Houk Research Group

Recent Events

Professor Houk and collaborators find a way to break down “forever chemicals,” as reported in Science, August 2022

Professor Houk will be honored with the Houk Research Conference in August 2022

Professor Houk is elected a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), November 2021

Professor Houk wins the 2021 Foresight Institute Prize for Theory in advances in nanotechnology, September 2021

Professor Houk accepts the 2021 ACS Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry at the American Chemical Society National Meeting, August 2021

Members of the Houk, Garg, and Tang groups receive the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 2021 Horizon Prize: Bioorganic Chemistry Award for their discovery of a new class of enzymes, June 2021

Houk group calculations discover selective photochemically induced Diels-Alder reactions of nitrogen-containing molecules to give bicyclic products with high integrity, published in Science, March 2021

Garcia-Garibay, Garg, and Houk groups explore the synthesis of challenging structural motifs with photochemical reactions in crystals, published in JACS, March 2021

Houk and Garcia-Garibay groups show promising applications of dipolar rotors in the solid state, published in Nature Chemistry, February 2021

Houk and co-workers design and improve most potent protein catalyst yet known for a Diels-Alder reaction, published in Nature Chemistry, February 2021

Tang, Garg, and Houk groups discover enzymes that catalyze the Alder-ene reaction, published in Nature, September 2020

Harran and Houk groups’ Composite Peptide Macrocycle Strategy computer software appears in PNAS, September 2020

Houk and Garg groups’ Nature publication on unusual strained intermediates in asymmetric catalysis highlighted by Chemical and Engineering News, September 2020

Houk group publishes cover story in issue 5, 2019, of Natural Products Reports

Houk’s Nature paper with Nanjing groups establishes an enzyme that catalyzes a [6+4] cycloaddition, March 2019

Two international chemistry conferences honor Ken Houk, June 2018

Ken Houk delivers plenary lecture at ITbM symposium in Nagoya, Japan, December 2016

Ken Houk delivers a lecture at the 44th National Organic Chemistry Symposium (NOS) at the University of Maryland in 2015

Ken Houk, David Eisenberg, Ric Kaner, and Jeff Zink selected in Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researchers, September 2015

Houk publishes 1000th research paper, February 2015

Ken Houk hosts a Symposium in honor of the 100th Birthday of Saul Winstein, October 2012

Angewandte Chemie Author Profile of Ken Houk, August 2012

Ken Houk and co-workers publish Inaugural Article in PNAS, July 2012; UCLA Newsroom Coverage (with short movies)

QnAs with Kendall N. Houk, PNAS, July 2012

Ken Houk wins the Robert Robinson Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry, May 2012

Ken Houk elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2010

Ken Houk wins Arthur C. Cope Award of the American Chemical Society, February 2010

Ken Houk named Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry, July 2009

Ken Houk interviewed in the ACS Organic Division Eminent Chemist series, August 2008

Houk65 Symposium – Computational Chemistry - Orgo, Bio, Nano, June 27-28-2008

Nature/Science Papers Report Successful Enzyme Design, March 2008

Gallery of Journal Covers

Welcome to the Houk Lab

The Houk Lab is fully committed to supporting the principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. People of all backgrounds have the right to engage in scientific endeavors without facing discrimination or prejudice. Unfortunately, women and minorities face many barriers in the field of chemistry and are largely underrepresented compared to the general population.

It has consistently been shown that diverse groups are better equipped to tackle complex scientific problems and that diversity fosters innovation. In our lab, we aim to create a healthy, inclusive research environment through the following means:

• Collaborating with a variety of individuals from all over the world

• Actively working to mentor undergraduates and high school students and give them exposure to the field of computational chemistry

• Honoring communication and trust in all our research endeavors

• Respecting all identities and opinions

• Emphasizing the importance of scientific communication in making science more accessible to all backgrounds

• Striving to continually educate ourselves

The Houk Group solves problems in organic and bio-organic chemistry using theoretical and computational methods and programs. Theoretical predictions and designs of new reactions, reagents, and catalysts are tested experimentally in the Houk lab or with collaborators. The group is currently heavily involved in the study of dynamics of chemical reactions and the motions and properties of nanomachines.

The Houk Group conducts research in the following areas:

• Enzyme mechanisms and selectivities

• Prediction of novel catalytic enzymes

• Pericyclases: enzymes that catalyze pericyclic reactions

• Dynamics and properties of nanomachines

• Mechanisms and design of stereoselective organic reactions and catalysts

• Pericyclic reaction mechanisms, rates, and synthetic applications

• Bioorthogonal cycloadditions

• Ambimodal and polypericyclic transition states

• Molecular dynamics of chemical reactions

• Organometallic reaction mechanisms and CH functionalization

• Organic materials, molecular devices, and host-guest chemistry

Professor Houk’s position in the The Academic Tree for Chemistry.

Hat presented to Professor Houk to commemorate his 55 years of [6+4] cycloaddition, showing an ambimodal transition state now known to be involved in the reaction of tropone and dimethylfulvene that he studied in graduate school.

Houk Group postdocs Huiling Shao and Aneta Turlik enjoying Lobster Night at the Gordon Conference on Stereochemistry, July 2022.

Houk Group watch the Dodgers play the Chicago Cubs, July 10, 2022.

Professor Houk and former members of the Houk group at the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists (WATOC) meeting in Vancouver, Canada, July 2022.

Members of the Houk Group (Pengchen Ma, Qingyang Zhou, Xiangyang Chen, Torben Rogge, Nina Strassner, Aneta Turlik, and Huiling Shao) at the reception for the John D. and Edith M. Roberts Lecture, delivered by Dennis Dougherty, November 18, 2021.

Houk Group watch the Dodgers lose to the Angels in 11 innings and 4.5 hours! August 6, 2021.

New graduate Jonathan Wong and Professor Houk, May 2021.

Houk Group postdoc Dennis Svatunek presenting a poster at the 2019 National Organic Symposium.

Houk Group members Gina Lee and Katherine Bay at the Fourth Annual Southern California Theoretical Chemistry Conference at the University of Southern California, May 18, 2019.

Contact Houk | Contact Web Master
University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
607 Charles E. Young Drive East
Box 951569
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569
Phone: (310) 206-0515
Fax: (310) 206-1843
Kendall N. Houk

Send questions, comments, and suggestions to Professor Houk's assistant
Last Modified:
August 30, 2022