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Musicians With PhDs Who Have Rocked The Stage And Hit The Books

February 9, 2021 1.5k votes 271 voters 6.3k views10 items

List RulesVote up the most metal musicians with PhDs you'd rock out with any time.

A PhD in rock stardom doesn't exist. But there are rock and metal musicians with PhDs - most of which aren't in music. 

The academic accomplishments of some celebrities are better known than others. Actress Mayim Balik has a PhD in neuroscience, while Danica McKellar (AKA Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years) has a PhD in mathematics and has authored several books. Athletes also split their time between sports and the classroom, with numerous famous figures receiving honorary doctorates each year. 

Not all intelligent, engaged rock musicians have PhDs - Tom Morello was more than informed enough by his bachelor's degree from Harvard to speak out about politics, for example. The rock musicians with PhDs might surprise you.

  • Photo: lev radin /

    Queen guitarist Brian May earned a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College, London, in 2007. As an avid science enthusiast, May wrote his dissertation on the movement of interplanetary dust. May, who'd started studying astrophysics decades earlier, said in a 2019 Time magazine interview:

    I get to hang out with real astronomers, which is great, but I still have that kind of, what do they call it, impostor syndrome. I’m in this plenary meeting with all the New Horizons people, these teams coming together and I keep thinking to myself, "Should I really be here? Am I really worthy of being with these guys?"

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    Dexter Holland took time away from studying molecular biology during the 1990s to front The Offspring. In 2017, Holland completed what he started decades earlier and earned a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Southern California, focusing on immunodeficiency viruses. He said at the time

    My research is not meant to be a cure or even an immediate step toward a cure, but I believe that by adding to the vast amount of information that we’ve learned about HIV in the last 30 years or so, we’ll get there... Toward that end, I’m going to continue to do research, and you’ll probably see some of my research papers get published here and there over the next few years.

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  • Photo: William Morris Agency / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Sha Na Na formed in 1969, performing at Woodstock before getting a television show during the 1970s. Robert Leonard, as well as his brother George, were fundamental in the origins of the band, but the former decided to study linguistics rather than stay with the group.

    Leonard earned a PhD from Columbia in the discipline and became a professor at Hofstra University. As an expert in the field, he has consulted on numerous cases for the FBI

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  • Photo: Verve Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Born Holmes Sterling Morrison Jr. in 1942, Sterling Morrison co-founded the Velvet Underground during the 1960s and played guitar for the group.

    When the band broke up during the early 1970s, Morrison went to the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a PhD in medieval studies. He also worked as a tugboat captain before returning to music. Morrison passed in 1995.

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