PhysOrg reported on the development by Professor Kendall Houk, Dr. Yong Liang (Houk Group) and colleagues of a new chemical reaction with the potential to lower the cost and streamline medicine manufacturing.
Professor Ken Houk, UCLA’s Saul Winstein Professor of Organic Chemistry and Dr. Yong Liang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Houk Research Group at UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry were co-authors along with Professor Dionicio Siegel and researchers from University of Texas at Austin who published their findings in the paper, “Metal-free Oxidation of Aromatic Carbon-Hydrogen Bonds Through a Reverse-Rebound Mechanism,” published in Nature magazine earlier this month.
Professor Houk (Center) with his group members
Biography of Prof. Houk: K. N. Houk was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 27, 1943. He received his A.B. (1964), M.S. (1966), and Ph.D. (1968) degrees at Harvard, working with R. A. Olofson as an undergraduate and R. B. Woodward as a graduate student in the area of experimental tests of orbital symmetry selection rules. In 1968, he joined the faculty at Louisiana State University, becoming Professor in 1976. In 1980, he moved to the University of Pittsburgh, and in 1986, he moved to UCLA, becoming a Distinguished Professor in 1987. 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.
Professor Houk received the Akron American Chemical Society (ACS) Section Award in 1984. He was awarded the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award of the ACS in 1988, the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry of the ACS in 1991, the Schrodinger Medal of the World Association of Theoretically Oriented Chemists (WATOC) in 1998, the Tolman Medal of the Southern California Section of the ACS in 1999, the ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2003, and the Arthur C. Cope Award of the ACS in 2009.
He was a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the von Humboldt Foundation U.S. Senior Scientist in 1981, an Erskine Fellow in New Zealand in 1993, the Lady Davis Fellow at the Technion in Haifa, Israel in 2000, and a JSPS Fellow in Japan in 2001. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002 and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences in 2003. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, the ACS, and the WATOC. At UCLA, he was named Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry in 2009, and he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He was awarded the Robert Robinson Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2012.
Houk received the LSU Distinguished Research Master Award in 1968, was named the Faculty Research Lecturer at UCLA for 1998, received the Bruylants Chair from the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium in 1998, and was awarded an honorary doctorate (Dr. rer. nat. h. c.) from the University of Essen in Germany in 1999.
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 has been a member of the NIH Medicinal Chemistry Study Section and the NRC Board of Chemical Sciences and Technology. He was Chair of the Chemistry Section of the AAAS in 2000-2003. He served as Chair of the NIH Synthesis and Biological Chemistry-A Study Section in 2008, and is a Senior Editor of Accounts of Chemical Research. He is Director of the UCLA Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program, an NIH-supported training grant, and a member of the UCLA Molecular Biology Institute.
Professor Houk is an authority on theoretical and computational organic chemistry. His group develops rules to understand reactivity, computationally models complex organic reactions, and experimentally tests the predictions of theory. He collaborates prodigiously with chemists all over the world. Among current interests are the theoretical investigations and design of enzyme-catalyzed reactions, the quantitative modeling of asymmetric reactions used in synthesis, the mechanisms and dynamics of pericyclic reactions and competing diradical processes, and the molecular dynamics and reactions of hemicarcerands and other host-guest complexes. He has published approximately 800 articles in refereed journals and is among the 100 most-cited chemists.