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.