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Escapades from the famous PhD comic arrive on screen

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Professor Smith (Zachary Abbott) stares down a grad student in the PhD movie.
courtesy of ben deverman

The PhD Movie

Directed by Vahe Gabuchian

Starring Raj Katti, Alexandra Lockwood, Evans Boney ’06, Crystal Dilworth and K. Zachary Abbott

Screening at MIT on November 3

Jorge Cham’s Piled Higher and Deeper — Life (or the lack thereof) in Academia, aka PhD Comics have been capturing the grad student life in a humorous but always accurate way. The original newspaper and web comic strip started in 1997 when Jorge himself was a grad student at Stanford University. The comic deals with the topics that govern grad student life like struggles in research, the relationship between students and their supervisors, and most importantly, the constant quest for free food. Much material was built up over the years, and it almost seems that the movie version was long over due. Filming started in March 2011 and was a colaboration with a theater group at Caltech.

The PhD movie features several main characters from the original comic, like the intimidating Professor Smith (Zachary Abbott) — who, by the way, calls MIT a “minor” institution in the movie — the nameless hero (Raj Katti), a grad student in engineering, and Cecilia (Alexandra Lockwood), a dedicated engineer with a strong work ethic, to only name a few.

The movie references many of the original comics and it is entertaining to recognize those. Overall, The PhD Movie is a lot of fun and very enjoyable to watch. Nevertheless, the movie sometimes progresses too slowly and is not as concise and to the point as the comics. But even though The PhD Movie is certainly not a polished Hollywood production, you can tell that a lot of work and wit went into the production; it captures the essence of the life of PhD students like no other movie and does it just as well as the comics it’s based on. This makes it incredibly fun to watch with fellow grad students.

The screenings at MIT will be on November 3 in 26-100. Jorge Cham will be with be there for the screening and a Q&A afterwards. He is joined by cast member Evan Boney ’06 (playing Mike Slackenerny in the movie) as well as producer Meg Rosenburg.