We tend to see rock stars and musicians as who they are: amazing artists who are good at what they do. There have been a lot of big names and legendary stars over the years, as well as some upcoming ones such Passafire, whose latest video clip we recently reviewed.

What most fans don’t know is that many of legendary musicians are also very smart, as in they are also Ph.D. degree holders. Here are the top three musicians you never knew had a Ph.D.

Brian May – Queen

Pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree today is a lot easier. You have programs such as the online masters in music from reputable names like Kent State University. The online MME program and other online courses grant everyone the chance to pursue a higher degree online, without having to relocate closer to the university or become a full-time student.

In the old days, however, there were no distance learning programs to help. That is why Brian May, the legendary guitarist of Queen, needed 30 years to complete his Ph.D. in astrophysics. May started with his pursuit of a Ph.D. by enrolling at Imperial College London, only for his studies to be sidetracked by the success of Queen.

It wasn’t until 2007 that May complete his studies. He really earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics and many regard him as one of the smartest musicians who ever lived. It is a classic case of finishing what you started, no matter how late it may seem.

Prof. Brian Cox – D:Ream

Brian Cox is more popular as a scientist these days. He regularly appears in programs such as QI on the BBC. He also teaches at the University of Manchester. In the old days, however, Cox was the keyboardist in the Irish pop rock group D:Ream. The band hit it big and was one of the most successful groups in the 90s.

The success of the band happened when Cox was finishing his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Manchester. His Ph.D. and his knack for explaining even the most complex science facts in ways that make them easy to understand earned him People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive title in 2009.

Greg Graffin

If you are a fan of punk, Greg Graffin should be a name you recognize instantly. He is the lead singer of Bad Religion, one of the most influential punk bands of all time. What many punk fans don’t know is that Graffin is also a Ph.D. degree holder. He earned a doctorate in zoology and is now teaching at UCLA.

Graffin is also the author of Bad or Irrelevant: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, a must-read book about science in general. There are three other book titles under his name, mostly about science and religion. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Cornell, proving that success and love for punk can go hand in hand with the love of science.

Do you have a favorite musician who you know also has a Ph.D. degree? Be sure to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.