Professor Beak has made fundamental contributions to organic chemistry that have provided unifying concepts and opened new areas of investigation. His work has clarified the effect of molecular environment on structure-stability relationships, provided new reactions that are widely used for chemical synthesis, and identified novel reactive intermediates. His current research involves the determination of reaction trajectories in atom-transfer reactions and investigations of asymmetric reactions.
He has held editorships, lectureships, and leadership positions in professional organizations. He has received a number of awards, lectured around the world, and served as research advisor for more than 100 graduate and postdoctoral students who are making significant independent contributions to their fields. Professor Beak is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.