The Offspring's Dexter Holland among a rare crowd: rock and pop stars with a PhD

Tonight, the molecular biologist will take the stage at the Ambleside Music Festival

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      Along the road to becoming the frontman for one of California's most famous punk bands, Dexter Holland had dreams of becoming a doctor.

      "I entered university as a biology major—premed—and I was also pursuing the band," Holland, lead singer and guitarist for the Offspring, told the Straight last month. "I found myself more consumed by the band than even school."

      Though he didn't get into medical school, he received an offer from his alma mater, the University of Southern California, to continue as a graduate student. And grad school offered sufficient flexibility for him to continue playing gigs.

      "It made it able for me to juggle both," Holland said. "I really love molecular biology and virology. It was something I was enjoying."

      When the Offspring took off, Holland put his studies on hold, but never lost the desire to continue advancing his education. In 2017, he earned his PhD.

      Tonight (August 13), Holland, Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman, and other members of the Offspring will be on-stage at the Ambleside Music Festival, headlining the second night of the three-day event in West Vancouver. Expect them to perform the title track from their latest album, Let the Bad Times Roll.

      Video: "Let the Bad Times Roll" by the Offspring.

      As a graduate student, Holland speciallized in identifying micro-RNA-like sequences in HIV.

      "Obviously we studied messenger RNA and all that kind of stuff in school," Holland said, adding that vaccination is a field unto itself.

      "I think maybe one of the things that people forget—even as recently as 100 years ago—I think the leading cause of death was infectious disease. You don't think of that now."

      In Canada from 2016 to 2020, the top three killers were "malignant neoplasms" [i.e. cancer], diseases of the heart, and accidents.

      Other rock and pop musicians with PhDs include Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, Bad Religion lead vocalist and evolutionary biologist Greg Graffin, former research molecular biologist Milo Aukerman of the Descendants, and former Yes and King Crimson drummer and music scholar Bill Bruford.

      The Ambleside Music Festival takes place at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver from August 12 to 14. Weekend general-admission tickets are $245 plus ticketing fees, with weekend VIP seating available for $525 plus ticketing fees. Ambleside Music Festival single-day passes are priced at $99 plus ticketing fees for early birds, with VIP early-bird single-day tickets at $205, plus ticketing fees. For information and tickets, visit