La Cañada Mom Wins Nobel Prize (Really)

Local mom and Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold, photo courtesy of Caltech
CalTech mom wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry, son is JPL Tech

Want to inspire your kids to do their math homework, or maybe visit JPL, La Cañada's Jet Propulsion Labratory? Maybe this amazing mom, who is a professor at CalTech, has a son who also works at JPL, and just won a freakin' Nobel Prize, will inspire your little ones to get more excited about STEM stuff (and might just inspire you to think big, too). 

Frances Arnold, a working mom in La Cañada Flintridge, is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA. And she just won (wait for it) the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The award honors her work in creating new and improved enzymes using the principles of evolution. Arnold shares the prize with two other scientists, but she is the first American woman to take the prize—ever.

As if the Nobel Prize wasn't enough, Arnold's bio is pretty rich in cool accomplishments. She was the first woman to receive the 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering, and she is also the first woman and one of just a few individuals elected to all three branches of the National Academies: for Medicine, Sciences, and Engineering.

Her son James Bailey also ended up at JPL—and if Frances' story doesn't inspire your kids, maybe his will. Growing up in Pasadena, he didn't thrive in conventional schools, so he took vocational training in welding and machining. After high school, he worked on cars at a local shop, then joined the Army, where he was trained as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and became part of a flight crew. After wrapping up six years of military service, which included working with medical evacuation helicopter teams in Afghanistan, he learned JPL was looking for people with an aviation background to work as flight technicians. Voila, he's now a JPL Mars Flight Tech. Maybe your kids can meet him at the next JPL Open House.

So far, Frances has received a ton of Champagne (duh) and intends to take her family to the Nobel ceremony in December. Even better, she plans to take her graduate students, too, to inspire them to pursue their dreams. Sounds like a mom to me.