Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Daniel Quintana

Daniel Quintana

Research scientist

Posted in mac, scientist

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Dan Quintana, an Australian research scientist living in Norway. The goal of my research is to better understand the role of the hormone oxytocin in how we think, feel, and behave. My job involves organising various research projects, keeping up to date with new research, writing papers, and statistical coding. I share my research process and whatever I find interesting on Twitter.

I also co-host a podcast Everything Hertz about research practices and life in the biobehavioral sciences. This was one of those things that a mate and I thought we'd try for 10 episodes, thinking it would just peter out, but we recently cracked episode 100, so I think it's going ok.

What hardware do you use?

I worked at an Apple reseller when I was an undergraduate student so I'm a diehard Apple fan. My main machine is 2015 MacBook Pro 13-inch model, which is getting a little long in the tooth.

When it comes to podcast hardware, I record directly onto a Zoom H6 via a Shure Beta 87A XLR mic, which plugs into my Mac using a Behringer UCA202 USB audio interface. This also receives the audio signal from my co-host and any guests we have on Skype, which I hear on my Sony MDR-7506 monitor headphones. When we're doing a live video show, I control video feeds and on-screen text via an Elgato Stream Deck. I use a Logitech webcam to capture my own video feed.

For recording my talks, I use a Røde lav mic, and wirelessly transmit the signal either to my MacBook or my iPhone using a Røde Wireless GO transmitter.

For everyday audio I typically use a pair of Apple AirPods. The sound isn't as good as my Sennheiser MOMENTUM headphones, which I use occasionally, but the AirPods are just so damn convenient. Regardless, I mainly listen to podcasts when I'm commuting anyway, so my AirPods do the trick.

When I'm at the office use a Rain mStand to raise my laptop a little higher off the desk and connect it to an external monitor. I use a PlugBug MacBook charger, which is super handy for travel as this includes a USB outlet for charging.

My other main piece of hardware is my iPhone 11, which I use with a Tech21 protective case. I was never one for iPhone cases until I had a toddler that likes to throw things for a laugh.

And what software?

I write my manuscripts in Word with Zotero as my citation manager. I've tried LaTex, because that's what all the cool science kids are doing, but I don't think the hassle is worth it. Show me a LaTex evangelist and I'll show you someone who doesn't collaborate with Word users. There's too much software hipster-ism out there. I think you should use the software that best gets the job done for you.

For version controlling my Word manuscripts I use Simul, I can't believe more people haven't heard of this service. Think of it like Git but without the hassle. It's also easy enough for my non-techy collaborators to use.

Our lab lives in Slack for communication. This is much better then communicating in email because it removes a lot a friction. It's also easier to keep track of projects, as you keep project-related chat in their respective channels.

For my podcast, I do most of my editing in iZotope RX. Here, I remove background hums, icky mouth-smacking noises, and hisses. I give the audio a final pass in Auphonic for loudness normalisation and put all the audio tracks together using Hindenburg. For recording our video episodes, I use Ecamm Live. It's like OBS Studio, but much easier to use.

I do statistical coding and data visualisation in R using RStudio, which I occasionally livestream. Last year I livestreamed and the analysis and write-up of an entire paper, which was much harder than I thought. I've recently started playing around with Binder, which packages together my data and analysis into an interactive online instance, so that anyone can reproduce my analysis. I think stuff like this is the future of science. I occasionally do statistical analysis in either jamovi or JASP, which are fantastic free alternatives to SPSS.

To make scientific figures I use BioRender. They've got a huge clipart library and if there's something you need that's not in their library, they'll design it for you.

I'm trying to use my iPhone less than I used to so that I can pay better attention to my work and family. I found that having kids has made me much more efficient during the day, so that I can actually have some free time to spend with them in the evenings and weekends. The Screen Time feature on iOS revealed that I was spending a scary amount of time on Twitter, so I recently deleted the app from my phone.

One app that's helped me use my phone less is called Forest. The goal of this app is to grow a forest of trees, but if you exit the app while the timer is running, your growing tree dies. It sounds all very cutesy but it works. And you're not just growing pixels, as the developers use proceeds from the app to plant real trees. So thanks to Forest, I mainly use my iPhone as a camera, to show my toddler the occasional cat videos, to play podcasts via Overcast, for work communication via Slack and email, and occasional web browsing. Oh, I make calls occasionally too.

What would be your dream setup?

The two USB ports on my MacBook Pro are not enough for podcasting, so I'd love to have an iMac with a bit more grunt. Running my streaming software and 3 different USB peripherals via a USB hub during podcast streams really gets my MacBook's fans going, which I have to edit out of my podcasts. Otherwise, I'm happy with my MacBook.