Sketching out an alternative to Illustrator

A little addition to the iLab this evening … not directly an app, but a piece of software for your Mac. I apologize to eventual PC-users out there, but you don’t know what your missing 😉

As a apple-addict, I love things that are intuitive, simple to use, and sleek. No need to say that in my opinion, Illustrator, the very famous graphic design software, does not fulfill any of these requirements. Like really not.

So, when I got to the point where I felt like drawing my own schemes, sketches, doodles, figures, I look for alternatives and found SKETCH in the App Store. It look easier to use then Paint, but does everything a graphic does software should do.

Needless to say that you don’t need to google “How to make a triangle in Illustrator ?” to find out how to draw a triangle.


You can visit the website of the developer if you want to look the stuff you can do with it. And here the link to the app store.

The only negative thing about it is the price. Of course it is not expensive compared to the Adobe Suite, but 49$ is not on the cheap side. I bought is about a year ago and is was 3 times cheaper … of course they improved it a lot, but I don’t think it justifies the huge price increase.

But if you don’t won’t to pull your hair out because of Illustrator, and like graphic design made easy, you know this is actually possible.


The thrill

When people ask me why I do a PhD, I never really now what to answer … Is “because this is what I like to do” not enough ? But what do I actually like about it ? Some days, I am really not sure anymore; but then comes that moment. A defining moment reminding you why you like doing science. I think it applies to me, and I am sure it is true for many other scientists.

It’s the thrill.

The thrill when you suddenly think that are on the path of discovering something new.

It’s that moment of solitude that you generally don’t immediately share with anybody else. It’s that impression of having something truly great and novel, and the certainty that you are the first and only one in the world having that thought at that precise moment. These are the most magical and precious moments I had in my science life …

Of course, there are different kinds and levels of thrills. 

The intellectual thrill happens only when two neurons that never connected before suddenly do so. You have a new idea, no data to support it, but it sounds brilliant to you. Sadly, after a few days of evaluating the idea, or “submiting it for internal review” to you colleagues, you often leave it on the side of the road because you realize it was more science-fiction then science.

The practical thrill happens when you get new exciting data. It is more solid then the intellectual thrill, and is obviously more exciting. That kind of thrill can influence your next experiments and interests, and actually change or embellish your research project.

This week I had an “in silico” thrill while analyzing some data. It’s somewhere in between an intellectual and practical thrill (I am more a wet lab kind of person). Maybe in a week I will leave it in the back of my head, or toss it away; but for the moment I am still obsessed with it …


A white page at the horizon

I think this is one of the most scary and most exciting moment for any writer.


The white page is always full of promises, waiting for all the ideas bubbling in ones head to settle on it. With time, everything gets shuffled, played with, re-arranged, perfected, polished, until the very final end point. It’s like a dish you cook, the ingredients -the first words- always remain there, but are transformed in something tasty, appealing, exciting imprinted in your mind.

Even scientific writing, with codes form yesteryear still dictating its rules, has space for style and creativity.

We all know scientists writing papers in the most boring, funny, stylish, twisted, insidious, clumsy, subtle, elegant, dense or impish. I could recognize some scientists I am used to read in my field by their writing style. And no, I am not dropping name.

I am a few days away from starting to write my very own, first, real, scientific article. I feel incredibly excited, but also apprehensive about it. It’s incredible how a few pages can take you months of work. How one figure will take a night without sleep to be perfect. How much energy you need in the last 100 meters.

For the moment, I am building things up in my head. I generally need some days to marinate and “stretch the elastic band” before releasing it and kick off. Next week I start. Well, I wrote it, there is no going back anymore 🙂

10 simple rules …

Just discovered this a few days ago … a little series of articles from Plos Computational Biology entitled “10 simple rules …


Pretty interesting and nice to read, these articles are giving advice to people in science of all levels and areas. Among the ones I liked the best were:

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants

 Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published

 Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation

 Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations

 Ten Simple Rules for Selecting a Postdoctoral Position (ahhhh)

 … and finally Ten Simple Rules for Graduate Students

In the latter, you will find the following recommendations:

Rule 1: Let Passion Be the Driving Force of Your Success

I could not agree more.

Rule 2: Select the Right Mentor, Project, and Laboratory

Essential, but also very very difficult to do. Often, it relies more on an impression, a gut feeling, a connection; then on a conscious or rational choice. Like Blaise Pascal once said, “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ignore”, which in english would translate as “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of”.

Rule 4: Remember, Life Is All about Balance

True. True. True. We should not feel bad about it.

Rule 9: Build Confidence and a Thick Skin

For sure necessary to survive now and later on …



If you feel like reading more, all hyperlinks are already in the text. Ok, if you don’t feel like scrolling all the way up, here you go.