Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to trio of evolutionary scientists

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Half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize was designated for Frances Arnold of Caltech in Pasadena for work that has led to the development of new biofuels and pharmaceuticals.

But, as the list of winners of the different Nobels for Physics and Chemistry show, it might be better for the Nobel Prize Committee to actually consider giving prizes for the sciences in general, instead of segregating them into Physics and Chemistry prizes and not having a biology prize. "We need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there, and hopefully in time it'll start to move forward at a faster rate".

The awards were announced at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. In 1993, Arnold was the first person to create new enzymes with a technique called "directed evolution".

"Evolution is the most powerful engineering method in the world, and we should make use of it to find new biological solutions to problems", she said. Some people say that, you know, it's a little bit archaic in this day and age, but I think they're trying to keep up.

That's it for this episode and for our coverage of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in the sciences. "She's very creative, very bright - she's fantastic". She studied engineering at Princeton University and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

"Going forward, we have to make sure the pipeline of nominees is rich in its diversity, " Dorhout said.

Frances Arnold becomes the fifth woman to win the Nobel prize in Chemistry. In Arnold's experiments, these advantageous traits equate to mutated enzymes that exhibit high levels of efficiency and can replace strong solvents, heavy metals and corrosive acids in the production of pharmaceuticals, plastics and other chemicals.

"Pretty much every Nobel laureate understands that what he's getting the prize for is built on many precedents, a great number of ideas and research that he is exploiting because he is at the right place at the right time", he told The Associated Press.

Arnold focused on solar energy research while she was an undergraduate at Princeton, and shifted to biochemistry in graduate school. They have used the molecular understanding that we today have of the evolutionary process and re-created the process in their laboratories in their test tubes.... "How can I evolve a whole new species of enzymes?"

Her approach, "directed evolution", mimics the same evolution that turned dinosaurs into birds, but it works much more quickly.

For thousands of years, humans have been selectively breeding crops and animals to tinker with the genetic makeup of their future generations in humankind's favor.

When retired biologist George Smith picked up the phone at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, he wasn't expecting it to be the Swedish Academy. "It's somewhat thinking out of the box to stretch first and then amplify", she said. "It is a testament to her to her vision, conviction and perseverance that she was able to ignore these criticisms". For Scientific American's Science Talk, I'm Steve Mirsky.

"She's stubborn", said her brother Eddy Arnold, a Board of Governors Professor and Distinguished Professor at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University.

"In the lab, she's speeding up [evolution] by shuffling genes artificially - and doing it smartly she hopes - by figuring out which elements have a fighting chance of producing proteins that actually work and maybe even do something useful", wrote NPR's Scott Hensley. "When she puts her mind to something, she can accomplish things that are out of this world".

Arnold's discovery was hugely important - creating a completely new way to design and produce pharmaceuticals and renewable fuels for a greener transport sector.