27 and a PhD

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Gift-giving for the newly minted PhD

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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A couple of days ago I got a very interesting question in one of my posts as to what would be an appropriate gift for a newly minted PhD. That got me thinking that, since not many people close to us (family, non grad school friends) may be in the academic realm, they are probably scratching their heads as to how to show appreciation during this momentous occasion. Thus, here’s a little post intended for our family and friends … in case they’re inclined to share their happiness and pride with a little something.

Now, a PhD is a big, big thing. We’ve spent years slaving away in the library and/or the lab, or field, or underwater, or wherever. We’ve grown a lot and have faced some of the most challenging times ever. Thus, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate the good times, and drink a bit to drown the sorrows. But, as a family member or friend, what would be an appropriate gift to give, if you’re feeling like giving something?

Here are some ideas, accompanied by the rationale behind them (in no particular order):

  1. Money – I know, it sounds like an easy way out, but trust me, ask any grad student (besides your grad student) or postdoc and they will gladly admit that they’re broke. So money is a safe bet, and totally appropriate, I’d say. Think about it, your grad may be moving across the country, or the pond, as it is they have to get rid of a lot of things, and they’re broke (have I stressed this enough). A little bit of money will be greatly appreciated, it doesn’t take much space, it’s not insulting (IMO), and will be put to good use. The amount … it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re comfortable with what you’re giving. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it’s the thought that counts.
  2. Good food – again, this goes back to the fact that a lot of people are broke by the time their defense rolls in. And chances are they’ve been doing the ramen noodle and coffee diet for a long, long time, thus, a good, real, wholesome meal will be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t have to be a really big fancy restaurant, as long as it’s good and comes from the heart. If you’re so inclined, feel free to invite them over to your place, or if you’re far away, take your graduate during their next visit to town. It’s thoughtful and gives you the time to share and celebrate with your graduate.
  3. Jewelry – a new watch, a nice pair of earrings, maybe something engraved. It will for sure make your graduate feel special. One of my grad school’s BFFs got a cute pair of diamond earrings from her husband to wear during the defense. They were a nice touch to her outfit and it gave her a bit of a boost too.
  4. Help – chances are the grad will be relocating, they will need help moving, boxing stuff, throwing away most of their Ikea furniture. Volunteering your time to help the grad will be greatly appreciated.
  5. Some sort of spa treatment – again, this goes back to grad student’s being broke. So, if you can or are so inclined, maybe a 30-minute massage for a stressed body, or a hair cut are a good salon, or a mani/pedi, or something similar. The grad will feel very pampered after it, and will thank you for years to come.
  6. A gift card – if giving moolah straight out sounds a little eefy, then maybe a gift card to their favourite store, or electronics place makes you more comfortable. Again, the amount is up to you. But to give you an idea, in my family, gifts ranged from 100-200$.
  7. Something electronic – a tablet, a smartphone, a fancy set of earphones, a portable gaming system, an e-reader. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be too expensive, maybe their iPod is falling apart, or maybe they’d like to eventually read something not so sciency … again, maybe a gift card for any of the above electronics is a good idea.
  8. A fancy piece of clothing – chances are, your graduate has been wearing the same jeans for 3 years non-stop. They may have a new job lined up, or they’ll be going on interviews. Maybe a nice shirt, or a new pair of (non-athletic, non flip-flop) shoes is in order.
  9. A vacation – my in-laws helped a bit to get me and hon to Spain two years ago, after my graduation. If you’re so inclined, and can do it, maybe the whole family or set of friends can pool money to send the grad on a short trip away from all-things grad school related.
  10. Booze – or the grad’s favourite drink. The grad will need some booze to celebrate (or drown their sorrows), so feel free to sponsor a night out, or get a bottle of something (or a nice bag of coffee, a fancy tea, ice-cream for our Mormon crowd).

Hope this helps. Feel free to add or ask anything I may have forgotten. And congrats!!!!

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6 Comments

  1. Cathy says:

    Thank you 27 and a PhD. I was thinking about giving my niece PhD grad cash but wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate — it just seems so unemotional. However, that is the one thing I know for sure that she and her recent PhD grad husband need more than anything. Plus they can get what they NEED with it rather than me giving something they might NOT want/need. Again, thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Auntie

  2. I personally prefer cash over gift cards. Shopping to spend the gift card for me feels like a chore since I rarely get out to the mall.

  3. Claudia says:

    For small gifts I can recommend http://academicgifts.com.

  4. Bella says:

    My husband just finished his Postdoc of 1-2 years that turned into 3. I told him we ought to go out to dinner to celebrate (with our two teens) and he told us, “What is there to celebrate? I’m losing my job.” Well, I would love to get him a gift then. With one interview ahead of him (on campus!) I want to at least, encourage him in his-our future. Of course, he is terrified. Any ideas? I’ve thought of a couple of things solely relating to his tastes (wine, new wine glasses, a GameStop gift card) and yet I doubt it will cheer him up. I’ve got to imagine I’m in his shoes, which for wifey here, is tough. I am so far from an academic! Thank you greatly.

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