Today, Dr. Frances Arnold is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her pioneering work in bioengineering and directed evolution. She joins the distinguished ranks of some of the nation's top inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell, Eli Whitney, George Washington Carver, and Henry Ford.
Dr. Arnold is thought to be one of our most interesting and celebrated scientists (who just happens to be a woman). The "always-candid" Dr. Frances Arnold is a bioengineer at Caltech. (See her illuminating quotes below.)
Last year, at the White House, Dr. Arnold was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barak Obama. This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors.
One of today's most prolific and progressive scientists, Arnold was asked to speak at the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, discussing "Maximizing the Power of Science" and the impact of synthetic biology for solving human problems such as feeding the growing global population, creating renewable bio-fuel sources, and on understanding and manipulating the brain.
Arnold, the Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at Caltech, is the recipient of innumerable awards, including the distinguished Draper Prize in 2011—she was the first woman to receive this renowned award. She is also part of a small, elite group elected to all three of the most prestigious science academies: the National Academy of Engineering; the National Academy of Sciences; and the Institute of Medicine.
Arnold is a pioneer in the development of sustainable biofuels and "directed evolution"– a technique that uses evolution to engineer biological processes. Her "directed evolution" bioengineering methods have been adopted by hundreds of laboratories around the world. Her technique utilizes evolutionary processes to engineer novel biological results, and has broad applications for alternative energy, medicine, "green" manufacturing–from agriculture, laundry detergents and renewable soda bottles to toxicology and sustainable biofuels. Arnold is a proponent of using her groundbreaking research to provide beneficial, real-world solutions to major global challenges.
From genetic engineering precursors, in which scientists learned to manipulate proteins, cells, and simple organisms, Arnold developed the technique of directed evolution, which starts with thousands of randomly mutated proteins; picks out those that possess a desired trait; and then breeds those mutants to produce the desired outcome, until they solve problems nature never has.
She says, "Mother Nature has been the best bioengineer in history—why not harness the evolutionary process to design proteins?"
Arnold is a co-inventor on more than 300 U.S. patents, and has acted as science advisor and co-founder for several technology transfer spin-off companies, including Gevo.