''[[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php PHD]]'' ([[FunWithAcronyms Piled Higher & Deeper]]) is a webcomic by Jorge Cham [[WebcomicsLongRunners that has been running since 1997]].

The characters are a bunch of graduate students at Stanford University. They obsess about ever getting their theses completed, struggle to make ends meet with their meager stipends, wonder why life is passing them by, and slack off while their supervisors aren't looking.

The main characters are:


An engineering grad and OnlySaneMan of the bunch who just recently came to crushing realization that she is, in fact, a geek. Almost always seen in the same bright red shirt. Prof. Jones is her adviser.

'''Mike [[MeaningfulName Slackenerny]]'''

TheSlacker, who has been at grad school longer than any other character. He has a surprising amount of luck in his quest to obtain free food, though this has not endeared him to the faculty. The only one who actually graduated. Now a post-doc. Prof. Smith was his adviser.


A humanities- er, ''Social Science'' student, she is constantly finding causes to rally protests. A GranolaGirl and proud of it. Prof. Rivera is her adviser.


[[NoNameGiven The unnamed protagonist.]] Has an older brother (who Mike knows) and a younger sister named Dee. Sees grad school as a good way to postpone the real world. Wonders why nobody ever uses his name. Prof. Smith is his adviser.

'''Professor Smith'''

A SadistTeacher whose past accomplishments are [[MysteriousPast spoken of in whispers by grad students.]] Wears a mix of CoolShades, ScaryShinyGlasses, and OpaqueNerdGlasses.

!!Contains examples of:

* AbsentMindedProfessor: Almost all of the Research Advisors introduced. They can barely remember the students' name, and hardly ever bother to read their thesis draft.
* AcceptableTargets: [[invoked]] Since the comics are drawn from the perspective of grad students, it frequently makes fun of research advisers and undergrads.
%%* TheAce: The "Golden Boy".
* AddedAlliterativeAppeal: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1443 Publish and/or Perish!]]
* AllIssuesArePoliticalIssues: [[GranolaGirl Tajel]] often carries protest signboards for various causes.
* AmbiguouslyBrown: Dee's friend has a dark skin, but he has no name or distinctive features to determine his actual race.
* ArtEvolution: Obviously, considering the sheer length of time its been running. Still, just compare the art change over the years. Still, just look at the difference between [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1 the first strip]] and [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1516 a recent one.]]
* AudienceSurrogate: The protagonist has no name or any distinctive personality, and could represent just about any Grad Student.
* BaitAndSwitchComparison: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1447 Occupy Wall Street.]]
* BigEater: Dee, the main character's younger sister.
* BreadEggsBreadedEggs: The "How You Spend Your Time" pie chart has a Sports & Leisure section which consist of surfing the internet, doing sports, and reading about sports while surfing the Internet.
* BrickJoke: The protagonist's [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1423 travel reimbursement form]], which shows up again [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1477 over a year later]].
* CallBack: Mike teaches the protagonist how to distract with graphs, which unfortunately doesn't work too well for him. Mike himself does it over a year later, with more success.
* CharacterizationMarchesOn:
** Tajel. At first, Tajel demonstrates all sorts of semi-stereotypical things, such as camping out at the mall after Thanksgiving to take advantage of Black Friday sales. This changed soon enough, of course...
** Professor Smith changed too. Originally he was TheFaceless (see ScaryShinyGlasses below), then started to become more of an AbsentMindedProfessor. Later, he just became a professor with a serious LackOfEmpathy.
* ChildProdigy: Professor Jones's daughter is only first year elementary school, but is able to fix some grad student's work.
* ClassReunion: Cecilia goes to her 10-year high school reunion in [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=268 this]] story arc.
* ComicBookTime: Every year, the strip features the characters celebrating birthdays, summer vacations and various holidays, but despite their constant complains that they're never graduating, they never seem to actually age. Cecelia lampshades this in one of her birthday strips, in which she decided that the time she spends in grad school doesn't count to her age, because it's basically living in a vacuum.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome:
** Scott all but disappeared from the storyline after he broke up with Cecilia.
** PlayedForLaughs with Gerard, the token Humanities student, who was told by the PHD Comics management that he should either change his major or leave the comics altogether. He was then forced to attend a hearing to justify his existence, and had not appeared ever since.
* CueTheFlyingPigs: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=590 Here]]. Also, Hell Freezes Over. Guess what just happened.
* CutenessOverload: Most of the campus faculty practically melts at the sight of Mike's baby daughter, Sophie. He exploits this to distract them while he steals food from associations he doesn't belong to.
* DoesNotLikeShoes: Tajel sometimes, as part of her GranolaGirl personality.
* EatingLunchAlone: Doing it at the campus cafeteria makes Cecilia feel unbearably self-conscious.
* EducationThroughPyrotechnics: The machines used for experimental research frequently blow up in people's faces.
* TheFaceless: Most of the research advisors don't get drawn in the comic panels, at least in the earlier strips. No longer the case since the 2003 strips.
* FailureIsTheOnlyOption: To keep going, the series needs the characters to remain grad students, meaning they have to postpone the completion of their respective theses indefinitely. Ultimately averted with Mike, who does complete his own thesis after years of procrastination, but stays anyway as a member of the teaching staff.
** As the main character [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=359 put it]] in a [[BreakTheFourthWall press conference]] in 2003, "Basically, if Mike graduates, we're all out of a job..."
* FunWithAcronyms: Of course, the strip title (though that itself is an old joke). And [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1100 this strip]] has a how-to guide!
* GagSeries: The main point of the strips are to make jokes about the life (or lack thereof) of a grad student, and make fun of the research advisors and Academia in general. When the strips briefly went for a more detailed plot and character development, some readers actually complain.
* GranolaGirl: Tajel.
* HappilyMarried: Mike and his wife Jennifer seem to have a happy, stable relationship, even though she does occasionally get exasperated with his laziness. Pretty surprising, considering how he only knew her for ''a week'' before eloping with her in Las Vegas.
* HeavySleeper:
** When Mike is not trying to mooch free food, he'd most likely be sleeping.
** To a lesser extent, Dee. She could barely wake up on time to attend an 11 o'clock class, and would fall asleep in class anyway. She doesn't even have the justificiation of staying up too late.
* HeroicBSOD: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1383 Literally]].
* ICantBelieveAGuyLikeYouWouldNoticeMe: Cecilia with her secret high school crush. She finds out ten years later that he had noticed her all right.
* IgnoredEpiphany: ''[[Literature/AChristmasCarol A Smithmas Carol]]'' ends with Smith reflecting on his life's journey and concluding with this:
-->'''Prof. Smith:''' Eh, who cares? I've got tenure.
* InVinoVeritas: Played with. The shy and reclusive Cecilia turns into the LifeOfTheParty not because of drunkenness, but from a chocolate high.
* LimitedWardrobe: Probably justified considering how cash-strapped the characters are. In any case, they are almost always depicted in the same outfits.
* LivingProp: Discussed in-universe regarding the status of grad students. Apparently, the faculty would be more likely to notice an actual missing furniture than they would a missing student.
* MeaningfulName: The resident RidiculousProcrastinator is creatively named Mike Slackenerny.
* MetaGuy: Gerard, the Humanities student RecurringCharacter, only exists to represent another Grad School department apart from engineering. He's definitely aware of this, and most of his appearances have him address the readers in some way.
* MoodWhiplash: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1162 Tales from the Road - MD Anderson Cancer Center]]. It starts off as a typical lighthearted 'Tales From The Road', then in the last section, turns into depressing stories about cancer, ending with a former grad student who was diagnosed thanking him for making them laugh, with the reply "I guess we all do what we can."
* MonochromeCasting: Averted. The main character is Asian/Hispanic, Tajel is non-American and has an East Indian mother, and Prof. Khumalo is African.
* TheMovie: Yes, [[http://www.phdcomics.com/movie/index.php there is one.]]
* NerdGlasses: The main character is the embodiment of a stereotypical, dorky grad student. Naturally, he wears a pair of glasses.
* NotThatKindOfDoctor: No one is studying to become physicians.
** TruthInTelevision: In [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1244 this strip]] the author recounts a time when he was detained by British border agents on the grounds that he didn't qualify as an academic visitor.
--> Jorge Cham: "But I have a Ph.D.! I'm giving lectures at universities! I have a Ph.D.!"
--> Border Agent: "Sorry. The rules say doctors are allowed in, but you're not a ''real doctor'', are you?"
--> [=*=][[NotMakingThisUpDisclaimer He ''actually'' said this.]]
* NoNameGiven: The main character of the strip is never referred to by name. Jorge uses him to depict himself in his "Tales from the Road", where he visits other universities. In the movie, [[spoiler:his name is revealed to be Winston.]]
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: Faced by Mike when submitting his thesis (he has to come back because the layout isn't in perfect conformity with university rules), by Tajel when applying for a visa, and by the main character when trying to get reimbursed for travel.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: Everyone is freaked out to see [[TheSlacker Mike]] [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=722 actually working]]. When he was about to submit his thesis to ''finally'' graduate, he actually have a whole crowd of grad students watching him, as though it was a parade.
* OutOfFocus: The main character briefly got shafted out of the limelight when he decided to quit his [=PhD=], with the subsequent strips focusing more on Mike, Cecelia, Tajel and Dee.
* OverlyLongScream: The main character managed to scream for "[[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive/phd112706s.gif one week and counting]]".
* PercussiveMaintenance: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=771 For the cutting-edge lab equipment]].
* PerpetualFrowner: Prof. Smith's default expression is that of a stern glare, [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1451 and it remains so, even as his mood changes]]. Also true of [[https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1831998591/the-phd-movie-2-still-in-grad-school/posts/896263 his film persona]].
* PlatonicLifePartners: Dee is always hanging out with this one guy, and laments at the prospect of not getting in the same grad school as him. Even the guy is surprised that they're "just friends".
* ProfessionalSlacker: Inverted with Mike, who would ''much'' rather do household chores and take care of his kid rather than work on his research/thesis.
* RecurringCharacter: Scott. He's Cecelia's boyfriend, but since he's not a Stanford student, he is actually featured less frequently than the nameless {{Living Prop}}s that are the Engineering Grad students. Lampshaded by Tajel when he suddenly shows up after a long absence.
-->''"Scott? I feel I haven't seen him in years''
* RidiculousProcrastinator: Mike has started procrastination journey from the moment ''[[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive/phd103002s.gif he was born]]''.
* RightInFrontOfMe: Upon meeting Khumalo, Tajel starts chatting him up without realizing that he's her new professor.
* RunningGag: π/2
* SadistTeacher: Smith clearly enjoys overworking the grad students and post-docs, and spoiling their holidays for them.
--> "Turning holiday cheer into sheer panic is my favorite part of the season."
* ScaryShinyGlasses: Whenever Prof. Smith is being depicted as a SadistTeacher who makes the grad students' life hell, his spectacles become opaque. Otherwise, it's a normal glasses.
* ShoutOut: [[TheSixthSense I see]] [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1448 post-docs!]]
* ShroudedInMyth: [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1395 There are many rumours about Prof. Smith's past floating around the campus.]] How many of them are acttually true is up to debate.
* TheSlacker: While several characters are slackers to some extent, Mike Slackenerny stands head and shoulders above the rest in this regard. An eternal student, he's the '[=PhD=]'' answer to ''ComicStrip/{{Doonesbury}}'''s Zonker Harris.
* SpitTake: Cecilia pulls one on purpose [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1123 here]].
* StarvingStudent: All of the students, who lives off instant ramen, and spends a lot of their time scavenging for free food.
* StatusQuoIsGod: No matter what happened over the events of the comics, nothing about the characters' dynamic and troubles would really change.
** Mike finally graduated from his Ph.D, but he continues to stick around the campus as a Post-Doc whose activities mostly involve sleeping, napping and scavenging for free food.
** Prof. Rivera left Stanford for a position in another University, but continues to serve as Tajel's adviser. Since he barely communicate with his student or give her useful advice anyway, his departure has no virtually effect to her thesis.
* StillGotIt: Prof. Smith when he finds out he can still take a nap balanced on a chair, as he used to do as a grad student.
* TakeThat:
** [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1156 This strip]] pokes fun at TV shows that get the science wrong. [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1391 This strip]] does the same to movies that also get the science wrong.
** Though the supposed take that at Series/{{Mythbusters}} makes it abundantly clear that [[ShallowParody he's never actually watched it]].
** And now [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1452 this strip]] at channels that claim to be focused on science.
* TeacherStudentRomance: Tajel dated one of her faculty Professors, Khumalo, and eventually married him. In an interesting variation of the trope, the teacher is actually ''younger'' than the student because Tajel is another one of those eternal grad students who would probably never graduate.
* TerseTalker: Prof. Smith's email tends to be very short and takes only about a second to write.
* TrademarkFavouriteFood: Cecilia has an addiction for chocolate and cookies (except raisin ones).
* WalkingTechbane: As shown in [[http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=821 this strip]], research advisors have the uncanny ability to make any project malfunction in their close vicinity.
* WholePlotReference: A couple of the 1999 strips were parodies of several movies that came out that year.
** [=PhD=] - Episode 1 is based on ''Film/ThePhantomMenace''.
** ''What is... The Thesis?'' is from ''Film/TheMatrix''.
** ''Raiders of the lost dissertation'' is ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk''.
* WeddingDay: Tajel and Khumalo's wedding.
* {{Workaholic}}: Professor Smith doesn't believe in holidays, and would have rather sent one of his Post-docs to go on vacation with his family than actually enjoy a time off himself.