Dr. Richard O'Brien

Dr. Richard O'Brien

Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry


  • B.S. South Dakota State University, Professional Chemistry, 1985
  • M.S. University of North Dakota, Chemistry, 1987
  • Ph.D. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Chemistry, 1992

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is three-fold:

  1. the use of problem solving and critical thinking in the laboratory,
  2. the development of a sense of ownership for one's work through accountability and not through entitlement, and
  3. fairness and timeliness with the students.
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Our research efforts, in collaboration with Dr. Davis’s group, have focused on the development of novel classes of ionic liquids utilizing the thiol-ene and thiol-yne photochemical reactions. These new molecules incorporate the sulfur atom into the alkyl side chain of the imidazolium, ammonium, and pyridinium cationic frameworks. The incorporation of the sulfur atom has profound effects upon the melting points of these ionic liquids as compared with their saturated and unsaturated counterparts. In addition, a variety of functional groups and branching may be incorporated into the side chains of these ionic liquids employing the thiol-ene and thiol-yne reactions as a synthetic tool. These new ionic liquids are attractive as advanced materials for lubricants, phase transfer reagents, freezing points depressants, heat transfer fluids, and materials for separations.
Molecule 1 picture Obrien ResearchMolecule 2 Obrien Research Picture

Productions & Collaborations

  • Mirjafari, A., O’Brien, R.A, West, K.N., Davis, Jr., James, “Solvent Effect on the Pathway and Regioselectivity of Thiol-ene Click Reaction: Novel Synthesis of Branched Lipid-Inspired Ionic Liquids.” (Manuscript in preparation)

  • O’Brien, R.A., Hamade, F.A., Mirjafari, A., West, K.N., & Davis, Jr., J.H. Thiol-ene Chemistry with Vinylphosphonic Acids: A new strategy for the Synthesis of Substituted Phosphonic Acids and their Derivatives. Poster presented at the 20th Annual University of South Alabama Research Forum (2013).

  • O’Brien, R.A., Wheeler-West, C., Hollingsworth, B.E., Mirjafari, A., Mobarrez, N., West, K.N., & Davis, Jr. J.H. Synthesis of Novel Tetraalkylammonium Bromides and their Derivatives as a new class of Phase Transfer Catalysts. Poster presented at the 20th Annual University of South Alabama Research Forum (2013).

  • O’Brien,R.A., Wheeler West, C., Hollingsworth, B.E.,  Stenson, A.C., Henderson, B.,  Mirjafari, A., Mobarrez, N., West, K.N.  Mattson, K.M., Salter, E.A., Wierzbicki, A., Davis, Jr., J.H. “A Simple and Rapid Route to Novel Tetra(4-thiaalkyl)ammonium Bromides”, RSC Adv., 2013, 3, 24612.

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Professional Development

  • 2011 “Top Prof” from the Azalea Chapter of Mortar Board, University of South Alabama
  • Chemistry Department General Education Sub Committee
  • Chemistry Instrumentation Coordinator (NMR, UV-Vis, AA, CEM
  • Microwaves, Fluorescence and Electrochemical)