What professors really want from graduating students

It is that happy-sad time of year when students I cherish move on to the next step. They have been in our research lab for one year or for four. They have taken classes from us and have learned from us just as we have learned from them. And now they are mostly gone.

It was wonderful to meet their parents on Friday after graduation and see where our precious students came from. I suppose it is also good for the parents to meet us, often for the first time.

Some students want to memorialize our bond with a gift, particularly if their parents are from cultures where this is common. Gifts can be awkward, should not be worth much, and are entirely unnecessary.

But there is one kind of gift we will always love. It is a note from the student reflecting on their time in our group. It can be emailed, handwritten, or printed. We don’t care. We just love to get such memories. In fact, I keep them forever in a special place and I look at them when feeling overwhelmed.

So, if you are wondering what on earth to get your professors, remember, the best gift is that note. Let us know what your time here meant and we’ll be happy.

Oh, and stay in touch!


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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