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Science Communication

A Holiday Gift Guide for Scientists


Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Publications and Marketing Specialist

December 2021

The holiday season is upon us, and you may find yourself wondering what to give the scientist (or science enthusiast) in your life. This can feel particularly daunting if you are not a scientist yourself, or if your loved one is in a different research field. To assist you, review the short list below for gift ideas that are both seasonal and year-round.

1. Subscriptions to journals or magazines

Regardless of a scientist’s career stage, chances are they like to stay abreast of current news, especially in their related field. If your gift recipient is not a member of a university or association, they might not have access to their favorite academic publications; in this case, purchasing a year-long subscription to one of their favorite journals would be well-received. Alternatively, if your gift recipient is a member of a university or association, they may already have access to large library of journals, so consider a subscription to a magazine instead. Some popular options include Popular Mechanics, American Scientist, or Science News. Magazines are a great choice for science enthusiasts as well.

2. Location-specific gifts

Perhaps your gift recipient is a new graduate student, post-doctoral scholar or is starting their first job as a new graduate. If they are far from home, consider buying a gift they can use in their new location—this includes items such as a gift card to a local coffee shop or restaurant. In the age of the Internet, it should be straightforward to identify what is popular in their new area of residence. You may also consider providing a gift that is an item your recipient can only obtain at home, such as a local ingredient. Your gift will allow them to bring a small piece of home along as they start the next stage in their career.

3. Audiobook or music subscription

Many scientists spend long hours at the bench or at their computer. If your scientist is also in academia, they likely spend numerous hours grading or lesson planning. Audiobooks are an excellent way to keep the brain stimulated when doing repetitive tasks, and music might be preferrable for someone who is grading or writing manuscripts.

4. Research equipment

Splurging on a nice piece of equipment can be expensive, especially if your gift recipient is in an earlier stage of their career; however, the right tools can go a long way. Consider hiking boots for a scientist who does field work or an ergonomic keyboard for a professional who spends a considerable amount of their time typing. A hardcover notebook is perfect for scientists to track their thoughts, and almost every researcher in any field will need a laser pointer for presentations.

5. Personal offerings

Scientist or not, almost everyone appreciates home-cooked meals or sweets. This type of personalized gift may be very appreciated by a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar, as they may not have the time to cook themselves meals on a regular basis. If you do not live nearby, consider providing them with a gift card or subscription to a meal kit delivery service. If you are nearby, invite your gift recipient over for a meal, or send a basket of their favorite desserts.

Finding the right gift can feel overwhelming, as you want your gift recipient to enjoy the gift you provide. Personally, I find it helpful to select a gift the recipient would not purchase themselves. Just remember, almost everyone appreciates a thoughtful gift, no matter the size or the time of year.

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