Getting a Ph.D. – a Doctor of Philosophy college degree – is not easy, and it’s even less easy when you’re carving out a career in the entertainment or sporting world at the same time. Yet somehow these 20 celebrities found the time to not only hone great talents, but to also rise to the top of their academic fields.
20. Brian May
Believe it or not, but Queen’s guitarist has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College London. In fact, Brian May is almost as accomplished a scientist as he is a musician, as he’s worked with NASA and co-written books on the history of the universe. He even has an asteroid named in his honor: the (52665) Brianmay, which was discovered in 1998.
19. Dexter Holland
Offspring frontman Dexter Holland may have spent a good part of his life on the frontlines of rock ’n’ roll, but he’s still found the time to squeeze in a rather academic passion. Specifically, in 2017 he graduated with a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California. And while there, he put his smarts to good use by researching the genome of HIV.
18. Peter Weller
Who would have thought that RoboCop had a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance art history? Well, actually RoboCop himself doesn’t, as far as anyone is aware, but the actor who played him does. Peter Weller received his doctorate from UCLA in 2014.
17. Miuccia Prada
The fashion world is thought of as being quite frivolous and shallow, but Miuccia Prada doesn’t quite fit the stereotype. That’s because the designer responsible for some of the world’s most famous handbags has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Milan.
16. Vitali Klitschko
Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko was the first ever heavyweight to achieve a non-honorary Ph.D. Not only that, but his doctorate in sports science also earned him the nifty nickname “Dr Ironfist.” And he seemingly wasn’t just content with that change of career direction, either, as in 2005 he began the first steps of a political journey that would eventually see him become the Mayor of Kiev.
15. Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko’s younger brother Wladimir is also a boxer with brains – he has a Ph.D. in sports science, too! And his nickname? Dr Steelhammer. He’s also notable for being the partner of actress Hayden Panettiere and the father of her child. Now that kid’s got some fantastic genes.
14. Greg Graffin
Greg Graffin has branched out since he founded legendary punk band Bad Religion in the ’80s. And one of the ways in which he’s done that is by completing a Ph.D. from Cornell University. The title on his dissertation? “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.” Whew!
13. Dan Grimaldi
Sopranos star Dan Grimaldi may be frequently cast as the archetypal hard man, but he’s got a considerable amount of brains as well as brawn. In fact, he’s a highly accomplished mathematician with a Ph.D. in data processing from the City University of New York.
12. Condoleezza Rice
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has a very impressive academic background. Not only was she a musical prodigy as a child, but she earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Denver when she was aged just 26. Impressive.
11. Milo Aukerman
Milo Aukerman, lead singer of the Descendents, has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from UC San Diego. And, essentially, Aukerman was a scientist who just happened to be a rock star on the side. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2016 that Aukerman decided to become a full-time musician – a mere 34 years after the Descendents released their first album.
10. Mikhail Youzhny
Philosophy and tennis aren’t two things you’d think would go together very well, but Russian tennis champion Mikhail Youzhny has nevertheless been able to combine the two. In 2010, in fact, he received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Moscow, following his thesis with the title of – wait for it – “Professional Tennis Players on the Court.”
9. Frank Ryan
Retired Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Rice University in 1965, and during his career the media often joked about how he was the smartest person on the field. Yet while Ryan never appreciated these jokes, they were correct in one aspect: he is incredibly clever.
8. Rachel Maddow
When Rachel Maddow discusses politics, you can be certain she knows what she’s talking about. That’s because the talk show host achieved a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford after becoming the first openly gay American to be awarded an international Rhodes Scholarship.
7. Bill Cosby
Sitcom star and stand-up comic Bill Cosby has a Ph.D. in education, which he obtained from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1976. However, Cosby’s recent sexual assault case has now overshadowed both his entertainment career and his academic one.
6. Mike Marshall
When former MLB pitcher “Iron” Mike Marshall was 11, he was injured in a car crash that claimed the life of his uncle. And afterwards, the young boy became fascinated with the workings of the body. So much so, in fact, that he began to study kinesiology – the mechanics of anatomy – and earned a Ph.D. in the subject in 1978.
5. Dan Snaith
Canadian musician Dan Snaith has a Ph.D. in mathematics, but he’s very casual about it. “Once you’ve spent any amount of time with me, you’ll start to wonder if I didn’t just buy the Ph.D. online,” he once modestly told Time Out London.
4. Blaine Nye
Former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Blaine Nye was always singled out as a smart guy; indeed, he was responsible for some of the wittiest quotes to come out of the NFL during his nine seasons on the field. And once he was done playing football, he proved his intelligence by gaining a Ph.D. in finance from Stanford University.
3. Angela Merkel
In addition to being an influential world leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Leipzig. As a result, the once-dubbed “most powerful woman in the world” can ably weigh in on more than just political matters.
2. Shaquille O’Neal
No one busts the stereotype that sportsmen are meatheads like Shaquille O’Neal does. The legendary basketball player earned a Ph.D. in education from Barry University in 2012, even if the 7’1” giant did have to get on his knees to receive his doctoral hood…
1. Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik plays a neuroscientist, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, on The Big Bang Theory… and it turns out she’s just as smart as Amy in reality. Yes, the former child star received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2007 after completing a dissertation on the genetic disorder Prader-Willi syndrome.