There is a very strong myth, which tells a simplistic tale about how we like to approach the complexity of the human brain: you are either right brained or left brained, you are either an artist or good at math. The problem is that it’s not an either/or situation, we are all using both sides of our brains and you can be good (or bad) at everything.
I thought about this when I read about The Offspring’s Dexter Holland graduating from the University of Southern California with a doctorate in molecular biology on Thursday! His band may be embarking in a long tour from May to September across the US, but Holland managed to finish his dissertation, focusing on HIV and immunodeficiency viruses. The thesis entitled, ‘Discovery of Mature MicroRNASequences within the Protein-Coding Regions of Global HIV-1 Genomes: Predictions of Novel Mechanisms for Viral Infection and Pathogenicity’ can be found here.
‘I started the Ph.D. a long time ago but put it on hold when we started touring a lot. I finally went back a few years ago. To finish I had to research and write a thesis, or dissertation, which is kind of like the biggest term paper you’ll ever do (mine is about 175 pages),’ wrote Dexter on the band’s Facebook page.
‘My research focused on the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. I am interested in virology and wanted to contribute in some small way to the knowledge which has been learned about HIV and AIDS. This terrible disease remains a worldwide epidemic – over 35 million people worldwide are currently infected and living with the HIV virus. Over one million people a year die from this disease.
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.
So, what does this all mean for the band? It means…the BAND IS BACK ON! Well, we never really stopped touring and making records, but we’ll be doing a bunch of shows all around the world this year plus recording new stuff every chance we get. Look for new music by us out soon.’
And this is fantastic! I can only admire people who are able to successfully pursue 2 demanding careers in parallel. But Holland is not an isolated case, many musicians earned a PhD in science:
Lead guitarist of Queen, Brian May, earned a PhD (‘Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud‘) in astrophysics in 2007, and that’s a long way from Queen’s arena rock!
Lead singer of the popular punk band the Descendents, Milo Aukerman has a PhD in biochemistry. He even worked as a researcher at DuPont and as an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware. He nevertheless quit research in favor of making music,
Caribou’s Dan Snaith has also a PhD in mathematics from Imperial College in the UK. His work focused on ‘Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols’… don’t ask me!
Ladytron has also some smart scientist members too, as keyboardst Mira Aroyo has a PhD in molecular genetics from Oxford University, and yes she works as a geneticist in a lab
There’s also my favorite of all, Greg Graffin, lead singer songwriter of Bad Religion, who has a PhD in zoology from Cornell and teaches evolution while writing books on science, evolution and religion. I don’t understand how these people find the time.
There are probably many other scientist musicians and if these are exceptional individuals, you have to admit that it clearly kills the old idea that we have a dominant (right or left) brain hemisphere. Nobody is a left brainer, only good at mathematics and science, and nobody is a right brainer, creative and artistic, and Dexter Holland showed it once again this past week. Congratulations!
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