The Chemist's Toolbox

"To succeed in a given task, must take advantage of the tools." - a Chinese proverb recounted by Raphael Tsu in his book "Superlattice to Nanoelectronics."


Scroll down through the following topics:

Research Ethics,

How to Do Research?

Experimental Techniques,

Software,

Writing,

Proposal-writing,

Presentations,

Databases,

Applets,

Website-building,

Open Access,

Crystallography and Structure,

Online Seminar Series,

Motivation and Resilience.

Research Ethics

How to Do Research?

How does one learn how to conduct research? It has been a sum of lived experiences, pursued passions, interactions with mentors and teachers, examples of role models observed from close and afar, bits and pieces of wisdom, and experiences of others shared through the books and articles here and there. Nevertheless, the mind seeks a structured narration that captures that experience, reminds, and guides through the surrounding noise and information. A few resources that capture various aspects of the title question get as close to the textbook on the subject, the ones I found most useful are listed below.

Experimental techniques

Software

  • ImageJ and/or Fiji (I use it for analysis of transmission electron microscopy images of nanoparticles. For the description of the "thresholding method" of size determination using ImageJ see paper 1, and for the detailed examination of the method see paper 2 (open access));

  • Feedly (RSS feed reader, I use it to keep up with the latest published articles in ACS, RSC, Wiley, etc.);

  • MagicPlot (affordable alternative to OriginLab, thanks to Mike Brennan for pointing it out);

  • WebPlotDigitizer (a tool to extract numerical data from the images of plots, thanks to Mike Brennan for pointing it out);

  • EndNote (been using this reference manager since undergrad, it's not free but worth investment if you write your manuscripts and proposals in MS Word);

  • NotePad++ (extremely versatile notepad software);

  • Grammarly (As a non-native English speaker I find this software indispensable for proof-reading of the written text);

  • UltraSearch by JamSoftware (to quickly find anything on your PC);

  • Spectragryph software for opening spectra in manufacturer's file formats (e.g., *.dsw from Cary spectrometers, *.fs from Edinburgh Instruments, and so on), their motto "Free your spectral data from the spectrometer system. View & work your data wherever you want.";

  • ProfilmOnline is a web-based application for surface imaging and analysis. The application supports a large variety of file formats from different profilometers and instruments and is straightforward to use.

  • PowDLL a program for interconversion between various formats of powder X-ray diffraction data files.

Writing

Proposal-writing

Presentations

Arguably, presenting the results of one's work is one of the most important parts of being a scientist. Clear and effective communication is essential if you aim to convince an audience (generally speaking) of the value of what you do as well as of yourself. Given how much time, effort, and passion the scientists put into their work that is virtually hidden, it is only logical that presentation should get serious attention, thought, and preparation.

Applets

Website-building

Personal webpage is a replacement for a paper business card. I encourage every early career researcher (the earlier, the better) to maintain a website. Make it into a single destination for anyone interested in your research and profile (for example, it could be someone looking for a postdoc or a faculty candidate, or a member of interviewing/recruiting committee). The website will also serve as a funnel once you place a link to it across various academic/professional social media (Google Scholar, ORCID, LinkedIn, etc.). For the content, consider an updated CV/resume, list of publications, description of completed/ongoing projects, teaching, outreach activities, science communication blog, recorded presentations, samples of the code, etc.

Open Access

  • "Open Access" by Peter Suber;

  • SherpaRomeo, an online resource aggregating publishers' open access policies;

  • How Can I Share it? a helpful resource to check by DOI what sharing options are available for a paper;

Crystallography and Structure

Online Seminar Series

A non-exhaustive list of regular chemistry/nano-related webinars to sustain independent learning:

Motivation and Resilience

A partial list of resources that I turn to for inspiration and grit.