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10 Scientist Rock Stars

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There's a widely acknowledged link between music and math. But the connection between the two is even more pronounced when you look at the number of musicians with ties to the scientific world. Here are ten people who are at the top of their game both musically and academically.

1. Brian May


Brian May is the guitarist for a little band called Queen. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. And he has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. May studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London and was in the process of getting his Ph.D. when Queen hit it big. Thirty years later, in 2007, he completed his dissertation. Yes, the man who wrote "We Will Rock You" also wrote A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. You probably know the words to only one of these.

2. Greg Graffin


Greg Graffin is the lead singer and one of the songwriters for the Los Angeles, California punk band Bad Religion. He is the voice singing "Sorrow," "Infected," "21st Century Digital Boy," and "Los Angeles Is Burning." Graffin also double-majored in anthropology and geology at UCLA and got a master's degree in geology from the same school. His Ph.D. in zoology comes from Cornell University and was titled "Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology." In 2010, Graffin released a book he co-wrote called Anarchy Evolution the same day Bad Religion released the album The Dissent of Man. Graffin also teaches Life Science 1 and Earth & Space Sciences 116 (paleontology) at UCLA, and will be found co-teaching a course on evolution at Cornell this fall.

3. Milo Aukerman

Milo Aukerman is the lead singer for the punk rock band The Descendents, a band that is also from California. (There must be something about the California punk scene that produces scientists.) The band's first studio album was called Milo Goes to College because Aukerman had decided to take some time to study biology. Now, Aukerman also has a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and alternates between working with the band and working on academic research. This makes The Descendents one of the only bands who is on hiatus for reasons of science.

4. Brian Cox


Brian Cox stands out on this list as being more famous these days as a scientist, presenting numerous shows about science for the BBC. He is a particle physicist, a professor at the University of Manchester, and works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. But before all that, he was the keyboardist for the pop group D:Ream, who had a number of hits in the UK, including the number one "Things Can Only Get Better."

5. Dan Snaith


Dan Snaith is better known as the musician with the stage name "Caribou." Snaith's music is electronic, psychedelic pop dance music. Which would seem a natural fit with his Ph.D. in mathematics from Imperial College London. Snaith's thesis was Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols. Caribou's fifth album was called Swim. He also will not stand for the "music and math" stereotype, according to an interview with The Guardian: "To me, that misses the point of maths and it misses the point of music. Pure mathematics at research level is not about sums; it flowers into this whole creative subject. If there's any real similarity between maths and music, it's that with both, you're fumbling around and using your intuition to try to fit things together."

6. Tom Scholz


Before founding the band Boston, Tom Scholz was an engineer. He received a bachelor's degree and master's degree and in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a senior product design engineer for Polaroid and was still working there while he recorded the demos for what would be become Boston. Sholz's love for both music and engineering culminated in his invention of the Rockman guitar amplifier.

7. Mira Aroyo


One of the vocalists and synthesizer players for the English electronic band Ladytron, Mira Aroyo is also a geneticist. Born in Bulgaria, Aroyo has a Ph.D. from Oxford and was a postgraduate research geneticist there.

8. Diane de Kerckhove


Diane Nalini de Kerckhov is a Rhodes scholar who recieved her D.Phil (British for Ph.D.) in Materials Science from Oxford in 1999. As Dr. de Kerckhove, she is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Guelph. As Diane Nalini, she is a professional jazz singer. "Most musicians I know have a strong grasp of mathematics," she says. "They have to. Keeping the beat, counting out divisions of beats, thinking about harmony. Music theory is almost dauntingly mathematical."

9. Art Garfunkel


This half of Simon and Garfunkel is a math geek. While he majored in art history in college, he then got a Master's degree in Mathematics. And he did not stop there. At the peak of Simon and Garfunkel's success, he was simultaneously working towards a doctorate in mathematics education at Columbia University's Teacher's College. He was halfway there before trying to do both became too much and he stopped.

10. Dexter Holland


The man who sang "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" kind of sounds like he isn't any cooler than the subject of that song. Dexter Holland was the valedictorian of his high school and was a Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology at the University of Southern California, where he also got his Bachelor's and Master's. He gave up biology to focus on The Offspring. Think about that next time you hear "Why Don't You Get a Job."

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