Associate Professor Jason B Harper

My Expertise

Physical Organic Chemistry, Bioorganic Chemistry, Enzymes in Synthesis, Peptide Chemistry, Ionic Liquids, Green Chemistry.


Fields of Research (FoR)

Physical Organic Chemistry, Catalysis and Mechanisms of Reactions, Organic Green Chemistry, Organic Chemical Synthesis

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Jason Harper was born in Adelaide, Australia, but spent his childhood in the wilds of the Northern Territory.  He returned to Adelaide for secondary schooling and carried out his undergraduate work at the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University, also receiving his Ph.D. (under the supervision of Prof. Christopher (Chris) Easton) from ANU as the Shell...view more


For more details, please see my website -

Jason Harper was born in Adelaide, Australia, but spent his childhood in the wilds of the Northern Territory.  He returned to Adelaide for secondary schooling and carried out his undergraduate work at the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University, also receiving his Ph.D. (under the supervision of Prof. Christopher (Chris) Easton) from ANU as the Shell Australia Postgraduate Scholar.  After positions at the University of Cambridge (as an NHMRC C. J. Martin Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Anthony (Tony) Kirby) and the Open University, he was appointed to the University of New South Wales in 2002, where he is currently an Associate Professor.

His research interests fall broadly in the area of mechanistic and physical organic chemistry.  His contributions to these fields have been in the understanding of the mechanisms of organic processes and what affects such, particularly involving the solvent effects of ionic liquids, novel methods to follow reaction outcomes and acidity of carbon acids.  He has published more than 130 articles and book chapters, has a h-index >35 and has given more than 70 invited lectures around the world.  He is an editor for the journal Chemical Physics and co-editor (with Prof. Nick WIlliams) of the book series, Advances in Physical Organic Chemistry. Along with these positions, is a member of the editorial board of ChemPlusChem, has collated a Research Topic for Frontiers in Chemistry (Ionic Liquids: Properties and Applications, 2018-2019), and been guest editor for themed collections for the Royal Society of Chemistry (Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry/Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Non-traditional solvent effects on organic processes, 2020-2021) and the American Chemical Society (Journal of Organic Chemistry, Solvation effects in organic chemistry, 2021).

Jason has been heavily involved in conference organisation.  He was a member of the three-person organising committee for the 4th Asia-Pacific Conference on Ionic Liquids, held at Coogee Beach in 2014.  More recently, he was bid developer and co-Chair of the 23rd IUPAC Conference on Physical Organic Chemistry (ICPOC23) held at the University of New South Wales in 2016.  Along with IUPAC conference involvement, Jason is a member of the Subcommittee on Structural and Mechanistic Chemistry and a Titular Member of Division III (Organic Chemistry).

Outside of the professional sphere, Jason enjoys keeping up with a diverse range of activities, ranging from cycling long distances periodically (Melbourne's "Around the Bay" is a favourite, though he has ridden Launceston to Hobart ... the long way!) to Taiko and Onikenbai (traditional Japanese drumming and "demon sword dance").

The explicit details: Born 1974. Undergraduate work carried out at the University of Adelaide (B.Sc. 1995) and in The Faculties, Australian National University (B.Sc.(Hons) 1996). Shell Australia Postgraduate Scholar, Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University (Ph.D. 2000). C. J. Martin Postdoctoral Fellow, University Chemical Laboratory, Cambridge (2000-2002). Associate Lecturer, The Open University in East Anglia (2001). Appointed Lecturer (2002-2006) Senior Lecturer (2007-2015) and Associate Professor (2016-).  SSP at Boston College (2009). Associate Member IUPAC Division III (2018-2019), Titular Member IUPAC Division III (2020-).


My Grants

"Designer ionic liquids to control reaction outcome: Ionic liquids for solvent-controlled reactivity", Jason B. Harper, William S. Price, ARC Discovery Projects (2018-2020)

"Getting the reaction outcomes you want in ionic liquids: Towards solvent-controlled reactivity using ionic liquids". Jason B. Harper, Lawrence T. Scott, ARC Discovery Projects (2013-2015)

My Qualifications

B.Sc. Adelaide, B.Sc.(Hons) ANU, Ph.D. ANU

My Awards

C. J. Martin Postdoctoral Fellow, 2000-2002

My Research Activities

For more information on all of these research projects and where they sit in the ongoing scheme of the research group, please see the group website at

Our research is focused on understanding how organic processes happen and what affects reaction outcomes.  Particularly this encompasses examining how structural features in both the reagents themselves and the solvent used can change how a reaction proceeds.  This knowledge can then be applied to a range of fields, including bioorganic, synthetic, analytical and environmental chemistry.  Being particularly interdisciplinary, there is extensive opportunity for collaboration and this is currently underway in the areas of catalysis, reaction kinetics, synthesis and molecular dynamics simulations. 

The major areas of research are:

Ionic liquid effects on organic reactions: getting the reaction outcomes you want
(in collaboration with Dr Anna Croft, University of Nottingham, UK; and Dr Ron Haines, University of New South Wales)

Ionic liquids are salts that melt below 100°C.  They have potential as replacements for volatile organic solvents but outcomes of reactions in ionic liquids are often unexpectedly different to those in traditional molecular solvents.  The focus of this project is to extend the understanding of ionic liquid solvent effects we have already developed and to use this knowledge to demonstrate that ionic liquids can be used to control reaction outcome.  The project involves using NMR spectroscopy to monitor reactions and kinetic analyses of these results, along with synthetic organic and analytical chemistry.  The project has both physical and analytical aspects, with the opportunity to develop new methods for following reaction progress and undertake molecular dynamics simulations, along with more synthetic aspects, focussing on increasing reaction yield and optimising isolation.  That is, the aim is to get the reaction outcome you want!

Solvent-solute interactions in ionic liquids: can we design better solvents?
(in collaboration with Dr Ron Haines, University of New South Wales; and Drs Anna Croft and Christof Jaeger, University of Nottingham, UK)

We have previously made use of molecular dynamics simulations to understand interactions between a solute and the components of an ionic liquid; this can be used to explain why benzene is so soluble in ionic liquids and why certain reactions proceed faster on moving to ionic solvents.  This project aims to extend this and to model - both with simple compounds and simulations – which ionic liquid would be better solvents for a given solute.  In order to do this both physical measurements of solubility and molecular dynamics are being undertaken to highlight key solute-solvent interactions.  The outcome would be a better understanding of what interactions are required to confer good solubility giving us the opportunity to 'design' appropriate properties into ionic liquids – and these could then be made and used!

Catalysis using N-heterocyclic carbenes: understanding structure/activity relationships

N-Heterocyclic carbenes, have significant roles in organo- and organometallic catalysis, however some carbenes are effective for some processes but not for others; the origin of this is not well understood.  This project aims to relate structure and chemical properties of carbenes to catalytic efficacy, along with observing any solvent effects – this requires a series of chosen carbenes that vary in one way only (steric bulk, electronics, heteroatoms).  Along with making the precursors to the carbenes, this project involves the opportunity to utilise various characterisation techniques and to undertake evaluation of catalytic systems; the latter can vary from simple screening of catalysts through to detailed kinetic analyses.  The ultimate goal is to be able to rationally choose an NHC catalyst for a given process.


Non-planar aromatic hydrocarbons: different reactivity based on structure
(in collaboration with Prof. Lawrence Scott, Boston College, USA)

Aromatic hydrocarbons are meant to be planar – right?  Yet the synthesis of carbon nanotubes and related structures relies on the reactivity of curved aromatic systems.  This project focuses on the different reactivities of these systems relative to 'normal' aromatics and how it might be controlled and exploited.  It predominantly involves synthesis and reactivity of systems, such as those shown below, along with the opportunity for some kinetic studies to interpret the reactivity.  Ultimately, understanding and exploiting these differences will allow the rational synthesis of these curved polyarenes.




My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

Mechanistic and physical organic chemistry, specialising in solvent effects, structure-activity relationships and mechanistic determination.

Currently supervising

Liu, Kenny Tao-Ching - Ph.D. student "Controlling reactivity and selectivity of substitution reactions using ionic liquids"

Smit-Colbran ,Benjamin Allan - Ph.D. student "Structure reactivity relationships for N-heterocyclic carbenes"

Morris, Daniel Connor - Ph.D. student "Investigating ionic liquid effects and alternative methods to carry out analyses of their influence on reaction outcomes"

Chen, Junbo - Ph.D. student "Solvation modelling"

Evans, Alicia - Ph.D. student "Molecular dynamics simulations of ionic liquids"

My Teaching

Assoc. Prof. Harper teaches a range of courses across the School of Chemistry.  For more details, see

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Room 223, Dalton Building