Frances Arnold, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work on the evolution of enzymes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Caltech announced Oct. 3.

Arnold, 62, is the third Caltech faculty member to be awarded a Nobel Prize in the last two years: physics professors Kip Thorne and Barry Barrish shared an award last year with physicist Rainer Weiss for their work on gravitational waves. Arnold’s Nobel is the 39th awarded overall to Caltech faculty members and alumni, according to the university.

Arnold is sharing the Nobel Prize in chemistry with George Smith at the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University in England, both of whom have also used evolutionary techniques to create new enzymes and proteins.

Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at Caltech and is a pioneer in the artificial creation of enzymes. According to the Caltech press release, “directed evolution, pioneered by Arnold in the early 1990s, is a bioengineering method for creating new and better enzymes in the laboratory using the principles of evolution. Today, the method is used in hundreds of laboratories and companies that make everything from laundry detergents to biofuels to medicines. Enzymes created with the technique have replaced toxic chemicals in many industrial processes.”

Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.