Chan is the Bren Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and a Simons Investigator in theoretical physics. A native of Hong Kong, he was educated at the University of Cambridge and the University of California, Berkeley. He was a professor at Cornell University and Princeton University before assuming his current position at Caltech. He has received a number of awards, including the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, the Medal of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Alfred P. Sloan and David and Lucile Packard fellowships, the NSF CAREER Award, and the Baker Award of the National Academy of Sciences.
His research lies at the interface of theoretical chemistry, condensed matter physics, and quantum information theory, and is concerned with the phenomena and numerical methods associated with quantum many particle systems. Some current systems of interest include metalloenzymes and biological catalysts, transition metal oxides and superconductivity, and organic molecular crystals and light harvesting. He has contributed to a wide range of quantum simulation methods, including density matrix renormalization and tensor network algorithms for real materials, downfolding through canonical transformations, local quantum chemistry methods, quantum embeddings including dynamical mean-field theory and density matrix embedding theory, and new quantum Monte Carlo techniques.