Frances Arnold's Directed Evolution

The Proteins Evolve, and So Does She
Photograph by Kyle Johnson for Bloomberg Businessweek

For a person who invented something called directed evolution, Frances Arnold has followed quite a meandering career path. As the highly intelligent daughter of a nuclear physicist, she seemed destined to become a scientist. In her teens she instead became an activist and hitchhiked from her Pittsburgh home to Washington, D.C., to protest the war in Vietnam. In her 20s, she worked on a solar project in South America and learned to get by on about $1 a day and tolerate flea-ridden beds before heading to the University of California-Berkeley for her PhD. “In the ’70s it was the thing to do,” she laughs. “I was looking for what I was and who I was.”

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