EDIT: Okay folks, this has been fun answering questions for about 10 hours, but I'm going to call it a day. If you like my comics, keep up with STW, follow on Twitter, and please check out the Kickstarter we've got going to create a giant page-a-day collection of STW! Thanks, everyone! Sweet dreams and harmless nightmares.

Hello all! I'm Dante Shepherd, and you probably know me best 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 almost eight years now! I also write another weekly webcomic with artist Joan Cooke, called PhD Unknown, which is three years old today!

In my real life, I'm a chemical engineering professor at Northeastern University (non-pseudonym name: Lucas Landherr), where my engineering education research tries to make science comics that can be used in undergraduate and/or K-12 classrooms, as well as trying to make experiment modules that can be used by STEM educators.

Right now I have a STW Kickstarter going to make Surviving the World page-a-day calendars with the help of Topatoco - the calendars will be full color, huge, and contain lots of bonus jokes on every page!

I plan on hanging out here for a dang long while, so feel free to ask me about STW, comics, engineering, science, velociraptors, graduate school, or whatever else you'd like!

Thanks, all!

Proof: https://twitter.com/danteshepherd/status/733400607843885056

Comments: 330 • Responses: 98  • Date: 

Olympus803117 karma

What % of a dessert can be fruit before it ceases to be dessert?

DanteShepherd138 karma

I think if you hit 70% fruit you've hit the limit. Even a strawberry pie has crust and various additives which take up some significant percentage.

An apple pie is dessert, but it is not 100% fruit, which is why it is dessert.

noguchisquared58 karma

Glazed pears http://www.food.com/recipe/glazed-pears-180402

Some math:

  • 220 g avg pear* x 16 = 3520 g

  • 3 TBSP juice/avg lemon* x 2 x 0.5 oz/TBSP x 28.3 g/oz = 85 g

  • 2 TBSP butter x 14.8 mL/TBSP x 0.91 g/mL** = 27 g

  • 4 TBSP butter x 14.8 mL/TBSP x 0.93 g/mL** = 55 g

3520 + 85 + 27 + 55 = 3687

3520/3687 = 95.5%

It is notable that this recipe is listed as a dessert on the reputable Food.com. I submit this revision to Dr. Shepherd's fruit limit hypothesis.

*per Google

**per aqua-calc.com

EDIT: After reviewing my research I ran into a question about the actual average weight of a pear. Another source said, "The size of pears varies from 60 grams (sugar pears) to well over 300 grams. The average weight is approximately 150 – 180 grams." -- Foodreference.com. With a revised weight of 165 g / pear the fruit content of the dish falls to 94%. The authors suggest this discrepancy of 1.5% is well within the original calculation based on the variation in pear weights. Further studies are necessary to test the limits of the fruit content, as the pear weight has significant effects in the findings.

EDIT2: All percentages are noted as weight percents.

DanteShepherd71 karma

What's the mole percentage?

Charlemagne424 karma

Perhaps a better way to quantify this is by fructose content expressed as a fraction (mole or mass) of all the sugars present.

DanteShepherd12 karma

Volume-wise it's almost certainly going to be mostly pear, but I would think the flavor is heavily accentuated by the sugar.

Just because it is a glazed pear does not mean I would find it an acceptable dessert choice, is part of my point, anyway.

Jephimykes112 karma

Has being outed as a comic creator to your university students caused any behavioral issues in class, or have you seen an uptick in performance since that happened?

DanteShepherd134 karma

I think it's been extremely beneficial, for the most part. I think it's helped create a more direct relationship with some of my students, which can help facilitate more learning. I think it helps contribute to a perception that I don't take myself too seriously, which is probably necessary when you're talking about a college professor.

Revealing that I made kind-of-goofy comics helped me get my first research grant to make science comics, too, so I can't complain that much!

nerddtvg36 karma

Revealing that I made kind-of-goofy comics helped me get my first research grant to make science comics, too, so I can't complain that much!

There's a grant for that? Was it to make illustrations for publications or educational purposes?

DanteShepherd70 karma

It was an Advancing Teaching and Learning grant, and having shown that I'd been involved in comics for years, it justified their decision in being able to give it to me. You need to show competency in the field before you can get a grant, so STW actually got me a grant!

laserBlade3 karma

I'm friends with Tom, who recently guest starred in one of your recent comics. I can definitely see how it has helped your relationship with your students

DanteShepherd9 karma

Tom is a good kid but also about 50% goofball. That helps a lot on its own.

Olympus80398 karma

Are birds in fact the worst sequel to dinosaurs ever?

DanteShepherd134 karma

Birds are probably the worst sequel, period.

ShallowBasketcase29 karma

Clearly you've never seen Fern Gully 2

DanteShepherd57 karma


Wait, no, that rap was from Fern Gully 1

NASArocketman72 karma

What inspired STW? And what was the funniest moment of your lab class this semester?

Also please rate the awesomeness of the project name "Super Sand Filtration" on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is biology and 10 is velociraptors.

DanteShepherd96 karma

Neel, don't you have things to do

NASArocketman40 karma

It's summer! Don't I get two months to be lazy?

DanteShepherd60 karma

Two months off to be lazy? I can find some work for you to do around here somewhere, hmmmmm . . .

DanteShepherd51 karma

The project name was a 4, I'd guess. The project itself was pretty well done, but the name . . . eh.

ronnie_willey33 karma

You're sick of chemical engineering. Questionable timing, but okay. You decide to up and quit and join a farm as a workhand. Hey, whatever makes you happy. While you're there, you decide that the method of collecting eggs from the chickens is far too time-consuming and could be rapidly sped up. After a brief period of tinkering over some old scrap metal, you emerge from the barn one day with your greatest invention: The Egg-Sucker 5000. You've revolutionized omelettes! Congratulations!

Your device is simple: multiple vacuum lines collect eggs from the nests, deliver them into a single intermediate containment tank, after which they are properly distributed into packaging from an exit line. Unfortunately, the vacuum lines are so powerful, the eggs emerge in a spherical shape. Oh, well.

Because the tank itself is sealed (to minimize scrambling), it is imperative that the tank not overfill, which would cause the system to explode. You may assume that there are no gaps in spacing between the eggs in the tank.

What is 2 + 2?

DanteShepherd43 karma

Okay, look, this was a fantastic exam question and I'm sorry that it upset you so much.

ronnie_willey23 karma

Okay, look, this was a fantastic eggscellent exam question and I'm sorry that it upset you so much.

I expected better from you, man

DanteShepherd38 karma

Sorry, I was scrambling to come up with an answer.

InOranAsElsewhere31 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?

DanteShepherd77 karma

Why do I have to fight them? Set the scenario for me. Is this some kind of dystopian future? Did some kind of lab animal related incident happen in my lab? Are these henchmen I have to get through to reach my nemesis? Did I run out of bread and/or sugar cubes? WHY DO I HAVE TO FIGHT?

exixx30 karma

This is the best answer to this question I've ever seen. Thanks Doc, I've been reading since shortly after you started, and you've stayed funny and kept on going. Simply amazing.

DanteShepherd12 karma


hunterprime6624 karma

Alright here we go. The year is 2026. It's been 10 years since someone has passed the river project. This lack of preparation has caused several toxic spills into America's waterways. Mutations have occurred in several different flora and fauna. You. You know where it all went wrong. You can go back, you can change it all. But the time machine that was being built is unfinished. Holed up in an abandoned riverside lab (an awful place for it in hindsight), you must make your way there alone. There are two entrances to the lab. One, the home to a horse sized duck with a taste for human flesh, and the other filled with the remains of a failed bioweapon. Duck size horses that were planned on being used to carry filters through the rivers. Choose your battle.

DanteShepherd56 karma

A look of steely-resolve settles over my face. Which entrance, which entrance, I ask myself, armed with nothing but a brick I had found not far from the lab. If only I still had my trusty mallet, I mutter. But alas, no, I'd lost it when fighting through the street gangs and automatons to make my way to the lab. I was thankful to have emerged with a mere methanol headache from the sewer fumes to this point.

After careful thought, taking my time and not allowing myself to be distracted by the chants and screams and maniacal singing and whir of machinery in the streets behind me, I finally settle on the choice.

"I have no bread, no sugarcubes," I mutter. "But Mega-Duck can fly. The Bio-horses can swarm, but they don't have the same mass as the horses of the past. So they can swarm, but I can make it past their horde of itty bitty hooves."

And with that, I enter the tunnel of the duck-sized horses. Alas, I'd forgotten the conservation of mass, only to remember in the split-second as the first bio-horse, sneering, raised its hoof and brought it crashing down on my spleen, all of humanity crushed beneath its itty bitty hoof.

antiward2 karma

Do you play D&D? Because that sounds like D&D reasoning.

DanteShepherd3 karma

I have not ever played D&D, but the more and more that I've listened to The Adventure Zone, the more and more I wonder how I never got into it.

immoralminority30 karma

Which would you rather have: Red Sox World Series or Baby Raptor?

DanteShepherd76 karma

A baby raptor would be a nice pet except for all the biting. Also I don't know how I would explain to my wife what would happen to the cats. But I'll say baby raptor anyway because it means we've achieved a heck of a lot science-wise to make it possible.

my1973vw28 karma

So, you've been a dad for awhile now....What's the best noise your child makes?

DanteShepherd106 karma

Children basically sound like baby dinosaurs until they learn how to talk, and I'm not sure losing this skill in their personal evolution is worth it.

my1973vw28 karma

How much chalk do you go through in say, a year?

DanteShepherd73 karma

Maybe 24 sticks per year? It's not too bad, although I've essentially got an exoskeleton from all the erased dust at this point.

Olympus80327 karma

When did you discover your talent for raptor impressions?

DanteShepherd74 karma

I knew a kid in college who would do raptor impressions and I stole the idea from him when he transferred out. I returned home that summer and used it to chase the cat around the house, and that, as they say, was history.

oldaccount2915 karma

The cat was history? :|

DanteShepherd40 karma

Yes. Exactly. It's a rather sad tale.

Olympus80322 karma

What baseball player do you irrationally dislike?

DanteShepherd85 karma

Basically everyone on the Yankees, although that's not really irrational.

Idontknowflycasual11 karma

We also call that being "smart" and a "decent human being."

DanteShepherd14 karma

Or, really, just "human".

flanker174318 karma

Been reading STW for about the past 7 years now. So first, I want to just say thanks for all your hard work and the chuckles over the years. Seriously.

Whats the best thing you've learned after all these years from writing STW?

DanteShepherd28 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

I think the best thing I've learned from STW is about happiness. I used to think that embracing your individuality was key, and that's certainly part of it, but I think just the importance of happiness and how easy it is for us to prevent ourselves from getting there is so intertwined. Finding a creative outlet for myself, as well as interacting with readers who all have different interests and aspirations, it's become a lot clearer that with a little confidence we can all find and be in what makes us happy. And there's no reason to stop ourselves from getting there.

I joke that the secret to life is to 1) be happy AND 2) not be an asshole, but there's a lot of truth in that. Trying to craft joke lessons/nonsense/wisdom on a board for the public every day for years and years has helped me figure out my own perspective on life, probably a lot faster than I would have if I was just talking to myself within my head.

my1973vw14 karma

Cake or pie?

DanteShepherd78 karma


Slight tangent: cheesecake is a pie.

Lsoutoforder7 karma

Cake or death?

DanteShepherd18 karma


Olympus80312 karma

How did you come up with the name Dante Shepherd? To what extent is Dante a character and to what extent is he just you?

DanteShepherd13 karma

At this point we are one and the same!

bofstein12 karma

How hard is it to balance academic with your artistic/comedic pursuits? As someone trying to manage grad school without any side gigs, it's hard to find the time to fit in creative endeavors. Do you think it overall helps or gets in the way of your other work?

Side note: I loved following your comics in college and once sent you a fan email which I was stoked you responded to despite how embarrassing/creepy I was looking back on it to send to an internet stranger. Bonus question: what is the creepiest fan email you have gotten (and please let it not be mine)?

DanteShepherd12 karma

It's really hard! This past year, after my second daughter was born, it started getting really tough to balance making a daily comic with having a full-time job and having a good home life. My approach was to just start sleeping a whole lot less, but that's obviously not a good answer!

I think if you're passionate about something, you can figure out what things you're less passionate about can be sacrificed so you can pursue your greatest passion. And if you can find ways to connect your many lives - work, home, creative - to each other and use them to support each other, then you find life will strike a balance on its own and you can be pretty happy about it.

(The creepiest fan email I've gotten were when I used to get pictures sent in from readers suggesting I go out with them. I mean, it's flattering, but, you know, there's a line . . .)

map12899 karma

Hi Dante! I've been following your comic for several years and even saw your talk at the Boston ACS meeting! How/when did you decide to pursue teaching and education research? As a graduate student in chemistry gearing up to defend in the next year, I'm weighing my options on what my next step is. It seems like everyone is pushing for a post doc as the most ideal route into academia, was this your impression and path? Did you go into your professorship pursuing education research and, if so, were the institutions your were considering supportive of this?

DanteShepherd15 karma

I got into education research partly because I had a fellowship one year in grad school to make a K-12 module - but when I was applying for professorships, even though I wanted a teaching-heavy position, I still planned on doing traditional lab-based research. Getting into education research was mainly because that's what Northeastern emphasized that I do when I arrived. I'm glad I did - there's a lot of nice stuff I can do in that field, and I think the potential with the science comics is a niche that I can really carve out for myself.

I had a research plan all worked out when I applied to different colleges for professorships, but I'm not sure anyone at Northeastern has ever seen it. And at this point, even though I really like drag-reducing polymers, I think I'm better off where I'm at.

Getting a post-doc is probably necessary. I can't talk about the faculty candidates that I've seen/met with, but throughout universities there certainly is an emphasis on the number of research publications you have, so a post-doc can help to increase the number that you have. If you're a superstar, then you might be able to make the jump straight to an academic position, but that's not always the case.

map12893 karma

That's fantastic to hear that you found and institution so supportive of education research! Although you can't talk specifically about the faculty candidates you've seen, do you have any general advice for applying to professorships, either right after graduate school or a post doc? Is there something you think really sets a candidate apart from the rest?

DanteShepherd6 karma

Having a research plan that you clearly have competency/experience in, but is also clearly a plan of your own - one that is not just your advisor's work repeated - is pretty important. Clearly having a sense of how you will fund your research is important. Beyond that, working to make contacts and meet people can help you get your foot in the door and face attached to the application, which is critical.

ArgetlamShadowmoon9 karma

As a graduate student, being a TA is very rewarding, but I wonder why students (who undoubtedly seem to view the professor as a figure not to be messed with) seem to completely lack this reverence when interacting with TAs. I've had numerous students tell me I was incompetent, that I clearly had no idea what I was doing, and that they knew better.

Like I get it, I do, we as TAs are meant to be the cannon fodder for the disappointment of the swarming undergrad masses, but boy is that a sharp dichotomy. Why do you think that is? Did you ever experience this?

DanteShepherd14 karma

I think it's partly based on the quality of the instructor, to be honest. I think the better the instructor is, the more likely the students are going to be to be dismissive of TAs, as they feel they can get more of their information from the true head of the course. The worse the instructor is, the more opportunity for TAs to lead and guide, and thus they get elevated in students' esteem. It sucks, because it's basically out of your hands, but that's been my experience to some degree.

Students are also more entitled to some degree these days, and with college being more and more expensive, their expectations of who should be teaching them have become even more highlighted.

ekdn8 karma

What is one of your:- Favourite comics you created Favourite Comics you read Hardest comic to come up with. Favourite food

Most importantly laser raptors, yay or nay?

DanteShepherd32 karma

1) I'm really proud of the happiness comic, the creeping people out comics. And the science comics.

2) I enjoy a lot of comics! Bad Machinery, Questionable Content, Girls With Slingshots, Dumbing of Age, Scenes From A Multiverse, Kate Beaton . . . I could go on and on

3) Hardest comic to come up with? Writing PhD Unknown is hard, because you're trying to find the characters' voices while crafting a longer storyline within each smaller chapter. I think that's harder than STW at times because I'm collaborating and I need it to make sense for the artist, not just myself.

4) I like Thai food a lot but they never seem to make it as spicy as I want

5) How in hell did the raptors get the lasers and shouldn't I be frightened of this scenario?

ekdn2 karma

Thanks for the response and your excellent work. Your favourites are some of the ones I enjoyed most.

DanteShepherd2 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

Olympus8037 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized raptors or 1 raptor-sized duck?

DanteShepherd23 karma

Aren't raptors already duck-sized?

deadpanawesome7 karma

Where do you get your hats? As the proud owner of a burnt-out Red Sox hat, I've started looking for a replacement, but can't seem to find one in the style I like. Also, what's your favorite scientific concept to teach?

DanteShepherd12 karma

I just switched to a new hat for the first time in six years! My old ones used to fade out after a single year, every year, which really makes me worry about what I was exposing myself to in my old lab.

I really like teaching experimental / analytical design - getting students to develop their own experiments, figure out their own approach to answering their objectives, communicate their results and conclusions - there's a lot that I can do in the UO Lab when given a chance. But I like teaching pretty much everything in engineering - I even teach an HVAC course for professional students in the summer, so it's all good all around!

Shellymberm5 karma

Do you enjoy you work as a lecturer/professor? As in, how do you feel about students who may struggle, do you enjoy helping them improve?

DanteShepherd16 karma

I LOVE teaching. It's a complete and utter thrill. Working with students, good and/or bad, to help them learn and grasp new concepts is a sheer delight.

What I didn't expect was that I'd care about the kids as much as I do? Teaching is a little like having kids that aren't yours but you still really pull for and want them to do well, not just in the class but also in their lives. So I get this weird empty-nest-like syndrome at the end of each semester. But that's probably a good thing because if I'm invested in the students, I'm more committed to helping them learn and succeed!

ChristopherMoore_AG5 karma

Dr. Shep, does wearing a lab coat all the time every make you want to become an evil genius and draw your mad plans against a human population that's too stupid to appreciate you?

DanteShepherd6 karma

The problem with becoming an evil genius is that I'd probably have to go back to graduate school to get my degree in Mad Science, and do I really want to subject myself to that!

And then which of the four branches of Mad Science do I get my concentration in? Lasers? Robots? Genetics? Or Cryptozoology? How can one even decide?

thomcat5 karma

What is your favorite Red Sox season?

DanteShepherd15 karma

Probably 2004. For obvious reasons.

AllThisPaperwork5 karma

Do you ever get chalker's block?

DanteShepherd17 karma

A lot of the time, yeah! It helps having a daily deadline to push me to produce something, although I don't have the time to read a wider range of information to pull ideas from anymore.

If it gets really bad, I'll start hitting 'random article' on Wikipedia until something comes up as inspiration. Which isn't a terrible means of finding an idea . . . but boy, there is a lot of useless one-line Wikipedia pages about small towns and one-appearance lesser-sport athletes.

definitemayb4 karma

What is fugacity?

my1973vw4 karma

Are you religious?

DanteShepherd10 karma

I'm Catholic, yes.

TheFamilyITGuy4 karma

How many ideas from the "Creeping People Out" series have you seen or performed in real life?

DanteShepherd12 karma

The first 'creeping people out' is something my dad used to when he'd pick me and my sisters up from school. There's one or two that I've done myself. There's a few that I really WANT to do - particularly the one about being a wingman for an invisible friend at a bar all evening.

Anyway, people shouldn't be allowed to be completely complacent. Creeping people out is a life skill. Unfortunately, many misunderstand the concept and go way, way, way too far with it.

my1973vw4 karma

What is your favorite Imperial unit of measurement?

DanteShepherd17 karma

Slugs, blobs, slinches, and slugettes are great names for measurements, which really just makes me want to come up with some random unit combination so I can give it a name like 'manatee' or 'platypus' or something!

jetpacmonkey6 karma

Why limit yourself to words that already exist? You could name your unit the manpus! Or... something else. Definitely something else.

DanteShepherd13 karma

Yes, 'manpus' has . . . connotations.

Olympus8034 karma

We know the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but what is the question?

DanteShepherd12 karma

What is six times nine?

ChristopherMoore_AG2 karma

You're just messing with us, now, huh?

DanteShepherd7 karma

I don't think I am, but let me check with the other voices in my head, one of them might be. (looks down at hand, sees self holding a scalpel) Wait, where did this come from

Olympus8034 karma

Kickstarter-related: If somebody contributes for raisin-eating, will you be happy that you'll have the money for the comic-a-day production or upset about the raisin eating to come?

DanteShepherd6 karma

My stomach will be upset but I'll be happy that it would push us closer to the goal! Any contribution to a crowdfunding effort is important and helpful, big or small, and that's the more important aspect!

JaymesMarkham2nd4 karma

Hey Dante! I've loved reading the comic since I found it about 3 years ago.

1, Does it ever get tiring doing a comic a day? Do you ever preload on comics to upload later, or is it usually make-one-post-one?

2, How much do you think your kids will get involved with StW as they grow?

Thanks for all the laughs and good times. Best of luck!

DanteShepherd9 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

1) It's definitely tiring - and I haven't had a backlog in years. It was really bad when I first started, as I only had access to a room with a blackboard for 1 hour a week - so I'd have to get seven comics made in that time. Now it's basically make-one-post-one. On the other hand, it's set me up with a lot of material that I can use in things like the calendar, if we get them made!

2) I'm pretty much going to refuse to show their faces or share their real names. I imagine there'll be some slight involvement, but given that it's a visual photographic medium, it'll be a little difficult to get them too involved.

Anakaya3 karma

I've been following your comics off and on for several years. I always love when I rediscover them. But my question has nothing to do with your comics.

I was wondering what you're favorite part of doing research is?

DanteShepherd3 karma

For me, because I'm doing engineering education work, it's kind of looking at the final product and wondering if it will be as effective as we hope in improving student understanding. With the science comics, some students clearly got into them right away and really enjoyed them, which is pretty uplifting. So I think it's when you have something - a result or output - and when you can share it. The build-up can be long and tedious, but that part of the deal with research.

Olympus8033 karma

What is the most counterintuitive thing you've learned from STW?

DanteShepherd13 karma

I really hate being on camera. And I really wish - even though, yes, there are 2800+ comics by now - that someone else could have been in the picture this entire time.

foxtaer3 karma

Should I know you? I mean seriously, you have been around for 8 years and sound pretty sure of yourself.

DanteShepherd10 karma

I don't know, maybe? People used to share STW on Reddit for a while, and you might have seen one of my comics at one point. But it's a big internet, so maybe not! But if you want to know me / my work now, then it's available for you - and if not, hey, that's alright, too.

foxtaer2 karma

Well because you ama (answered my anything) I will check you out. Thanks

DanteShepherd4 karma

Thanks! Hope it's something that you like.

DragoonBoots3 karma

What has the reaction been from others in your professional field to your science comics for teaching difficult concepts? Any success stories from other educators? I majored in the arts in college (Theater Lighting Design), and I love seeing art infiltrate STEM fields (I think STEAM is a great thing); I'm curious how those on the other side respond to this.

DanteShepherd11 karma

When I've given talks at conferences, some people really like it and a lot of other colleges have wanted to use them! I've seen some small but notable improvement in the students in my classes, but I need more data to really prove that they're helpful. On the other hand, if I can craft them more for a K-12 STEM perspective, then the enthusiasm they generate might be really helpful in helpful younger students maintain their interest in STEM.

TheHornyCripple3 karma

Hi Doc! Thanks for doing an AMA. One of my favorite procrastination activities in college was mashing the random button on your website for hours on end. Good times.

I have two questions:

  1. Any interesting research projects you're working on (that you can explain to someone who wasn't a STEM major)?

  2. What's your favorite type of sandwich?

DanteShepherd8 karma

Thanks for the kind words! Glad I could contribute to your overall 'learning'.

1) I'm making science comics right now to explain more difficult and theoretical concepts to students and a broader audience - so explaining concepts like 'uncertainty' or 'data analysis' or 'heat exchangers', and helping people understand the connection between the concept and the real-world application. I got a small grant to make them last year, and currently applying for funding to make more.

2) Salami, swiss and spicy mustard on a toasted English muffin.

clayism3 karma

Follow-up question, if you haven't already been asked: Is a taco a sandwich? Please remember to cite your sources. MLA format is acceptable.

DanteShepherd16 karma

A taco is not a sandwich, a hot dog is not a sandwich, pizza folded in half is not a sandwich. I am willing to fight people about this.

BrentB232 karma

As a chemical engineering, will you explain fugacity? (We have a running joke at Vanderbilt that no one can actually explain what it is)

Teive2 karma

I loathe writing on chalk boards. The sound and feel give me a tonne of weird body cringes.

Have you had to overcome anything of the sort?

Do you have tips for writing on chalk boards?

What's the biggest difficulty you've had to overcome today?

DanteShepherd3 karma

I actually love writing on chalkboards - at least I can trust the color and darkness of the writing on the board, without having to guess at the quality of a whiteboard?

Raraman2 karma

Do you feel any guilt for using Reddit and AMA as a ploy to bring attention to your kickstarter fund?

DanteShepherd0 karma

Not really, because I've done AMAs before without any reason for them. And I'm not primarily talking about the Kickstarter. I mean, it would be great if people backed the Kickstarter, but I'm going to assume that most of you won't.

I mean, an AMA is basically a broad-ish crowdsourced interview, and almost any interview is conducted in part because of something the subject has recently done or is promoting. An AMA isn't that different than the usual interview, it's just done with a broader range of questions. Each person is going to get out of them what they get out of them.

Raraman1 karma

I'm not primarily talking about the Kickstarter. I mean, it would be great if people backed the Kickstarter, but I'm going to assume that most of you won't.

What a convenient cover story for a sneaky snake ploy

Sure you can answer some questions for some random plebs that they would like to know more about. But all you care about is the kickstarter.

It's a win/win, huh?

DanteShepherd1 karma

Dude, I've been answering questions for about 10 hours, I don't know what you want. Do you refuse to watch or read any interview with an actor or actress if they have a movie coming out? Do you criticize everyone doing an AMA if they have some project? Do you applaud people who have nothing going on? I'm happy to talk to people about engineering or comics or whatever - like has happened for the last 10 hours - but again, I've done AMAs before when I haven't had anything. So what's the difference to you?

two_off2 karma

What experiments have you made for STEM programs?

DanteShepherd7 karma

We have a larger module relating drag reducing polymers to friction. We have a module using superballs to help explain concentration, chemistry, physics, etc. We have a hot air balloon experiment designed as well. Currently, I have students investigating renewable fertilizer resources to help conduct a biology experiment.

bigdog9272 karma

Did having a daily web comic that has been viewed by millions of people provide you enough funding to pay for your school expenses?

DanteShepherd12 karma

HAH! No. No, that has definitely not been the case.

I've had many people who have read the site but I am not that great at the business side of things. And my core readership is nowhere near as large as you suggested. But my core readership is a lot of good people that I enjoy interacting with, and it's developed a nice community from there.

morri851 karma

would you change your legal name to dante shepherd?

DanteShepherd5 karma

Not if I want to keep my wife, I imagine.

I did add "The" as my second middle name, though, so I got that going for me.

lilist_monster1 karma

I will be starting university this Aug for chemical engineering after almost 4 years of no school, any tips on how to stay motivated in class? Also, as a professor, how do you keep your class engaged?

DanteShepherd3 karma

I mean, it needs to be something that interests you. If the subject matter doesn't do it, hopefully the instructor does. I intersperse my lecture with a lot of humor to try to help keep everyone relatively in the classroom, and I use skeleton notes to help guide their note-taking. But otherwise, if you are passionate, you'll find a way to connect to class, and that's the biggest key.

sophiesfate_1 karma

Do students ever just annoy you? Like I can imagine it's frustrating if one's not putting in the work and groveling for grades, but have you ever had a student whose personality/attitude just pissed you off?

Minus the one where they used your pictures on every slide, favorite student presentation? Or report / exam answer?

Also, how many pineapples could a velociraptor eat in one sitting, if velociraptors could sit?

DanteShepherd2 karma

Some students annoy me! And I've certainly had one or two who I couldn't stand, usually a kid who was arrogant and thought he/she was better than the class. But most are pretty good kids who are there to learn, and that's enough for me.

One student once wrote "WITCHCRAFT" as an answer to a problem. I gave him 1/25.

Velociraptors aren't that big, so maybe 1? Depends how strongly he believed in himself!

clayism1 karma

Did you ever work in industry before teaching? Any advice for a ChemE whose become more and more disenchanted with the jobs/field as time goes on?

DanteShepherd3 karma

I did some collaboration with industry while I was on my post-doc working for the government. I also did some collaboration in grad school. To be honest, that wasn't really an area that interested me long-term, so it wasn't something I deeply pursued.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you need to find what you're passionate about. There's some aspect of ChemE that hopefully was the reason you got into it. And many ChemEs end up heading into different fields - so that may be an avenue to consider as well. But figure out what does interest you, and that might be the best guide moving forward.

kaaserpent1 karma

So, if Dante Shepherd is your superhero identity (go with me, here), are German Shepherd and Sprite Shepherd also pseudonyms for their REAL canine/feline identities?

DanteShepherd6 karma

Sprite goes by her real name - she's a cat, cats have no need for secret identities.

German's real name is Westley. That's nowhere near as exciting and not a joke, unfortunately.

morri851 karma

does your daughter know "if I had a velociraptor"? if thats not leading her to love velociraptors...

DanteShepherd2 karma

No, she and I are not familiar! If it has a good tune, maybe that will help it catch on with her!

Zershyan1 karma

Have you ever had interest in video games?

DanteShepherd3 karma

RBI Baseball remains my secret, one true love.


robot_worgen1 karma

What is it like to go through life with such a cool name?

DanteShepherd2 karma

That's what you can pull off when it's a pseudonym!

my1973vw1 karma

In your opinion, how long until The Singularity?

DanteShepherd5 karma

I remember reading an article a few years ago in which the person who originally conceived of the idea of The Singularity predicted it would occur by 2040. So I'm going to stick with that answer.

goofball_jones1 karma

How cool is it to have the name "Dr. Dante"?

DanteShepherd3 karma

I mean, Dante is a pretty solid name, that's why I chose it!

DJS20171 karma

What's your favorite beer? I remember during the livestreams you used to almost always have some form of libation on hand. Also, who is your current favorite player on the Sox?

DanteShepherd6 karma

Rochefort 10 is delicious is you're willing to pay up for a bottle.

Darathin1 karma

Have you given St Bernardus 12 a try? Don't think any of the cycle saloon bars had it, but I don't really remember much of that night.

DanteShepherd1 karma

I haven't but only because I have to shell out a bit more for it in comparison. I try to balance out the times I get a larger, more expensive beer.

JosefTheFritzl1 karma

Oh hi. I have a degree in Chemical Engineering and have been working in chemical facilities for about 8 years now.

When I was in university, in the last year of schooling, our teacher discussed the professional engineering exam. He said something along the lines of, "Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, and Structural Engineers get value out of the PE title, since it allows them to sign off on drawings and do work they could not otherwise. Chemical engineers don't really need that, and I would recommend that unless you want it, that it's not really worth the time as there is no commensurate pay increases that come with it."

Is that true? I don't really qualify anyways since I haven't worked under a PE for five years as is required. But I've always been curious.

DanteShepherd2 karma

It really depends on the ChemE field that you're working in - there are benefits to having the PE for certain roles or if there's intellectual property that you would want to have some more specific say or control over. But you don't always need it. I passed the FE and never accrued the time for a PE, but a PE wasn't something I really needed. If I was forming start-ups or had certain roles in industry, then I'd be far more inclined to want it.

thesploo1 karma

Two years in a row I saw you at the DPOLY events at APS. I awkwardly creeped near you but didn't really say hi. Nice job, past me.

Anywho, what was your research about that you ended up hanging around DPOLY?

DanteShepherd1 karma

At DPOLY? I think I went to APS in Pittsburgh in 2009 and Boston in 2012, but that was it on my experience there. In 2009 I was still in grad school, doing research on thin film polymer network lubricants. In 2012 I was at NIST doing research on the flow of drag-reducing polymers over superhydrophobic surfaces.

Funny thing was I left APS one night in Boston to go give a STW talk at Northeastern. During the talk I asked "Is there anyone here who could prevent me from getting a job here? Not that there are any jobs here for me." A month later there was an opening, I applied, and now you know the rest of the story.

SnowCoveredCanadian1 karma

9 hours later. I'm currently studying to become a chemical engineer, is there anything that you would recommend I do that isn't typically taught in university?

DanteShepherd3 karma

Whatever you do, keep your foot in the real world. Meaning, interact with people beyond the major, beyond the science. Keeping your basis there will remind you why you're becoming a chemical engineer and who your work will be for. That's critical for long-term success, impact, and happiness.

spirafortunae1 karma

You've aged incredibly well over 8 years. I hear Sir Patrick Stewart's trick is earl grey tea. What's yours?

DanteShepherd5 karma

I siphon the souls of my students when grading their papers. The grade they receive is the percentage of renewable soul that I left behind for them. I MEAN UM beer lots of beer

unhealthypickle1 karma

What is your favorite beer?

DanteShepherd2 karma

Probably Rochefort 10! It's a good Belgian.

OfTheAzureSky1 karma

I remember reading all of your comics when you did them all in Olin Hall. Was there a particular class/professor that inspired you to create the comic format?

DanteShepherd6 karma

It was actually based on a script I'd written about someone teaching a class, and the scenes would keep cutting away to the real story being played out. So like commentary on a general format (like how to prepare / succeed at college), but the narrator is actually teaching an unseen class.

So when the script didn't go anywhere, I eventually turned it into a comic. Had to put myself in the teaching role because it would have been too difficult to get someone else on camera all the time, but it's worked out in its own way!

FourDickApocolypse1 karma

I know I'm late to the party but you may be the only person that can answer this for me:

How far can poop be from your butthole before wiping it no longer cleans it?

DanteShepherd2 karma

Um, I, um, hey, LOOK OVER THERE (runs out the backdoor)

ArgetlamShadowmoon1 karma

I'm sorry if my post seems long and rambly, I'm just honestly nerding out at getting the opportunity to communicate with you, Dr. Landherr...or Shepherd...whichever. You're just awesome.

I graduated college in 2011 at 19 with a degree in Biochemistry, and have since taken the grad school plunge in the field of Nanotechnology over the past couple years.

Furthermore, you've always struck me as forward thinking, and you've always impressed me in your work with StW.

So, what are your thoughts on the field of nanotechnology and what was graduate school like for you?

DanteShepherd3 karma

I think nanotechnology is a fast-growing field with a ton of areas that people can get into! There's some really cool stuff using nanoparticles to fight disease, in particular. Characterization of the particles can be difficult, but it's certainly an exciting area of study!

Graduate school for me was a slog? I knew I mainly wanted to teach as a professor, but getting a PhD is mostly research, so it was hard to be as truly invested in my work when it wasn't my true passion. I almost dropped out after a year and a half because I wasn't happy, and then I got to TA, and that helped me get re-focused. I had some great advisors, but part of the reason I even started STW was because grad school wasn't the most fulfilling time in my life.

Thanks for the kind words!

ButtsexEurope1 karma

I looked over your comic and I take offense at the fact that I go to a commuter college (it's a satellite campus of respected life sciences program) I'm somehow automatically a loser. I do my own laundry, dammit! I mean, my classes are 2 hours long and I go every day. My commute is still about 35 minutes, 45 with traffic.

What say you?

DanteShepherd1 karma

Commuter college is different than the standard college living-on/near-campus style. You're an exception in this case.

Olympus8031 karma

Clearly you are a fan of puns. Do you have a favorite pun?

DanteShepherd4 karma

"Only Hugh can prevent florist friars."

Anorexemon1 karma

Dr. Shepherd, ever been stranded on a strange island in the South Pacific?

DanteShepherd3 karma

Man, it's like I was watching that show when I came up with my pseudonym! (Although it was also partly inspired by a couple books I was reading that had that as a common last name, too.)

Anorexemon1 karma

Oh wow, you actually responded. I'm slightly ashamed I didn't ask something better.

What's your favourite Sci-fi show, and favourite Sci-fi movie?

DanteShepherd3 karma

Does Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind count as a sci-fi movie? That's probably my favorite movie, given how well done it is overall.

I really liked LOST and Invasion. Flash is pretty decent these days, in terms of sci-fi TV.

zeeke421 karma

Have you seen Orphan Black?

DanteShepherd1 karma

No, but only because I've got no time to add a new TV show to the list. It'd be on there if I had the time.

FatGregDoe1 karma

What do you see as the future of the chemical engineering field? As a graduating chemical engineer, it seems that most of the core coursework for chem e applies mostly for the oil and gas sector. Government projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a stagnant demand for chemical engineers for the next few years. How are chemical engineering departments responding to this?

DanteShepherd2 karma

I think you're finding that chemical engineering is pretty heavily branched with biological side of things, so there's a lot of students pushing in that direction. On the other hand, every ChemE department across the country is exploding in student population size, so there's probably going to be some overwhelming of the demand based on the supply.

With that in mind, ChemE is probably the broadest science major. It touches on bioengineering, nanomaterials, materials, renewable energy, batteries and fuel cells, large-scale system design . . . the lessons may be generic, but that's primarily because the major is so broad. The curriculum has to drive itself down the middle so that students have a core they grow off from. Students are trained to be problem solvers and apply that in a range of fields beyond ChemE, and that's just part of the major, in my opinion.

EntreeManure1 karma

How do you feel about home chemists teaching themselves chemistry in their garages?

DanteShepherd4 karma

Are explosions or death a concern? It really comes down to how safe they're being. If they've taken all precautions, then I support their endeavors to grow and learn.

not_the_killing_type1 karma

Do any of your students make "Grey's Anatomy" references to you seeing ad your name is Dr.Shepherd?

DanteShepherd3 karma

No, not a one! I think my students are big nerds.

rbevans-1 karma

What baseball team is the greatest and why is it the Yankees?

DanteShepherd16 karma

The Yankees are called the Yankees because that is the closest sound that humans can approximate to the name of the underworld demon that embodies that team.