Top 10 Rock Musicians with PhD’s

Hello readers of! We present a list more on the fun side of things. Don’t worry, we have included typical data about universities in our write ups, but unlike our rankings of the best online doctoral programs, we present a list of rockers, electronic, avante-garde composers, alt-rockers, and super stars who can play their axes with finesse and, at the same time, have a PhD. Our top 8 are currently PhD’s in their fields while the last two are currently doctoral candidates. From Brian May to Jessica Rylan, there are a variety of degrees represented in the list along with music genres.

1. Brian May

You read that right! Brian May of the band Queen has a Ph.D. May has a doctorate in Astrophysics from Imperial College London earning it in 2007. He was also Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013. He has worked with NASA on the New Horizons Pluto mission. That said, May was not a rock star before he was an astrophysicist. He began his academic degree studying the reflective light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust within our solar system in 1970 while Queen was a fledging band. However, in 1974, May left his graduate work because Queen began having international success.

Rather than the traditional distance PhD’s offered through programs like those in our Top 10 International Distance Doctoral Programs, Imperial College London offers the chance to work through a joint PhD program. The joint PhD scheme started in 2010 and the first student to graduate from the program finished in 2013 working from the National University of Singapore. Students spend equal time at both institutions with advisors at their home campus and at Imperial. Within their global network of collaborative institutions, North America is included and information can be found on their website.

QS Top University World Rankings ranks Imperial College London at an impressive #8 globally. Further, QS ranks Imperial College London at #3 in Material Sciences and #7 in Engineering and Technology. 43% of the student population is postgraduates with 54% of the postgraduates being international. In the past, researchers at the college have pioneered advances in penicillin, holography, and fiber optics.

Clearly, Brian May, or should we say “Dr. May”, shoots for the moon. He is a member of one of the greatest rock bands of all time and an alum of a prestigious institution which has made important contributions to humanity in its past and present. Dr. May, we salute you!

2. Greg Gaffin

In 1979, Greg Gaffin and some of his high school classmates formed the band Bad Religion in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley. I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased toward Gaffin and his band of merry Southern Californians since I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but that bias is entirely beside the point. Beyond Bad Religion’s indelible mark on punk rock globally, Gaffin earned undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Geology from University of California, Irvine. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree from UCLA in Geology. Gaffin earned his PhD in zoology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The title of Gaffin’s dissertation is “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.” He has taught at both University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at Cornell University.

In terms of our specific site, Cornell offers no doctorates either online or from a distance. The Ivy League University sticks to traditional means in their graduate programs, expecting students to take course and be on site while studying in the PhD program of their choice. The fields of study at the PhD level are too numerous to list here in their entirety, but they include subjects such as Africana Studies, Asian Literature, Religion and Culture, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Classics, Information Science, History, Physics, Plant Breeding, and Zoology among many more.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell at #15 nationally, tied with Vanderbilt University. QS Top University World Rankings ranks Cornell University at #17 globally. Further, QS ranks Cornell University at #2 in Veterinary Science and #23 in Natural Science globally.

Gaffin isn’t just an influencial punk icon but a leader in his field. As will be seen below, Gaffin is far from the only punk rock icon in our list!

3. Sterling Morrison

Sterling Morrison, along with Lou Reed, John Cale, and Angus MacLise (soon replaced by Maureen Tucker who became permanent drummer), helped constitute the Velvet Underground in 1964. Reed and Morrison were classmates at Syracuse University in New York. Work with the band had delayed Morrison’s undergraduate career but they were playing gigs at Max’s Kansas City in New York for an entire summer and he decided to finish his undergraduate work at City College of New York. Morrison, while remaining with the Velvet Underground until 1971 after Lou Reed departed, began his graduate work at University of Texas at Austin. In 1986, he earned his Ph.D. in medieval literature writing dissertation on the four signed poems of Cynewulf.

In terms of our specific site, University of Texas offers no doctorates either online or from a distance. This particular state school sticks to traditional models for doctoral work with on-site coursework. The fields of study offered at UT are numerous and include subjects such as Architecture, Accounting, Marketing, Management, Journalism, Kinesiology, Art History, Music Theory, Anthropology and many more.

U.S News and World Report ranks University of Texas, Austin at #52 nationally and #30 among global universities. QS Top University World Rankings ranks U. Texas at #77 globally with U. Texas’ Communication and Media Studies program being ranked at #5 globally. 23% of the student population are postgraduates.

Morrison was not only a member of arguably one of the most influential American rock bands in history, but also proved that his musical intelligence wasn’t all there was to him

4. Karl Precoda

In response to an ad for a bassist by Steve Wynn, Karl Precoda and Steve Wynn formed The Dream Syndicate in Los Angeles. After being joined by drummer Dennis Duck, Duck suggested the name The Dream Syndicate as an homage to Tony Conrad’s experimental ensemble called Theatre of Eternal Music of which John Cale of the Velvet Underground was a part. They performed their first live set on February 23, 1982 at Club Lingerie in Hollywood. Precoda left The Dream Syndicate around 1984 in order to pursue a career in screenwriting. Precoda has a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, a M.A. from Humbolt University, and a PhD from the University of Virginia. His research focuses in the areas of the Culture Industry and Dramatology.

University of Virginia boasts a student body of 22,079. University of Virginia is ranked #26 nationally and #94 among global universities by U.S. News and World Report. QS Top University World Rankings ranks University of Virginia at #172 globally. Further, the Arts and Humanities at University of Virginia are ranked at #98 globally by QS with the English Language and Literature subject being ranked at $45 globally. The postgraduate student population at Virginia makes up 29% of the student population while 48% of those post-graduates are international students. The university does not have online Ph.D. programs but rather has a number of traditional programs in various subjects including Anthropology, Art and Architectural History, Cell Biology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Classics, Economics, Politics, Sociology, and many more.

Currently Precoda is a professor in the department of Sociology at Virginia Tech University teaching Cinema Studies and Dramturgy. He also has numerous publications. He was a part of a movement in Los Angeles called the Paisley Underground, merging folk rock with punk along with sprinkles of psychedelia. The Dream Syndicate is most certainly a much acclaimed band while keeping its underground influence tucked neatly into the pavement of the Los Angeles scene of the early 80’s. While he hasn’t rejoined his Dream Syndicate band mates for their reunion tour, he does still live within the world of art.

5. Milo Aukerman

Milo Aukerman is our second punk rocker, or should we say dr. punk rocker, on our list of musicians with Ph.D.’s. Milo is known for being a member of the pioneering pop-punk band The Descendants, a forerunner to the scene that would birth bands such as Blink 182, NOFX, Fall Out Boy, Pennywise, The All-American Rejects, The Offspring, The Ataris,.Green Day, and Paramore. The Descendents formed in 1977 but Aukerman was not yet in the band. Not long after their first single was released, Aukerman joined the band as their singer. Their first full-length album was entitled “Milo Goes to College” (released in 1982) because he went to school at University of California, San Diego. A caricature of Auckerman is also the mascot of the band and was drawn by classmates at Aukerman’s (one of which is the band’s drummer) to taunt him for being so nerdy.

Auckerman did his Ph.D. in Biology at the University of California, San Diego and completed a post-doctorate at the University of Madison, Wisconsin in biochemistry. He currently works as a researcher for DuPont in Deleware.

The University of California, San Diego is ranked nationally at #39 and #19 globally by U.S. News and World Report. QS Top World University Rankings places University of California, San Diego at #44 globally. QS also ranks University of California, San Diego’s Department of Biological Sciences at #11 globally. Apparently, Aukerman chose wisely in that regard. Further, UCSD’s Department of Life Sciences and Medicine is ranked at #14 globally by QS. University of California, San Diego has 19% of its student population in postgraduates with 33% of those postgraduates being international students. UCSD is home to the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the UC San Diego Health System.

Milo Aukerman, we at salute you! Rock on Dr. Aukerman!

6. Dan Snaith

Dan Snaith is an award winning Canadian composer who has worked under the monikers Manitoba, Caribou, and Daphni. Snaith originally worked under the moniker of Manitoba until he was sued by Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba from the punk band The Dictators. Snaith has noted in interviews that the situation was something like someone named John Smith suing the Smiths. Nevertheless, he lost the lawsuit and had to change his stage name. This is when he adopted the name Caribou and in 2005 he released his first full length under this name entitled The Milk of Human Kindness. In 2008, his Caribou album Andorra won the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. The album Swim was shortlisted for a Polaris Music Prize in 2010. In 2014, Caribou’s album Our Love won the IMPALA Album of the Year Award.

Academically, Snaith sits in the company of Brian May, guitarist from Queen and #1 on our list. Snaith earned a doctorate in Mathematics at Imperial College London. He did so with this thesis Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols.

As stated in Brian May’s entry above, the Imperial College London does not offer a distance PhD like those offered in our Top 10 International Distance Doctoral Programs, Rather, Imperial College London has recently provided a joint PhD. The joint PhD scheme (active since 2010) had their first student graduate in 2013 working from the National University of Singapore. The joint program has students spend time on both campuses equally while they work with advisors from both institutions. North America is included in their global joint campuses and information can be found on their website.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Imperial College London at #18 globally. The institution itself used to be a part of the University of London but became independent in 2007. Approximately 15,000 students attend Imperial College London with 42% of the student population doing postgraduate work according to QS Top University World Rankings. QS places Imperial College London at #8 globally and notes that, of those postgraduate students, 54% of international.

Keep on composing Dan Snaith and bravo on a top PhD from a top notch institution!

7. Drew Daniel

Drew Daniel is one of two core members of the electronic group Matmos. Originally from San Francisco, Matmos now finds its home base in Baltimore, Maryland. Matmos has released seven full length albums and have released many collaborative projects. Matmos has worked with Björk on her albums Vespertine and Medúla and were part of her live shows on her Vespertine and Greatest Hits tours. Matmos also spent 97 hours in the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco as artists in residence producing their album Work, Work, Work out of their time and their collaborations with many artists and friends.

Daniel has a BA in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley and a second BA in English Literature from University of Oxford. Drew Daniel defended his dissertation on the topic of the literary cult of melancholy entitled ” ‘I Know Not Why I Am So Sad’: Melancholy and Knowledge in Early Modern English Portraiture, Drama, and Prose” at the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. He has published on Elizabethan drama, political philosophy, contemporary film, contemporary art, and musical avant-garde. Continuum Press published his book on Throbbing Gristle in the well know 33 ½ series of books on various music artists and topics. He is currently Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

University of California, Berkeley is ranked #20 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. The university has a faculty containing 7 Nobel Laureates, 225 members of the Academy of Arts & Sciences, 131 members of the National Academy of Science, 87 members of the National Academy of Engineering, a Poet Laureate Emeritus of the United States, and 141 Guggenheim Fellows. QS Top Worldwide University Rankings places UC Berkeley at #26 globally while ranking their environmental studies program at #1 globally and their college of Arts and Sciences at #4 globally.

Daniel both excels in the area of the arts as well as in the realm of academia. Kudos electronic pioneer, kudos!

8. Brian Briggs

Information on Brian Briggs is a little more elusive then our top seven contenders. It’s probably because he is in the lesser known band Stornoway. Although this is the case, Stornoway is a well-known name among indie-folk fans. Stornoway hails from the Cowley area of Oxford with Briggs being their singer, lyricist, and guitarist. Brian Briggs and Jon Ouin met during fresher’s week at Oxford and began playing together after that point. Briggs earned his undergraduate degree in Zoology and his PhD Ornithology, writing his dissertation on duck behavior at University of Oxford.

In terms of distance programs, University of Oxford appears in our Top 10 International Distance Doctoral Programs list at #1. The programs on offer come from a wide range of disciplines including History, Literature, Maths, Computing and Data Science, and Sustainable Urban Development. University of Oxford is in the top 10 of most major rankings including US. News and World Report which places Oxford at #5 globally and #1 nationally within Britain and QS Top University World Rankings placing the institution at #6 globally and #1 in the areas of English Language and Literature as well as the Arts and Sciences. If a student is interested in doing a PhD at Oxford from a distance, one must inquire to each program as to whether they do distance research, how to go about applying, how to obtain a supervisor, and what the first steps are in gaining acceptance to the program.

Briggs hails from one of the top Universities in the western world and plays in one a world renowned indie-folk band. Clearly, Briggs’ accomplishments aren’t “for the birds”…. Or are they?

9. Jessica Rylan

The first of our last two candidates on the list are PhD candidates and have yet to finish their degrees. That said, we include them on the list as a good faith gesture that they will finish the marathon that is a PhD program. Jessica Rylan is the first of these two and is an experimental electronic artist from Boston, Massachusetts. Her primary instruments are do it yourself modular synthesizers with which she uses to compose pieces with a variety of sounds mixed with her own vocal recordings. She is classically trained and grew up playing multiple instruments as well as singing.

Rylan received her Master’s in Fine Arts from Bard College in Hudson, NY in 2003. She has received grants from the Penny McCall Foundation as well as the LEF Foundation. She is currently a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Further, she has started a business of her own called Flower Electronics through which she sells versions of her DIY electronic modules and instruments

U.S. News and World Report ranks Stanford University at #4 among the best universities in the United States as well as #4 globally. It is certainly a prestigious and well-regarded institution, placing Rylan among some of the best and brightest in the country. QS Top University World Rankings places Stanford University at #3 globally, agreeing, for the most part, with U.S. News and World Report. Further, QS ranks the Engineering and Technology departments at #2 globally, placing Rylan within a top 5 research institution in her field of study. 57% of students at Stanford are postgraduate with 84% of those postgraduates being international students.

The connection between Rylan’s work on her do it yourself electronic instruments and her choice of electrical engineering as a field is clear. Cheers Rylan and keep on experimenting!

10. Dexter Holland

The second individual on our list that is still a PhD candidate is also another punk rock icon. Dexter Holland has not completed his Ph.D. just yet but he most certainly has gained success as a member of the famed punk band The Offspring. His role in The Offspring is as primary songwriter, singer, and rhythm guitarist. The Offspring, after other iterations and band member changes, officially became a band in 1985. Their 1994 release, Smash, still holds the record for most sales of an album on an independent label. Beyond music, Holland has his own business selling hot sauce called Gringo Bandito as well as his own record label called Nitro Records.

Holland has a BS in biology and an MS in molecular biology from the University of Southern California. He is currently a PhD candidate in molecular biology at University of Southern California. At one point, he suspended his academic career because the Offspring had become so popular and doing both was a rather odious task. He resumed his academic studies at the Keck School of Medicine at the Laboratory of Viral Oncology and Proteomics Research on the campus of the University of Southern California in 2013. His research revolves around HIV.

Holland’s academic research falls in line with his philanthropic work for HIV Los Angeles. In 1997, Holland and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys formed the F.S.U. Foundation to raise support for a number of causes including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Poor People’s United Fund, Trees Foundation, and Amnesty International.

University of Southern California is ranked at #23 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. We have ranked USC near the top our ranking of the best online PhD programs as well as #4 in our Top 20 Online Doctoral Programs in Education 2016. QS Top University World Rankings places University of Southern California at #130 globally with their Communication and Media major being #1 globally. 52% of the student population are postgraduates with 72% of those postgraduates being international students.

Holland is not only the member of a successful and influential punk band but is an intellectual who has taken his philanthropic causes and placed them at the center of his research concerns. Dexter Holland, we at Online PhD Programs salute you!