Robert J. McMahon

Position title: Professor of Chemistry


Phone: 608.262.0660

Room 6209A, Department of Chemistry
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Research Website
McMahon Group
Robert McMahon


  • B.S. 1980, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D. 1985, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Our research program focuses on bringing physical-organic insights and physical and analytical methods to bear on important problems in chemistry. Our interests range from mechanistic organic and organometallic chemistry to the fundamental chemistry underlying important problems in material science.

Reactive Intermediates and Astrochemistry

We continue a longstanding interest in studying highly reactive organic species using both experimental and computational methods.  Our recent research efforts focus on elucidating the structure, photochemistry, and spectroscopy of organic species that are relevant to combustion chemistry, the formation of fullerenes, nanotubes, and soot, and the chemistry of the interstellar medium.  Understanding the organic chemistry of interstellar clouds represents a significant challenge in mechanistic organic chemistry – both in terms of identifying new organic species in the clouds and in terms of investigating the chemical processes that govern the formation and destruction of these organic species.

Materials Chemistry of Organic Glasses and Supercooled Liquids

In collaboration with Prof. Mark Ediger’s research group, we have been engaged in the study of fundamental physical properties of organic materials that form glasses and supercooled liquids.  Glassy phases are poorly understood because of their amorphous composition.  Yet they are extremely important in a variety of technological applications – from dielectric thin films that are used to insulate electrical circuitry in semiconductor devices, to the formulation of pharmaceuticals.  We synthesized the first series of glass-forming materials in which it is possible to relate bulk physical properties, such as the glass transition temperature, to molecular properties of the glass-forming material.  Our ability to prepare these materials, and tailor their properties through chemical synthesis, enables a range of important studies of their bulk properties.