Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2018
She was born in Pittsburgh (United States of America) on July 25th, 1956 within a wealthy family. In her youth she hitchhiked in order to join the demonstrations against the Vietnam war and she also worked as a waitress and a taxi driver, so as to pay for her studies. In 1979, she graduated in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University (New Jersey).
In 1985, she earned her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1986, she moved to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in Pasadena, where she decided to develop proteins that would solve humankind’s chemical problems: I wanted to become an engineer of the biological world, specifically a protein engineer.
In 1993, overcoming the reluctance from many scientists, she managed to improve an enzyme by directed evolution: Evolution, to me, is the best designer of all time… I never patented the basic technology because it meant that the use would be extended to other laboratories.
Professor Arnold has numerous patents and is a tenacious advocate of “green” industrial chemistry. She is the only woman to have been elected to all three US National Academies: the National Academy of Engineering (2000), the Institute of Medicine (2004), and the National Academy of Science (2008).
In 2013, she received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation at the White House; in 2016, she was the first woman that received Finland’s Millennium Technology Prize, and in 2018, her successful career was crowned with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry: for the directed evolution of enzymes. Thus she became the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry: I did not carry out any of those experiments without my team. I received the Nobel Prize, but we are a group that love what we do.
She is currently Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and leads a laboratory dedicated to directed evolution and its applications in environmentally friendly chemical synthesis at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).