Welcome to the

Harnessing aromaticity and antiaromaticity for modern applications in organic and supramolecular chemistry

Open Positions



We apply computational quantum chemical tools to explore opportunities in organic and supramolecular chemistry. Our current interests include applying classical concepts of aromaticity to control noncovalent interactions (e.g., hydrogen bonding, anion-π binding, π-stacking), and demonstrating the impact of such relationships for molecular recognition, assembly, and catalysis.

An overarching goal of our research is to bridge chemical insights derived from theory to their probable impacts for fundamentally interesting questions of chemical and biological importance.

Tuning Hydrogen Bonds with Aromaticity

Despite being considered as largely separate textbook concepts for nearly 150 years, we have shown that aromaticity (i.e., following the Hückel 4n+2 π electron-counting rule) can be used to modulate hydrogen bond strength, giving rise to surprising reciprocal effects of chemical and biological significance.

For example, aromaticity gain and loss may explain the association trends of nucleobase pairs and multipoint arrays, the self-assembly of hydrogen bonding monomers, and how certain enzymes form short-strong hydrogen bonds for catalysis. In collaboration with experimentalists around the world, we are mapping out the myriad chemical opportunities emerging from this special reciprocal relationship.

Excited-State Proton Transfer

Excited-state proton transfer (ESPT) is universally recognized as a reaction that relaxes the energy of a photoexcited organic compound. It is commonly found in many light-driven processes. We uncovered decisive principles that underlie when and why ESPT reactions happen. ESPT reactions can be explained by Baird’s rule—an electron-counting rule for excited-state aromaticity and antiaromaticity that remains largely ignored despite having a near 50-year-old history.

We show that ESPT is one way for organic compounds to get rid of excited-state antiaromaticity. This surprising connection not only explains the mechanistic principle of ESPT reactions, but it also predicts whether hydrogen bonding interactions that form within and between organic compounds might strengthen or weaken when irradiated by light. Recognizing this relationship has tremendous interpretive merit for organic photochemistry.



Hari Ram Paudel

Graduate Student

Zhili Wen

Graduate Student

Lucas Karas

Graduate Student

Siyeon Im

Graduate Student

Dr. Chia-Hua Wu

Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Ranjita Das

Postdoctoral Associate

Judy i. wu

Judy grew up in the subtropical island of Taiwan.
She earned a BS (2004) in Chemistry from Tunghai University, Taiwan, and
a PhD (2011) working with Paul Schleyer, at the University of Georgia.

In 2015, she began her independent career at the University of Houston,
Department of Chemistry. Among other distinctions, she has received
an IUPAC Young Chemist Award, an NSF-CAREER Award, and MIRA Award.

When not in the lab, Judy can be found playing with her daughter,
practicing yoga, or on special days, amusing herself with the ukulele.

Upcoming Invited Talks

Sept. 24 – 27, 2019 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Swarthmore College
February 6, 2020 (Swarthmore, PA, USA)

Iowa State University
March 2, 2020 (Ames, IA, USA)

Sept. 24 – 27 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)