Lucas Landherr is a doctoral student at Cornell University, studying chemical engineering. And like any other student, he has his unfulfilled dreams haunting his thoughts. While his professional goal of being a professor is still a long time away, he wanted a creative outlet to distract him from the pressure and stress. He wrote a spec script a while ago. Spec Script is a comedy “that wasn’t going anywhere”. He believed that he could include some of the jokes in the script for a daily webcomic. He followed a lot of webcomics online, including ‘Questionable Content’, which inspired him to start his own series.
‘Surviving the World’ is a webcomic, a slice-of-life series, which covers everything from romance to religion. “I was just trying to maintain my sanity while waiting for the job I really wanted,” said Landherr. He is now an associate professor at Northeastern University, at the Department of Chemical Engineering. “What I found is that it really helped sustain me throughout my final two years of graduate school and my post-doc.”
Landherr was hesitant to let the scientific community know about him moonlighting as a webcomic artist. As a result, he used the pseudonym Dr. Dante Shepherd. His comics consist of him in a white lab coat, with a Red Sox hat and a chalkboard, with daily lesson written in big capital letters. He is always full of inspiration; he rarely gets a writer’s block. “So long as you’re interacting with people and experiencing life,” he says, “you can find things that are funny.”
‘Dr. Dante Shepherd’ has now recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. It was to raise $26,000 for creating ‘Surviving the World’ page-a-day calendars. This calendar is sure to be successful, as his audience is huge in number. Every student in the class knows he’s behind those comics, even though Landherr tried it hard to keep it a secret. His success has presented him with a lot of opportunities on and off the campus. His contributions have made other professors, in other colleges nationwide, use comics as a part of the lectures. “We’ve seen an improvement in their learning as well as an improvement in their confidence.”
Landherr is currently toiling on to create science-based comics. It will be exclusively for kids, which will focus on developing STEM experiments for them. “My creative outlet is mingling with my real life more than I expected it to,” he says.