Mattanjah de Vries

Photo of Mattanjah de Vries
Chemistry & Biochemistry



Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry


Mattanjah de Vries received his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at the University of Amsterdam in 1980.  He joined the UCSB Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as Professor of Physical Chemistry in 2000, after serving in positions as Research Staff member at the IBM Almaden Research Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  At IBM he won three awards for outstanding innovation and technical achievement. While at UCSB he was elected a Humboldt Fellow in 2003 and an AAAS Fellow in 2008.
The de Vries Research Group combines a number of advanced physical chemistry techniques for a novel approach to the study of individual molecules. There are two major directions to this research:
(1) Laser spectroscopy of isolated biomolecular building blocks. These studies touch on questions such as: What is the chemical origin of life?  What makes a peptide fold?  How is the machinery of life protected from UV radiative damage?
(2) Cultural heritage research by analytical laser mass spectrometry.  This work involves, for example, detection of beverage residues in archeological artifacts (in collaboration with the UCSB Department of Anthropology) and analysis of organic pigments in old paintings (in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute).
Professor de Vries teaches a course in Environmental Chemistry for which he developed an educational simulation game based on the theory of the tragedy of the commons.


isolated molecules; laser spectroscopy; mass spectrometry; photochemistry; building blocks of life; UV photodynamics of DNA; archaeometry; cultural heritage; art and archaelogy; prebiotic chemistry; digital games for climate change education 


Direct Analysis of Xanthine Stimulants in Archaeological Vessels by Laser Desorption Resonance Enhanced Multiphoton Ionization. S.C. Owens, J.A. Berenbeim, M.R. Ligare, L.E. Gulian, F.M. Siouri, S. Boldissar, S. Tyson-Smith, G. Wilson, A. Ford, M.S. de Vries, Anal. Chem. 89, (5), 2838-2843 (2017).
Life in the Light: Nucleic Acid Photoproperties as a Legacy of Chemical Evolution.  Ashley A. Beckstead, Yuyuan Zhang, Mattanjah de Vries, and Bern Kohler, PCCP, 18, 24228 - 24238 (2016).
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.