20 Gift ideas for academics

Eva Lantsoght
6 Dec ’18

Today, I present you the Christmas-edition of the PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer posts. With the holidays around the corner, you may wonder what to give to an academic, or you may wonder which gift to suggest your family buys for you.

Here are 20 ideas of gifts that can make your favorite academic happy.

1. Notebooks

In need of a nice notebook for your notes for the laboratory, for a course you will be teaching, or for a new research project you are setting up? A beautiful notebook with sturdy paper can often make your favorite academic friend happy.

2. Paper planner

Do you want to help an academic to get more organized in the next year? Then a paper planner may be a good choice for a gift. While most of us use our digital calendars, a paper planner can help writing down priorities, tracking progress on habits, or keep a visual overview of the year.

3. Pens

Academics and stationary, it's a love story. Who doesn't like a new set of pens for all the writing and sketching we do on a daily basis? A nice fountain pen or a box of colored pens can always be useful.

4. Colored pencils

For highlighting text in coursebooks, for improving sketches, or simply for doodling and de-stressing - colored pencils are useful for a number of applications.

5. Noise-cancelling headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones are great if you need to work in concentration as they help you block out all external noise. They are also very helpful when traveling by airplane, as the noise of the engines is muted by the headphones.

6. Newspaper or magazine subscription

To relax a bit and read something different than research papers, you can give a newspaper or magazine subscription.

7. A weekend away

For the academic who tends to work through the weekends, a voucher for a weekend getaway may be just what the doctor prescribes. Just make sure your academic friend actually books a trip and goes away - preferably without laptop.

8. Fiction books

Another gift that has the reader in mind who has been reading too much academic work and not enough for pleasure. You can give a classic fiction novel or the latest bestseller (or a book that has received an award recently).

9. Books for academic success

Besides fiction books, nonfiction books with advice for academic success can be an excellent gift. There's plenty of great advice books for academics, PhD students, for those who struggle with writing... If you are interested in buying or requesting a book for academic success, check out my book "The A-Z of the PhD Trajectory".

10. Coffee and/or tea

Identify the favorite hot beverage of your academic friend, and then buy nice coffee or tea for him/her. An added bonus is that nice coffee or tea in a nice package looks so nice on your desk.

11. Mug

A funny mug for coffee or tea is another gift idea. You can use this mug for drinking tea or coffee in your office, for taking it to the coffee/tea vendors to reduce the number of single-use packages, or to hold your favorite pens.

12. Poster or calendar for office wall

Another gift idea to brighten up your office. A few years ago I received a calendar of yoga cats, and seeing these cats in silly positions brightened up my day every time I saw them in my office.

13. Massage vouchers

Long hours in front of the computer? Many academics complain about a stiff back or a painful neck. A massage to loosen up these problematic areas of the body may bring some much-needed relief.

14. Snacks for the office

Long hours in front of the computer also require something for snacking. A gift idea is then a basket of snacks for the office (preferably healthy snacks of course) for when the munchies attach during the day.

15. Concert or theater entrance

To boost creativity, or simply to take your mind away from your research question, tickets for a concert or theater performance can be lovely. An evening away can bring some fresh energy.

16. Laser pointer

While most conference venues have laser pointers available in the rooms, for smaller meetings you may be struggling to point out what you want your audience to see on your slides. A personal laser point can be very useful for such occasions.

17. Conference clothes

If you usually work in the lab and live in a hoodie and your old jeans, you may need some more dressed-up clothes for conferences. You can ask for a nice blouse/shirt, or -depending on the budget- even help in purchasing a suit.

18. Wireless headphones

If you talk through videoconferencing often, or if you like running with music, bluetooth headphones can be a lifesaver. There also exist wireless noise-cancelling headphones, which are even better.

19. Travel toiletries

A small bag with toiletry essentials for traveling can be very useful. Many cosmetic stores sell such toiletry bags in a gift box, so it is quite easy to find and purchase this gift.

20. Sturdy suitcase or carry-on bag

For those who travel a lot, a sturdy, robust, and reliable suitcase is necessary. I used to make the mistake of buying the cheapest suitcase on the market, only to learn that the wheels would come off before I'd even reach the metro station. A good suitcase or carry-on bag will make your life much easier.

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