The Grad Circus

This comic is an homage to my time in graduate school- stimulating and frustrating, a time for development, exploration, and maturation. Pretty much 5 years for me. It’s not strictly autobiographical, though it certainly contains elements from my experience (and my foibles). There were plenty of ways to waste time. On the other hand, if you consider your time as ‘productive’ only when you have your nose to the grindstone you will not end up learning much. Here are some of the things that I didn’t include:

  • I can remember my advisor unlocking the door to HIS office, a bit early in the morning, and finding me playing a first-person shooter on his computer. Ummmm….. oops?
  • Going ‘bowling’ with excess liquid nitrogen. We would take a dewar flask full of the stuff and roll it down the hall. Not much point, but very cool to see.
  • I once scored an entire half of a gigantic sheet cake as ‘free food’. It was left over from a retirement party somewhere in the med school. The admin from our department tipped me off and I retrieved it. Much feasting was had on that day!
  • Many a late night was spent in the lab playing video games with my best friend across the hall. We’d be yelling back and forth at 3 AM then one of us would have to stop the game to collect a sample for a time point.
  • I once found a broken VCR in a dumpster, fixed it, and then sold it for $50- which is like $500 to a grad student. I then proceeded to collect every piece of broken equipment and electronics I could get my hands on- storing it in the lab. I built a rocking platform (retailed at about $600) and repaired several pieces of lab equipment with my haul. However, it really ended up taking up a lot of space.

Graduate school was a great time and one with a lot of freedom that came with the stress. I was lucky to have a great advisor who supported me even when he thought I was goofing off (he did not support me IN the goofing off- he supported me in my career despite that I was goofing off) and a bunch of great friends who I still keep in touch with. There was so much potential in that time- the potential is still there in my career, I just need to take more time to recognize it. And maybe score some more free food too.



On a different note I’m pretty proud of this comic. Some of my previous ideas and concepts have been pretty complicated (see here and here). I’ve thought that I should do an outline sketch first then do a final version with more care. Both of these previous cases I started sketching and just decided to keep it as is. They’re pretty good considering. With this one I actually did sketch out an idea:


Initial pen sketch of ideas for the grad circus

Initial pen sketch of ideas for the grad circus

then did a pencil outline of the final

Pencil outlines for the final grad circus. Didn't include details or text.

Pencil outlines for the final grad circus. Didn’t include details or text.

then traced with pen and filled in text and details.

My wife was impressed but said, “maybe for your next one you should do something about a guy that has a full time job and three kids.” Funny. This process did end up taking me about 5 hours (and a few cramped hands) of late evening and weekend time to complete giving me new respect for cartoonists, especially Bil Keane (and now Jeff Keane), whose simple comics look so ‘easy’. These maps are hard to draw!





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