Chris: How I use my iPhone and iPad as a biology professor

In addition to being an iPhone/iPad enthusiast, I am a full time biology professor at the University of Texas Pan-American. Since I first purchased my iPhone in 2008, and my iPad in 2010, I have found them to be indispensible tools that I use almost on a daily basis. Some of the apps are the routine built in apps (calendar, contacts, etc) while others are specialty apps that I used for a specific task. As a faculty member, I divide my activities into one of three categories - teaching, research, and service, and I use these two devices in each arena..


I teach a few different courses, and I am lucky enough that the General Biology text I use can be purchased through the iPad app Inkling. I encourage students to purchase it this way, and I also have a copy myself.

Using an ebook version like this allows for more interaction with the material - both through animations, videos, but also interactive tools. I can easily whip out my iPad when I am discussing a topic with a student to show them the material, which is much easier than flipping through the actual textbook. On a beneficial side note, the students are much more likely to bring the iPad to class than to lug around a heavy text book.

On a more mundane front, I use the Calendar to keep track of weekly advising meetings, when I schedule tests and quizzes, and even how much longer I have until Thanksgiving break! Trust me, the absent minded professor is many time a very real stereotype - without the Calendar I would probably forget half of my student appointments!

The iPad and iPhone also allow for more rapid response to student questions by email or by blackboard. I have also in the past used the iPad to show multimedia demonstrations and videos I may have, rather than try to load them on to a pen drive. The iPhone also allows for me to take pictures of my students in the lab or in the field, which I can hopefully use to entice future students to take some of my courses!


When I where my research hat, I use my iPhone and iPad are equally valuable. I take them with me to conference, rather than lugging around a big notebook computer. That way, I can practice my presentation in the hotel using Keynote or Documents to Go.

I can keep up to date on email (nothing like coming home to an inbox with 300+ new mail messages). And when I am feeling a little lonely, I can use FaceTime to chat with my wife and daughter at home.

When I am doing research in the field, I use my iPhone as a GPS device, to track where my field sites are, but also to take pictures on the field locations. I use the voice memo recording all the time to record notes to myself about experiments and research ideas.

In many cases, timing for an experiment can be critical - rather than buy various digital timer, I simply use the built in timer on my iPhone to make sure I remember to proceed with a certain step of an experiment at a specific time.


Service is the bane of almost every faculty member. We usually love research, most of us enjoy teaching, but no one likes service to the university. But we all have to participate in committees and administrative tasks. I find that bringing my iPad to meetings is an easy and efficient method to record notes - the built in keyboard works very well, and I can usually take my notes for meetings as fast as I could writing by hand.

In the event that I need to write something manually, I have to notebook apps - PhatPad and PenUltimate, that I use for drawing figures or jotting down little memos.

And if it is a large boring meeting, there is nothing like sitting in the back and playing a little Angry Birds to pass the time. And again, the Calendar is great to make sure I don't forget all these meetings that I need to go to - especially with Siri, so she can tell me on a daily basis what I need to do.

In addition, I can download any documents or PDF's that we will be looking at and simply view them on the iPad with my GoodReader app, saving paper and making it easier to carry mounds of paperwork around! For example, I am the parliamentarian for one committee, so I can make sure to always carry around a copy of Robert's Rules of Order!


Our school has also developed an iPhone app that we can use to access any of the proprietary university systems - Oracle for business system and Blackboard for teaching and student interaction. That means I am not limited to using a university computer to log in to authorize a purchase order, plan a trip to a national conference, or post grades online for students.

I have also found myself using Siri for reminders more and more - especially location based reminders. I find I may remember something I need to do while driving home. In the past, I would forget it many times before I got home, but with Siri I can just set up a location reminder to do something when I get to work, or before I leave work. It works great - I probably have about 2 or 3 Siri reminders going off every day!

The iPhone and iPad make many routine tasks easy, and make many time consuming tasks painless. They both enhance productivity, allow me more time to interact with students and engage in research. The thing I like the best is that they just make everything easier - scheduling meetings, remembering to buy cricket food, taking notes at meetings, or helping a student studying genetics.

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