Graduation gift for research advisees?
December 30, 2016 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for graduation gift ideas for my research advisees.

I'm an academic scientist. My research group includes postdocs, graduate students, and undergrads. I'd like ideas of gifts I can give to my research advisees when they graduate or leave for another job.

The challenge is that while I know my advisees well on the research side because I've worked closely with them for years, I usually don't know a lot about them outside of work. Picking a personalized gift based on their outside interests doesn't seem doable, and I worry would even seem a bit creepy. I'm also prone to overthinking paralysis with gift giving. I'd like a gift or class of gifts that's relatively one-size-fits all, so I can give something similar to everyone, but ideally something less generic than a gift card.

My goal is to have the gift communicate "I've greatly enjoyed working with you and discussing science for the past X years and wish you the best in the future."
posted by medusa to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Something useful... A nice business card holder, a nice pen, a USB clicker if they're teaching.
Fwiw, I've never gotten a gift from my advisor nor have I ever given a gift to my advisees.
posted by k8t at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't generally socialise with your advisees, I think taking them out for a drink or coffee would work. After my defense, my advisor and I added me to the Math Genealogy Project and then he took me for a beer, which, because it was outside the bounds of our normal interactions, was meaningful. Stuff, even useful stuff, is more stuff and your advisees are likely about to move when they leave, in which case the last thing you want is another thing to pack.
posted by hoyland at 10:24 AM on December 30, 2016

Piggy-backing on the coffee/drink idea, what about asking them if you can take their picture to put up on an "onward and upward" (or whatever) wall in your office? (Either them alone, or them with you.) It's a way to show you don't want to forget them, that they were an important part of your career. And if they want, they can ask for a copy for themselves.
posted by current resident at 10:37 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

My advisor gave me a t-shirt with a funny quip about the subject of my dissertation printed on it. I think it was kind of his thing for his advisees. Not useful but I really liked it as we had only ever interacted professionally and this was still about the research but with a lighter, fun touch.
posted by bluebird at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

The classic gifts are: nice laser pointer or briefcase.

If you're in an area of science where your advisees study a thing with a unique name, you could have a custom t-shirt made with that name on it. I did this for my husband when he defended. He is a biochemist/biophysicist and I had the shirt made with the name of a chemical he synthesized.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2016

This is a very nice gesture. What about something from your university, like a coffee mug or water bottle with the university seal/logo on it?
posted by karbonokapi at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2016

Something relevant to your research (a tool? Classic text? Art?) would be ideal. If that's not viable, locally made food or alcohol is my standard generic gift.
posted by metasarah at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2016

If your institution has nice looking padfolio cases or folders like this for example that would be perfect because then as the advisees go out on job interviews and meetings, they can carry their stuff around and look professional and also have something from their alma mater.
posted by rmless at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2016

My advisor was known to only give gifts to people she liked, and knew. She knew of my love of the history and the philosophy of science and she got me a really awesome coffee table book that was relevant to my interests.

In lieu of a personalized gift, I think that I would have enjoyed a one on one conversation over a drink (we both like scotch) or a meal that we would both enjoy (and that I hadn't been able to afford regularly).

I found out later that it was "all good," but if she had voiced her continuing support - regardless of whether I stuck it out in academia, went into industry, or even left research altogether.

I ended up leaving research altogether after a disasterous stint in industry, although I see my company self-funding (revenue generating) R&D and collaborating with clinical investigators fairly quickly once we're up and running. Results from both aims should end up being worthy of being submitted for peer reviewed publication. Fingers crossed.
posted by porpoise at 2:25 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

For my advisees:

1. A gold plated stapler when it's time to staple their published academic papers together into a thesis/dissertation. (Most of my advisees will publish in the field of gold nanoparticle chemistry.)

2. A hardcover/bound version of their dissertation/thesis. (this is kind of expensive, running $250 for 2 bound copies, as I get one for myself/ personal bookshelf at the same time. ). Also, I write a nice note to the advisee inside the front cover of this bound volume.

3. A seminal academic reference book in their field. I usually buy this used, because it's one of the set of gifts listed here. And sometimes the book in question is out of print, and only available on the used market. Depends on the student, really.

4. A fine bottle of scotch/wine/champagne/vodka as appropriate.

I guess, in the end, I really really value the work of my PhD and Masters students, and I enjoy giving the multiple gifts as outlined above when "the fuse is getting short" on their time in my research group.
posted by u2604ab at 3:23 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

A gold plated stapler ... field of gold nanoparticle chemistry

So a red stapler, then? =D

2. A hardcover/bound version of their dissertation/thesis.

OMG This! My MSc supervisor paid for one bound one - for him. I paid for one for myself and one for a relative. But yes, nice hardbounds of theses for the advisee to give out is a great idea! Especially if they survived by borrowing from the bank of mom and dad/family.

Huh. Did I even ? Ha! The hardcopy of my PhD thesis in my posession is a spiral bound copy for use by one of my examination committee members (pre-Final changes, markup with a pen); its the one that one of them who left it behind, the rest took theirs with them. I know one of them uses parts of it as a reference text for his under/grad students for the subject, I expect the others just threw them in a recycling box. I did get one hardbound version for a relative who helped monetarily with my MSc but had contributed zero support to my PhD.

Er, so, depends on the recipient.
posted by porpoise at 7:45 PM on December 31, 2016

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