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Ph.D. = Piled Higher and Deeper?

October 11, 2005 — To most folks, a Ph.D. means a doctorate, or a doctor of philosophy degree. But to Jorge Cham and his fans, it means “Piled Higher and Deeper,” which is the title of his comic strip about life – or the lack thereof – in graduate school.

Cham will speak at the University of Utah Thursday evening Oct. 20 in the auditorium of the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Biology Building. There will be a social at 6 p.m. followed by Cham’s 7 p.m. lecture titled “The Power of Procrastination.”

The event is free and open to the public, although space is limited.

“Graduate students really relate to Cham’s comic strip because it reflects our lives – the isolation, the frustration, the constant search for free food, and our addiction to coffee and chocolate,” says Tamara Young, a University of Utah Ph.D. student in physics and representative on the physics graduate student advisory committee.

While Cham works as a mechanical engineering instructor at the California Institute of Technology, his comic strip has appeared in The Stanford Daily – the student newspaper at Stanford University, where he earned his own Ph.D. – and in newspapers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon and other universities. It also has been featured in the journal Nature, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications.

The Chronicle of Higher Education calls Cham’s comic strip “a cult classic on some campuses. … The strip follows a group of grad-school buddies as they bemoan the status of their theses or love lives, search for free food, and, of course, take breaks.”

Cham has published two books that are collections of his strips: “Piled Higher and Deeper: A Graduate Student Comic Strip Collection” and “Life is Tough and Then You Graduate: The Second Collection of Piled Higher and Deeper Comic Strips.”

On his website, Cham explains why he is lecturing at universities across the nation this school year on the topic of procrastination: “A recent survey by University of California, Berkeley, found that 95 percent of all graduate students feel overwhelmed, and over 67 percent have felt seriously depressed at some point in their careers. In this talk, Jorge Cham recounts his experiences bringing humor into the lives of stressed out academics, examines the source of their anxieties and explores the guilt, the myth and the power of procrastination.”

Cham’s talk is sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Utah, and the university’s Graduate School, Department of Physics, School of Computing, College of Science and Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute.

The website for Cham’s cartoons is at:

Flyers advertising Cham’s lecture are at: