Students at IIT-M come up with a comic series for research graduates

Photo:The Fifth Estate

Research is often just a long series of never ending experiments. What starts off as ‘I am done’ after every experiment eventually becomes ‘maybe after this one, I will be done?’ And finally, at the end when you write a 300-page thesis, it’s just a paper, and not a book, let alone a bestseller.

Research students around the country will identify with the challenges of doing research in the country. And while some choose to lament about the life of a ‘researcher’, five students from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) decided to communicate about their thoughts and experiences about the joys and struggles of a researcher through a web comic series. They came up with this web-comic, Abnormal Distribution for the institute’s own news body, The Fifth Estate (T5E). 

Consultant for the comic, William K Moses Jr is a PhD student, Isha Bhallamudi is the Executive Editor of T5E, Divya Vijaykumar, and Shiraz Khan are Media Heads for T5E, and Saba Firdaus, is the cartoonist; they collectively ideate and digitise the comic.

William said, “I don’t think our goal is to motivate anyone to get into research. Rather it’s more of a way for those already in research to have a good laugh every now and then.”

The comic series will not follow a specific theme, but it relates to issues faced by people who are in research. William added, “Since our target audience is people who do research, they will be able to relate to an experience they might have had during their work, whether that moment be funny or nostalgic or something else altogether.”

PaGaLGuY asked if any one of them is a religious follower of any comic strips, or about the source of inspiration. The reply was unanimous for all, they follow a bunch of web comics, and social media platforms to get access to some talented artists, both professional and amateur.

Their character looks like a regular student, with whom anybody can relate and imagine one’s own story. While sketching the character, Saba drew the easiest face possible. She said, “It is not even the same guy throughout in the first strip itself.” 

The group has its own inside jokes in this comic. Divya said, “We add a little spice here and there, mostly pop culture references. We added some Easter eggs just to keep ourselves entertained.” She continued, “Then we added 42 in the constellations in the last panel. It’s the answer to the ultimate question about life, the universe and everything in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Though the work has started, they are not specific about the issues they will talk about, but they do hope to put some jokes running throughout the series.

With no last date in mind, the team plans to release a comic strip fortnightly, on their Facebook page, and The Fifth Estate, institute’s official magazine.