Monday, October 8, 2012

Got a chemistry degree? Wanna be a cop? No? How about a winemaker?

From a random Google search, this Seattle Weekly story on an odd alternative career for chemists:
Here's an arresting story: A full-time Lynnwood police sergeant who is also a full-time winemaker and winery owner. And not just any police sergeant--a police sergeant with a degree in organic chemistry. This odd scenario is the thread that weaves the exhausting life tapestry of Jerry Riener, the owner of Guardian Cellars in Woodinville.... 
SW: How did you end up a police officer? 
I got my degree in chemistry. I was going to become a doctor. That's all I ever wanted to be. 
SW: Did you go to school here? 
UW and UCLA. 
After graduating, I started on the police force. Then in about 1999, I started volunteering at a winery. ...And then with my chemistry background I'd ask a lot of questions. I offered some suggestions, "Have you ever thought of doing this?" and processes that came easy to me, like the lab work and calculations--stuff I could just do in my head. I'd make little corrections once in a while. It was kind of funny because everyone there knew me as an officer and would just look at me like, "How the hell do you know this?" They'd be like, "Nothing personal, but you're a cop" and then I'd tell them about my degree in organic chemistry and they just told me to have at it. 
SW: What do your co-workers think of your winemaking career? 
They think it's cool. The funniest part is that the police officers go, "Wait, you're also a winemaker?" and the winemakers go, "You're a cop?" Actually, the police officers don't understand why I chose to become a cop after getting my chemistry degree.
That's not a combination you hear about very often, but it always seems that police officers have a job that they plan to transition to, after they leave the force.

*Can you get a degree in organic chemistry as an undergrad? Sounds like a bachelor's degree is what he has, but maybe I'm wrong. Also, if he got a graduate degree in organic chemistry, it's even more CJ-worthy.


  1. I'm not aware of any programs that offer a BS within a specific field of chemistry, but I suppose you could make the case for it based on research experience and advanced coursework. Although I have a BS in chemistry, I'd certainly say that my "specialty" is organic.

    Cool story, though! I imagine there are all kinds of interesting combinations of careers and degrees out there...

  2. Chemistry is a popular choice for would-be police officers (a degree is an almost absolute requirement these days). You can send a guy with a chemistry degree to the academy and teach him everything he needs to know to be a cop in a few months, but you can't just send a police officer off for a few months to learn everything there is to know about being a chemist. A chemistry degree opens a lot of doors for drug related jobs that you just couldn't do without one. Most police will really try to talk young people who want to be police out of majoring in criminal justice because pretty much all you can do with that is be a generic cop. Other popular suggestions are forestry, finance, and computer science.

  3. That he lists two schools (UCLA and UW) suggests that he did both undergrad and grad.

    And the number of chemists who end up in oenology and brewing sciences is quite large; there's a whole world of org chem that runs through fermentation and plenty of research into it.