6 Great Gifts for Scientists

Here are 6 types of gifts to consider if you are shopping for a scientist.

Updated on December 7, 2016

Gifts for scientists wrapped in a bow

Let's be honest, no one likes getting bad gifts – and if you're like most people, you don't like giving them either.

In the spirit of being helpful during one of the most charitable times of the year, we've put together a list of 6 things that you could buy if you have a scientist on your gift list.

1. Location-specific gifts

Something local can be a great gift for someone who has recently moved to a new area for a new role (grad student, postdoc, or professor). Thanks to apps like Groupon, you can easily find fun, local activities to gift, and with Yelp, you can find a highly-rated restaurant to purchase a gift card from. As an example, a bottle of BBQ sauce from The Carolina Sauce Company might be a great gift for people moving to North Carolina, where AJE is based.

This type of gift can help make someone's experience in a new place much more enjoyable.

2. Subscriptions to services

Scientists often spend hours in the lab setting up and carrying out their experiments. They work at odd hours or on weekends, and listening to music or audiobooks can help them pass the time. Pandora and Spotify both offer subscription-based services to stream music with no ads, and Audible is a paid service that provides a wide assortment of audiobooks to choose from each month.

Though a subscription-based gift may feel intangible, it shows that you understand the numerous (and sometimes tedious) hours they spend in lab, and it is something that the they can enjoy while they are working.

3. Personalized science gift

Personalized gifts have a way of making people feel considered and cared about. But in order to make this one work for scientists, you should make sure that the gift you purchase relates your friend's specific field and not just science in general.

For instance, a witty physics t-shirt probably wouldn't resonate with a molecular biologist as much as if you gave them a knitted protein. Of course, everyone's preferences are different, so if you do give a gift that relates directly to the science a person studies, make sure that it is also a gift they will enjoy.

4. Laser pointer

Don't ever underestimate the power of a good laser pointer when giving talks or presentations. Scientists have been known to use 7-foot wooden sticks or even fishing poles (or maybe it was just our departments?) to point items in a slide presentation when without a laser pointer.

Also, it should be noted that green laser pointers are especially nice because they do not pose any challenges related to colorblindness in an audience, as red ones might.

5. Vintage science equipment or tools

Antiquated scientific equipment is interesting, and unless the scientist you're buying for is a collector, chances are it would be a very unique gift. The history of science and findings of past scientists are something that many people esteem and value, therefore a gift relating to those things would be quite meaningful to a scientist.

This is another type of gift where it would be most valuable to find a piece of equipment that relates to the science the person studies. For ideas on what types of vintage science tools are available to buy, ebay has an entire section for Antique Scientific Instruments on their site.

6. Science drinkware or bakeware

A lot of people enjoy having a favorite cup or mug. Being given a cup with a picture or text that relates to people personally has a way of making them smile. At the very least, coffee mugs come in handy for scientists working extra hours on dissertations or manuscripts. Etsy has a great assortment of science drinkware to choose from.

If the scientist you're buying for likes to cook or bake, you also have the opportunity to impress them with science cookware or bakeware. Etsy offers unique items like periodic table cutting boards, beaker shaped cookie cutters, and Pi pie plates. These types of gifts are fun, and it's likely that they won't receive another gift just like it.

Just remember

Sometimes giving gifts can be stressful. You want the person to like what you're giving them, and you hope that it will be useful for them. Hopefully these 6 suggestions will help if you're looking for a gift to buy a scientist.

Also, whatever type of gift you choose to go with, it's important to remember that nearly everyone appreciates a thoughtful, personalized gift, and scientists are no different. Happy shopping!

*Thanks to Ben Mudrak, Jaime Fox, and Theresa Somerville for contributing to this article.*

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