2021 Hottel Lecture: Frances Arnold, "Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life"

Friday, October 01, 2021 at 3:00pm

Huntington Hall (10-250), 10-250

The Hottel Lecture is open to all members of the MIT community. 

Registration is required (pre-registration is encouraged)

There will be a livestream of this event open to the public. Information about the webcast is posted on the event webpage.

Not satisfied with biology’s vast catalyst repertoire, I want to create new enzyme catalysts and expand the chemistry of life. We use the most powerful biological design process, evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones, thereby circumventing our profound ignorance of how sequence encodes function. Chemistry encoded in DNA and optimized by evolution enables efficient, sustainable routes to important fuels and chemicals. Evolution not only optimizes, it can also innovate and create entirely new enzyme catalysts. I will illustrate how whole families of new-to-nature enzymes increase the scope of molecules and materials that can be built using synthetic biology.

Frances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Arnold pioneered directed enzyme evolution, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018; she has used directed protein evolution for applications in alternative energy, chemicals, and medicine. Arnold was recently appointed to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Among other awards, Arnold has received the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the US National Academy of Engineering (2011), the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011), and the Millennium Technology Prize (2016). She has been elected to the US National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering and was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2019. Arnold co-founded three companies in sustainable chemistry and renewable energy (Gevo, Provivi, Aralez Bio) and serves on several public and private company boards. She earned a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Event Type


Events By Interest

Academic, General

Events By Audience

MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Engineering (SoE), School of Science


engineering, chemistry, Biochemistry, bioengineering



Department of Chemical Engineering


Contact Email


Add to my calendar

Recent Activity