Kendall N. Houk


Born February 27, 1943, in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

Saul Winstein Distinguished Research Chair in Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.
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Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award (1982); Akron Section, American Chemical Society (ACS) Award (1983); Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1988); Director, Chemistry Division, National Science Foundation (1988–1990); James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry (1991); Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1992); Schrödinger Medal, World Association of Theoretically Oriented Chemists (1998); Tolman Medal, Southern California Section, ACS (1999); Doctor rerum naturalium honoris causa, University of Essen, Germany (1999); Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2002); ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research (2003);Fellow of the American Chemical Society (2009); Arthur C. Cope Award of the American Chemical Society (2009); Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2010); Robert Robinson Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2012); Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2012); UCLA Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (2013); Honorary Professor, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (2014); UCLA Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award (2019-2020); Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry, ACS (2021)

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Important Contributions:

K. N. Houk applies quantum mechanical theory and computations tounderstand and predict rates and mechanisms of chemical and biochemical reactions. Highlights: 1. Models to explain selectivity in cycloadditions; 2. The origin of negative activation energies and entropy control of carbene cycloadditions; 3. Transition structures of pericyclic reactions including the concept of ambimodal cycloadditions; 4. Torquoselectivity in electrocyclic reactions; 5. Explanations of the origins of stereoselectivity, and developing methods of computational modeling of synthetically important reactions; 6. Gating in host-guest complexes; 7. Theoretical understanding of catalysis by antibodies and enzymes; 8. Design of novel enzymes for unnatural reactions; 9. Co-discovered pericyclases, a new class of enzymes that catalyze pericyclic reactions.