Jorge Cham

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Jorge Cham
Cham in 2018
Jorge Gabriel Cham

May 1976 (age 47)
Alma mater
Known forCartoon work - Piled Higher and Deeper
Podcast - Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe
Scientific career
ThesisOn performance and stability in open-loop running (2002)
Doctoral advisorMark Cutkosky[1][2]
A PhD Comics special on the occasion of Open Access Week 2012.

Jorge Gabriel Cham (Spanish: [ˈxorxe]) (born 1976)[1] is an engineer-turned cartoonist, writer and producer, who writes the web comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics).[1][3] Cham was born in Panama and lives in the United States, where he started drawing PhD Comics as a graduate student at Stanford University.[4] He has since been syndicated in several university newspapers and in six published book collections.[5][6] He was featured on NPR on December 20, 2010.[7] With physicist Daniel Whiteson, he is the coauthor of We Have No Idea (2017), a book about unsolved problems in physics.[8] In September 2018, Cham and Whiteson debuted the podcast Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe, produced by iHeartMedia, in which the hosts aim to explain popular questions and complex topics about science, technology, and the universe, in the simplest way possible.[9] Cham co-creatored the PBS Kids animated series Elinor Wonders Why, which premiered in September 2020.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Jorge Cham was born and raised in Panama to parents working in the Panama Canal Zone as engineers for the United States Government.[11][12] He received his B.S. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1997,[13] and earned a PhD[2][14][15] in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.[16] He previously worked at Caltech as an instructor and as a researcher on neural prosthetics.[17] He has now fully devoted to his comic work.[18]


In 2005, Cham became a full time cartoonist and began an invited speaking tour of major universities delivering his talk titled "The Power of Procrastination".[1] To date, he has given hundreds of lectures worldwide.[19] In this lecture, Cham talks about his experiences creating the comic strip and examines the sources of grad students' anxieties. He also explores the guilt and the myths associated with procrastination and argues that in many cases it is actually a good thing.[20]

In 2012, Cham wrote and produced The PHD Movie, an independent feature-length film based on his comics.[21] The film featured real researchers and academics and was screened at over 500 universities and research centers worldwide.[22][23] In 2015, Cham wrote and produced The PHD Movie: Still in Grad School, a sequel to the first film, which also screened worldwide.[24][25] He also illustrated the book Scientific Paper Writing: A Survival Guide (2015) by Bodil Holst.[26]

Cham has also had six collections of his comics published, with the most recent one — a 20th-anniversary edition — backed by more than $234,000 in pledges on Kickstarter.[19]

His book We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe, with physicist Daniel Whiteson, has been translated to over 23 languages,[27] was a Der Spiegel Best-seller,[28] and was awarded the Wen Jin National Book Award in China.[29]

Cham is also the co-creator of Elinor Wonders Why, a show on PBS Kids that is based on Cham's daughter. The series premiered on September 7, 2020. He is the co-owner of Shoe Ink, which produces the Elinor Wonders Why series and That's So Interesting, a live-action short form series hosted by Cham and featuring characters from Elinor Wonders Why itself.


  1. ^ a b c d Coelho, Sara (2009). "Piled Higher and Deeper: The Everyday Life of a Grad Student" (PDF). Science. doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a0900042.
  2. ^ a b Cham, Jorge Gabriel (2002). On performance and stability in open-loop running (PDF) (PhD thesis). Stanford University.
  3. ^ Choe, Jaywon (22 July 2011). "The Joke Is on the Ph.D." The New York Times.
  4. ^ Cham, Jorge (2012). "Jorge G. Cham homepage at Stanford". Stanford University. Archived from the original on 2012-04-22.
  5. ^ Jorge Cham interview: "Creating PhDComics"
  6. ^ "The "Piled Higher and Deeper" Book Collections". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2019-08-25.
  7. ^ Ruben, Adam (2010-09-09). "Three Books For Surviving Graduate School". NPR. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  8. ^ Cham, Jorge; Whiteson, Daniel (2017). We have no idea : a guide to the unknown universe. New York: Riverhead Books. ISBN 9780735211513. OCLC 956959104.
  9. ^ "A Cartoonist and Physicist Team Up to Explain the Universe in New Science Podcast". 2018-09-25. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  10. ^ Announcement: "PBS KIDS Announces New Series ELINOR WONDERS WHY"
  11. ^ Grim, Kathryn (March 2009). "Jorge Cham: Piled higher and deeper". Symmetry. Vol. 9, no. 1. pp. 30–35.
  12. ^ Maddaus, Gene (15 May 2013). "Jorge Cham: The Overeducated Cartoonist". L.A. Weekly.
  13. ^ "Pacesetters: Piled High". Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  14. ^ Cham, J. G.; Bailey, S. A.; Clark, J. E.; Full, R. J.; Cutkosky, M. R. (2002). "Fast and Robust: Hexapedal Robots via Shape Deposition Manufacturing". The International Journal of Robotics Research. 21 (10–11): 869. doi:10.1177/0278364902021010837. S2CID 9390666.
  15. ^ Clark, J. E.; Cham, J. G.; Bailey, S. A.; Froehlich, E. M.; Nahata, P. K.; Full, R. J.; Cutkosky, M. R. (2001). "Biomimetic design and fabrication of a hexapedal running robot". Proceedings 2001 ICRA. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (Cat. No.01CH37164). Vol. 4. pp. 3643–3649. doi:10.1109/ROBOT.2001.933183. ISBN 0-7803-6576-3.
  16. ^ "About PhD Comics". Archived from the original on 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2006-08-13.
  17. ^ "Jorge Cham's Research". Archived from the original on 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2006-08-13.
  18. ^ "Home".
  19. ^ a b Williams June, Audrey (2019). "How the 'Dilbert of Academia' Finds Humor in Grad-School Pain". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  20. ^ "Jorge Cham's Speaking Tour". Archived from the original on 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
  21. ^ Corbyn, Zoë (16 September 2011). "PhD Comics hits the big screen". Nature.
  22. ^ Loza-Coll, Mariano (21 June 2012). "Piled too high". Nature.
  23. ^ Powell, Julia (17 June 2014). "PHD comics' Jorge Cham on misery, hope and academia". Wired Magazine.
  24. ^ Corbyn, Zoë (10 September 2015). "Q&A: The academic satirist". Nature.
  25. ^ "Revenge of the Non-Nerds". The New York Times. 30 October 2015.
  26. ^ Krämer, Katrina (10 May 2016). "Review of Scientific Paper Writing: A Survival Guide". Chemistry World.
  27. ^ "We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe".
  28. ^ "Der Spiegel Best Seller List May 2018".
  29. ^ "The 14th Wenjin Book Award is announced".

External links[edit]