Science & Music


Members of the NIH Philharmonia are, for the most part, professional scientists, and amateur musicians. Yet if you talk with most of them, they will tell you that music plays an important part in the creative process of their daily bread and butter—research.

Einstein said that he would never have discovered the theory of relativity if he had not been a violinist.
Many other famous scientists were also musicians.

Enhanced Pattern Recognition Pattern recognition is just one of many areas where NIH Philharmonia scientists put their musical backgrounds to work every day.

Former first violinist Dr. David Sonntag is a research toxicologist for the Department of Defense. His dissertation work at the University of Cincinnati involved evaluation of novel DNA motifs that appear prone to mutations.

Dr. Sonntag says: “I first noticed this pattern of mutations when I was visually scanning through thirty pages of printed DNA sequence and mutation data. I immediately noticed that the mutations appeared to cluster around specific arrangements of base-pairs. From that point, it took me several years to develop computational models to confirm the pattern that I visually recognized at what musicians call prima vista.“