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Cal alumna wins Nobel in chemistry

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For the second time this week, a Nobel Prize has been given to a scientist associated with the University of California at Berkeley.

Wednesday, Frances Arnold, who arrived at UC Berkeley in 1980 as a graduate student and went on to earn a doctorate at Cal in 1985, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Arnold, who is now a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will receive half of the prize.

The second half will be shared by George P. Smith, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri at Columbia and Sir Gregory P. Winter, a research leader emeritus at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences committee, which awarded the prize, said the laureates have been inspired by evolution to create proteins through genetic change and selection that solve the chemical problems of mankind.

Caltech’s provost David Tirrell said in a statement:

“Frances work on directed evolution is a beautiful example of an enterprise that has both deep scientific significance and enormous practical consequences.”

Tirrell is also a professor and chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech.

Arnold learned she had won the prize at about 4 a.m. Central time when she was woken from a “deep, deep sleep” in her hotel room in Dallas by a phone call, according to a statement by Caltech.

She was in Texas to give a lecture at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Arnold told Caltech officials:

“I am absolutely floored … I have to wrap my head around this. It’s not something I was expecting.”

Earlier this week, James P. Allison, an immunologist and former director of UC Berkeley’s Cancer Research Laboratory shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University in Japan.

The two were given the prize for “their discovery of cancer therapy inhibition of negative immune regulation,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences committee.

At UC Berkeley, Allison researched how the immune system fights infection, according to a statement by the university.

Allison said in a statement:

“I don’t know if I could have accomplished this work anywhere else than Berkeley.”

He currently works at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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