O'Hair Group

“Mass spectrometry, MS, is a powerful tool to analyze a wide range of molecules and to study fundamental chemistry in the gas phase. Research in our group is focused on the use of advanced MS techniques and molecular modelling methods to explore contemporary problems in chemistry.” - Professor Richard O’Hair


The O'Hair group is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, located at the Bio21 Institute.

The O'Hair lab makes use of two Nobel Prize winning technologies, the quadrupole ion trap and electrospray ionisation (ESI) to examine the fundamental gas phase chemistry of a cornucopia of ionic species. We use multiple stages of mass spectrometry with collision induced dissociation, electron capture dissociation and ion-molecule reactions to examine gas phase unimolecular and bimolecular reactions in the following areas:

Reactions of organic ions

ESI of precharged ions allow us to study key organic reactions such SN2 reactions, nucleophilic aromatic substitution and transacylation reactions.

Transition metals - from catalysis to coordination reactions

The unique multi-trapping capabilities allow us to study catalytic cycles (in collaboration with Prof. Wedd), the synthesis and reactivity of organometallics and metal-ligand reactions in the gas phase.

Fundamental properties of gas phase ions derived from biomolecules

We are interested in: (i) developing gas phase ion-molecule reactions as probes of biomolecule structure; and (ii) understanding the fragmentation mechanisms of peptide and oligonucleotide ions with a view to improving the analysis of these biologically important molecules via tandem mass spectrometric techniques. Other areas of interest include: lipid-lipid and lipid-peptide interactions (with Matt Perugini); chemistry of beta peptides (with Tony Purcell); gas phase chemistry of non-covalent complexes; comparing the fragmentation behaviour of radical cations to their even electron counterparts.

Applied studies

We have diversified into other areas which utilize ESI/MS as an analytical tool, including: (i) solution phase crosslinking of protein complexes to map sites of interaction and (ii) improving the MS analysis of peptides.


Finnigan-MAT model LCQ (San Jose, CA, USA) quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer; Finnigan LTQ FT hybrid mass spectrometer (San Jose, CA, USA) linear ion trap and Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance (FT-ICR); HPLC; High Performance Computing Resources.


Professor Richard O'Hair
​School of Chemistry
University of Melbourne
ARC Centre of Excellence in Free Radical Chemistry
T: (+61 3) 8344 2452
E: rohair [at] unimelb.edu.au

Professor Richard O'Hair was introduced to gas phase chemistry in Palo Alto, on December 28, 1964. He holds BSc Honours, PhD and DSc degrees from the University of Adelaide and was elected Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute in 2004. During honours and PhD research with Professor John Bowie, he was lead singer of the rock band The Ketones (composed of all chemistry graduates). After post-doctoral work with Roger Truscott (University of Wollongong) and Charles DePuy (University of Colorado), he established his own independent research program as assistant professor at Kansas State University (August 1993-May 1996).

Since moving to Melbourne, his group have used the powerful combination of electrospray ionization and the multistage mass spectrometry capabilities of a modified ion trap mass spectrometer to examine fundamental chemistry of organic, inorganic, organometallic and biological systems.

O'Hair has published over 140 papers, holds a joint patent on the analysis of amino acids, peptides and proteins, has given several plenary and keynote lectures at international conferences and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board Member of five international mass spectrometry journals (RCMS, IJMS, EJMS, JASMS, MSR). Awards include the Selby Research Award, the Gilmour Research Award and the David Syme Research Prize.

He is an active member of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry, having served as secretary, convenor of the 19th ANZSMS meeting (Lorne, 2003) Vice-President and currently as President. In 2007 he presented the Morrison Lecture, the highest award for of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Mass Spectrometry.

He is a published numismatist.