Frances Arnold is Inaugural Recipient of M. H. Rousseau Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement by a Woman Chemical Engineer

Francis Hamilton Arnold
Francis Hamilton Arnold
Caltech engineering professor will be honored by AIChE, October 29 at Minneapolis Annual Meeting
September 19, 2017

Frances H. Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been chosen to receive the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE’s) inaugural Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement by a Woman Chemical Engineer. The new award is presented to a woman member of AIChE who has made significant contributions to chemical engineering research or practice over the course of her career and who has helped pave the way for other women to have a greater impact in chemical engineering.

Arnold will receive the Rousseau Pioneer Award on October 29, 2017, at AIChE’s Honors Ceremony, held in connection with the AIChE Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 29 through November 3.

The award is sponsored by Pfizer and honors the memory of Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau — the first woman to earn a PhD in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first woman member of AIChE, and the first female AIChE Fellow. Rousseau is known for her work at Pfizer, where she developed and scaled up the first deep-tank penicillin fermentation plant, enabling mass production of the drug that saved countless lives during and since World War II.

In keeping with the spirit of Rousseau’s achievements, Arnold has developed a technique, called directed evolution, which emulates natural selection through iterative application of random mutagenesis and rapid mutant screening in order to accumulate beneficial mutations. This technology allows Arnold’s laboratory to breed proteins with desirable traits that would have been difficult or impossible to design, leading to the creation of new and useful enzymes with applications in pharmaceuticals, sustainable biofuels, and other environmentally friendly products.

Among previous honors, Arnold recently received the National Science Foundation’s Sackler Prize in Convergence Research and the Millennium Technology Prize presented by Technology Academy Finland. She was the first woman to receive the Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering. She is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she received the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Arnold is also one of the few people to be inducted into all three U.S. National Academies — the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences.

Arnold earned a BS in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and she performed postdoctoral work at Berkeley and Caltech.

Candidates for AIChE’s Rousseau Pioneer Award are nominated by their chemical engineering peers, and are reviewed and selected by AIChE’s Awards Committee, consisting of several dozen AIChE members representing the breadth of chemical engineering. Nominations for the 2018 Rousseau Award are due on February 15, 2018. Visit www.aiche/org/awards for nomination instructions.

About AIChE: AIChE is a professional society of more than 53,000 chemical engineers in 110 countries. Its members work in corporations, universities and government using their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society. Through its varied programs, AIChE continues to be a focal point for information exchange on the frontier of chemical engineering research in such areas as nanotechnology, sustainability, hydrogen fuels, biological and environmental engineering, and chemical plant safety and security. More information about AIChE is available at