Motivational gift for PhD friend?
September 22, 2012 2:53 AM   Subscribe

A motivational gift for my friend who is working on his PhD?

A friend of mine was just notified that he is finally able to present his thesis/presentation in front of five professors (sorry if I used the wrong terms). He was very excited and has said he needs to just study non-stop for the next 3 weeks.

What is something I can get him that will help him go thru three weeks? His work is about renewable/solar energy. I was thinking maybe a poster of a famous scientist or something. Does the hive have any recommendation? Budget $50.
posted by jstarlee to Shopping (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Short answer: food + caffeine.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 3:43 AM on September 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is the opposite of a poster, but I suggest getting him some really good food. There is nothing harder than feeding yourself when struggling through a difficult week in PhD land.
posted by munyeca at 3:43 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gotta chime in with food again. Every person I've known with a PhD either gained or lost about 10 pounds between the scheduling and actual defense of their thesis, either from eating only junk food or forgetting to eat entirely. Bring him healthy, filling food, or arrange it to be brought to him, somewhere in week 2 when he's seemingly disappeared completely off the earth. I'd split the $50 in half and do two nice but casual meals, actually. Spaced out in the last half.
posted by Mizu at 4:12 AM on September 22, 2012

Nthing food -- like a proper, home-cooked meal, even if you have to deliver it in tupperware and reheat it in the department microwave. There's only so much ramen a person can stand.

Also, consider a voucher for some kind of massage. Study can be pretty hard on the neck, shoulders, and back, and PhD desk set-ups are often thoroughly non-ergonomic. Of course he may not have time to use it until after his defence but at least it will be something to look forward to.
posted by pont at 4:31 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Food. Make him the kind of stuff that you store in the freezer and can then throw in the microwave for lunch/dinner. If you don't cook, gift certificates for the local delivery pizza place. A case of his favorite caffeinated beverage - coffee, tea, soda, ...

Or if he's printing the thesis, offer to buy the paper for him. Most places, for your final version of the thesis (the one you submit to the university) require you to use fancy and surprisingly expensive paper.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:09 AM on September 22, 2012

Food, obviously. I also wholeheartedly second the suggestion of a massage (or something else suitably therapeutic but won't take up that much time) - when I was writing up a thesis I got really stiff in my shoulders and back from hunching over a laptop for 12 hours a day. If it's like a 1 hour session it would be an ideal break.

Otherwise perhaps a mug with a motivational quote on (for the endless amounts of coffee)?
posted by pikeandshield at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2012

See if you can get one of those little triangular metal desk name holders with a sliding name badge, make up a two sided badge, Mr friend's name on one side, Dr friend's name on the other.
posted by biffa at 5:35 AM on September 22, 2012

Food that isn't junk, coffee that isn't crap, those are good suggestions. If you want to splurge a bit, pay somebody to clean his place and do his laundry once a week (or do it yourself, if you've got the kind of relationship where that's cool.)
posted by mhoye at 6:40 AM on September 22, 2012

A diploma frame.

Not just food, but healthy food that's not too messy. Vitamins and good metabolism will help your friend's stamina. Jeeves described fish as brain food, and I always trust Jeeves.

Massage is a terrific idea.
posted by theora55 at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2012

Absolutely do NOT get anything that celebrates the successful defense (diploma frame, anything with "Dr." on it) until that has actually happened. As prepared as he may be, there may be that one asshole committee member, included reluctantly, who torpedoes the whole thing because he's miffed your friend (and, you know, everyone else) ignores his proprietary Thing. That recently happened to a friend of mine; it's devastating.

Bringing food is nice (although that might involve interrupting and talking, which he may or may not welcome), but delivering food might be pretty good, especially if you have some good restaurants nearby. Does he like a particular ethnic food or restaurant? I know that getting up and spending time preparing something is the last thing I want to do when I'm busy, and having something different to break up the monotony of pizza and/or ramen would be great.

Edible Arrangements are great because they have high-quality fruit in ready-to-eat form, which your friend may forget exists :) For something less expensive, a lot of better grocery stores will have cut-up berry or melon mixes, pineapple, etc. in the produce section. Super tasty and very welcome when you're sick of eating things that come out of a microwave.
posted by Madamina at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Clarification: "delivering" food as opposed to "bringing" it might entail a gift certificate to a local Thai place or similar.
posted by Madamina at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2012

Seconding Madamina. In many departments, the defense is not the last step; the candidate may be sent off to revise and then send revised work around for signatures. In the case of someone I knew (the spouse of one of the people in my doctoral program), two members of his committee got into a fight during the defense and refused to sign off.

After your friend has filed everything and the graduate school has verified that his/her work is complete, THEN you celebrate. Until then, it's caffeine and decent food.
posted by catlet at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2012

A good laser pointer for the defense.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2012

Really good coffee.
posted by heyjude at 12:27 AM on September 23, 2012

Looks like it's gonna be FOOD and Massage then!!

Thanks guys!
posted by jstarlee at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2012

Nthing massage. I'm a massage therapist, though my main gig is working with PhDs. I'm dating a phd student. I've house-shared with a phd student. My salsa group is full of phd students. My ex was a phd trying to find a postdoc.

posted by flutable at 7:25 PM on September 23, 2012

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