Richard Johnson

Phone: (603) 862-2302
Office: Chemistry, Parsons Hall Rm W215, Durham, NH 03824
Richard P. Johnson

Richard Johnson is Professor of Chemistry and a member of the Materials Science Program. Professor Johnson developed an early love for science,  turning over rocks in search of odd bugs and snakes and mixing chemicals in a basement laboratory.  Foregoing a likely career in herpetology, he ended up as an organic chemist. At UNH, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in organic chemistry and is most honored to have won the UNH College of Engineering and Physical Sciences Outstanding Faculty Teacher award in 2006. His current research interests lie in the broad field of physical organic chemistry, with emphasis on reaction mechanisms, pericyclic reactions, synthesis of novel organic structures, and applications of computational chemistry.  His group uses high level theory as a tool to understand complex chemistry and to demonstrate the existence of seemingly impossible reactive intermediates. The diyne + yne Diels-Alder cycloaddition, discovered at UNH in 1997, is now a "hot" reaction in organic synthesis. With support from NSF, his group is currently studying the rearrangements and synthesis of aromatic compounds through carbocation intermediates. At last count, his research group has graduated 35 Ph.D. or M.S. students and 22 B.S. Thesis students.  He still views science as a process of turning over rocks to see what is underneath. There are few things better in life than the thrill of scientific discovery.

Among professional activities, Professor Johnson has served on the ACS Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board,  the Graduate Record Exam Chemistry Committee, as Program Chair of the Reaction Mechanisms Conference,  as  Associate Editor of the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry.  He is currently Co-Chair of the 2019 Gordon Research Conference in Physical Organic Chemistry. From 2014 – 2016, he served as a "rotator" Program Officer in the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation. He continues a part time "expert" appointment with NSF.


  • Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Syracuse University
  • B.S., Chemistry, Syracuse University

Research Interests

  • Aromatic Compounds
  • Chemical Synthesis
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Materials Sciences
  • Physical-Organic Chemistry

Courses Taught

  • CHEM 547: Organic Chemistry I
  • CHEM 548: Organic Chemistry II
  • CHEM 696: Independent Study
  • CHEM 699: Thesis

Selected Publications

Skraba-Joiner, S. L., Brulet, J. W., Song, M. K., & Johnson, R. P. (2017). Acid-Catalyzed Skeletal Rearrangements in Arenes: Aryl versus Alkyl Ring Pirouettes in Anthracene and Phenanthrene. The Journal of Organic Chemistry, 82(24), 13076-13083. doi:10.1021/acs.joc.7b02058

Reichl, K. D., Smith, M. J., Song, M. K., Johnson, R. P., & Porco, J. A. (2017). Biomimetic Total Synthesis of (±)-Griffipavixanthone via a Cationic Cycloaddition–Cyclization Cascade. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 139(40), 14053-14056. doi:10.1021/jacs.7b09265

Skraba-Joiner, S. L., Johnson, R. P., & Agarwal, J. (2015). Dehydropericyclic Reactions: Symmetry-Controlled Routes to Strained Reactive Intermediates. The Journal of Organic Chemistry, 80(23), 11779-11787. doi:10.1021/acs.joc.5b01488

Skraba-Joiner, S. L., McLaughlin, E. C., Ajaz, A., Thamatam, R., & Johnson, R. P. (2015). Scholl Cyclizations of Aryl Naphthalenes: Rearrangement Precedes Cyclization. The Journal of Organic Chemistry, 80(19), 9578-9583. doi:10.1021/acs.joc.5b01559

Qin, T., Skraba-Joiner, S. L., Khalil, Z. G., Johnson, R. P., Capon, R. J., & Porco, J. A. (2015). Atropselective syntheses of (−) and (+) rugulotrosin A utilizing point-to-axial chirality transfer. Nature Chemistry, 7(3), 234-240. doi:10.1038/nchem.2173

Li, C., Johnson, R. P., & Porco, J. A. (2003). Total Synthesis of the Quinone Epoxide Dimer (+)-Torreyanic Acid:  Application of a Biomimetic Oxidation/Electrocyclization/Diels−Alder Dimerization Cascade1. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 125(17), 5095-5106. doi:10.1021/ja021396c

Bradley, A. Z., & Johnson, R. P. (1997). Thermolysis of 1,3,8-Nonatriyne:  Evidence for Intramolecular [2 + 4] Cycloaromatization to a Benzyne Intermediate. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 119(41), 9917-9918. doi:10.1021/ja972141f

Burrell, R. C., Daoust, K. J., Bradley, A. Z., DiRico, K. J., & Johnson, R. P. (1996). Strained Cyclic Cumulene Intermediates in Diels−Alder Cycloadditions of Enynes and Diynes. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 118(17), 4218-4219. doi:10.1021/ja9601144

Johnson, R. P. (1989). Strained cyclic cumulenes. Chemical Reviews, 89(5), 1111-1124. doi:10.1021/cr00095a009

Angus, R. O., Schmidt, M. W., & Johnson, R. P. (1985). Small-ring cyclic cumulenes: theoretical studies of the structure and barrier to inversion in cyclic allenes. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 107(3), 532-537. doi:10.1021/ja00289a002

Most Cited Publications