Robert Q. Topper

Professor of Chemistry



B.S., Physics and ChemistryFlorida State University
M.S., M. Phil., Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, Yale University 

Brief Biography

2009-present    Professor of Chemistry, Cooper Union
2017                 Visiting Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, New York University (with Mark Tuckerman)
2003-2009        Department Chair and Assoc. Prof., Monmouth University
1993-2003        Assistant / Associate Professor, Cooper Union
1992-1993        Postdoc, University of Rhode Island (with David Freeman)
1990-1992        Postdoc, University of Minnesota (with Donald Truhlar)
1986-1990        Grad teaching/research assistant, Yale University (with Nelson DeLeon)
1981-1986        Undergrad research assistant, Florida State University (with DeLos DeTar, Robley Light, Jack Saltiel
1983-1986        Instructional assistant and PLATO Coordinator, Department of Mathematics,
                            Florida State University

Research interests

Our group carries out research in nanoscience, material science, and biophysics. We are using computational and theoretical methods to study systems at the molecular level and provide useful connections between theory and experiment. We also have an underlying theme in our group of tackling problems that have a connection to environmental issues. 

Many of our computational projects include the use and development of novel Metropolis-Hastings Monte Carlo methods, and the development of accurate models for intermolecular forces. We also use high-performance quantum chemistry software and algorithms and have developed special-purpose software for the inclusion of quantum effects in thermochemistry within the high-temperature combustion regime, even up to solar temperatures.

Current research includes the study of nucleation and concomitant proton transfer phenomena within ammonium halide and ammonium nitrate nanoparticles. The resulting insights are useful in the study of atmospheric reactions in polluted inland and coastal environments (urban and rural) and the design of permeable membranes for battiers and fuel cells, as well as towards understanding the fundamental nature of the hydrogen bond. 

Our group has also worked on important problems in reaction rate theory, phase-space transport theory and nonlinear dynamics, semiclassical molecular dynamics, molecular order-disorder phase transitions, reactivity trends in substituted bicyclic thioacetals, conformational dynamics of neurotransmitters, chemically-induced DNA damage by environmental mutagens, organometallic systems with catalytic potential, and conformational properties of coordination complexes of zinc and rhenium. 

Research collaborations

I have worked with the Tuckerman group at New York University on the use of machine learning methods to help analyze the vast amounts of information produced by molecular dynamics simulations of biomolecules and polymorphic materials. Other research collaborations since my postdoc days have included projects and/or publications with Suse Broyde (NYU), David Freeman (Rhode Island), Song Ling (UC-SF), Mark Johnson (Yale), and Donald Truhlar (Minnesota).

To date, I've formally advised more than 64 undergraduate students and 11 master's students on research projects, and mentored more than 50 high school students in research as well. 

I'm on LinkedIn, and you can also follow my research discussions on ResearchGate. Here's a citation index of our publications on Google Scholar.


I teach undergraduate and graduate-level courses in general, physical, inorganic, and theoretical chemistry and advise selected students in engineering design projects. I also direct undergraduate and graduate engineering students in independent research, including master's thesis research.

In 2010 and again in 2012, I was honored by Cooper Union's students when I was named to the Engineering Student Council's "Student's List."







Here I'm enjoying a nice tall can of "Dr. Topper" with the ChemE class of 2004 in May 2003. A terrific bunch of students, including Meredith Blaustein and Danny Lepek. May their memories be for a blessing, always.

Last edited March 7, 2024.