2021 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory

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Professor Ken Houk has been named winner of the prestigious 2021 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory in nanotechnology.  

Since 1993, The Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory is awarded for excellence in theory to the researchers whose recent work has most advanced the achievement of Feynman’s goal for nanotechnology: molecular manufacturing, defined as the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems. 

From the Foresight Institute announcement:

Professor Kendall N. Houk receives the 2021 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theory

Kendall N. Houk is a computational organic chemist whose quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics simulations have elucidated structural and dynamical features of synthetic nanomachines. Dynamic simulations of Donald Cram’s container molecules – nanoscale molecules that encapsulate smaller guest molecules – revealed dynamical features that control constrictive binding and release. Houk’s group predicted computationally, and verified experimentally, how guest encapsulation can be achieved by irradiation of a Nano capsule outfitted with a photosensitive gate with different uv wavelengths. With Fraser Stoddart, studies of rotaxane structures and dynamics laid the groundwork for the construction of Stoddart’s marvelous nanomachines. Houk recently combined forces with molecular Nano architect Miguel Garcia-Garibay to simulate computationally the dynamic motions of molecular gears and of AppDynamics crystals containing rapidly spinning nanorotors.

Professor Houk received undergraduate and PhD degrees at Harvard, working with R. B. Woodward. He then became the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry in 2009 and is now Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences, and the US National Academy of Sciences. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, the ACS, the WATOC and the Royal Society of Chemistry.


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.