Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Academic Emergency Kit

A collection of items in the academic emergency kit: A USB drive with impromptu presentations, an ideas notebook, papers to read when bored, and many different writing implements, including chalk, a pencil, and a whiteboard marker.

What do you carry in your kit?

Professor Exposure

A graph of "Desire to be an academic" versus "Exposure only to professors". The relationship is linear. The linear curve has a label, "Why grad students forget there are other careers."

When I was young, nobody I knew was in academia, so I didn’t even know this was a possibility. It seems like I’ve hit the other extreme in higher education.


First panel: A person approaches the Careers booth and says, "I'll take a career in science, please!" "Here you go," the clerk answers, offering a package. Second panel: The person inspects the "Science" package and notices something sticking to it. They say, "Wait. Something's stuck on the bottom." The clerk shrugs and says, "Oh, that's academia. It's part of the bundle."

Like all bundles, there are advantages and disadvantages to this setup. And of course, there are science careers which aren’t in academia.


Two friends are talking. The first one asks, "Aren't you worried about missing the deadline?" The other replies to her, "People may call them deadlines, but I haven't been killed by one yet."

It’s a skill to know which deadlines are actual deadlines.

Word Choice

A research paper as a landscape. On  it are several duos fighting with swords in different locations. The caption: Coauthors battling over word choice.

I imagine the battlefield for the CERN collaboration is quite intriguing.

Project Vector Field

A one-dimensional vector field. On the left is a point labeled "Start", and on the right is a point labeled "End". The arrows from Start are pointing to the right and getting smaller in magnitude, representing the initial burst of motivation. At a certain point towards End, the arrow direction flips and becomes very large, representing the new difficulty in finishing a project. That point has the label, "Where projects die".

The trick is to find enough momentum to carry you through that point.

Law of Inertia

A balance has items on both of its dishes. On the left, there's a large box labeled, "Cons". On the right, there are two boxes. A smaller one labeled, "Pros", and a larger one labeled "Inertia". Caption: Why we take so long to change.

Tip: Make sure you don’t relabel “Inertia” as a “Pro”.


A scientist stands at the board about to begin her talk. She says, "Thanks for coming to my interdisciplinary talk. You're a smart bunch, so I'll assume you know all of the background I've spent my life studying." Caption: How to kick off a talk.

“I’ll take blank stares as a ‘Yes, we understand’!”


A graph of "Reliance on jargon" versus "Time spent with the jargon". It's a linear relationship.

The problem is that those who have the influence and power to switch away from the jargon are those that don’t see it as jargon anymore, but just the usual language.


A bunch of stacked boxes of various sizes. Some are: Family, parents, one mean peer, school, internet, friends, me. The caption: It was a shock to realize I wasn't the source of most of my goals.

A lot of what is in your brain was not put there by you. (Hat tip to Tim Urban.)