(R)evolutionary Nobel, 2018 – Chemistry

Female Nobel prize winners

Nobel on high heels

The 2018 Nobel prize for chemistry was awarded to Frances H. Arnold and George P. Smith together with Sir Gregory P. Winter.
Yes, you heard that right – we have another female prize winner!

Still the difference between male and female laureates is appalling. Source: Statista

You can find a full list of all female Nobel laureates on Wikipedia.

(R)evolutionising our world

This year’s prize makes me particularly happy, because it was awarded for research that I personally find extremely interesting and no one can argue it does not have true applicability. 

I’ve written on the directed evolution of enzymes on the blog before (here), but in slightly different context. This Nobel winning research is already used by food, pharma and chemical companies to produce totalizators of chemical reactions with protein origin and properties unseen before in the wild. 

With the help of the method she and her colleagues created we can literally directed evolution. A number of patents exist in the name of Prof. Arnold. Several for creating enzymes which break-down plant polymers to be used for the bio-degradation of plant waste and in the production of biofuels. Another is for creating temperature stable proteins. In one case this ended up being a commercial diabetes drug.

Doing everything (in)humanly possible

Professor Arnold might seem to possess inhuman abilities to have revolutionized science while battling cancer and raising her three children. 

But what she has actually done, is to show us all (especially the women scientists early in their career) that it is in fact possible to be a mother, a woman and a very successful scientist!

According to colleagues of hers and her peers, she was able to do so with discipline and unapologetic self-confidence. Often, women in science tend to forget that they have become scientist not to succumb to age-old routines of questioning the abilities of women, but to drive the progress of humankind using their mind and curiosity. 

Prof. Arnold reminded us that we should rather focus on how many things women in science can do, rather than focusing on the things others believe they can’t.

In the following video, you can find a brief description of the phage display – the second half of this year’s chemistry prize winning team. And in the second one – a full and very entertaining lecture by Prof. Arnold on what inspires and drives her, and a bit more on her research in details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *