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If you feel this way you might consider a homemade, edible present which demonstrates you have taken time and care to make something special.

Christmas is a great time to make edible gifts as there are so many ‘themed’ choices in the tasty treat department.

Five years ago, a student gave me a little brass plate on a stand with an etched view of Hong Kong harbour.

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) therefore people may never tell you they don’t drink. So here is my problem: I’ll have the odd glass of something, but Mr Thesis Whisperer doesn’t drink at all, so there’s no occasion to open the gifted bottles of wine at home.

I don’t want to use them to cook with as that seems rude, so I have a shelf full of bottles of wine which lovely people have given me that I have never got around to consuming.

In countries like Australia, where gift giving ‘rules’ are largely unspoken and context dependent, it can be difficult to know what advice to give.

So I thought I would just tell you about the four types of responses I got and leave it up to you to decide what to do!

First there is the question of taste, as illustrated in this clip from the Big Bang Theory where Amy gives Penny a huge painting for teaching her how to be ‘cool’: The rest of the episode revolves around Penny hiding her horrified reaction to the ugly painting and her efforts to avoid hanging it in her house, but in such a way that she wont hurt Amy’s feelings.

However sometimes, like Amy, we want to give a gift that shows how much we care and value our teachers; store bought wine and/or chocolates can feel like a cop out.

When I asked on Twitter what people were buying their Ph D supervisor I was surprised by the range of different responses.

Some people had no idea what to buy and expressed interest in such a post because the etiquette for this situation is so opaque.

It was pointed out that gift giving creates a sense of obligation and reciprocity, which can be awkward for a supervisor – especially if they have many students. Many people do not celebrate Christmas all because of their atheist stance, others routinely have their own religious holidays ignored by Australia’s Christian slant.

I’m not sure how you negotiate this social minefield, but perhaps, if you are unsure what is considered normal behaviour, ask the students who have been there longer than you.

Writing A few people told me they were giving their supervisor a conference paper or overdue chapter draft to read for Christmas. There is not a Christmas that goes by that I am not reading a thesis draft from a student or a friend (I’m looking at you Jason Downs).

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