Cham’s general belief is that procrastination is neither good nor evil; although, he certainly does not advocate that students procrastinate. “The message I try to convey is that there’s nothing that you should feel you have to do in terms of your progress, like, I have to spend so many hours a week in lab or get these results by the next lab meeting. Because, the truth is, discovery cannot be forced.”
That truism can apply to both research findings and personal discovery, as it did for Cham. Although he has been an avid reader and collector of comic books his whole life, and he dabbled in sketching growing up, Cham never imagined a career as a cartoonist: Becoming an engineer, in fact, was his childhood dream.
Although Cham has been out of academia for a few years now— the growing success of PHD Comics, combined with increased travel due to his speaking engagements, eventually led Cham to forgo his research career, though with no regrets— fans have no reason to worry; not only does he still have plenty of his own personal graduate school experiences to draw from, but stories told on his Web site’s forum page or by attendees at his lectures give him a continual supply of fresh ideas. And, Cham promises to keep going until he can’t go anymore.
For the countless PHD Comics fans who can relate to the misadventures of these overworked and underpaid students, that’s joyous news, even if each new comic gives them a way to procrastinate.
Nick Zagorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a science writer at ASBMB.
Want to try your hand at writing a comic? Come up with a new caption for this PHD Comics panel and submit it in the comments section below. The winner will receive an ASBMB T-shirt.