Robert Q. Topper

Professor of Chemistry



B.S., Physics and ChemistryFlorida State University
M.S., M. Phil., Ph.D., Theoretical 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, Depaertment of Mathematics,
                            Florida State University

Research interests

Overall, my research is in the areas of nanoscience, material science, and biophysics, 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 tacking problems that have a connection to environmental issues. 

Many of our projects include the use and development of novel Metropolis-Hastings Monte Carlo methods, and the development of system-specific 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 nitrate nanoparticles, including solvent effects. The resulting insights are useful in the study of atmospheric reactions in polluted urban coastal environments and the design of permeable membranes for battiers and fuel cells, as well as towards understanding the fundamental nature of the hydrogen bond. We are also currently studying organometallic systems with catalytic potential, and have studied coordination complexes of zinc and rhenium in past and recent work using quantum chemistry. 

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, and chemically-induced DNA damage by environmental mutagens. 

Research collaborations

We are currently beginning a collaboration with Greg Moehring and Datta Naik at Monmouth University on organometallic systems. I have also recently 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. 

To date, I've formally advised 69 undergraduate students and 9 master's students on research projects, and mentored approximately 52 high school students in research as well. Have a look at the "Curriculum Vitae" page to see our other outcomes.

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."







Enjoying a nice tall can of "Dr. Topper" with the ChemE class of 2004 and an honorary class member in May 2003.

Last edited April 21, 2023.