Frances H. Arnold
California Institute of Technology
Election Year: 2008
Primary Section: 31, Engineering Sciences
Secondary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member
I study how biological systems evolve at the molecular level and use that insight to create new ones. Evolution works at all scales of complexity, from proteins to ecosystems; we have developed new ways to direct evolution to particular goals by controlling how and where mutations are made and using artificial selection. My laboratory uses evolutionary approaches to create new biological entities because these approaches circumvent our profound ignorance of how DNA sequence encodes biological function and exploit the remarkable ability of biological systems to evolve and adapt. With directed evolution we recreate or anticipate possible routes of natural evolution and explore what is physically possible versus what is merely biologically relevant at the time. These experiments have helped us to construct new biological molecules, organisms, and even synthetic microbial ecosystems.