Jorge Cham At University Of Toronto: He Came, He Saw, He con... Told Jokes!
(by Jordan Jarvis) On March 8th Jorge Cham, the author and illustrator of PhD comics, came to inform a lecture hall full of grad students (well, and the odd undergrad) that procrastination is a good thing. Overall, his talk was funny, but I found that it could have been more motivational to those struggling through grad school.
To launch his talk, he shared a brief wikipedia-researched history of our fine institution and pointed out that the University of Toronto coat of arms, in a true Canadian fashion, consists largely of a beaver reading books. Throughout his presentation, he seemed to be absorbing the joyful responses to his jokes and nodding his head in a way that said “Yeah! Finally, I’m a comedian.” Those pauses made the pace of his speech resemble a car that repeatedly speeds up to 100 km/h and then suddenly hits the brakes, which I found relatively annoying. However, that was the only real downside to his talk.
He went on to point out all the different fields that one can do a PhD in, paused at actuarial science and jokingly said “What is that?” The undergraduate at the front of the room then proceeded to explain to a few hundred PhD students what actuarial science, in fact, meant. Jorge blatantly laughed in her face and reminded her that she was an undergrad. Besides ripping on undergrads, Jorge also took a serious note, showing results from a graduate student survey where 67% of students claimed to feel hopeless and depressed at some point during their studies. Additionally, 95% of students felt overwhelmed at some point. That begs the question, who are those 5% that have never felt overwhelmed? Super-humans?
Jorge’s ability to expose graduate student life situations that anyone can relate to is impressive and entertaining. When talking about procrastination, he brought up the guilt. The guilt when you are out having drinks with friends, or taking it easy on the weekend, and feel like you should be reading papers or working in the lab.
So, why do we procrastinate? Well, that’s because we just don’t want to do it… now. As for the power of procrastination, he went on to say that it is necessary for us to procrastinate in order to clear our heads and go on to make great discoveries (or simply figure out how to get an experiment to work, for that matter). If Newton hadn’t put off his work to enjoy the nice weather under an apple tree and that apple hadn’t hit his head, would he have thought of the universal law of gravitation? Probably not.