Holiday shopping a cinch with UC Berkeley’s gift guide

It’s that time of year again, when you realize your holiday shopping to-do list is growing and the time you have to check off the boxes is shrinking. But UC Berkeley has you covered, with options for every gift you need for everyone on your list — including your sister’s fickle toddler and even your second cousin once removed that you haven’t seen for years. Gift possibilities are right here on campus and online, created by alumni or sold at an artist’s pop-up shop. Take a look.


Wreath-making workshop: The UC Botanical Garden will hold a wreath-making workshop, where crafters can create their own holiday decorations, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. Greens from the garden’s global plant collection and other natural adornments are included, but everyone should bring their own hand pruners. Cost is $40 for members and $50 for nonmembers.

Make your own decorations: Families are invited to the garden on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to make their own holiday decorations inspired by the garden, from mini evergreen wreaths to greeting cards to ornaments. Cost is $18 for members and $18 for nonmembers.

UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley; register for workshops online or by phone at (510) 664-9841 or email at

Local handmade goods

Garden shop: UC Botanical Garden visitors can stop by the annual holiday pop-up shop in Julia Morgan Hall, where flower garden kits, succulent gardens and decorative mugs will be up for sale.

UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, Dec. 7 to 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Art studio pop-up shop: Berkeley Art Studio’s Holiday Pop-Up Shop sells an array of local, handmade items, from ceramics and paintings to photos and jewelry.

Berkeley Art Studio in ASUC Student Union under the Golden Bear Café, Dec. 2 to 10, Monday-Friday, noon to 10 p.m.; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Greeting cards: Designed by Berkeley media studies sophomore Frida Hernandez, these holiday cards, sold on Etsy, are original, hand-drawn digital illustrations — adding a personal touch to a special gift.


Kamigami robotic scorpion

Robotic bug kit: Build your own bug with Kamigami, a robotics kit that includes foldable plastic sheets and different origami shells to create different crawling creatures, from ladybugs to scorpions. Kamigami is a collaboration between Dash Robots, a startup that sprang from UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, the CITRIS Foundry technology accelerator program for campus entrepreneurs and Mattel. Available at several retailers.

Electronic tinker set: With a kit from Tinkering Labs, a young engineer can make a creature with spinning arms or a machine that can scramble an egg. Tinkering Labs is a startup that began at SkyDeck, a UC Berkeley incubator that helps gets innovators into the marketplace. The beginner’s kit, called the electric motors catalyst, includes safety tips, challenge cards, tools, a battery pack, motors and hardware. Order online.

Magnetic story walls: Build and Imagine gives kids a chance to tell their own stories with colorful story walls that connect magnetically to construct rooms and houses from their imagination. Founder Laurie Peterson, who graduated from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 2011, says she started the company after noticing that the kind of play experiences she loved as a child — building, problem solving, designing, experimenting — weren’t available in the “girls” section of most toy stores. Order online.

Sunprint kits: Developed by educators at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, sunprint kits teach kids about the photographic process using only sun and water. Young artists can place a fern, flower or another object on the kit’s paper, place it in the sun, then rinse it off to reveal a beautiful, lasting image.

In addition, visitors can stop by the science hall’s Discovery Corner Toy and Bookstore, where there’s something for scientists of all ages, including science kitsjewelry and a selection of books.

Visit the Lawrence Hall of Science at 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, (510) 642-1016 or order online.


3D design project: Design your own 3D creation with you3Dit, a digital platform that allows users to draw or describe their project, then choose a designer, who will then model the concept, print it and have it delivered to your doorstep. The startup was co-founded by UC Berkeley mechanical engineering alumnus Chris McCoy, who now lectures for Haas School of Business. Order online.

Cal gear and merchandise

Cal student store: The Cal Student Store has Cal swag for everyone in your family. Pick up a practical gift, like a backpack or USB charger or opt for a fun glitter iPhone case. Those on the hunt for some Cal gear can choose from dozens of items, such as hooded sweatshirts, jerseys and t-shirts, winter hats, even blue-and-gold onesies. Gift cards are available online or at the register. A portion of the proceeds supports student programs.

The BeastMode apparel collection, a partnership between Marshawn Lynch, star running back for the Oakland Raiders, is also on sale on the Cal store. Proceeds go to Lynch’s foundation, Fam 1st, dedicated to improving children’s literacy, education and self-esteem.

2495 Bancroft, MLK Jr. Building, ASUC Student Union, (510) 229-4703,


BAMPFA membership: Members of UC Berkeley’s Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive receive all kinds of benefits, including free admission to its galleries (and to art museums at more than 30 other universities), discounted tickets to the theater and an all-access pass to lectures, seminars and special evening events. Members also get discounts at the Museum Store, where visitors can find one-of-a-kind gifts, like a 2018 daily organizer by the Berkeley collective Slingshot or a playable art trixagon. Gift memberships purchased on site at BAMPFA will receive a limited-edition Barry McGee porcelain plate while supplies last.

2155 Center Street, Berkeley, (510) 642-0808,


student actors on stage

Polaroid Stories by the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (Photo by Alessandra Mello)

Theater, Dance and Performance Studies: Pieces presented by the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies span powerful dances that explore social issues to musicals on notable moments in history, and aim to “teach performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement.” Gift certificates can be purchased online and redeemed at any time.

15 Dwinelle, Berkeley, 510.642.1677,

A scene from opera-ballet Le Temple de la Gloire, presented by Cal Performances (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Cal Performances: The largest performing arts presenter in Northern California, Cal Performances presents an expansive year-round lineup, from fantastical period opera-ballets to female empowerment dance performances. The UC Berkeley performance center offers gift certificates, which start at $10 without an expiration date. Buyers can specify an amount or browse the events to choose an amount corresponding to a particular performance, and should make their purchases by Dec. 22 for the holidays (the center will be closed Dec. 23 and will reopen Jan. 2).

101 Zellerbach Hall, #4800, (510) 642-9988,


3D virtual reality camera: Help bring your family vacation photos to life with LucidCam, a 180-degree 3D camera for use with a virtual reality headset. “It’s like seeing the world through other people’s eyes,” says founder Han Jin, who received a master’s of engineering at UC Berkeley in 2011. Order online. 

Liz Klinger

Lioness co-founder Liz Klinger

Personal smart vibrator: Take your relationship to the next level with Lioness, a smart vibrator, that uses embedded sensors to monitor arousal states, sending data — contractions, temperature, movement — to your smartphone. With Lioness, which was developed with support from UC Berkeley startup accelerators CITRIS Foundry and SkyDeck, women can begin to see patterns in their sex drive, and how it might relate to certain time of day, mood, stress levels or menstrual cycles. Order online.

Meditation app: Give the gift of serenity with Aura, a free app that provides free 3-minute guided meditations, personalized to a user’s moods and goals. Since it launched earlier this year by founder Steve Lee, who has a master’s degree in translational medicine and bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Aura has been used by more than a quarter of a million people and was voted the best new app by Apple.

New books

Electing Peace: From Civil Conflict to Political Participation is a 2017 book by assistant professor of political science Aila Matanock, whose research focuses on international enforcement during and after civil conflict as well as state-building and peace-building. In Electing Peace, she examines a range of peace agreements — Nepal in 2006, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 peace accords in El Salvador in 1992 — that let rebel parties participate in post-conflict elections. Matanock concludes that such participation isn’t just a matter of politeness; it actually improves the odds of enduring peace. She says she hopes the book helps U.S. policymakers and others, particularly when they consider actions such as budgeting for foreign aid to support peace processes.

In this year’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by history professor Yuki Slezkine made it on the New York Times’s list of 100 Notable Books of 2017 and was praised in a literary roundup in the Guardian. According to author Philip Hensher, Slezkine’s book exploring the Russian Revolution through the inhabitants of a massive residential building in Moscow dubbed the “House of Government” is simply “a humane masterpiece, rendering the colossal scale of Stalin’s brutality not in numbers but in individual lives, and a single Moscow apartment building.”

In Grateful Nation: Student Veterans and the Rise of the “Military-Friendly” Campus, UC Berkeley visiting scholar Ellen Moore concludes that while veterans’ academic difficulties are often blamed on anti-military sentiment on university campuses, vets’ combat experiences complicate their functioning in civilian schools. She also claims that colleges often suppress anti-war activism on campus in a misguided attempt to support student veterans. The book draws primarily from ethnographic work with U.S. Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force veterans conducted by Moore at a community college in an agricultural town in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and at an elite university in an urban area in California.

Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science by UC Berkeley economics professor Clair Brown. The book was recommended by UC Berkeley undergraduate student Simon Hill, who says, “It’s a wonderful book because it makes an honest appraisal of issues plaguing our world today, and emerges with hopeful, tangible recommendations for solving those issues. Professor Brown’s book can provide a template not only for how governments and international bodies should act, but also for how we as individuals can navigate our economic lives to create happier, more fulfilled futures for ourselves.”

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, a senior fellow at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley. The New York Times Book Review calls it, “A powerful and disturbing history of residential segregation in America… While the road forward is far from clear, there is no better history of this troubled journey than ‘The Color of Law.’”

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who created the gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9. The Los Angeles Review of Books says it’s “an essential start to educating the public…reveal[s] the complex, interlocking, and thoroughly international nature of today’s bioscience..”

A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves by geology professor Walter Alvarez. “[Alvarez] revels in the unlikely reality of life on Earth . . . enabling readers to experience the power of Big History,” writes Science magazine.

Becoming America: A History for the 21st Century, by UC Berkeley history professors David Henkin and Rebecca McLennan, is a textbook that the co-authors claim is the only U.S. history survey written this century entirely from scratch. Since it was first published in 2015, the book, dedicated to the fictional Ridgemont High’s celluloid history teacher, Mr. Hand, has been adopted by colleges and universities in more than a dozen states, including New York, California and Texas. It’s a history that Henkin says can help readers understand the shorter and longer roots of the current moment in U.S. history.

Food and drink

Indoor gardening kit: You don’t need a green thumb to grow your own food with a kit by Back to the Roots, an Oakland-based startup founded by alumni Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez that specializes in “ready-to-grow” and “ready-to-eat” products. Kits run from a basic mushroom farm to an urban homesteader gift set, and are 100 percent guaranteed to grow right out of the package. Order online. 

Craft beer delivery: Have local craft beer delivered to your doorstep with Hopsy, an online marketplace co-founded by Berkeley business alumnus Sebastien Tron that serves beer from breweries in your region. Peruse the selection online, which spans hoppy IPAs to crisp saisons, enter your address and relax at home until your order arrives. Hopsy currently delivers in more than a dozen states. Check here to see if it delivers to your zipcode. Shoppers can also visit the Hopsy storefront on Solano Avenue, where they can choose from a selection of Bay Area beers.

Order online or go to the store at 1137 Solano Ave., Albany,

Sports and health

Rec sports membership: Give and receive the gift of wellness with a membership to the campus’s Recreational Sports Facility, which offers the facilities, programs, and services including access to two fitness centers, four pools, over 130 free drop-in group exercise classes, as well as discounted rates on instructional fitness and personal training services. A 30-day free trial is available to staff and faculty newcomers.

2301 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, (510) 642-7796,

Season tickets: Support Cal Athletics by ordering season tickets to cheer on your favorite sports team. Tickets are available for every team, from football and women’s basketball to water polo and gymnastics. 

Buy tickets online or by phone (800) 462-3277; live chat available

Home water test: Test your drinking water for up to 400 contaminants with Tap Score by SimpleWater, a science and health services firm launched out of the CITRIS Foundry startup accelerator by a team of UC Berkeley scientists and entrepreneurs with a goal of improving drinking water and long-term health. Tap Score packages come with sampling vials, testing instructions and a sample information card. After users collect their specimens, they pack up the vials and mail the box to SimpleWater with a provided shipping label. Once the lab receives the box, testers will receive a personalized tap score report by email within 10 business days. Order online.


Instead of buying a gift this holiday season, those looking to give can support a program or initiative on campus, from UC Berkeley’s food pantry and basic needs security program to undergraduate scholarships to the public service center, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.