9 Brainy Celebrities Who Earned Advanced Degrees In College

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This week, rap superstar Kanye West became the latest celebrity to be awarded an honorary doctoral degree. The modern art enthusiast was awarded a Ph.D from the Art Institute of Chicago. The normally moody West was all smiles at the ceremony, as evidenced by an Instagram photo shared by his wife Kim Kardashian.

While West's degree is certainly an honor, did you know there are a handful of very smart celebrities who earned doctorates, law degrees and even, from time to time, medical degrees?

From Mayim Bialik to Gerard Butler, here are nine brainy celebrities who earned advanced degrees in college.

1. Mayim Bialik

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The Big Bang Theory star not only portrays a science genius on TV, she is one in real life. Bialik, 39, began her career as a child actor and then found fame as the teen star of NBC's early '90s hit Blossom. She later took time off from acting to attend UCLA, where she completed a triple major (Hebrew, Jewish Studies and neuroscience) for her undergrad degree. After that, Bialik decided to go for the gold, earning a Ph.D in neuroscience from the school in 2008. Her dissertation? Oh, it's a fun read titled "Hypothalamic Regulation In Relation to Maladaptive, Obsessive-Compulsive, Affiliative, and Satiety Behaviors in Prader-Willi Syndrome."

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2. Shaquille O'Neal

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The former NBA superstar will go down in history as one of the greatest centers of all time, but despite the millions he's banked, the 7'1" smarty has never been content to be a retiree. The 43-year-old tried his hand at rapping, acting and eventually academia, which he nailed. O'Neal earned a Ed.D in education from Barry University. (Fun fact: At the 2012 ceremony to receive his degree, Doc O'Neal wore a triple extra-large robe.)

3. Wladimir Klitschko

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Klitschko is, of course, the gigantic Ukranian boxer who stole the heart of teeny-tiny Nashville star Hayden Panettiere. Sure, he's a big macho hunk, but maybe his fiancée Panettiere, who gave birth to their daughter Kaya last winter, loves the fighter for his brilliant mind. Turns out, Klitschko, 39, has a doctorate in sports science from Kiev University. And if that's not enough, Dr. Klitschko also speaks three languages.

4. Ken Jeong

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How's this for surprising? Jeong, the actor who's made a career of playing offbeat characters like angry gangster Mr. Chow in the Hangover trilogy, is actually a licensed medical doctor. The son of Korean immigrants, Jeong received his MD in 1995 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was his wife Tran Ho, herself a physician, who encouraged Jeong to ditch the white robe and explore his love of acting. All that medical knowledge will come in handy this fall, however, when Jeong, 46, plays a physician on the new ABC comedy Dr. Ken.

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5. Miuccia Prada

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The Italian designer is fashion royalty. One of the grandchildren of powerhouse Prada label founder Mario Prada, Miuccia and her siblings took over the company in the late 1970s. The designer was always destined for the glamorous life -- her $4 billion estimated worth isn't too shabby! -- but that never stopped Miuccia from studying her passions, including political science. She holds a doctorate in the subject from the University of Milan.

6. Rachel Maddow

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Anyone who's tuned into MSNBC's political chat program The Rachel Maddow Show knows this host is whip-smart. Naturally, the 42-year-old has a few degrees under her belt, including a doctorate in political science from Oxford University, where Maddow was a Rhodes Scholar.

7. Gerard Butler

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Would it surprise you to learn that the rough and tumble Scottish actor graduated from Glasgow University with a law degree? Apparently, Butler was a work hard, play hard-type student, which prepared him for a career in Hollywood -- the 45-year-old actor admits that the law degree has come in handy when he's had skirmishes with the police, like in 2009, when Butler was charged with criminal battery after a dust-up with a photographer.

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8. James Franco

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The 37-year-old actor-painter-writer-director-profesor is the ultimate overachiever. With a successful Hollywood career already under his belt, James moved to New York City to simultaneously earn graduate degrees from Columbia University (writing, which he earned in 2010), New York University (filmmaking) and Brooklyn College (fiction writing). As if that wasn't enough, he participated in a low-residency MFA poetry program at Warren Wilson College at the same time. He is currently a PhD student in English at Yale University, and he's also taken classes at the nearby Rhode Island School of Design. Want to learn from the eccentric multihyphenate? He'll be teaching a film class this fall through his own school, Studio4.

9. Brian May


Not only is he one of the world's most legendary musicians, May, guitarist for the British rock band Queen, also holds a Ph.D in astrophysics from the Imperial College in London and is now a Visiting Researcher at the school. The most heartwarming part is that it took May more than 35 years to finish the work. He completed most of his degree from 1970-74, just as Queen began scoring international success. May's love for astronomy stayed with him all throughout his career, so in 2006 at age 59, May re-registered at the school and finished his degree in less than a year.

Now we know who'll make it through Hollywood University just fine.

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