Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Cut Classes at Allderdice and Now Has a Nobel Prize

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Cut Classes at Allderdice and Now Has a Nobel Prize

Article excerpt

A Pittsburgh native is part of a team that won the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

The prize was awarded Wednesday to Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Gregory P. Winter for their work that harnessed evolutionary principles to create new proteins.

Ms. Arnold, 62, was born and raised in Pittsburgh and is a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. She won one-half of the prize "for the directed evolution of enzymes."

She is only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel and the first since 2009.

Mr. Smith, at the University of Missouri, and Mr. Winter, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in Britain, shared the other half of the prize "for the phage display of peptides and antibodies."

"This year's prize is about harnessing the power of evolution," said Göran K. Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, to reporters in Sweden. The scientists used evolutionary techniques in the laboratory to create powerful biological enzymes, molecules that speed up chemical reactions, and other important molecules.

Ms. Arnold's work, which has been utilized to create sustainable biofuels, is "contributing to a greener world," the academy added.

"Her work is incredible," said Matt Hartings, an associate professor of chemistry at American University in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Hartings said the proteins that Ms. Arnold designed "do these really off-the-wall chemical things in record time." He said her directed evolution approach has greatly helped chemists make enzymes do jobs that nature never intended, such as for industrial purposes.

Mr. Hartings said her recent development of an enzyme that can promote chemical reactions involving silicon was a startling accomplishment, "completely bonkers."

Ms. Arnold, who was en route to a news conference at Caltech on Wednesday afternoon and not immediately available for a phone interview, said in an email that she grew up in Edgewood, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill before attending Princeton. …

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