Dear SW and Alice,
I will soon defend my dissertation, and I don’t know whether it is customary or acceptable or expected to give an appreciation gift to one’s adviser. …I asked around with colleagues… and there seems to be no consensus – I got, “you could and it would be nice but I don’t think it would be expected”. Is there a standard of behavior to show appreciation for dissertation advising, or is it part of the job, in your experiences? Did you give gifts? If you did, what did you give? Can you shed any light on this?
Congratulations on your coming defense! You’ve done all of the hard parts of your PhD and now you can relax and worry about details like page formatting and gifts for your advisor. That’s awesome.
And what a great question. I wondered about the same thing when I was defending. I think the traditional thing to do is have the present be a bound copy of the dissertation for your advisor’s collection. I also chose to give my advisor a framed photo of the two of us at one of my scenic field sites. I know that he still has that picture amidst the clutter of his office – not even totally buried! I don’t think you should feel in any way obligated to give your advisor anything of monetary value – but if you are close and have something sentimental to give or shared interests or something like that I think a gift would be fine. I’d bet that a nice – but not too sappy – letter saying how much you appreciated his advice and mentoring, etc. would be just as appreciated as any gift.
On a more pragmatic level – the dissertation copy may actually be used by future grad students who are doing related work. Even better would be to make sure that you actually get all of the chapters of your thesis published in a timely manner. Finally, when you leave, don’t leave behind unlabeled samples and messy or incomplete lab/field notebooks. You should be a good lab citizen and give your advisor (and, again, future grad students) a tidy package of notebooks, reagents, and whatnot for future work. (But you already knew that…)
Readers – Did you give your advisor a gift? If so, what?