Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life

Thursday, November 17, 2022
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. EST (UTC -5)
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

The 2022 Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture features Nobel laureate and Caltech professor Frances Arnold. A Q&A session and the presentation of the Liberty Bowl will follow Arnold’s lecture.

Not satisfied with biology’s vast catalyst repertoire, Frances Arnold wants to create new enzyme catalysts and expand the chemistry of life. Arnold and her team use the most powerful biological design process, evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones, thereby circumventing our profound ignorance of how a protein’s sequence encodes its function. Chemistry encoded in DNA and optimized by evolution enables efficient, clean, sustainable routes to important fuels, chemicals, materials, pharmaceuticals and more. But evolution not only optimizes; it can also innovate. Thus we are now learning to use evolution to create entirely new enzyme catalysts, ones that do chemistry unknown in biology and sometimes even unprecedented in chemistry. In her talk Arnold will illustrate how we create new-to-nature enzymes that expand the scope of molecules and materials that can be built using synthetic biology.

About Frances Arnold


Frances Arnold headshot

Courtesy of Frances Arnold

Frances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 for pioneering directed enzyme evolution and has used directed protein evolution for applications in alternative energy, chemicals, and medicine. Arnold was recently appointed cochair of President Biden’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Other awards include the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (2011), the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011), and the Millennium Technology Prize (2016). She has been elected to the U.S. National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering, and was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2019. Arnold cofounded three companies in sustainable chemistry and renewable energy (Gevo, Provivi, Aralez Bio) and serves on the boards of several public and private companies. She earned a BS in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

About the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture

Endowed in 1990 by chemist Glenn Edgar Ullyot, this annual lecture seeks to illustrate how chemistry, biology, and the sciences in general contribute to the public welfare.

The Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture is presented jointly by the Science History Institute (where it has been held since 1997), the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of the Sciences, and the Philadelphia Section and Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society.