K. N. Houk received A.B., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard, working with R. B. Woodward as a graduate student in the area of experimental tests of orbital symmetry selection rules. He taught at Louisiana State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and UCLA since 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, and became the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry in 2009.
Professor Houk is an authority on theoretical and computational organic chemistry, beginning as an experimental organic chemist and now on the forefront of the application of computation and theory to understand and predict chemical and biological reactivity. He collaborates prodigiously with chemists all over the world and has published nearly 900 articles and given named lectures throughout the US.
Among his honors are the von Humboldt Foundation U.S. Senior Scientist Award, and Arthur C. Cope Scholar, James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Award, the Tolman Medal, and the Arthur C. Cope Award, all from the American Chemical Society. He was awarded the Schrödinger Medal of the WATOC, the Faculty Research Lectureship at UCLA, the Bruylants Chair from the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, the Dr. rer. nat. h. c. from the University of Essen, Germany, an Erskine Fellowship in New Zealand, a Lady Davis Fellow at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, a JSPS Fellow in Japan and this year won the Robert Robinson Award of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has been named as Fellow of the AAAS, WATOC, ACS, and RSC.
Ken Houk has served on the boards of a variety of funding agencies and journals, including NIH Study Sections and the PRF Advisory Board. He was Chair of the Chemistry Section of the AAAS, and is now a Senior Editor of Accounts of Chemical Research. He was Director of the UCLA Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program from 1999 until 2011, and is a member of the UCLA Molecular Biology Institute and California NanoSystems Institute.