Comics about mathematics, science, and the student life.

Reset

A graph of "How much I think I know" versus "Time". There's a steady linear increase until grad school, where it plummets before slowly increasing again.

Graduate school: Realigning your expectations.

Brick Walls

A researcher stands in front of three brick walls labelled, "Project 1", "Project 2", and "Project 3". Caption: Don't load yourself up only with projects that feel like brick walls.

Going for big impact is great, but it’s nice to at least have something to switch your mind to when you’re stuck.

Explicit

A student stands on a ledge looking at a huge gap with very thin sticks protruding along the gap that act as a "bridge". The other side has the label "Result" and the sticks have the label "Explicit steps in a proof for too many papers".

It’s almost as if the researchers have spent so long looking at this problem that they’ve internalized all of its difficulty for new readers…

Advocate

A graph of "How cool X seems" versus "Time spent studying X". The relationship is linear, and where both are high, there's a label: Why it's hard to get others excited about X.

So this is why my family and friends look at me in horror and confusion when I insist on explaining them a proof or concept from my research that probably requires huge amounts of background study.

Small Steps

A student walks up a long slope towards the top, where there's a sign labeled "PhD". The student tells himself, "Don't look up, don't look up. You still have a long way to go." Caption: Focus on the next few steps.

Exercise some self-discipline now, witness some great sights later!

Reading Papers

A graph of "Progress in reading a paper" versus "Time". There's a staircase progression as I understand the various equations, followed by a huge drop when I realize I didn't understand the equations the first time around. Then it goes up again.

It’s a minor miracle if I understand a paper on the first read.

Into the Unknown

A person jumps off a ledge labeled, "Known knowledge". The person jumping into the void has the label, "Research".

If we knew we would succeed, it wouldn’t be research!

Osmosis

Two researchers walking together. The first says, "Wouldn't it be a good idea to offer the grad students formal training on research and teaching?" The other waves the concern away and says, "Nah, they'll learn by osmosis from their advisor."

“We didn’t get any of that when we were younger, and we turned out fine!”

Out of Proportion

Graph of "Chance of losing students" versus "Number of proportional signs in a derivation". The curve increases faster than linearly.

“Professor? Could you maybe use a few more equal signs?”

“Oh, the equality is easy. I’ll let you fill in the details after class.”

Easy Answers

A graph of "How hard a question is to answer" versus "How hard it seems". The curve is a "U" shape.

Academia is really good at finding the minimum of this function, though I would argue the easy-sounding questions are the ones we want to dig deeper on.