Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics takes a wry look at the vagaries of life in academia, mostly from the point of view of a handful of long-suffering graduate students. He also has a feature, “Two Minute Thesis,” in which he summarizes real research in a comic or video; it’s sort of the comics equivalent of a TED Talk. It has built quite a following over the years (as a former grad student, and the wife, daughter and sister of college professors, I find it irresistible), so it’s big news that Cham is bringing PhD Comics to the webcomics site Tapastic. Or, part of it: PhD Comics will continue to run on its regular schedule on its original site, and Tapastic will carry a curated selection of Cham’s strips. I talked to Cham about PhD Comics, and the Tapastic move, and he drew a special cartoon just for us as well!
Robot 6: How long have you been drawing PhD Comics, and how did you get started with it?
Jorge Cham: I’ve been drawing PhD now for almost 16 years (!). It started as a hobby at first, as a way to procrastinate from my studies. I saw an ad in the student newspaper at Stanford University, where I was going for grad school, calling for submissions for their comics page. My brother suggested there should be a comic about grad school because they are usually ignored on campus, so on a lark I sent in some samples. At the time, I had a full course load and was working two jobs teaching and doing research, but it really seemed like something that needed to be done. Grad school had been a really intense, often bizarre, ego-crushing experience for me, and I had found it really useful to learn that others were going through the same thing, so it seemed important to record it and share it with the world.