Nobel Prize for Jennifer Doudna ’85

Dear Pomona College Community,

In this time of challenge for our nation and world, I’m writing to you today overbrimming with Sagehen pride. 

Early this morning, we learned that Jennifer Doudna ’85 and her collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, have received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work on the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool.

As noted in the Nobel announcement, this high-precision technology “has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”

A professor and researcher at UC Berkeley, Doudna not only pushes forward with scientific innovation but she also delves deeply into the ethical considerations surrounding this discovery. In that way, and so many others, Doudna, a former Pomona College Trustee, has exemplified the liberal arts values our college seeks to foster.

“I am grateful to Pomona every day, honestly,” Doudna told Pomona College Magazine a few years back, “because it was a liberal arts education that exposed me to so many ideas that I would never have come in contact with, probably, without having attended Pomona.”

We are grateful as well for her commitment to advancing science and extraordinarily proud of Doudna as the first Pomona graduate to receive a Nobel. Another breakthrough: This is the first time two women have won a Nobel together in the sciences. That is “a step in the right direction,” as Doudna herself put it this morning when asked by media about the message for young women interested in the sciences.

This honor for Doudna also affirms Pomona’s vision of the liberal arts as a path for addressing the world’s grand challenges.

Please join me in celebrating this great news for our extended Sagehen community – you can learn more about her time at Pomona in our online article.

With pride,