Hello all! I'm Dante Shepherd, and you probably know me from Surviving the World, the daily chalkboard photocomic in which I wear a labcoat and pretend to be a bloviating professor, that I've been making for the past six years. I also write another weekly webcomic called PhD Unknown with artist Joan Cooke, and make extra comics for Medium, too.

I'm also an actual (slightly-less bloviating) chemical engineering professor doing engineering education research to make STEM modules for K-12 classrooms across the country. I'm hoping long-term to be able to make science and engineering comics to help students understand and enjoy science in new ways, too.

I'll be hanging around for a while, so feel free to ask me about STW, comics, engineering, science, velociraptors, how insane you have to be to willingly try to get a PhD, or whatever else you'd like!

EDIT: Okay, friends, I enjoyed this time we had together. And it's not you, it's me. But we should see other people. I'm just so busy these days. I need some space, and I can't give you what you need. If more questions trickle in, I'll swing back to answer them, but otherwise, I hope everyone has a good weekend, and I hope you continue to enjoy STW and the other comics I make. Please consider supporting my Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/danteshepherd) so I can support artists and make science comics. Thanks, everyone!

Proof: http://survivingtheworld.net/redditama.jpg

Comments: 445 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

roastjeef122 karma

Does it ever get uncomfortable when students discover or already know who you are because of STW?

DanteShepherd138 karma

It can be uncomfortable if they try to address me on a first name basis, yeah. It's certainly helped my relationship with students, though, even if they did find the comic of me in a woman's slip.

designgoddess66 karma

Why can't they address you by your first name? We called our professors by their first names and that was a long time ago.

DanteShepherd185 karma

It'd be one thing if they were my graduate students. Then it's a slightly different relationship. But with undergraduates, there's so much expectations from the students in terms of what they should be given - some expect your handwritten notes to be made available, some push for every point possible on assignments and exams - that the formality is important to make sure they don't overrun you and make it impossible for you to run the class.

HandicapperGeneral19 karma

Some of my best professors for undergrad were the ones who were comfortable and casual enough to use their first name. Hell, my calculus professor, the chair of the math department, had us call him Greg.

DanteShepherd61 karma

I agree that a casual atmosphere can really help students learn and appreciate the course. On the other hand, I already run a pretty casual and open class, so letting students address me by the first name wouldn't really contribute anything further. Some professors, it might be the best option for them, to be honest - but based on my age difference from the students only being about 10 years, and some people on campus mistaking me for an undergraduate, I really need that formality to make sure students allow me to run the class.

It's also partly that I teach some laboratory courses, too, and maintaining the proper safety in there is utterly important. By making sure students have the proper formality, it helps make sure they remember when they need to be serious so no one gets hurt.

lilahking55 karma

You should have a sign:

"In the lab I'm Prof. Shepherd

In the bedroom I'm Mr. Shepherd."

Maybe you shouldn't have that sign at the school.

DanteShepherd27 karma

HAH! I don't think I should have it home, either.

gangro5 karma


I'm currently a PhD student teaching a class, and I could use your advice and opinion: I try to be as lenient and open/accessible for the students as possible (since I figure the material itself is already hard enough, no sense in me being hard on them as well).... including letting them call me by first name and/or even having a beer with them on occasion if I meet them at the pub. As far as I can tell, class works well regardless, and people actually put a lot of time and effort in their homework. But I'm afraid of them (or: at least some of the less-motivated students) eventually not respecting me and then falling behind in class... Am I setting myself up for failure?

Also: Apart from the first-name thing, how do you make sure your students respect you as a teacher?

DanteShepherd7 karma

I think you're probably okay - the fact that you are a PhD student and not an official professor allows you a little more leeway in terms of casual atmosphere. Trying to meet up with them outside the classroom isn't always the best plan, but can be fine if it's managed well enough and you're making sure to handle the situation appropriately. The more connected you are with them, the more dedicated to the class they will be. So I think you're okay! And this is all a part of learning how to teach well, anyway.

The other main way to make sure they respect you is to lay down the law if you have to. I get stern and serious when it's called for, and that stark difference between using a lot of humor definitely wakes them up and gets them to focus when it's called for.

Best of luck to you!

SirTD3 karma

Could someone provide a link?

mrwazsx89 karma

Hi I've been a really big fan of yours ever since my early stumbleupon days (stumble stumble stumble meh) anyway in an 'existential...esque' sort of way how long do you see yourself doing STW.

DanteShepherd65 karma

That's a good question! I honestly don't know. I used to desperately NEED to make the comic every day, mainly because I wasn't happy with my job at the time, either as a grad student or a post-doc. Once I became a professor, though, and got to teach every day, then I suddenly didn't feel the need to continue doing it but have kept it going because it's fun. It's getting harder to make, certainly.

So I guess I don't know? Hopefully for a while moving forward, since people seem to like it and I still enjoy making it?

mrwazsx24 karma

Ah I imagine it must reach equilibrium eventually. But as long as you keep making them I'll keep reading them

DanteShepherd29 karma

I appreciate that, thank you!

blissy45648 karma

Hello, Dante! I am actually a chemical engineer who is going to be going back to school to get my Ph.D. in material science and hopefully end up teaching. Do you have any advice for me or things you wish you had known when you started your path? Also, super hydrophobic coatings are pretty neat.

DanteShepherd66 karma

If you're going back to get your PhD, make sure you can be patient and focused on the end goal. Because you're essentially signing up for several years of indentured servitude, where you have no control over the end date, it can get really frustrating along the way. So remind yourself why you're doing it and keep working toward that end goal.

If you want to get a job as a professor, even if your goal is to teach, you're going to need to make sure you've got the publications to your name to be able to get in the door. I've only got three, so I had to get really lucky with some fortunate timing and incidental networking to get my position. A lot of the candidates that we've interviewed for positions lately have all had nearly 20 publications. Some were second authorships, but the point still remains.

Superhydrophobicity IS really cool! I don't get to make those surfaces often enough anymore.

Alice_in_Neverland15 karma

Do you think that being a ChemE major for undergrad is a good idea? I've heard it can be a rather demanding major, but I'm up to the challenge! I'm stuck between ChemE (focus in biomolecular or materials) and Applied Physics (with a focus in materials or nano). Any advice?

DanteShepherd19 karma

The real question is if you like ChemE because you think you'll get to do a lot of chemistry. ChemE is way more math than general chemistry. If you liked applied chemistry in terms of focusing on properties, then it's not a bad choice. And yes, it's hard, but it can certainly be worth it.

DavidFrattenBro32 karma

What are you going to do with all of the extra chalkboards that you salvaged from the school?

DanteShepherd107 karma

Those are some tremendously beautiful pieces of slate I found in the warehouse. Whoever is deciding that we should replace blackboards with whiteboards is an idiot.

If I was still in college, I'd say they make excellent beer pong tables I MEAN EXCELLENT DESK SPACE

SamMayu20 karma

How do you feel about a bounce shot in beer pong?

DanteShepherd27 karma

I love bounce shots. They were the only way to get the ball to stay in the target when we'd run out of cups and needed to use bowls. Most people hate them, though, for whatever reason.

SamMayu3 karma

Haha thanks for the answer! I had a hunch you liked the game!

IntendoPrinceps3 karma

This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Thank you for our new drinking game during Sunday Night Baseball.

DanteShepherd6 karma

We kept stats for individuals and teams, including web gems. We were diving across the floor to make catches. We'd put on eyeblack to play. Played it at my bachelor party, too. Only true good drinking game I ever came up with.

tworavens2 karma

Well, there goes my weekend.

DanteShepherd3 karma

I'll team up with you sometime, Josh.

ArtScrolld30 karma

Randall Munroe of xkcd has a known aversion towards velociraptors, while you seem to be a huge fan (sorry, it was relevant). Are you guys friends, and if so, how has this affected your friendship?

DanteShepherd34 karma

I've never met Randall, unfortunately! But considering raptors are very, very dead, I don't think it's really anything to worry about.

TedK0421 karma

Knocking on all kinds of wood right now.

DanteShepherd19 karma

That would make me so happy.

positivenegative26 karma

Hi Dante, I'm a girl with a BS in a STEM field who is currently teaching engineering enrichment camps. In both my college courses and the classes I'm teaching, female enrollment has been minimal - and quite upsetting to me! As someone researching STEM education, how do you think we can solve the gender discrepancy in the STEM fields? Is it even possible?

DanteShepherd33 karma

I guess part of the problem is the specific STEM field. Right now, we're getting closer to 50/50 in chemical engineering in our department. Definitely not there yet, but I've taught classes where women have outnumbered the men. In other STEM fields, though, there are very few women, like ECE. It seems like civil, chemical, and biological related STEM fields tend to do much better for some reason.

I think there are certainly a couple things we need to do. The studies that have shown that younger students get turned off by math and science sometimes seem to show a greater effect in girls, not boys. So it's certainly a presentation issue to some degree. The standard stereotype of scientists is a man in a labcoat, so opportunities when girls get a chance to work with or see women scientists can make a major difference. Letting young girls see that STEM is an opportunity for them as well may certainly help.

I think even if the balance is starting to get better, we still have a lot of sexism in industry that affects the longterm presence of women in the field, which almost certainly builds upon itself in encouraging more girls to join the field. Both my sisters work in engineering/science and certainly had to struggle through situations they would never have experienced as men, which isn't right. Breaking up the perspective of what is standard and acceptable and traditional, both outside the STEM fields and within them, is really necessary moving forward.

positivenegative15 karma

Thanks for the reply! It's quite a relief to see the gender gap decreasing in some fields. My degree (MechE) definitely is male dominated, and interactions with older men in industry have been... awkward. I do believe women are becoming more accepted in the field, but are still deterred by the sexism doled out by professors and professionals alike. I too have dealt with really bizarre situations that have my male friends scratching their head, so I'm hoping that the upcoming generation of engineers will lessen it more!

I've turned towards teaching for many reasons, one being the opportunity to be a role model for girls that were like me when I was younger. Getting girls (or anyone!) interested in science while young is crucial, but hard to do with funding being pulled from schools. Best wishes with your research: you're doing exactly what the world needs :)

DanteShepherd16 karma

Realize that with your persistence and maintaining your presence in the field that you, too, are having a major effect for those to follow you. Even if you're not the one who is starting something, by being there you're still affecting those around you - and that includes those in charge as well as your classmates who might eventually be in charge, too. So be strong - it'll help everyone who crosses your path or follows.

suslammer26 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized Velociraptors or 100 Velociraptor-sized ducks?

DanteShepherd126 karma

Velociraptors were the size of chickens, anyway, right? So wouldn't the choice be between to fight equally sized creatures, yet one is a ferocious terror and one is a duck?

alomomola23 karma

The only person to ever get the question right!

ElGuano11 karma

Without actually answering the question! I think he is secretly in training to cage-fight genetically revived raptors.

DanteShepherd31 karma

I have mastered the ability to befriend raptors, so it would pain all 101 of us too much to have to fight. And ducks are secretly jerks, anyway. So I'll take the ducks.

ofliesandhope24 karma

What are your top five StW that you've done?

P.s. I miss the live streams!

P.p.s. it's my birthday so A+ choice on doing your AMA this fine day.

DanteShepherd73 karma

The top five? Man. Off the top of my head:

The fame vs. skill required graph

The harassment comic

The happiness maze

Any from the creeping people out series

And usually science ones or ones where I purposely pose like an idiot, like this one

Happy birthday!

DanteShepherd23 karma

I miss the livestreams, too, but having to do them at night just leaves me really tired out these days, what with the kid being two-years-old.

DrunkBigFoot20 karma

I've been following STW for quite a while. No question ... I just can't believe Cannonball is two. Holy cow!!!!

DanteShepherd46 karma

It's a little mind-numbing to be honest! Then it makes me gleeful because I've got a giant repository of images online to already make her embarrassed about her father before she can even get embarrassed about her father. It works out beautifully. THE BEST DAD PRANK I COULD PULL OFF

carnizzle19 karma

Do you find chalkboards remarkable things?

DanteShepherd44 karma

I sacrifice a live goat to the god of the board every night.

carnizzle8 karma

good job they are wipe clean.

DanteShepherd28 karma

The blood symbols that emerge, not so much.

carnizzle31 karma


DanteShepherd49 karma


MaxGene18 karma

I always feel like I'm missing part of the joke when I see "200-proof coffee". Alcohol? But that isn't coffee. Caffeine? But that's not a pick-me-up, that's a kill-me-immediately. Am I just being dense?

DanteShepherd31 karma

How many scoops of grinds to cups of water do you use? Do you use water at all? That might be the issue here. Cup-o'-grinds, ain't nothing better! Besides everything.

MaxGene9 karma

Ahh, now I get it. I did once eat a handful of grinds as a kid, it was horrible. I think I'll keep using water.

DanteShepherd43 karma

I once ran out of cereal and so used coffee grinds. It was not the same.

Digitaldude55516 karma

Every time I hit random lesson on your site it's always lesson 135, why??

DanteShepherd50 karma

Have you tried playing those as lottery numbers yet? Maybe the universe is sending you a message. A message on how to lose money.

Calypsee15 karma

Hi Dante! So, what does my spleen excrete?

DanteShepherd84 karma

Antibodies, apparently. I don't know, I hate biology. I once had to dissect a worm and peeled it like a banana. Apparently that was incorrect.

Q11899988199911972539 karma

I dissected a worm this week. How the hell did you manage that?!

DanteShepherd16 karma

Sheer attitude and ignorance, probably.

iTurritopsis2 karma

Oh no! You hate biology? My view of you has been altered. I'm quite sorry.

DanteShepherd5 karma

Well, I respect it. It's just not my favorite subject. At all.

drmasgnificent14 karma

You've maintained a clear 'family friendly' tone with STW, has there ever been jokes you wanted to do but didn't because it wouldn't work for the tone? Or even more general, are there STW jokes you'll never use for some reason?

DanteShepherd27 karma

There are sometimes when I've really wanted to curse just to drive the effect home. It's kind of like a Bulgarian roommate I once had who used to curse in English just because it had a greater effect and impact, even while continuing his conversation in Bulgarian. This is the same roommate who had Bulgarian phone sex while I was in the room, unfortunately, and thought I didn't realize it because he was speaking in Bulgarian.

Every time I make a comic about sex, that's usually the day my in-laws or grandparents or faculty colleagues check in on the site, so that just never works out.

Major_Tom426 karma

How is Bulgarian phone sex different from any other type?

lokigodofchaos20 karma

It is in Bulgarian.

DanteShepherd31 karma

And punctuated with a lot of f-bombs in English.

myhandsarebananas12 karma


DanteShepherd20 karma

I think you need to ask yourself who the joke is serving. Some people who make fun of things are the people who will NEVER take them seriously. So like with rape jokes - who does it serve? Are you strengthening the perspective of how horrible rape is? Are you presenting it in a way that helps or comforts victims of rape? Or are you just saying it because you think you have freedom of speech? You can say or make fun of anything you want, but that doesn't mean you're not an asshole.

There is no real line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. But there is the purpose behind making fun of something, and that's the important point. If you're doing it to lift up people and encourage them and help them, then you're doing so in a way that helps. It's difficult, though.

Aslan2412 karma

Hey Dante, I'm a Texas Rangers fan. How are you guys liking Mike Napoli? I miss him very much. If you don't like him can you send him back to Texas? Do you have that power? Can you talk to the manager of the Red Sox?

Okay thanks.

DanteShepherd21 karma

When the Red Sox won the World Series, Mike Napoli celebrated by bartending and walking around downtown Boston shirtless. I like Napoli very much.

boneillhawk12 karma

I just finished my first semester as a professor in a STEM field. Do you have any advice for a new junior faculty member, like things you're only just now realizing about faculty life? My school is more of a teaching institution than Northeastern is, so any classroom tips?

DanteShepherd18 karma

It's been suggested to me to be ready for things to change without your control. Mainly, you don't know if the direction of the college or your department will change, if the dean or department chair or provost or college president will change and will want a different direction established. So you need to be ready to plan and prepare for anything.

I find mixing in full class periods where students can just do concept problems, just to reinforce what they already know, works really well. If you use inquiry-based learning to force them to address the material themselves, they tend to be a lot more confident in the course material.

I also like using skeleton note handouts a lot, letting students fill in as the class goes along. That way, they've already got a review in terms of their notes when the exam comes.

Kriegersaurusrex12 karma

Dante, I've been following your comic for a while and have to ask. What makes you like using a chalkboard more than using a whiteboard?

DanteShepherd27 karma

Chalkboards are easier to work with, and if I want to quickly erase something, I can use my hand. If I'm teaching on a whiteboard, and quickly erase with my hand, my hand gets colored, and then if I scratch my face, it suddenly looks like I'm teaching while wearing war paint and that's highly insensitive! Not to mention weird.

Also, the aesthetics of the white writing on a clean pristine black background? Isn't that nicer?

I also keep accidentally buying the scented whiteboard markers and good God but do they stink up the classroom with their fumes

craftkiller11 karma

Black dry erase boards exist, and in my experience tend to have a more pristine black than your average chalkboard


DanteShepherd19 karma

Yeah, but they're still not as good as a true piece of slate.

super2goten12 karma

STW is awesome! My question is... Is there any single theme or issue that you really feel you have to convey, or that you feel is so important to you (or the world) that is has to be driven home hard? Thanks!

DanteShepherd16 karma

The two most important things I keep trying to drive home with STW are:

1) Embrace your individuality. 2) Be happy, and don't be an asshole.

Those are my biggest life recommendations, so that what I try to channel STW through.

Thanks for the kind words!

Lavender_Man11 karma

Hey Dante, love the comic!
I have nothing to do this weekend and the current plan is to sit on my ass and play video games. Any suggestion on something I could do to better myself instead?

DanteShepherd12 karma

Do you have a croquet set? Do you have friends? Is there a mall nearby where you can play croquet indoors?

Lavender_Man10 karma

I do have access to a croquet set, but all of the mallets and one of the balls were damaged in a sexual accident.

DanteShepherd18 karma

For the last time, sir, you did not get high and think the mallets were hitting on you. They were literally hitting you.

mpls_hotdish11 karma

Your website taught me that it is "Potty Training Awareness Month." My question is, how did you learn this? ... And how's it been going so far?

DanteShepherd20 karma

The internet can tell you many, many things. The family crafts pages list all of the holidays for each day and month, and it astounds me how many there are.

I succeeded at potty training about 29 years ago. My daughter, well, we're still working on it.

karmanaut9 karma

Ever had a student try and sleep with you for a better grade?

DanteShepherd30 karma

I don't think I'm good enough looking that any female or male student would be willing to sink that low to even attempt it.

10280834 karma

Am a former student, can confirm.

DanteShepherd39 karma

Hey, it helps you focus more on the exams you're taking than on my stunning manly ruggedness.

DrunkAgain40314 karma

Awe. I think you're handsome!

DanteShepherd23 karma

I thank you for your kindness but my bulgy eyes will probably creep you out a bit in real life.

Olympus8038 karma

Hi Dante,

Congrats on the recent 6 year milestone. How do you develop so much content (8 comics per week!) in such a short span of time (daily)?

On a far more important note, what is your favorite raptor to do impressions of? Is there one you've yet to do that you really want to?

DanteShepherd9 karma

It's closer to 10 comics a week if you count the two STW I do for Medium, actually - so it's tough. There are definitely some days I'm scrambling for weird facts that I can play off of. The better and easier days are when I'm talking with other people and having conversations, because some comment will usually launch some idea to mind that I can use. Otherwise, if I'm just home all day, all I can think about is comics about cats and coffee and that would probably be a pretty successful internet comic now that I think about it.

My favorite raptor impression I've done was when someone asked me to do a raptor as the pope. I think the video for that got lost.

Doing all of Romeo and Juliet as a raptor was tough. (starts at 2:04)

qantravon7 karma

I was there for the Popetor!

That was at AggieCon 44. Thanks again for coming out, Dante!

DanteShepherd5 karma

It was a good time! Texas is a big state.

neniell6 karma

Hi Dante!

Your page-a-day calendar has been a wonderful addition to my desk at work. So, thank you for making that! The daily holiday has sparked some fun conversations.

Unrelated to calendars, I'm looking for some new books to read. Do you have any favorites that you recommend? (I would prefer that they not be textbooks. :) I see those often enough in my daily work!)

DanteShepherd10 karma

My favorite book of all time is "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys". A really good coming-of-age book. As for actual books, it really depends what you're interested in? Jasper Fforde and Christopher Moore are both good reads, as is Nelson DeMille . . .

Thank you for the support!

thisguyeatschicken6 karma

Hey Mr. Shepherd! I've actually just graduated high school and I'll be going to college for a major in Chemical Engineering in about two months. Any advice that you think might be beneficial for me in the coming years in regards to school and/or the discipline itself? Thanks for the AMA!

10280819 karma

If you don't question your decision to major in ChemE regularly and/or despise yourself for making the decision, you're doing it wrong.

DanteShepherd36 karma

ChemE: the major where you can study all night or get drunk the night before, and you'll still get the same grade on the exam

DanteShepherd22 karma

P.S. Mel, get off Reddit and get back to work, kid.

DanteShepherd13 karma

The MOST IMPORTANT thing to realize is that there is very little actual chemistry in chemical engineering. ChemEs focus on what something can do or how it can be produced, chemists focus on if something can be made. The distinction is really important, and most students don't realize it until it's a little too late to switch out. If you like math a lot, and are more interested in the applications of chemistry, then chemE is probably the right choice. But it's hard, hard, hard work so you need to be persistent, confident, and be able to encourage yourself.

That being said, sincerely, the best of luck to you!

darkest_wraith6 karma

What made you decide on chemical engineering? Sorry for lame question, I'm a biochem undergrad and I love to hear anything about chemistry from people who have made it their life's work.

DanteShepherd11 karma

I liked chemistry and I liked math. I thought there would be more chemistry than there is. That was all I really knew when I made the choice.

PegasusCoffee5 karma

Heya, Commander Shepard! Just taking the opportunity to say that I love your comic/chalkboard antics! How is Cannonball doing?

DanteShepherd6 karma

She is really into choo-choos right now and loves the color yellow. Who loves the color yellow? I don't know anyone who loves the color yellow.

sisterchromatid5 karma

Why are your eyes always red? Do you wear contacts, or are you high nearly constantly?

DanteShepherd8 karma

I have to wear hard contact lenses. I can't wear soft lenses because of an astigmatism with my eyes. And hard lenses really suck.

I'm not high constantly, mainly because I don't have access to the infinite amount of drugs that would be necessary to maintain my eyes at this level of redness permanently.

sisterchromatid4 karma

Maybe move to Colorado?

DanteShepherd13 karma

Do they greet you when you get off the plane with leis made of marijuana buds? Are the rumors true?

finstergrrrl4 karma

just moved here, but i drove, so no leis :(

DanteShepherd6 karma


Bipedal5 karma

Dr, where can I get a nice long lab coat like yours?

I'm always making model rockets with my kid, and I feel like I need an authentic "scientist" touch so all the other parents are afraid of me when we're at the park launching.

DanteShepherd7 karma

You can steal one from a laboratory like I did.

There's also several sites online that sell labcoats! When I was looking into getting some to get them embroidered with the STW logo, I came across several that advertised 'nude fit'. 'NUDE FIT'. Who wants to wear a nude fit labcoat?

there_is_no_name4 karma

Kudos on your K-12 education research! Why do you think that less than 20% of engineering students are female? What can be done during K-12 to increase these #'s?

DanteShepherd6 karma

I think there needs to be more outreach done specifically by the women who are already in engineering to help break the stereotype of the white male in the labcoat being the first thing that comes to mind when people think of scientists. Beyond that, helping students overcome their fear of math is of the utmost importance, as it certainly affects all students but some studies have shown that it affects young girls more.

ryanw12314 karma

Hey Dante! Since the start of Bad Decision Bingo, I've been wondering; what is your favorite drink? Alcoholic or not.

DanteShepherd18 karma

I do love me some alcohol, yes.

Olympus8034 karma

A friend of mine is starting to watch baseball (which is great) but is watching with her significant other, who is a fan of the worst team known to man. How can I teach her to root for literally ANYBODY else?

DanteShepherd10 karma

I put magazine covers with the Yankees on it in my charcoal grill and light them on fire. Maybe you can tell her that I need to do that just to be happy?

cueball253 karma

Hi Dante, thank you for doing this AMA!

Have there been situations where your students have tried to slip some STW tidbit into their exams to get a better grade? What did you do?

DanteShepherd8 karma

Students have slipped in STW references a lot, I think hoping that they will put me in a better mood when I grade their work. That being said, I still grade them on the same level as the kid who couldn't figure out a problem and so just wrote 'WITCHCRAFT' as his answer on the assignment.

cueball253 karma

Hurray, Dante replied! I'm so starstruck right now :D

You have sometimes touched on exams coming up or grading in STW (I don't recall concrete instances). Have you ever hidden anything in your comics that your students might have been able to use in an exam if they knew about it?

I promise I'm not one of your students trying to cut corners - I live in Europe! Honest!

DanteShepherd8 karma

No, I don't want to force students to have to read my creative work to get a good grade. That wouldn't be fair to them. On multiple levels.

chylo23 karma

How often are you stoned whilst making STW?

DanteShepherd11 karma

I'm never stoned although sometimes I do rock.

Tinman5563 karma

A little off topic, my last name is same as yours and spelled the same, so how often does your name get spelled correctly? I cant remember the last time someone got it right the first time. I have 7 different little league trophies and none spelled it right.

DanteShepherd5 karma

I get 'Sheperd' a lot. And 'Shepperd'. I think some people just can't spell.

giantsfn153 karma

Hi Dante! I've been a long-time fan of STW, so I just wanted to say thanks again for all of the great work! As a guy with an engineering B.S. who's deciding what to specifically go to graduate school for, I was wondering if you have any advice on what to look for in a distance/online graduate (M.S.) program, or just any advice on grad school in general. For the record, my undergrad degree is in industrial/systems engineering.

DanteShepherd6 karma

An online M.S. program . . . hmmm. There's a lot of push driving things online with higher level courses lately, but those can be challenging not just to teach but to take. They're also becoming more acceptable in the field, so that certainly helps justify them. I can offer a lot more suggestions about PhD programs than Masters programs, to be honest. In general for Masters programs, I would suggest making sure you're aware of the requirements and being sure that you can meet them sufficiently so that you can complete the program in a short period of time. There are some schools that make you take more classes depending on your background, thus greatly extending both the time and the cost of the program to you.

Thanks for the kind words!

qwranglin693 karma

What is your best advice for a chem e undergrad?

How can a student at a research oriented institute help promote quality of teaching?

DanteShepherd5 karma

Find people who you can work with. No engineer actually does anything on his/her own, so you're an idiot if you try to complete everything solo. Work with friends and classmates and you'll not only do better but have an easier go of it.

Be honest in your student evaluations - professors do read these and do try to improve based on them. Beyond that, some research-focused institute just don't care, and it's hard to make changes when there's not anyone looking to try to change things.

joancomics3 karma

Hey Dante!

I've always wondered, what is the best fan reaction you've ever gotten? Has anyone met you at a convention and then had a fit of girly squealing?

DanteShepherd8 karma

Oh, hello random person!

My favorite reaction was when twenty feet away from the table, a girl saw me, looked at me, stood there in shock, her friends came over and asked what the problem was, and then they shouted at me, "She really likes your work!" and then the girl sprinted away.

JaneKirsten2 karma

I did not expect you to be an engineer. I have seen your pictures shared over the social media. It was awesome. Speaks the truth.

Cliche question: What made you create Survivng the Worls?

DanteShepherd11 karma

A need to distract myself in grad school? STW actually came out of another project I was trying to put together, a script for a television show idea I had about life in college. The set-up for the show focused on a professor teaching at a local YMCA, offering distinct lessons about how to survive and prepare for life at college. Each episode would be half centered around this professor teaching this class, and half around the lives and interactions of college students who the professor was using as class examples. I’d been writing short stories, plays and scripts for years, and rarely ever finished one, but I spent several years putting this script and proposal together, and really liked what came out of it.

I showed the script (which I was calling 101) to a few friends who liked it, and sent it to some contest, where it was basically ignored, or misunderstood, or wasn’t liked. But it was the first real long script I’d ever finished, and I wanted to make sure more than ten people saw it. I almost rewrote it as a one-act play, but then tried asking around on the Internet to see if anyone would be willing to draw it as an off-beat comic book. When the only responses I got were from people who drew worse stick-figures than I could put together, I moved in the webcomic direction. Since I can’t draw and really wanted a unique style, I went with the photocomic and blackboard format.

The name 101 was already taken on the blogging site that the webcomic was first hosted on, so I ended up renaming the project Surviving the World. Most of the college-related comics in the first 100 lessons are cannibalized straight from the original script, so at least they live on in some regard.

Lineov4 karma

This is fantastic to know. I've been reading daily since Comic 14

DanteShepherd2 karma

Wow! Thank you for being a dedicated reader!

xXZeroOutXx2 karma

Quick question here, but what is with the face in all of your STW? I mean that in the most respectful way possible but it's slightly disturbing.

finstergrrrl8 karma


DanteShepherd8 karma

I don't lift, either.

DanteShepherd3 karma

I tried making several where I'm not in it! I truly hate being in them as much as some people hate seeing me in them. But trying to create the classroom style setting doesn't work without having someone to represent the teacher/professor, unfortunately.

Every time I make one where I'm not in it, people complain that my reaction is important to producing the full effect. No one ever comments that they're happy about the change. So I keep doing it with me in just to fill that teacher role.

laws0n2 karma

Are you the kind of professor who insists that students address you by "Dr."?

DanteShepherd3 karma

Only when they call me "Mr. . . . ". Otherwise, they can call me "professor", and that's fine. But they can't call me by my first name.

Olympus8032 karma

How did you decide upon the names you use for your wife and kid in your photocomic?

DanteShepherd6 karma

I call my wife 'Swede' anyway - that was a nickname I started using with her before we were even dating, and it just stuck. So calling her 'theSwede' on the site is easy enough.

I call my kid 'Cannonball' partly because of this comic, partly because I like that Marvel superhero a lot.

Yserbius2 karma

Hi I think I got into a Twitter fight with you once about Jesus's Hebrew name being Jesu and not Joshua. I still maintain that I am right and that you (and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff) are wrong.

To clarify, Jesus's original name in Hebrew is "Yeshu". That went through a few different translations and transliterations in Greek and Aramaic (such as Jesu) before becoming "Jesus". The name "Yeshoshua" in Hebrew is translated in English as "Joshua", such as the book in the Bible.

DanteShepherd2 karma

Okay! I probably can't convince you, then.

iwishiwasbillmurray2 karma

Dr. Shepherd how are you and the other oceanic flight 815 survivors holding up?

DanteShepherd6 karma

It's awfully nice here in this snowglobe.

kcmjustchillin1 karma

Sox fan? From the Boston area?

DanteShepherd2 karma

That's where I'm living now, yup! Finally getting warm around here.

Intortoise1 karma

Whats it like posing in front of banal shit written on a chalkboard.

Why do you always have to be in the picture?


DanteShepherd1 karma

I don't know what it's like to pose in front of banal shit written on a chalkboard. What I do may be shit but it's hardly banal.

If there's no one in the picture, then you have no one fulfilling the teacher/professor role to help it produce the full classroom setting. I'd happily let someone else be the person in the image, but I don't think that would make anyone who doesn't like the site any happier.

2wooks1pup1 karma

Sup brah? So let me ask you this when people tell you that you're a chemical engineer is it weird when the next question is can you make LSD? I love to eat that shit and put on '78 Grateful Dead. Jerry was in full force Jedi mode.

DanteShepherd4 karma

No one's ever asked me to make LSD. Someone did once sincerely ask me to make a chemical that would strip the skin from a person's bones. I declined.