3 Free Applications for STEM Majors (That You’ll Actually Use)

As STEM majors, if you look up helpful apps to help you while studying or writing papers, you’ll get a lot of listicles of apps that fall under a few categories:

  1. Costs money (or hidden costs)
  2. Does the same thing as a bunch of other apps. Most everyone already has a note-taking method, to do manager, or calendar that they already are comfortable using. Why use a new one?
  3. Way too technical and hard to understand

Instead, I’ve compiled 3 apps that add value to your life in the following ways:

  1. Free
  2. Works as well/better than paid alternatives
  3. Takes less than 15 minutes to set up

Let’s get it started!


How to learn anatomy with Anki: Flashcards, review | Kenhub
An example of an Anki flashcard from kenhub.com

I was team Quizlet since middle school, but the increased monetization has really driven me off the platform. This past year, I started using Anki, a free app that’s not only a good replacement, but an improvement.

This app isn’t pretty–but if you look past its boring UI, you’ll find a gem of a tool. Here’s the highlights:

  • Basic UI + open-source software means it’s very customizable. With a few enabled settings, you can use it to study almost any kind of content: learning languages, doing physics practice problems, anatomy flashcards, and more. There are different mods you can add to your software to make it work better for you.
  • You can spread out studying over a longer period of time, so you retain info better!
    • Unlike Quizlet, Anki lets you set deadlines for cards depending on how well you know the content.
    • Naturally, you’ll end up studying the stuff you don’t know for much longer, saving you time!
  • So many stats: the app tells you which cards you’re better at, tracks the time you spend studying, and even notes which time of day you answer most accurately.


Screenshot of the Zotero desktop application
An example of a Zotero library from zotero.org

No more keeping urls to your research sources in some random Word doc! Writing term papers and research essays has been one of my hardest struggles in college. It can be overwhelming to have to consume a bunch of research and analyze it in a meaningful way. Make it easier for yourself with Zotero, a “personal research assistant” that organizes sources for you. This tool is used by lots of people in academia, but not many undergrads know about it. Here’s what makes it great:

  • It’s easy to add sources! You can use the browser extension to add an entire source with just a click.
  • Once the source is added, all the information is downloaded: bibliographic information, tags associated with the work, a snapshot/pdf of the work
  • If there’s a pdf of the work, it’s saved locally to Zotero and you can take notes/highlight in the in-app pdf viewer!
  • Integrates with Google Docs and Word, where you can quickly add in text citations or a bibliography at the end of your writing


A connection map that ResearchRabbit generated for one of my term papers.

What does it mean to do a “thorough review of the literature”? That phrase can be daunting for undergrads. I don’t know about y’all, but when I’m usually starting a term paper, I don’t even know what I don’t know. Are these papers I’m using representative of the current research? This tool (researchrabbit.ai) gives you suggested papers, and it lets you see how popular your sources are in the field. Here’s my favorite features:

  • The coolest UI that makes it so easy to use
  • Visual maps help you “see” the impact of the sources you’re citing
  • The option to look at “similar work” and “related work” helps you find other sources, especially if you want to look at the current state of the literature


These tools have been really helpful for me this year, and I hope they can help y’all too! Give these a go to help you work smarter, not harder. Good luck!

I'm a 3rd year neuroscience major interested in the intersection of science and art! I also like to share my experiences as someone studying an uncommon major.