7 last minute Christmas gift ideas for scientists

Don’t know what to give to the scientist in your life this Christmas? Have a look at these seven ideas.

1 Made-to-order plasmid watercolours (£19.66 from Etsy)

Plasmid watercolours from Sandra Culliton on Etsy

Sandra Culliton produces made-to-order handpainted plasmid watercolours. Photograph: sandraculliton/Etsy.

Science and art often converge – whether it’s the way we share our data or the use of science as the subject of artwork.

Sandra Culliton makes watercolour paintings of plasmid structures, showing the simple beauty of something that most molecular biologists see every day. You can have your own plasmids painted by Sandra or choose from the designs on her Etsy store, where she also sells other biology-inspired watercolours.

2 R-Evolution cuisine kit (£44.99 from Lakeland)

R-Evolution cuisine set at Lakeland

R-Evolution’s molecular gastronomy kit will let you make edible foams and beads for your next dinner party. Photograph: Lakeland.

Bring science into the kitchen with this molecular gastronomy kit from R-Evolution. The kit contains agar for making flavoured pearls and beads, sodium alginate, which you may have used to immobilise enzymes in school biology practicals, calcium lactate to make spheres from your alginate creations, and soya lecithin to make light and airy foams from any liquid. You’ll also find all the tools you need, from pipettes to silicone moulds.

3 Magazine subscription (various prices)

For a gift that will last a whole year, why not go for a magazine subscription. There is a huge range of magazines about science available, from New Scientist and Scientific American to National Geographic and Wired. Most magazines come with tablet and mobile versions included, which can also be purchased on their own.

4 Smart herb garden (£79.95 from Amazon)

Click & Grow Smart Herb Garden

With Click & Grow’s smart herb garden, you can be as neglectful as you like towards your plants. Photograph: Amazon/Click & Grow.

Keeping your own kitchen herb garden can be a great way to have fresh flavours to hand all the time. But many plant scientists tell me that they’re terrible when it comes to keeping plants alive. With this smart herb garden from Click & Grow, all you’ll need to do is plug it in and fill up the water tank once a month. The herb garden’s clever soil sensors will take care of everything else. Other plants are available as refills from the same company.

5 Blossoming lamp (£60.00 from the Science Museum Shop)

Blossoming Lampshade at the Science Museum Shop

This blossoming lampshade opens up when the light comes on. Photograph: Science Museum Shop.

Bring the secrets of the plant world into your home with this beautiful lampshade that opens up when you switch the light on. The lamp’s petals contain strips of copper and steel sandwiched together. When the metals heat up, the copper expands more than the steel, opening up the flower.

6 Lego female scientist minifigure set (£15.99 from Lego Ideas)

Lego Research Institute

Lego Research Institute, featuring three female scientists, is one of a number of new products pitched through the Lego Ideas project. Photograph: Lego Ideas.

Lego produces a huge range of minifigures but these have predominantly been male characters with various occupations. This summer, the Danish company released a set of three female scientist minifigures after a successful pitch on Lego Ideas by geophysicist Ellen Kooijman. They’re currently sold out, but be sure to check back!

7 Plants vs Zombies calendar (£9.99 from the Calendar Club)

Plants vs Zombies 2015 calendar

Plan your year (and zombie-fighting strategy) with this 2015 calendar. Photograph: Calendar Club.

What is there not to love about PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies? It’s a game that gives our groundbreaking plant science the ultimate application: fighting zombies. Celebrate this achievement every day throughout 2015 with this wall calendar.

Mabon is a PhD student at the John Innes Centre. He tweets as @mabonrhun.


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