PhD Comics: Depicting the lives of grad students - By : Clément Rousseau,

PhD Comics: Depicting the lives of grad students

Header image courtesy of PhD Comics: copyrights

This year, October 8 is Grad Student Day, which is organized by the Comité des Étudiants aux Cycles Supérieurs (CCSÉTS). This year we’re shining the spotlight on PhD Comics, with our keynote speaker being JORGE CHAM, the creator and artist behind PhD Comics.

What? You’re not familiar with PHD Comics?

In 1997, Jorge Cham started his first comic strip in Standford University’s newspaper. At the time, he was in the first year of his master’s program in Mechanical Engineering.


PHD Comic’s “Piled Higher and Deeper” gives a funny perspective on the lives of grad students studying engineering, social sciences and natural sciences. Jorge Cham has toured the world’s leading universities to present his talk on the Power of Procrastination. The purpose of his talk is to demystify the daily lives of grad students and reassure the audience that procrastination and mental blocks are normal occurrences for master’s or PhD students.

Seventeen years later, the PhD Comics site has come a long way. It now includes:

  • A web series called Phd-Detour that features PhD students from around the world;
  • Several 2-minute thesis contests;
  • A movie from 2011 and another in the works for 2015;

Now I’d like to tip my hat to the Vice-Director of CCSÉTS and tell you exactly what I think of PhD Comics. In short, I love it!

Not only does the cartoon make me laugh almost every time, the truth behind the jokes is actually making it a little easier for me to get through my graduate studies. It often serves as a reminder that I’m not the only one facing problems.

Wondering what I mean by “problems”? Here are a few examples:

Like many grad students, I struggle with procrastination. It’s easy to get distracted when doing research. PhD Comics helped me see that this fault is pretty common.


I also found a lot of comfort in reading these cartoons during my round of practical work assignments. And again during my first stint as a lab corrector.


The student-advisor relationship is often a central concern. And once again, PhD Comics does a great job of demystifying the issue with humour. I had lots of good laughs while once again gaining reassurance that I wasn’t alone in this situation.CRPHDheadermod


In closing, I’d like to share a few graphics and cartoons that gave me a good chuckle.


I encourage you to read the article Piled Higher and Deeper: The Everyday Life of a Grad Student, by Jorge Cham, and check out the entire PhD Comics website for more information about the author and the presentation he’ll be making at ÉTS.

Activities planned for Grad Student Day (October 8):

Four activities are on the agenda for Grad Student Day, which is open to ÉTS’s community of graduate students:

  • 10 a.m. Free viewing of the PhD Comics movie. Coffee and donuts included (limited quantities)
  • 12:30 p.m. Presentation by Jorge Cham
  • 1:30 p.m. Book signing session with Jorge Cham
  • 6 p.m. Cocktail reception for graduate students at INGO

To register :

Good luck to all. See you on October 8!



Clément Rousseau has been a PhD student at École de technologie supérieure since September 2011. Born and raised in France, he moved to Quebec in 2009 to complete a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Sherbrooke University. His areas of expertise are thermodynamics, heat transfer and digital modelling. He is currently studying the modelling of direct expansion geothermal heat pumps under the supervision of Louis Lamarche at ÉTS’s Centre des technologies thermiques (CTT). He is also the Doctoral Studies Program Representative at the university’s Association Étudiante de l’ÉTS (AÉÉTS).


PhD TV, PhD-Detour, © 2013 Piled Higher and Deeper Publishing LLC,