Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold to Receive 2023 SCI Perkin Medal

The Caltech professor and Ullyot lecturer will receive the prestigious award as part of the Institute’s Innovation Day conference on September 12.

The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) America has announced that 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Frances Arnold will receive this year’s SCI Perkin Medal. Arnold, who is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will be honored during a ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia on September 12, 2023.

Recognized as one of the highest honors given for outstanding work in applied chemistry, the prestigious Perkin Medal is presented annually as part of Innovation Day, a daylong collaborative research conference cohosted by SCI and the Science History Institute.

“Dr. Arnold has spent nearly 30 years refining directed evolution methods specifically to be useful to humankind—and these methods are today used in numerous industrial applications to develop new enzyme catalysts,” said Frank Bozich, president and CEO of Trinseo and chair of SCI America. “She is one of the most honored chemists in the world, and we are thrilled to celebrate her accomplishments this fall.”

Arnold was most recently honored by the Institute with the 2022 Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture & Award. Her “Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life” talk was followed by a Q&A session and the presentation of the Liberty Bowl.

The medal is named for its first recipient, Sir William Henry Perkin, who accidentally discovered the first synthetic dye—Perkin mauve—in 1856. He was honored at a banquet in New York in 1906 that featured banners dyed a brilliant Perkin mauve, a piece of which is on display in our museum.

The Perkin Medal Selection Committee, which includes the chairs or presidents of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Science History Institute, and the Society of Chemical Industry, noted Arnold’s pioneering work on directed evolution technology, which resulted in breakthroughs in biocatalysis. The ability of enzymes to add value to the chemical industry is a direct result of her research. The committee also noted that in addition to these applications across a spectrum of industries, Dr. Arnold has also founded several successful companies.


About 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. In 2021 Arnold was 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 Society of Chemical Industry Perkin Medal
The SCI Perkin Medal is recognized as the highest honor given for outstanding work in applied chemistry in the United States. It commemorates the discovery of the first synthetic dye—the so-called Perkin mauve—by William Henry Perkin in 1856. This discovery was a significant step forward in organic chemistry that led to the birth of a major segment of the chemical industry. The SCI Perkin Medal was first awarded to Sir William at a banquet held by the SCI in New York in 1906. Since then, more than 100 such awards have been given to notable scientists.

About the Society of Chemical Industry 
Established in 1894, SCI America is part of the Society of Chemical Industry’s international organization. It provides a unique networking forum for chemical industry leaders, industrial scientists, and technologists to exchange new business ideas and best practices. It celebrates achievement to promote public awareness of the contributions of industrial chemistry and inspires students to enter technical careers. SCI America events are managed by the Science History Institute.