Piled Higher and Deeper

Synopsis: Life (or the lack thereof) in Academia. 'Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD)' is a live-action adaptation of the popular web comic strip by Jorge Cham. With humor and heart, the film follows the personal journeys of two graduate students as they struggle to find their place in the confusing (and often hilarious) world of high-stakes Academic research. Along the way, they learn that the academic journey is as much about finding truth in books and experiments as it is about finding truth in yourself. Filmed on location at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the film features real scientists and researchers (including two MacArthur 'genius' award recipients).
Genre: Comedy, Drama
67 min



[alarm sound]



Well, professor, I was hoping I could talk to you about your research?

What for? It's all on my webpage.


Well, sir, I'm a first-year masters student,

and I was hoping I could do a Ph.D. in your research area--

And you want me to fund you and be your thesis advisor.

Yeah, uh, here's all the work I've done. As you can see, I have some ideas--

Yeah. Listen, let me tell you how this works.

Being a Ph.D. student, working with an professor,

it's a lot like a marriage.

Whole thing typically lasts five to seven years,

fifty percent of them end in a bitter divorce,

and it all culminates in a big ceremony

where you walk down the aisle wearing a fancy gown.

But sir, I--, I joined this program specifically to work in your research group.

I mean, I graduated at the top of my class--

Well that's nice-- So did the other seven master's students

waiting outside my door right now.

You're in the upper echelons of academia now.

Very few make it to the top.

Like a pyramid scheme?

Well it is pyramidal in shape, yes.

This may sound cruel, but we in academia,

we stand at the cutting edge between humanity and the great abyss.

Between ignorance and truth.

Who else are you going to trust to tell you the difference?

The politicians?

Wall Street? The media? Please.

Well, but sir, what if I can't find a professor who will take me?

If you're that desperate to work in a lab,

I suppose our floors could use a good mopping.

Well I mean, what if I don't make it as Ph. D. student? What am I gonna do?

I don't have a backup plan.

I suppose you could try, uh, a lesser institution?

MIT, perhaps?

What I'm saying is,

maybe you should look around a little.


Morning, Tajel!

Hey, Cecilia-- Goodness gracious, what are you wearing?

What, this? It's my favorite shirt! I got it free my freshman year.

It reminds me of a simpler time,

of my dream to come to grad school and make a difference with my research.

So, what happened to that dream?

It's stained and crumbling, kinda like this shirt.

Are you going to a rally?

Yes. Today we're protesting poor living conditions

for an underprivileged and exploited minority.

Sounds serious. Who is it?

Us! Graduate students!

Did you know that it pays more to work at McDonalds

than to get a Ph.D. from a major university?

Wow. Is that true?

Totally. I read it on Wikipedia.

Hey! Today's my first day as a teaching assistant for Professor Chu's class.

Oh really? I thought you were fully funded already.

True, I don't have to TA, but I'm really excited about it.

I watched Dead Poet's Society last night for inspiration.

You know that movie doesn't end well.

That's why I came to grad school--to make a difference,

to challenge young minds and inspire them.

Anyways, at least it'll look good when I apply for faculty positions.

They value teaching experience...right?

Maybe it's time for a new shirt.



[sighs] [music]

Oh, I'm so sorry I'm late. The last meeting I was at ran over a little bit.

I'm really sorry.

I'm so happy to meet you. Can you tell me about yourself?

Oh, uh, Professor, I was hoping that I could talk to you about your research?

Okay. Good.

Yeah, I've-- um, I--, I was hoping that--

"[phone rings]

-- maybe we might be able to --"

Marcy! You know I'm in a meeting.

Oh, ok. Ohh, D. C. tomorrow! Ok. Just a moment.


I don't have time!

"Oh! Right! Yes, I'll be right there.


Welcome everybody. I'm Professor Chu.

For this class, your T. A. is Cecilia,

one of my best and brightest students!

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Jorge Cham

Jorge Gabriel Cham (Spanish: [ˈxorxe]) (born May 1976) is a cartoonist and roboticist best known for his popular newspaper and web comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics). Cham was born in Panama and lives in the United States, where he started drawing PhD Comics as a graduate student at Stanford University. He has since been syndicated in several university newspapers and in four published book collections. He was featured on NPR on December 20, 2010. With physicist Daniel Whiteson, he is the coauthor of We Have No Idea (2017), a book about unsolved problems in physics. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Piled Higher and Deeper" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 19 Apr. 2021. <https://www.scripts.com/script/piled_higher_and_deeper_15888>.

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