Yang Yang

Assistant Professor

Contact Phone


Office Location

CHEM 1161C
PSBN 2608, PSBN 2624, CHEM 2102, CHEM 2104 (lab)



Dr. Yang obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University in 2011. He then carried out graduate research under the guidance of Prof. Stephen L. Buchwald at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry in 2016. At MIT, Dr. Yang’s research focused on copper-catalyzed asymmetric hydrofunctionalization of simple olefins. In 2014, Dr. Yang spent a summer in the laboratory of Prof. Peng Liu at the University of Pittsburgh, where he explored computational tools to elucidate the mechanism of organic and organometallic reactions. As an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow working with Prof. Frances H. Arnold at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Yang engineered P450 enzymes for asymmetric C-H amination.



Research Group Website: https://yang.chem.ucsb.edu/

The Yang laboratory devises novel biocatalytic and protein engineering strategies to tackle challenging problems in synthetic organic chemistry.

In the first area, using directed evolution, we are leveraging enzymatic platforms to impose precise regio- and stereocontrol over challenging catalytic reactions. Using an interdisciplinary approach combining organic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, enzymology, and protein engineering, we expand the catalytic repertoire of enzymatic machineries well beyond nature’s biochemical landscape.

In the second area, we are developing concise chemoenzymatic syntheses of stereochemically complex natural products. Combining the power of organic synthesis and enzyme catalysis, we will simplify the assembly of biologically active natural products and their analogs and evaluate their antibiotic and anticancer activities.

In the third area, we are developing machine learning (ML)-guided directed evolution to accelerate the discovery and optimization of enzymatic functions that are not previously encountered in biology.

Students in the Yang lab are trained in the areas of organic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, protein engineering and protein biochemistry, with an emphasis of organic reaction development. This training will prepare our students for a career in academia, pharmaceutical industry, as well as biotech companies.




  1. Liupeng Zhao, Zhiyu Bo and Yang Yang*, “Enzymes on Steroids“ Nature Synthesis 2023, 2, 699–700 (invited News & Views).
  2. Zhiyu Bo and Yang Yang*, “Practical Biocatalytic Synthesis of Aromatic NitrilesChem Catalysis 2023, 3, 100615 (invited Preview).
  3. Lei Cheng, Dian Li, Binh Khanh Mai, Zhiyu Bo, Lida Cheng, Peng Liu* and Yang Yang*, “Stereoselective Amino Acid Synthesis by Synergistic Photoredox-Pyridoxal Radical BiocatalysisScience 2023, 381, 444–451.
  4. Wenzhen Fu, Natalia M. Neris, Yue Fu, Yunlong Zhao, Benjamin Krohn-Hansen, Peng Liu* and Yang Yang*, “Enzyme-Controlled Stereoselective Radical Cyclisation to Arenes Enabled By Metalloredox BiocatalysisNature Catalysis 2023, 6, 628–636.
  5. Wenzhen Fu and Yang Yang*, “Undirected Biocatalytic Amination of Unactivated C(sp3)-H BondsChem Catalysis 2022, 2, 3287–3289 (invited Preview).
  6. Rui Guo, Heyu Chen and Yang Yang*, “Photoenzymes for Radical C-C CouplingNature Catalysis 2022, 5, 582–583 (invited News & Views article).
  7. Xiongyi Huang* and Yang Yang*, “The Many Facets of Green Organometallic ChemistryJournal of Organometallic Chemistry 2022, 976, 122398 (invited Foreword).
  8. Hao Xu, Jinglong Lin, Qianyi Liu, Yuntian Chen, Jianning Zhang, Yang Yang, Michael C. Young, Yan Xu, Dongxiao Zhang* and Fanyang Mo*, “High-throughput discovery of chemical structure-polarity relationships combining automation and machine learning techniquesChem 2022, 8, 1–13.
    • Selected as the cover art of Chem.
  9. Qianyi Liu, Hao Liang, Shangyong Zhou, Lei Zhang, Jianxin Yang, Yunxing Yin, Yang Yang, Di Qiu and Fanyang Mo*, “Synthesis of Alkylboronic Esters from Alkyl IodidesOrganic Synthesis 2022, 99, 15–28
  10. Yue Fu, Heyu Chen, Wenzhen Fu, Marc Garcia-Borras, Yang Yang* and Peng Liu*, “Engineered P450 Atom Transfer Radical Cyclases Are Bifunctional Biocatalysts: Reaction Mechanism and Origin of Enantioselectivity.“Journal of the American Chemical Society 2022, 144, 13344–13355.
  11. Binh Khanh Mai, Natalia M. Neris, Yang Yang* and Peng Liu*, “C–N Bond Forming Radical Rebound Is the Enantioselectivity-Determining Step in P411-Catalyzed Enantioselective C(sp3)–H Amination: A Combined Computational and Experimental Investigation.“Journal of the American Chemical Society 2022, 144, 11215-11225.
    • Selected as the cover story of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
  12. Qi Zhou, Michael Chin, Yue Fu, Peng Liu, and Yang Yang*, “Stereodivergent atom-transfer radical cyclization by engineered cytochromes P450Science 2021, 374, 1612–1616.

For highlights, see:

  1. Yang Yang and Frances H. Arnold, ““Navigating the Unnatural Reaction Space: Directed Evolution of Heme Proteins for New-to-Nature Carbene and Nitrene Transfer”” Accounts of Chemical Research 202154, 1209.
    • Selected as the cover story of Accounts of Chemical Research.
  2. Chen Yang, Lei Zhang, Chenxi Lu, Shuyao Zhou, Xingxing Li, Yanwei Li, Yang Yang, Yu Li, Zhirong Liu, Jinlong Yang, K. N. Houk, Fanyang Mo, Xuefeng Guo, “Unveiling the full reaction path of the Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling in a single molecule junction”, Nature Nanotechnology 202116, 1214–1223.

Prior to UCSB:

  1. Yang, Y.; Cho, I.; Qi, X.; Liu, P.;* Arnold, F. H.* “An Enzymatic Platform for the Asymmetric Amination of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary C(sp3)–H Bonds”, Nat. Chem. 2019, 11, 987 –993.
  2. Liu, R. Y.;† Zhou, Y.;† Yang, Y.; Buchwald, S. L.* “Enantioselective Allylation Using Allene, A Petroleum Cracking Byproduct”, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 2251–2256.
  3. Tsai, E. Y.; Liu, R. Y.; Yang, Y.; Buchwald, S. L.* “A Regio- and Enantioselective CuH-Catalyzed Ketone Allylation with Terminal Allenes”, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 2007– 2011.
  4. Lu, G.; Liu, R. Y.; Yang, Y.; Fang, C.; Lambrecht, D. S.;* Buchwald, S. L.;* Liu, P.* “Ligand-Substrate Dispersion Facilitates the Copper-Catalyzed Hydroamination of Unactivated Olefins." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 16548–16555.
  5. Yang, Y.;  Perry, I. B.; Buchwald, S. L.* “Copper-Catalyzed Enantioselective Addition of Styrene-Derived Nucleophiles to Imines Enabled by Ligand-Controlled Chemoselective Hydrocupration." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 9787–9790.
  6. Liu, R. Y.; Yang, Y.; Buchwald, S. L.* “CuH-Catalyzed Regiodivergent and Stereoselective Allylation of Imines from Terminal Allenes." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 14077–14080.
  7. Yang, Y.; Perry, I. B.; Liu, P.;* Buchwald, S. L.* “Copper-Catalyzed Asymmetric Addition of Olefin-Derived Nucleophiles to Ketones." Science 2016, 353, 144–150.
  8. Yang, Y.* “Regio- and Stereospecific 1,3-Allyl Group Transfer Triggered by a Copper-Catalyzed Borylation/ortho-Cyanation Cascade." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 345–349.
  9. Yang, Y.;† Shi, S.-L.; Niu, D.; Liu, P.; Buchwald, S. L.*, “Catalytic Asymmetric Hydroamination of Unactivated Internal Olefins to Aliphatic Amines.” Science 2015, 349, 62–66.
  10. Yang, Y.; Liu, P.* “Mechanism and Origins of Selectivities in the Copper-Catalyzed Dearomatization Induced C–H Cyanation of Vinylarenes.” ACS Catal. 2015, 5, 2944–2951.
  11. Yang, Y.; Buchwald, S. L.* “Copper-Catalyzed Regioselective ortho C–H Cyanation of Vinylarenes.” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 8677–8681.
  12. Yang, Y.; Buchwald, S. L.* “Ligand Controlled Palladium-Catalyzed Regiodivergent Suzuki– Miyaura Cross-Coupling of Allylboronates and Aryl Halides.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 10642–10645.
  13. Yang, Y.; Mustard, T. J. L.; Cheong, P. H.-Y.; *Buchwald, S. L.* “Palladium-Catalyzed Completely Linear-Selective Negishi Cross-Coupling of Allylzinc Halides with Aryl and Vinyl Electrophiles.” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 14098–14102.