Robert Q Topper

Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Topper is an expert in physical, computational, and theoretical chemistry who is known for his contributions to the theory of nonlinear dynamics and the development of innovative Monte Carlo methods for high-performance computing and analysis. Current research in his laboratory includes the study of acid-base nanoparticles using first-principles quantum mechanics, and the use of machine learning-aided molecular dynamics simulations to characterize and predict large-scale structural transitions in materials and biomolecules.

He received a B.S. in Physics and Chemistry from Florida State University and earned a Ph.D. from Yale University.  He then worked for two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota and one year at the University of Rhode Island before joining the Cooper Union in 1993. Dr. Topper has also chaired the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Monmouth University.  

To date, Topper ‘s research projects have included mentoring over 115 undergraduate, graduate, and high school students as research colleagues and co-authors. His work is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary and has been presented at numerous national and international scientific conferences. Prof. Topper’s papers and review articles have been published in some of the most selective journals in the field, including Physical Review Letters, the Journal of Chemical Physics, the Journal of Physical Chemistry A&B, Reviews in Computational Chemistry, and Advances in Chemical Physics. Together with his students and colleagues he has published 62 peer-reviewed manuscripts, learning objects, and conference abstracts; written / co-authored 4 book chapters and 4 book reviews; organized 5 international scientific conferences; and given 23 invited seminars at colleges, universities, conferences, and high schools.

Topper loves teaching a variety of courses, including lecture and laboratory courses at the freshman, junior, senior, and graduate levels in general, physical, theoretical, and inorganic chemistry as well as courses in research and engineering design projects. He is an avid amateur musician and songwriter who enjoys performing for friends and family as well as at fundraisers and community festivals. Other interests include volunteer work at the local community food pantry and the New Jersey State Youth Orchestra, which he serves as a member of its advisory board. He also enjoys graphic novels, animation, games of all kinds, and hiking and traveling with family.

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.