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Paul Cheong in front of black backdrop

Paul Ha-Yeon Cheong

Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry

Paul Ha-Yeon Cheong

Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry


Bioorganic Catalysis based on the fundamentals of natural enzymes and proteins is the new frontier of green and efficient synthesis. Enzymatic acceleration ranges from 105 in Cyclophilin to 1017 in Orotidine monophosphate decarboxylases ("A proficient enzyme." Science 1995, 267, 90-93) The dramatic miniaturization of nature's enzymes into catalytic peptides is a significant achievement in modern synthetic chemistry and biology. Structural preorganization in the transition states is critical for imbuing reactivity and selectivity ("Asymmetric Catalysis Mediated by Synthetic Peptides." Chem. Rev. 2007, 107, 5759-5812). However, these factors are poorly understood for peptide catalysis due to the large size, conformational flexibility and weakness of the interactions responsible for preorganization and transition state stabilization. By quantifying these factors using our strategies and tools, we will begin to create theories that govern the selectivities of these reactions and eventually contribute to the rational design of peptide catalysts. Materials Our group participates in materials science research as part of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (CSMC). Our group contributes computational and theoretical expertise to the CSMC research mission, providing a fundamental understanding of aqueous metal hydroxide clusters and translating these discoveries to guide experimental efforts by research groups within the CSMC and beyond. While research in the PHYC group is computational, the ultimate goal is the complete understanding of these metal hydroxide clusters such that computations are no longer necessary to predict experimental outcomes or properties of these clusters. Organic Our group seeks to apply state-of-the-art computational tools towards the efficient elucidation of mechanisms and factors that control the reactivity and selectivity of complex modern synthetic organic reactions. Unprecedented growth in new computational technologies and theories has made a vast spectrum of synthetic reactions amenable to computational analyses. The ultimate achievement is the complete understanding of the structural and energetic factors responsible for reactivity and selectivity. Our group and others have demonstrated that this is already reality. The same success is rare for chemical transformations where the structures are large, significant conformational flexibility is present, and/or the interactions responsible for the reactivity and selectivity are largely non-covalent and/or weak. Computational analysis of complex synthetic reactions often trail significantly behind experiments, while some are simply intractable. We address these challenges by harnessing software and hardware already in existence as well as developing our own.

Research Interests

  • Computational


Postdoctoral Fellow (2007-2009) University of California, Los Angeles, CA

Ph.D. (2007) University of California, Los Angeles, CA

A.B. (2001) Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME


  • Materials: 22. "An Overview of Selected Current Approaches to the Characterization of Aqueous Inorganic Clusters," Jackson, Jr., M. N.; Kamunde-Devonish, M. K.; Hammann, B. A.; Wills, L. A.; Fullmer, L. B.; Hayes, S. E.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Casey, W. H.; Nyman, M. D.; Johnson, D. W.
Dalton Transactions, 2015, Advance Article. 10.1039/C5DT01268F
  • Materials: 21. "Solution structural characterization of an array of nanoscale aqueous inorganic Ga13xInx (0 > x > 6) clusters by H-NMR and QM computations," Oliveri, A. F.; Wills, L. A.; Hazlett, C. R.; Carnes, M. E.; Chang, I.-Y.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Johnson, D. W.
Chem. Sci., 2015, 6, 4071–4085. DOI: 10.1039/C5SC00776C (Edge Article)
  • Organic: 20. "Catalytic Efficiency Is a Function of How Rhodium(I) (5 + 2) Catalysts Accommodate a Conserved Substrate Transition State Geometry: Induced Fit Model for Explaining Transition Metal Catalysis," Mustard, T. J. L.; Wender, P. A.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.
ACS Catalysis, 2015, 5, 1758–1763. DOI: 10.1021/cs501828e
  • Organic: 19. "Functionalized cyclopentenes through a tandem NHC-catalyzed dynamic kinetic resolution and ambient temperature decarboxylation: mechanistic insight and synthetic application," Cohen, D. T.; Johnston, R. C.; Rosson, N. T.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Scheidt, K. A.
Chem. Comm., 2015, 15, 2690–2693. DOI: 10.1039/C4CC09308A
  • Materials: 18. "Solid State 69Ga and 71Ga NMR study of the nanoscale inorganic cluster [Ga13(μ3-OH)6(μ2-OH)18(H2O)24](NO3)15," Ma, Z. L.; Wentz, K. M.; Hammann, B. A.; Chang, I.-Y.; Kamunde-Devonish, M. K.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Johnson, D. W.; Terskikh, V. V.; Hayes, S. E.
Chem. Mater., 2014, 26, 4978–4983. DOI: 10.1021/cm501862u
  • Organic: 17. "Catalyst selective and regiodivergent O- to C- or N-carboxyl transfer of pyrazolyl carbonates: synthetic and computational studies," Gould, E.; Walden, D. M.; Kasten, K.; Johnston, R. C.; Wu, J.; Slawin, A. M. Z.; Mustard, T. J. L.; Johnston, B.; Davies, T.; Cheong, P. H.-Y. and Smith, A. D.
Chem. Sci., 2014, 5, 3651–3658. DOI: 10.1039/C4SC00879K
  • Organic: 16. "The Nature of Persistent Conformational Chirality, Racemization Mechanisms, and Predictions in Diarylether Heptanoid Cyclophane Natural Products," Pattawong, O.; Salih, M. Q.; Rosson, N. T.; Beaudry, C. M.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.
Org. Biomol. Chem. 2014, 12, 3303–3309. DOI: 10.1039/C3OB42550A
  • Organic: 15. "Catalytic Kinetic Resolution of a Dynamic Racemate: Highly Stereoselective β-Lactone Formation by N-Heterocyclic Carbene Catalysis," Johnston, R. C.; Cohen, D. T.; Eichman, C. C.; Scheidt, K. A.; Cheong, P. H.-Y. 
Chem. Sci. 2014, 5, 1974–1982. DOI: 10.1039/C4SC00317A
  • Organic: 14. "Asymmetric Homoenolate Additions to Acyl Phosphonates through Rational Design of a Tailored N-Heterocyclic Carbene Catalyst," Jang, K. P.; Hutson, G. E.; Johnston, R. C.; McCusker, E. O.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Scheidt, K. A. 
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 76–79. DOI: 10.1021/ja410932t
  • Environmental: 13. "Novel Nitro-PAH Formation from Heterogeneous Reactions of PAHs with NO2, NO3/N2O5, and OH Radicals: Prediction, Laboratory Studies and Mutagenicity," Jariyasopit, N.; McIntosh, M.; Zimmermann, K.; Arey, J.; Atkinson, R.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; Carter, R. G.; Yu, T.-W.; Dashwood, R. H.; Simonich, S. L. M. 
Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 412–419. DOI: 10.1021/es4043808


  • National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER (2014)
  • American Chemical Society (ACS) Young Academic Investigator Award (2014)
  • American Chemical Society (ACS) Representative to EuCheMS Young Investigator Workshop (2014)
  • Phi Kappa Phi Emerging Scholar Award, OSU (2014)
  • James H Krueger Teaching Award, OSU (2012)
  • Vicki and Patrick F. Stone Scholar (2011)
  • Thomas L. and Ruth F. Jacobs Award (2007)
  • John Stauffer Fellowship (2006)
  • Hypercube scholar award (2001)