A full-time cartoonist has put aside his Ph.D. in engineering to entertain graduate students worldwide.
As a part of Graduate Education Week, Jorge Cham, creator of the comic strip “Piled Higher and Deeper,” presented “The Power of Procrastination” in the Student Union Theater on Tuesday evening.
Cham’s presentation focused on the problems and struggles that graduate students commonly face while communicating the issues to the audience in a humorous and entertaining way.
Cham received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, where he unknowingly began his career.
“I was struggling that first term (of graduate school),” Cham said. “I graduated at the top of my class in undergrad, but in grad school, you know, I was getting my butt kicked.”
Upon talking with other grad students, he said he realized he wasn’t the only one having trouble, and others outside of his discipline were also struggling.
At the time, Cham said he was reading a book about comic strips and their impact on society when he saw a request for comics in The Stanford Daily.
With some encouragement from his peers, he soon decided to send in a comic to the newspaper; thus, the “Piled Higher and Deeper” comic was born.
Over time, Cham’s comics gained popularity, and he began receiving support and feedback from fellow grad students.
“It wasn’t really something that happened in one year or overnight,” he said.
“Piled Higher and Deeper” has appeared in national and university newspapers as well as science journals and magazines.
Cham became a full-time cartoonist in 2005 and began speaking at universities.
Since then, he has spoken at more than 300 universities, including Harvard, MIT and Oxford.
Throughout his presentation, Cham describes problems such as being overwhelmed with research and dealing with procrastination, which tend to plague graduate students.
He uses studies and research, as well as his personal experience, to make light of life as a grad student.
Cham said whenever he is not writing, he enjoys spending time with his family as well as working on and doing research for other projects.
“We have a YouTube channel that we started where we interview scientists, and we find creative ways to kind of explain the research,” he said.
Cham said he hopes to continue drawing comics in the future.
“I definitely want to spend the rest of my working life doing comics,” he said.