Distinguished chemist Polly Arnold appointed as chemical sciences director at Berkeley Lab

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Distinguished heavy-element chemist Polly Arnold has been appointed as director of the Chemical Sciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, according to a recent press release from the lab.

Beginning in late September, Arnold will begin her work within the Energy Sciences Area at Berkeley Lab, and she will join the UC Berkeley chemistry department’s faculty in January 2020, according to the press release. 

Arnold serves as the Crum Brown chair of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, where her research explores the understanding of the bonding and reactivity of the f-block elements on the periodic table, according to the press release.

According to the press release, Arnold’s research group is designing and producing new reactive molecules that further understanding of f-block chemistry.

After studying at the University of Oxford, Arnold moved to the University of Sussex for postgraduate research, where she received her doctorate in chemistry. She continued to become a postdoctoral Fulbright scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Arnold has shared her scientific knowledge and understanding as a visiting lecturer in China, the United States, Germany and France, according to the press release. 

According to the press release, Arnold was recently elected a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the Order of the British Empire because of her scientific achievements and promotion of women in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, Arnold was awarded the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Award in 2012 for similar contributions. 

Arnold’s promotion of women in the STEM fields extends to various equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives as well, according to a press release from the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry. 

In addition to her other accomplishments, Arnold was the executive producer of “A Chemical Imbalance,” a documentary focusing on the underrepresentation of women in STEM and their struggles to achieve equality within the field, according to the film’s synopsis.

According to Arnold, she was drawn to the position of Chemical Sciences Division director because of the intersection of scientific research and collaboration that the position provides. 

“The heritage of heavy element discovery led by Seaborg is naturally a huge draw for me as an f-block chemist, but the juxtaposition of national lab and university campus provides a mixture of intellects and skills from scientists of all ages that is also an irresistible draw — a chance to do exciting new science with so many brilliant people,” Arnold said in an email.

Contact Sydney Hilbush at [email protected].