St John's College Oxford
Professor Richard Compton

Professor Richard Compton FRSC MAE

Tutorial Fellow in Chemistry



I was educated at state schools in Felixstowe (Suffolk) and then in Frome (Somerset). I studied Chemistry as an undergraduate at University College, Oxford after which I worked for my DPhil in 1980 at Imperial College. Following post-doctoral work I subsequently held a Lectureship (in Physical Chemistry) at Liverpool University for four years before joining Oxford University where I am now Professor of Chemistry and Aldrichian Praelector as well as being Tutor in Chemistry at St John’s.

At the undergraduate level I presently lecture on Electrochemistry and have recently taught Mathematics (to second-year Chemists). I teach St John’s undergraduates at different stages of the first three years of the MChem course covering differing aspects of Physical Chemistry as well as supervising Part 2 students from across the University. The College-based teaching is done in groups and seeks to develop a rigorous, bottom-up and holistic appreciation of Physical Chemistry and as such synergising Chemistry with advanced Mathematics and elementary Physics. 

I was the Physical Chemistry Editor of the Oxford Chemistry Primers (Oxford University Press): A series of 99 short textbooks for undergraduates. I am the co-author of the primers Foundations of Physical Chemistry (with C Lawrence and A Rodger, translated into Japanese and Spanish), Electrode potentials (with G Sanders), and Foundations of Physical Chemistry: Worked examples (with N S Lawrence and J D Wadhawan who at the time of writing were undergraduate students at St John’s).

I hold Honorary Doctorates from the Estonian University of Life Sciences and Kharkov National University of Radio-electronics (Ukraine), am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, of IUPAC and of the International Society of Electrochemistry and a Member of the Academy of Europe (MEA).

I am the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Electrochemistry Communications (current impact factor >4.5) from 1999 and the Co-Founding Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, launched in 2017.

See also

Research Interests

Fundamental Electrochemistry
Chemical Sensors

Understanding electrochemical processes is the key to developing energy storage and conversion devices (fuel cells, solar cells, batteries) as well as being at the heart of much of modern biology and nanotechnology. At the same time electrochemical sensors provide sensitive, selective, clean and easy to use approaches to the detection and monitoring of many important chemical species (gas sensors, blood sugar, pH).

The Compton Research Group has broad and deep interests ranging from fundamental electrochemistry (theory of electron transfer and of mass transport phenomena; theory of porous electrodes; explanation of nano-toxicity) to making chemical sensors where we have invented, patented and licensed calibration free pH sensing, food sensors for the heat of chilli peppers and for the strength of garlic, electrochemical detectors for bacteria, sensors for hydrogen sulfide under the high temperature and pressure conditions at the bottom of oil wells and for biomarkers in saliva. Current work particularly also focuses on the electrochemistry of nanoparticles and in bio-electrochemistry. We adopt a bottom-up approach developing new methods to investigate the kinetics and mechanisms of interfacial reactions. 

The Compton Group comprises a mixture of c. 20–25 post-doctoral workers, DPhil students and Masters’ (‘Part 2’) students, a number which has been typical for some years; a key feature of the group has been and remains its internationality and its diversity.  At least a dozen former group members hold permanent academic posts from lecturer to professor in the UK whilst others have equivalent positions in Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Serbia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine and USA. 

Recent publications

Singlet Oxygen and the Origin of Oxygen Functionalities on the Surface of Carbon Electrodes
K Chaisiwamongkhol, C Batchelor-McAuley, R Palgrave, RG Compton, Angewandte Chemie, 57, (2018), 6270-6273.

Electrochemistry of Single Enzymes: Fluctuations of Catalase Activities
C Lin, L Sepunaru, E Kätelhön, RG Compton, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 9, (2018), 2814-2817.

The fate of silver nanoparticles in authentic human saliva
K Ngamchuea, C Batchelor-McAuley, RG Compton, Nanotoxicology, 12, (2018), 305-311.

Detection of Escherichia coli bacteria by impact electrochemistry
R Couto, L Chen, S Kuss, RG Compton, Analyst, 143, (2018), 4840-4843.

Natural convection effects in electrochemical systems
J Novev, RG Compton, Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, 7, (2018), 118-129.

In total I have published >1500 papers with an h-index of 101 with >41,000 citations (excluding self-cites) – Web of Science, April 2019.