Mattanjah S. de Vries

Distinguished Professor
Department Chair

Office Hours

Friday (11am-12pm, Chem 4221)
By Appointment

Contact Phone

(805) 893-5921

Office Location

Chem 4221


Isolated Molecules

Laser Spectroscopy

Mass Spectrometry


Building Blocks of Life

UV Photodynamics of DNA


Cultural Heritage

Art and Archaelogy

Prebiotic Chemistry 


Dr. de Vries received his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at the University of Amsterdam in 1980. After spending four years in our department at UCSB as a Research Associate, he became a Research Staff member at the IBM Almaden Research Laboratory. In 1997 Dr. de Vries became an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In September 2000, Dr. de Vries joined The UCSB Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as a Professor of Physical Chemistry. While at IBM he won three awards for outstanding innovation and technical achievement. He was elected Humboldt Fellow (2003) and AAAS Fellow (2008). 


Research Group Website:

Research Objective 

The de Vries lab combines a number of advanced physical chemistry techniques for a novel approach to the study of individual molecules. This leads to a combination of physical and analytical chemistry by employing laser induced desorption of molecules from surfaces, photoionization, multiphoton spectroscopy, femtosecond spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Included are studies of complex molecules, isolated biomolecules and clusters, and surface analytical applications. 

There are two major directions to this research:

(1) Gas phase techniques enable the study  of isolated molecules, free of interactions. A major thrust is the laser spectroscopy of isolated biomolecular building blocks. These include single DNA bases and amino acids, as well as their clusters with each other and with water molecules. These studies touch on questions such as: “What is the chemical origin of life?”, What makes a peptide fold?”, or “How is the machinery of life protected from UV radiative damage?”.

(2) The same techniques also apply to state of the art analytical applications, analyzing fragile organics by laser mass spectrometry. The de Vries lab applies Laser mass spectrometry to detect trace compounds for beverage residues in archeological artifacts or to study objects of cultural heritage.


Selected Research Publications

The effects of C5 substitution on the photochemistry of uracil. Dana Nachtigallováa, Hans Lischka, Jaroslaw J. Szymczak, Mario Barbatti, Pavel Hobza, Zsolt Gengeliczki, Gustavo Pino, Michael P. Callahan, Mattanjah S. de Vries. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2010, DOI:10.1039/B925803P

Guanine-Aspartic Acid Interactions Probed with IR-UV Resonance Spectroscopy. Bridgit O. Crews, Ali Abo-Riziq, Kristýna Pluha?ková, Patrina Thompson, Glake Hill, Pavel Hobza, Mattanjah S. de Vries. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2010, DOI:10.1039/b925340

Effect of substituents on the excited-state dynamics of the modified DNA bases 2,4-diaminopyrimidine and 2,6-diaminopurine . Zsolt Gengeliczki, Michael P. Callahan, Nathan Svadlenak, Csaba István Pongor, Bálint Sztáray, Leo Meerts, Dana Nachtigallová,*, Pavel Hobza, Mario Barbatti, Hans Lischka, Mattanjah S. de Vries Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2010, DOI:10.1039/ B917852J

Isomer discrimination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Murchison meteorite by resonant ionization Michael P. Callahan, Ali Abo-Riziq, Bridgit Crews, Louis Grace, and Mattanjah S. de Vries. Spectrochimica Acta Part 2008 A 71, 1492-1495

Shaping of a Conformationally Flexible Molecular Structure for Spectroscopy. Anouk M. Rijs, Mattanjah S. de Vries, Jeffrey S. Hannam, David A. Leigh, Marianna Fanti, Francesco Zerbetto, Wybren Jan Buma. Angewandste Chemie Int. Ed. 2008 47, 3174-3179

Gas-Phase Spectroscopy of Biomolecular Building Blocks, Theory and Experiment Mattanjah S. de Vries and Pavel Hobza, Annual Reviews of Physical Chemistry Volume 2007 58, 585-612

Spectroscopy of Isolated Gramicidin Peptides Ali Abo-Riziq, Bridgit O. Crews, Michael P. Callahan, Louis Grace, and Mattanjah S. de Vries Angewandte Chemie, International Edition 2006 118, 5290-5293 (2006)

Photochemical selectivity in GC base pair structures. Ali Abu Riziq, Louis Grace, Pavel Hobza and Mattanjah S. de Vries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2005 102, 20-23.

Properties of isolated DNA bases, base pairs and nucleosides examined by laser spectroscopy, E. Nir, C. Plutzer, K. Kleinermanns, and M. de Vries, European Physical Journal D, 2002 20, 317-329

Pairing of Isolated Nucleic-Acid Bases in the Absence of the DNA backbone. NATURE 2000 408, 949-951

Atoms in Carbon Cages: the Structure and Properties of Endohedral Fullerenes. D.S. Bethune, R.D. Johnson, J.R. Salem, M. S. de Vries, C.S. Yannoni. NATURE, 1993 366, 123

Cobalt Catalyzed Growth of Carbon Nanotubes with Single-Atomic-Layer Walls D.S. Bethune, C-H. Kiang, M.S. de Vries, G. Gorman, R. Savoy, J. Vazquez, and R. Beyers. NATURE, 1993 363, 605