May 2012

Graduation gift ideas


Graduation season is upon us, which means it’s time get on with gift buying. Here are 10 recommendations for thoughtful and fun gifts for the science student in your life. 

Up first is the crowd-sourcing website PetriDish, which specializes in raising funds for science projects across the world. Log in and browse the collection of potentially fundable investigations. You can pick your favorite and pledge any amount of money to the cause. Who knows, you may even receive a free gift for your help.

Next is a genetic testing kit by 23andMe. Here you buy the chance to send off a saliva sample and get it screened for a range of genetic variants, and a few weeks later you will receive a summary of what your genome can say about your health, particular traits and, best of all, where your ancestors most likely came from.

Artologica is a U.S.-based artist who focuses on creating science-inspired (and in particular biology-inspired) pieces of artwork. One exceptional creation you could give is a painting of the cell cycle, an ideal gift for a budding molecular biologist. The artist has many, many others that come with a wide range of price tags.

With the widespread use of biochemical techniques outside of the lab, molecular gastronomy – the application of chemistry and molecular biology to cooking – has caused a revolution in how we prepare and cook our food. This book, “Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor,” written by Hervé This, a leader in the field, teaches readers in theory and practice of applying the last couple of years of science training to making the most delicious and interesting food.

Do you know a graduate who has a love of all things micro? Somebody who would really like the chance to explore the world in its finer details? If so, then this minimicroscope for the iPhone 4 will be right up their alley. Attach this implement to the front of a smartphone and get ready to see how nature really looks. Don’t forget to share the pictures with the rest of us!

The last half a decade or so has seen a massive increase in the interest in online science blogging. To document, highlight and organize this massive amount of journalism and commentary, one group has set about creating a collection of the best blog posts from a wealth of bloggers and science fields. Give the gift of knowledge or even inspire someone to take up blogging by buying your graduate the very best in science blogging from 2006 to 2011.

Cafepress is a U.K.-based company that lets you browse a range of specialty clothes and accessories. The great thing is that if you don’t like anything, you can design your own! So if you have an idea for, say, a molecular-biology-themed mug, give it a go and make one for your grad. If you have no ideas, check out the DNA electrophoresis gel-inspired T-shirt.

We all know that getting education requires a lot of reading; some people enjoy this, while others grow to loathe it. Forget about the latter and embrace the former by giving someone you know Amazon’s Kindle Touch. Your grad can read science books or even recently published papers, and when he or she is sick of science, there are plenty more relaxing novels from which to choose.

Scientific American has been publishing its amazing take on science for decades now. Full of news, features, analysis and commentary on all the latest happenings in science, a Scientific American subscription will not fail to please any recent graduate in the biological sciences. Pick an online or print version.

As you know, there is a growing body of people with smartphones and tablet computers. This is especially true for recent graduates, and it is becoming more common for universities and institutions to develop tools targeted at these smartphone-wielding young graduates. So help your graduate get on the bandwagon and give an iTunes store voucher to download any one of the incredible educational and entertaining applications.

NIH_bamfordConnor Bamford ( is a Ph.D student at Queen’s University in Belfast, U.K.


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