Chemists Can Do Anything!

Chemistry is not just for chemists! An education in a scientific discipline teaches you critical thinking, problem analysis, and how to iterate towards solutions, all of which are valuable in a wide variety of career paths. Here's list of people who majored in chemistry, then went on to make significant contributions to the world in different fields. I'm willing to bet some of the names will surprise you!


Science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, B.S. (1939), M.A. (1941), Ph.D. (May 1948) all in chemistry and from Columbia University.

Catherine Asaro, American science fiction and fantasy author, earned a B.S. with highest honors in chemistry from UCLA, and a PhD in chemical physics from Harvard University. She is best known for the Saga of the Skolian Empire series.

Singer for the hardcore/punk band The Descendents, Milo Aukerman, Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Harmonica player, Robert Bonfiglio, Bachelor's degree in chemistry, University of Arizona. See also

Composer, Alexandr Borodin --  doctorate in medicine at the Medico–Surgical Academy, earned his living as a synthetic organic chemist, and was a "Sunday composer". See also

Film Director, Frank Capra, studied chemistry at the Throop College of Technology, part of the California Institute of Technology (graduated 1918)

Model, Cindy Crawford, studied chemical engineering at Northwestern University for one quarter.

Author and playwright, Carl Djerassi, Kenyon College (A.B. summa cum laude, 1942) and the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D., 1945). First synthesis of a steroid contraceptive.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich, "started out majoring in chemistry but after a couple of years decided I would only get to the bottom of things with physics", bachelor's in physics from Reed College (1963). In 1968, Ph.D in cell biology from Rockefeller University (1968).

American actor Gilbert C. "Gil" Gerard, most famous for his role as Captain William "Buck" Rogers in the 1979-1981 television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. After dropping out of college, Gerard landed a job as an industrial chemist, and within a few years he became regional manager of a large chemical company headed by governor Winthrop Rockefeller.

Artist, San Francisco artist known as Jess, BS in Chemistry from Caltech (1948) under his given name Burgess Collins

Opera and lied soprano, Barbara Hendricks, BS in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Nebraska.

Composer, Morris Kates, PhD in biochemistry. See also and

Author E.L. Konigsburg, who wrote "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", majored in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, studied chemistry at the graduate school of the University of Pittsburgh, then became a teacher of chemistry at Bartram, a private all-girls school in Jacksonville, Florida.

Actor Ashton Kutcher, Biochemical Engineering Student at the University of Iowa (1997, did not graduate)

Author, Primo Levi, graduated from the University of Turin in 1941, with full marks and merit, having submitted additional theses on X Rays and Electrostatic Energy.

Actor, Dolph Lundgren, (A View to a Kill, Rocky IV, etc.) has a degree in chemistry from Washington State University, and a M. Sc. in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stokholm (KTH) in 1983 . He studied chemical engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia (1982) .  He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, but quit after two weeks to pursue acting.

Kára Deidra McCullough is Miss USA 2018 and a physical scientist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Author, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., majored in chemistry at Cornell University, NY


President and Chief Operating Officer Eli Lilly, John C. Lechleiter, BS (summa cum laude) in chemistry from Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1975. Harvard University, master's and doctorate degrees in organic chemistry 1980.

Chairman, chief executive, PepsiCo (2001 - present), Indra Nooyi, Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Madras Christian College (1974).

Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation, Gordon Earle Moore, author of Moore's Law (published in 1965 April 19 in Electronics Magazine). Bachelor's in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley (1950), and a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics from the California Institute of Technology (1954).

Chairman and CEO of General Electric (1981 - 2001), John Francis "Jack" Welch, Jr., Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst (1957). M.S. and Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois (1960).


Mayor of Washington DC (1979-1991, 1995-1999), Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr., Masters of organic chemistry, Fisk University (1960).

Vice Prime Minister of Romania and wife of Romania's Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, Elena Ceausescu, her education ended at 4th grade but she was given many honorary awards for scientific achievement in the field of polymer chemistry during the period when her husband ruled Romania.

Member of Parliment (until 2005), John Anderson "Jack" Cunningham, BSc in Chemistry (1962), and PhD (1967) from Bede College of the University of Durham.

State Senator, Douglas La Follette, (1972-1974), PhD in organic chemistry from Columbia University, then became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside and took leave of absense to serve in his state senate.

Governor, State of North Carolina (1985 to 1993), James Martin, PhD in chemistry from Princeton University in 1960.

Chancellor of Germany, Angela Dorothea Merkel, Doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for thesis on quantum chemistry.  The Secret to Germany’s COVID-19 Success: Angela Merkel Is a Scientist

Congressman, John Olver,  (United States House of Representatives since 1991, MA-1st). B.A. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, M.A. from Tufts University, and Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Attorney General of the United States (1993–2001), Janet Reno, majored in chemistry at Cornell University in New York.

Prime Minister of United Kingdom (1979-1990), Margaret Thatcher, graduated from Somerville College, Oxford in 1947 studying Chemistry, specifically crystallography. She worked as a research chemist for British Xylonite and then J. Lyons and Co., where she helped developed the first soft frozen ice cream. Some of her chemistry notebooks are archived online.

Princess of Thailand, Chulabhorn Walailak, graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Faculty of Science at Kasetsart University (1979), First Class Honours. She continued to study Science at Mahidol University, where she received her Doctorate in 1985.

President, State of Israel (1949-1952), Chaim Weizmann, studied chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Darmstaat, Germany, received PhD with honors, University of Freiburg, Switzerland, (1899).

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2013-2017, James Brien Comey Jr.  graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, majoring in chemistry and religion


Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, attended Escuela Técnica Industrial N° 27 Hipólito Yrigoyen and earned a chemical technician's diploma (equivalent to AA degree in US). He also spent some time as a high school chemistry teacher.


L A Lakers owner, Gerald Hatten “Jerry” Buss, owner of the L.A. Lakers,... Ph.D. in physical chemistry at USC in Los Angeles.

Marathon world record holder, Ron Hill, B.Sc. (Tech) (1960) and his Ph.D (1964) in Textile Chemistry, at Manchester University. Also holds a record for running at least one mile a day every day since 1964 December 20th.

John Kuhn, NFL football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, chemistry major at Shippensburg college who also did a couple of internships.


Astronaut, Catherine Coleman (Colonel, USAF), Bachelor of science in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in (1983), PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts (1991).

Astronaut, Anna Lee Fisher, BS in Chemistry in 1971 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, 1961). She started graduate school in chemistry in the field of x-ray crystallographic studies of metallocarbonanes, but after one year moved to the UCLA medical school and received an MD (1976).

Founder of Science Citation Index, Dr. Eugene Garfield, BSc in chemistry, MS in Library Science, PhD in structural linguistics.

Computer Scientist (outstanding mathematicians, member of the Manhattan Project and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and a key figure in the development of game theory, cellular automata and the universal constructor), John von Neumann got a Diplom (Master) in chemical engineering at ETH Zuerich simultaneously with a Ph.D. in mathematics (with minors in experimental physics and chemistry) from the University of Budapest.

Irene Pepperberg, parrot trainer and researcher who studies Grey parrots. The main focus of her work is to determine the cognitive and communicative abilities of these birds, and compare their abilities with those of great apes, marine mammals, and young children. She is studying the mechanisms of their learning as well as the outcomes, and is the founder of the Alex Foundation.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Cornell University in 1919

Astronaut (first Briton in space), Helen Patricia Sharman, B.Sc. in chemistry at the University of Sheffield (1984) and a Ph.D. from Birkbeck, University of London.


Web Analytics Guru Brian Clifton, BSc in chemistry from the University of Bristol in 1991 and a PhD in physical and theoretical chemistry (1996). He specialises in performance optimisation using Google Analytics.

Unable to verify:

Paul James, who has a gardening show on HGTV-Gardening By the Yard was a chem major. 

Alton Brown, of Good Eats was a Chem E major.

Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) might have been a chemistry major. (

See also: "Chemists Who Fulfilled Themselves in Other Fields", Journal of Analytical Chemistry, Volume 56, Number 5 / May, 2001 and

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