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Nobel Prize-Winning Caltech Professor Named to President-Elect Joe Biden’s Science Team

Published on Friday, January 15, 2021 | 1:39 pm
Caltech’s Nobel Prize-winning Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and Director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center Frances H. Arnold. (Photo courtesy Caltech)

A Caltech professor and the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been selected to serve as part of President-Elect Joe Biden’s White House Science Team, the transition team announced Friday.

Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and Director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center Frances H. Arnold will serve as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, along with Maria Zuber of MIT, according to a statement issued by the transition team. “They are the first women to serve as co-chairs of PCAST.”

They join a team of a half-dozen scientists from across the country, who are to be led by Office of Science and Technology Policy Director and Presidential Science Advisor nominee Eric Lander, according to the statement. The position of presidential science advisor is being upgraded to a Cabinet position for the first time.

Biden thanked each member for their service.

“Science will always be at the forefront of my administration — and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth,” he said. “Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans. Their insights will help America chart a brighter future, and I am grateful they answered the call to serve.”

Recent history has underscored the need for solid, informed scientific guidance, according to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“From the coronavirus pandemic to our climate crisis, this past year has reaffirmed the importance of listening to scientists when it comes to meeting the unprecedented challenges facing the American people,” she said. “These world-renowned scientists and experts reflect the very best of our nation and we are sending a clear message by naming them to these important roles: in our administration, decisions will be informed by the best available science and evidence.”

Arnold was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018.

“With one ingenious idea and years of subsequent work, Frances Arnold turned bioengineering upside down,” according to a statement from the Nobel Foundation.

“Recognizing that nature was ‘the best bioengineer in history,’ she figured out how to let evolution be her partner in the lab,” the statement said. “She pioneered the use of directed evolution to design new enzymes, with applications as broad as they are essential, from pharmaceuticals to renewable fuels.”

Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum commended the President-elect for his choice.

“The announcement by President Biden of the distinguished co-chairs of PCAST once again elevates the role of science and technology in helping advance our nation’s well-being, from sustainable solutions to medical breakthroughs,”he said. “Frances Arnold is the epitome of the brilliant scientist who has translated her discoveries into interventions that improve people’s lives.”

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