Things you didn’t know you could do with a doctorate

Erin Hecht, Field Reporter

Originally published May 2008.

We’ve all heard Yoland say that getting a Ph.D. teaches you about more than just science. But just in case the whole academia thing falls through, here are some notable things that famous doctorates have done. Not all are recommended.

Be a rock star. Greg Graffin, lead singer of Bad Religion, got a Ph.D. in Zoology from Cornell University. His dissertation title: “Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.” And Dexter Holland, lead singer of The Offspring, almost got a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California, but dropped out to be a rock star. On the other hand, Brian May, guitarist and songwriter of Queen, went from being a rock star to a Ph.D. in Astrophysics – he finished his from Imperial College London after the band broke up.

… or a sports star. Socrates, the famous Brazilian football (soccer) player, has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.D. from the Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, which he earned while being a professional athlete. And Jenny Mascaro, a current Anthropology Ph.D. student in Jim Rilling’s lab, played professional soccer for the San Diego Spirit before getting into fMRI.

… or a porn star. Annie Sprinkle, who has appeared in over 200 films, has a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. Oh, the things you can learn with Google.

Lead a country. Woodrow Wilson is the only U.S. president to have earned a doctorate; he got his Ph.D. in History and Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. Condoleeza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Colorado. And Che Guevera, the Latin American revolutionary leader, had an M.D. from the University of Buenos Aires.

…or blow it up. Ted Kaczynski had an PhD .in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He had an NSF fellowship, and his dissertation on geometric function theory, which won an award of distinction, is available through Google Scholar. He quit a professorship at UC Berkeley to retreat to the woods and become the Unabomber.

Prove you’re more than a pretty face. Mayim Bialik, star of the 90’s TV show Blossom, is currently doing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at UCLA. Her dissertation is on Prader-Willi syndrome. And if you don’t have a pretty face, there’s always radio: Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk on NPR has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Boston University. Bringing down the Ph.D. coolness factor, our own Santiago Archila appeared in the Hulk Hogan movie Thunder in Paradise, Problem Child 2, and more recently on the David Letterman Show (where he neglected to mention neuroscience).

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