ app they suggest for viewing your personal genome :).

I’ll point out two other to leave you with, not particularly research-oriented, but…

Pocket Universe. I’m in love. We are spending over a month on the Big Island of Hawaii, a major location for stargazing and astronomical research (and an _excellent_ new astronomy center). Yes, I know, you feel sorry for me. We went up to the mountain to stargaze. I had a starmap, but it wasn’t optimum. This app though. Wow. With the 3Gs (GPS, compass), the app would show you the night sky exactly where your location and time were, then, as you moved the phone, the view on the phone would change to the location you were looking at in the sky showing you the constellations, star names and information, planets, etc. There’s much more to the app, but that had me gazing at the stars… didn’t have much time to look at much else :D.

Check out PhDComic if you need some laughs to get you through your graduate studies, or if you just want to reminisce about your studies from a safe distance of time :D. (unfortunately, not working for me at the moment on my iPhone, but I can read them on the web).

Any other apps you’d suggest? You have? You have an idea for?

4 thoughts on “iPhone and research

  1. Pingback: BioGene: iPhone app for NCBI searches from MSKCC team | The OpenHelix Blog

  2. Pingback: Tip of the Week: GenomePad | The OpenHelix Blog

  3. Marc

    I wrote an iPhone app to search PubMed. It is currently available for $0.99 on the iTunes store at itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mobile-abstracts/id348575624?mt=8 .

    I am still actively improving in so any feedback on the Google Groups site would be appreciated. http://groups.google.com/group/mobileabstracts

    Here are some Promo codes to get free copies to use and give out.


    These can be used on your desktop within iTunes to download this app.

    We plan on adding email features in a near future free upgrade.

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