Shortly after receiving tenure more than a decade ago, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity pro­fessor David Budil was teaching Schrödinger’s wave equa­tion to a class of phys­ical chem­istry stu­dents. To explain the con­cept that a higher har­monic of a fun­da­mental wave cor­re­sponds to a par­ticle of higher energy, Budil used the analogy of waves pro­duced by a musical instrument.

You put more energy into the instru­ment by blowing harder in a wind instru­ment or moving your bow faster” on a string instru­ment. This gives a sound with a higher fre­quency, he said. When he moved his hand to indi­cate this, a stu­dent named Andrea, who was also a string player, real­ized he knew how to handle a bow.

Budil, now asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry and chem­ical biology and asso­ciate dean for research in the Col­lege of Sci­ence, shelved his viola seven years ear­lier when he became a father, a home­owner and a pro­fessor all in the span of two weeks. After the Schrödinger class, Andrea brought music to every lec­ture until he finally agreed to join her in the Newton Sym­phony Orchestra in 2001.

Joining the NSO recom­menced a life-​​long interest for Budil, who had par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral aca­d­emic and pro­fes­sional orches­tras throughout his career, including the Yale Sym­phony Orchestra and the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Orchestra, with which he played while earning his PhD.

As a post-​​doc at Cor­nell, Budil par­tic­i­pated in a string quartet entirely pop­u­lated by other sci­en­tists and math­e­mati­cians. “You have to think in a sort of math­e­mat­ical way to approach a musical phrase,” he says, offering a plau­sible reason for why so many sci­en­tists double as musicians.

Since joining the NSO, Budil has encoun­tered sev­eral other musical sci­en­tists. A former stand partner, for example, worked at a local biotech com­pany, which later employed North­eastern co-​​op stu­dents. In Boston’s Mer­cury Orchestra, Budil met Richard West, who is now an assis­tant pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering in the Col­lege of Engineering.

His cur­rent stand partner in the New Phil­har­monia Orchestra, in Newton, Mass., teaches math­e­matics at UMass-​​Boston and works at Sym­metric Com­puting, a com­pany that is helping to develop super­com­puters for the $168 mil­lion Mass­a­chu­setts Green High Per­for­mance Com­puting Center, a nine-​​acre facility in Holyoke, Mass. North­eastern is one of five uni­ver­sity part­ners in the new center, which aims to use super com­puters with lower energy con­sump­tion to ana­lyze com­plex sci­en­tific prob­lems, such as the evo­lu­tion of the galaxy.

In November, Budil par­tic­i­pated in his first “flash mob,” during which mem­bers of the Long­wood Sym­phony Orchestra per­formed Bach’s Bran­den­burg Con­certo No. 3 in the new patient facility at Dana-​​Farber Cancer Insti­tute. “I felt very appre­ci­ated,” he says.

In March, Budil will have an oppor­tu­nity to play with the LSO after sit­ting on its waiting list for sev­eral months. The LSO is nation­ally renowned for its sci­en­tif­i­cally minded mem­ber­ship of med­ical and bio­med­ical researchers from the Long­wood area.

Per­for­mances ben­efit dis­ease research, a mis­sion Budil is excited to be a part of. As he put it, “It’s a nice overlap of music and the sciences.”