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Arnold Lab Reflections

On July 29th, the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center sponsored the 25 Years of Directed Evolution – Arnold Lab Reflections Symposium. The full-day scientific symposium was held in honor of Frances H. Arnold, Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry; Director, Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center; and Director, Biotechnology Leadership Pre-doctoral Training Program. The symposium also served as a celebration of Frances Arnold’s receipt of the 2016 Millennium Technology Prize in recognition of her discoveries that launched the field of ‘directed evolution’, which mimics natural evolution to create new and better proteins in the laboratory. The Millennium Technology Prize, worth one million euros, is one of the world’s most prestigious science and technology prizes.

Over 75 former graduate students, postdocs, visiting scientists and friends of the Arnold Lab gathered on the Caltech campus to participate in the symposium. Guests came from as far away as China and Europe, and as close as Santa Monica and Irvine.

Eight alumni, representing chronological “eras” in the lab, were selected to share stories and reflections of their time at Caltech, as well as provide highlights of their research since leaving the lab. Our speakers – Miguel Alcalde, Andrew Buller, Lori Giver, John McIntosh, Peter Meinhold, Florence Mingardon, Chris Voigt, and Huimin Zhao – kept the audience engaged in the talks throughout the day. Symposium guests took a break mid-day for a group photo and to share lunch in the beautiful Dabney Gardens.

Following the symposium, the Caltech community was invited to join the visitors for a wine-and-cheese reception in Dabney Gardens. The reception gave everyone a chance to reconnect and discuss family, life, research, and even potential collaborations and job opportunities.

The group ended the day with a lovely dinner banquet at the Athenaeum. Our guest of honor, Frances Arnold, provided her own reflections on the day during dinner. Frances also shared a few moving and funny stories from her perspective as the leader of this diverse, productive group of scientists over the years. The group presented Frances with a series of acrylic prints representing five important aspects of her life, as interpreted by the talented local artist, Marion Eisenmann.

On Saturday, July 30th, nearly 70 guests reconvened and brought their families along to a picnic in Tournament Park. The picnic was a fun way to close out the event, allowing current and former lab members to get to know each other and establish lasting friendships.

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