K. N. Houk received his A.B., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard, working with R. B. Woodward on experimental tests of orbital symmetry selection rules. In 1968, he joined the faculty at Louisiana State University, moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1980, and to UCLA in 1986. From 1988-1990, he was Director of the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation. He was Chairman of the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1991-1994. He was the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry from 2009-2021 and is now Distinguished Research Professor.
Professor Houk has been awarded the von Humboldt Foundation U.S. Senior Scientist Award in 1981, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the ACS in 1988, the 1991 ACS James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, and the 1998 of the Schrödinger Medal of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists (WATOC). He was the Faculty Research Lecturer at UCLA, received the Bruylants Chair from the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium in 1998, and received an honorary doctorate (Dr. rer. nat. h. c.) from the University of Essen in Germany in 1999. He has been an Erskine Fellow in New Zealand, a Lady Davis Fellow at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and a JSPS Fellow in Japan. He was named Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, in 2014. He won the Tolman Medal of the Southern California Section of the ACS in 1999. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002 and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences in 2003. He was the 2003 winner of the ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, the ACS, and of the WATOC. He was awarded the Arthur C. Cope Award of the ACS in 2009, was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010, became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2012, and was awarded the Robert Robinson Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2012. He received the UCLA Society of Postdoctoral Scholars Mentoring Award and the UCLA Glenn T. Seaborg Medal in 2013. He received the UCLA 2019-2020 Edward A. Dickson Award. He received the 2021 Roger Adams Award of the ACS, the highest award in organic chemistry by the ACS, and the 2021 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory in Nanotechnology. He and his collaborators won the Royal Society of Chemistry 2021 Horizon Prize for the discovery of pericyclases. He was also elected a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2021.
Houk has served on the Advisory Boards of the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund, and a variety of journals, including Accounts of Chemical Research, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Chemical and Engineering News, the Journal of Computational Chemistry, the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, Chemistry - A European Journal, and Topics in Current Chemistry. He was Chair of the Chemistry Section of the AAAS in 2000-2003. He was a Senior Editor of Accounts of Chemical Research from 2005-2015. From 2018-2021, he was the North American Co-Chair of Chemistry – A European Journal. He has been a member of the NIH Medicinal Chemistry and Synthesis and Biological Chemistry Study Sections and the NRC Board of Chemical Sciences and Technology. He was Director of the UCLA Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program from 2002-2012 and is a member of the UCLA Molecular Biology Institute and the California NanoSystems Institute.
Professor Houk is an authority on theoretical and computational organic chemistry. His group is involved in developments of rules to understand reactivity, computer modeling of complex organic reactions, and experimental tests of the predictions of theory. He collaborates prodigiously with chemists all over the world. Among current interests are the theoretical investigations of mechanisms and design of enzyme-catalyzed reactions, the quantitative modeling of asymmetric reactions used in synthesis, and the dynamics and properties of supramolecular nanomachines, as well as his lifelong interest in the mechanisms and dynamics of pericyclic reactions. He has published over 1400 publications and a physical organic chemistry textbook with Pierre Vogel. He has an h-index of 137.
Ken Houk delivers a lecture at the 44th National Organic Chemistry Symposium (NOS) at the University of Maryland in 2015 (video)
Ken Houk selected in Thomsom Reuters' Highly Cited Researchers 2014
Author Profile of Kendall N. Houk in Angewandte Chemie; click here to download pdf
QnAs with Kendall N. Houk in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; click here to download pdf
Ken Houk interviewed in the ACS Organic Division Eminent Chemist series
A Workshop on Building Strong Academic Chemistry Departments through Gender Equity, January 29-31, 2006