Frances Arnold: I was sound asleep in a Dallas hotel room at four o’clock in the morning, having just arrived to Dallas to give a talk at a school nearby. The telephone rang, and of course, I thought it was one of my sons with some sort of disaster. I’ve had enough of those that I keep my telephone on at night. And it was this sweet voice from Stockholm saying that — could I hold on for the Nobel Prize Committee? And the Secretary General got on and told me I had been given — I was going to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
And I just hit the ceiling. I said, “Holy…!” I was very excited. I was stunned, and so I had to put the telephone down. They call you back in half an hour for a press conference, and they tell you that you can’t call anybody, so I couldn’t call home, I couldn’t do anything. So I said, “Coffee, shower, coffee, shower.” I took the shower first because I knew it was going to be a very long day, and then I got a cup of coffee, had the press conference, and then I tried to call home. I tried to call my older son, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and of course, he doesn’t pick up the phone.
And then I tried to call home where my younger son was, and of course, he doesn’t pick up the phone. So I’m walking around the hotel room just — I couldn’t reach anybody, and I was very excited. And the Nobel Prize Committee, they said, “Oh, you sound so relaxed.” I’m a good faker, I guess. And I said, “Oh my goodness, I’m climbing the walls trying to pretend to sound relaxed” — but I was really very excited.