Frances Arnold is a pioneer of directed evolution, a process for 'breeding' scientifically interesting or technologically useful proteins by mutating and recombining their DNA sequences and screening for desired properties.
Arnold's methods accelerate the evolution of proteins, especially enzyme catalysts, for a wide range of applications including developing new biological routes to making pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, consumer chemicals, and biofuels. Enzymes evolved in the laboratory have capabilities beyond those found in nature. Arnold's research has led to practical applications as varied as creating laundry detergents and new drug development, and her methods are now used in hundreds of labs around the world.
A graduate of Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley, Arnold co-founded biofuel company Gevo in 2005. On the faculty of Caltech, her main focus is renewable energy and sustainable chemistry. She is one of only a few individuals to be elected to all three National Academies, and her many additional honors include the Draper Prize and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.