I dedicate this thesis to my parents. I thank them for teaching me early, teaching me well, and indulging and nurturing my curiosity about the world until it became self-sustaining. My brother Jonathan and sisters Judy and Jessica have always been there for me as well, and we have had a good journey together.
It has been a pleasure to work for my advisor, Prof. Bill Goddard, who attacks scientific problems with great enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and a formidable arsenal of ideas and approaches. His way of getting to the root of things and identifying the key experiment that needs to be done is as reflexive for him as breathing.
I appreciate that Bill gave me the freedom to work on many different projects, and his level of expertise and broad range of interests was such that he provided good insights on every one of them. The stimulus behind the electron force field and this thesis was the ideas presented in his Nature of the Chemical Bond course - he talked about electrons moving around and ``pooching'', changing in size and becoming orthogonal to each other, and his level of enthusiasm motivated me to develop a simulation of these events happening.
I also had the privilege to work with Prof. Brian Stoltz for nearly a year on developing the Wolff/Cope reaction. He is a great experimentalist, and I was humbled that he was willing to entrust the initial development of his reaction to a first year graduate student. I appreciated his hands-on guidance and attention to detail. After I joined Bill's group, I continued to do theory on the reaction while Richmond Sarpong took over and made great strides in the experimental work, continued later by Jenny Roizen; it was a very successful division of labor.
Prof. Ahmed Zewail introduced me to computational chemistry as an undergraduate in the context of modeling caging of charge-transfer reactions in clusters. I am indebted to him for his support and encouragement, his scientific and personal insights, and his firm insistence that I learn the theory behind every part of my calculations properly. I appreciate the time he spent with our project, and the interest he took in making sure I developed well as an independent researcher. Prof. Thomas Tombrello was responsible for starting me on scientific research at Caltech as an undergraduate through the Physics 11 program.
My other thesis committee members, Prof. Rudy Marcus and Prof. Harry Gray, have provided me with useful insights and guidance through the candidacy, proposal, and thesis defense stages, and I thank them. Prof. Bruce Hay, though not formally involved with my graduate work, has always made time to talk with me about science and non-science, and I value our friendship.
I have made wonderful friends at Caltech, who made my days happier and brighter, and I hope I did the same for them - I thank Victor Kam, Sam Cheung, Yen Nyugen, Xin Zhang, Santiago Solares, Jiyoung Heo, and Robert Bao. John Keith was responsible for especially entertaining political discussions as well.
Finally I thank Tim for his love and steadfast support, especially during the time of thesis writing. I hope that the successful completion of my thesis will begin to make up for the time we have spent apart.