Image 1 of 24
Celebrities you didn’t know were geeks
Some celebrities lead double lives as brainiacs. We’re not just talking about stars who have a few thoughts on that app they’re investing in.
We’re talking porn stars with microbiology degrees (like Tera Patrick, here, who reportedly got said degree from Boise State); TV actresses who are high-school mathletes; A-listers who double as co-authors of scientific papers; even the odd astrophysicist guitarist.
That high-school mathlete we were talking about? Rashida Jones, who has co-starred on everything from Angie Tribeca to The Office.
The Oscar-winning actress is smarter than your average person, much less celebrity. Aside from her undergrad degree and some post-grad work, she’s been published twice in scientific journals.
Because of her combined education and entertainment endeavors, she has a combined Erdos-Bacon number of 7.
The Force is strong with this brainiac
On the math front, Portman also has spoken knowledgeably about how microfinance can benefit women and children in Third World countries.
She was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”
The geek cred for The Guild web series creator comes via this fact: She graduated at age 19 in the top 4 percent of her class with a math and music double major.
Mayim Bialik may have taken method acting to its most extreme. The actress, who plays a genius neuroscientist on The Big Bang Theory, just happens to be one in real life.
Wait a sec: Who's the real genius?
At UCLA, she obtained a PhD in neuroscience in 2008. Her dissertation was called “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome.”
Colin Firth is an Oscar-winning actor. He’s also a scientist. He has co-authored an academic paper correlating political leanings with brain structure.
Masi Oka is best known as programmer-turned-teleporter Hiro Nakamura from Heroes and Dr. Max Bergman on Hawaii Five-0. But his genius is real.
As a child, he was featured on the cover of TIME magazine for the 1987 issue titled, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids,” and a year later he won fourth place in the California MATHCOUNTS competition. He then went on to represent the state in the national competition.
The movie magic man
Oka graduated from Brown University with a degree in computer science and mathematics. His first job after graduation: Making visual special effects for George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic.
Even when Oka started shooting Heroes, he still worked a few days here and there on effects on the Star Wars prequels, one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Hulk, and War of the Worlds.
Yes, she quit her college career at Northwestern University to concentrate on modeling. But her major at that time? Chemical engineering. And oh: She had a scholarship, too.
The former Wonder Years actress went from child stardom to a bachelor’s in math at UCLA. During her studies, she co-authored a scientific paper titled “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z^2.”
Winnie solves for x
To help kids learn to love math, McKeller wrote four books: Math Doesn’t Suck; Kiss My Math; Hot X: Algebra Exposed; and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. Her Erdos-Bacon number is 6.
Friends alum Lisa Kudrow earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Vasser College, and joined her father, a doctor, as part of his research team for eight years.
She received a research credit on his study on the comparative likelihood of left-handed people developing cluster headaches.
Ditching the lab coat
Because of her scientific, acting and musical contributions, the Emmy winner has an Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number of 15.
The Expendables action star is far from being a meathead. The Swedish actor earned a degree in chemistry from Washington State University, which he attended on scholarship, and a degree in chemical engineering from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology.
He went on to get a master’s in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney.
MIT was just too easy
Lundgren’s education career could have continued. He was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to attend MIT, but two weeks after he started, he dropped out to pursue acting.
Who knew that the Offspring musician was such an egghead? Holland graduated valedictorian of his high school and earned a bachelor of science in biology and a master’s in molecular biology from University of Southern California.
Pretty fly (for a bright guy)
He started on his doctorate in molecular biology but never got his PhD because the Offspring was experiencing so much success.
Before he left his studies, he co-authored a very geeky paper called, “Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” Work that into some neo-punk lyrics.
It’s not every band that can boast it has an astrophysicist playing guitar, but Queen could. Brian May, the virtuoso behind that amazing guitar solo in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” nabbed a graduate degree in astrophysics from London Imperial College.
Nerdy enough for NASA
May’s successful musical career interrupted his studies in the 1970s, but 33 years after he stopped his doctoral work, he finally received his PhD in astrophysics.
His resubmitted thesis was titled, “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.”
He also served as Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013 and was a “science team collaborator” with NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission.
After receiving a bachelor’s in art history and a master’s in mathematics, Garfunkel was completing coursework toward a doctorate in mathematics education at Columbia University Teacher’s College before he quit during the height of Simon & Garfunkel’s popularity.
The Bad Religion front man got his master’s in geology and a PhD in zoology from Cornell. His dissertation was titled, “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.”
A friend of Darwin
Graffin has continued to be an expert on evolution. He’s taught science and evolution classes at Cornell and UCLA, and is the author and co-author on several books on evolution and naturalism.