• Directed evolution

    Exploring the protein fitness landscape and elucidating principles of biological design

  • Synthetic biology

    Engineering biological systems

  • Microbial factories

    Engineering micro-organisms to produce desirable fuels and chemicals

  • Biocatalysis

    Expanding the toolbox of biochemical reactions

  • Protein engineering

    Using evolutionary protein design methods


Research in the Arnold group focuses on evolutionary protein design methods (1,2) and using the results of laboratory evolution experiments to elucidate principles of biological design.

We generate novel and useful enzymes and organisms for applications in medicine, neurobiology, chemical synthesis and alternative energy. We also construct entire synthetic families of enzymes and other proteins in order to study structure-function relationships free from constraints of natural selection.

This research requires contributions from many disciplines, including chemistry, bioengineering, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, chemical engineering, chemistry and applied physics.

Prospective graduate students should apply through the appropriate PhD option (ChE, BE, BMB, Chem, Bio or other).

Rosen Bioengineering Center

Biotechnology Leadership Program

Recent Highlights

Frances Arnold is the recipient of the 2017 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research

"Engineering Green Biocatalysts for Chemical Reactions Not Known in Biology," K.E. Hernandez, ACS Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog (2017)

C&EN Top Research of 2016: First C-Si bond forming enzyme

First carbon-silicon bond-forming enzyme!
Kan et al., Science (2016). doi: 10.1126/science.aah6219

Huge congratulations to Jenny Kan (postdoc), Rusty Lewis (grad), and Kai Chen (grad) on winning the 2016 $10,000 grand prize Dow-Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA).

"Highly Stereoselective Biocatalytic Synthesis of Key Cyclopropane Intermediate to Ticagrelor," Hernandez et al., ACS Catalysis (2016). doi: 10.1021/acscatal.6b02550

"A General Tool for Engineering the NAD/NADP Cofactor Preference of Oxidoreductases," Cahn et al., ACS Synthetic Biology (2016). doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.6b00188

Congratulations to Andrew Buller on his new route to beta-methyl Trps, highlighted in C&ENews

Frances Arnold wins 2016 Millennium Technology Prize

Congratulations to Jackson Cahn (grad) on winning a 2016 Herbert Newby McCoy Award, given to the most outstanding graduate students in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech

Congratulations to Stephan Hammer (postdoc) on winning a 2016 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) postdoctoral fellowship

Congratulations to Andy Buller, Austin Rice and David Romney (postdocs) on each winning a 2015/2016 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA postdoctoral fellowship

Congratulations to Kevin Yang and Ruijie Kelly Zhang (grads), both appointed to the inaugural cohort of the Biotechnology Leadership Training Grant Program at Caltech (2015)

Congratulations to Claire Bedbrook (grad) on winning a 2014 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA predoctoral fellowship

Herger et al., Journal of the American Chemical Society 138, 8388-8391 (2016). doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b04836

Dodani et al., Nature Chemistry 8, 419-425 (2016). doi:10.1038/nchem.2474

Buller et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 14599-14604 (2015). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1516401112

10 Start-ups to watch: Provivi—making pest control sustainable with synthetic biology. C&EN cover stories, November 2, 2015.

McIntosh et al., Journal of the American Chemical Society 137, 13861-13865 (2015). doi:10.1021/jacs.5b07107

Aziridination enzyme:
Farwell et al., ACS Central Science 1, 89-93 (2015). doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.5b00056

Renata et al., Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. 54, 3351-3367 (2015). doi: 10.1002/anie.201409470

Our recent report of regioselective C-H amination is highlighted in C&E News!

Fluorescent voltage sensor for neuronal activity

Our new P450 carbenoid/nitrenoid transfer biocatalysts to be distributed by Strem

BBC Future:
Why Reprogramming Tiny Life Could Reap Rich Rewards

Wang et al., Angewandte Chemie Communications 126, 6928-6931 (2014)