Nirenberg Lecture Features Nobel Laureate Arnold
Nobel laureate Dr. Frances H. Arnold will deliver the annual Marshall W. Nirenberg Lecture as part of the 2019-2020 Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series. Her lecture, “Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life,” will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10.
Arnold is the Linus Pauling professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Research in the Arnold group focuses on evolutionary protein-design methods and using the results of laboratory evolution experiments to elucidate principles of biological design.
She will describe how we can 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. Using mechanistic understanding and mimicking nature’s evolutionary processes, we can generate whole new enzyme families that catalyze synthetically important reactions not known in biology, Arnold says. Recent successes include selective carbene insertion to form C-Si and C-B bonds, and alkyne cyclopropanation to make highly strained carbocycles, all in living cells. Extending the capabilities and uncovering the mechanisms of these new enzymes derived from natural iron-heme proteins provides a basis for discovering new biocatalysts for increasingly challenging reactions. These new capabilities increase the scope of molecules and materials we can build using synthetic biology and move us closer to a sustainable world where chemical synthesis can be fully programmed in DNA.
Arnold’s honors include the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” National Inventors Hall of Fame (2014) and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.
The Nirenberg Lecture, established in 2011, recognizes Dr. Marshall Nirenberg for his work to decipher the genetic code, which resulted in his receiving the 1968 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Nirenberg’s research career at NIH spanned more than 50 years; his work also focused on neuroscience, neural development and the homeobox genes. The Nirenberg Lecture recognizes outstanding contributions to genetics and molecular biology.
For lecture information and reasonable accommodation, contact Jacqueline Roberts, (301) 594-6747.