5 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Science Geeks

October 14, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Natalie Portman speaking at Columbia University
Photo credit: Mira (on the wall)/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Behind their fame and fortune, they’re just as nerdy as us.


Natalie Portman

Despite her A-list celebrity status, Natalie Portman claims she would “rather be smart than a movie star.” But it seems she got the best of both worlds. In 1998, Portman was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, and she went on to earn a degree in psychology from Harvard University in 2003. She was also co-author of a study published in the journal NeuroImage in 2002. All while she was studying the evolution of the mind and investigating more environmentally-friendly ways of converting waste into useful forms of energy, she was starring in films directed by Tim Burton, Woody Allen, and in the near future, Quentin Tarantino. Pretty impressive bullet points for the resume.


Brian May

Brian May, the guitarist for the British rock band Queen, was casually working on his doctorate degree in astrophysics when the band skyrocketed to fame. He took a couple decades off to rock out, but the dedicated scientist returned to Imperial College London in 2007 to complete his degree on Zodiacal dust. But his scientific endeavors didn’t stop after that; more recently, May has become a conservationist, working to end badger-culling and fox hunting. Brian May has rocked us, indeed.


SEE ALSO: 7 Scientists Who Never Got the Credit They Deserved


GZA of Wu-Tang Clan

GZA obliterates the stereotype that rap music is less educated than other genres. Nicknamed The Genius, GZA is educated in quantum physics, which is why his upcoming album, Dark Matter, is inspired by compelling questions in astrophysics. He even worked with physicists at MIT and NYU to comb out any inaccuracies or inconsistencies.


Leonardo DiCaprio

It turns out Leo’s scientific influence goes far beyond his roles in psychological thrillers like Inception and Shutter Island. In fact, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all of Earth’s inhabitants. Through various partnerships and innovative projects, his foundation aims to protect endangered animals from extinction and restore balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. In 2007, he even produced a documentary called “The 11th Hour” to spread awareness of issues surrounding climate change, biodiversity, and conservation, and the film featured scientists like Stephen Hawking.


Mayim Bialik

This actress is best known for her role as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the Big Bang Theory, but a lot of people probably don’t know her TV alter-ego has a lot in common with her real-life self. Just like her character, she’s a certified scientist with a degree in neuroscience. In real life, she went on to get a Ph.D. on obsessive compulsive disorder in those with a genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome. She’s also been known to put some Hollywood reporters in their place for assuming she doesn’t know much about science just because she’s a famous actress. When jokingly questioned if she could solve calculus at the drop of a hat like she can in the Big Bang Theory, she coolly told the reporter, “I actually was trained in calculus for several years. I’m a neuroscientist.”


These celebrities are living proof that a life of fame and fortune doesn’t have to take away from the importance of science. Even A-list celebrities can have a thriving inner nerd.

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