Comic Ph.D. to Shed Humorous Light on Grad School Stresses

A comic strip creator who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering and has been dubbed “the Dilbert of academia” will present the first lecture in a new University of Houston series designed to inspire college students to attend graduate school.

Jorge Cham, who earned his doctorate at Stanford University,” will speak about “The Power of Procrastination” 1-2:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Science and Research Classroom Building auditorium (Room 100) at UH.

Cham is creator of “Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD),” a comic strip about life in graduate school. In addition to having appeared in student newspapers including those at Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, the strip is published online, where it receives more than 2.7 million page views per month from more than 1,000 universities and colleges worldwide. 

Cham’s appearance is the inaugural event in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean’s Lecture Series. The NSM Office of the Dean, the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program and the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (H-LAMP) are sponsoring the series. The Chemistry Graduate Student Association and the Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies are co-sponsoring Cham’s talk.

A recent University of California at Berkley survey found 95 percent of graduate students feel overwhelmed and more than 67 percent have felt seriously depressed at some point in their academic careers, according to Cham. In his talk, he will relate his own experiences injecting humor into stressed-out academics’ lives. He also will explore what causes academics’ anxiety and the guilt and myth associated with procrastinating.

Originally from Panama, Cham obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and his Master of Science degree and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a specialization in robotics from Stanford, where he began drawing “Ph.D.” He later worked as an instructor and research associate at Caltech. In 2005, he published “Life is Tough and Then You Graduate,” his second collection of “PhD” comics.

Cham’s appearance is free and open to UH students, faculty and staff, as well as to students from other universities and the public. Light refreshments will be served. Limited mentored parking is available at Entrance 14 near the intersection of Cullen Boulevard and Holman Street.

The lecture series will continue this spring with two additional speakers, on March 23 and April 20.

For more information about Cham ’s appearance or future talks in the series, contact Christina Chan, UH-AGEP director, at (713) 743-3242 or