Mathias Weber has known he would become a scientist ever since he was five or six years old and living in Pirmasens, Germany. As a child, he read as much about science as he could. His specific interest in the field of chemistry began when he was about 13 years old. He had convinced his parents to let him set up a chemistry lab in one room in the family home.
The home chemistry laboratory notwithstanding, he completed a high school physics project on the influence of Jupiter’s gravitational field on the motions of that planet’s moons. Soon afterwards, he began studies of experimental physics at the (nearby) Universität Kaiserlautern. There he wrote an undergraduate thesis on the spectra of argon Rydberg atoms, a topic in atomic physics.
Weber earned a Ph. D. in experimental physics at Kaiserlautern under the direction of Prof. Hartmut Hotop, who had been Fellow Carl Lineberger’s first postdoc. His graduate studies focused on electron scattering in molecules and cluster ions, which are charged molecules surrounded by one or more different molecules (such as water). Weber continued his studies of cluster ions with Mark Johnson (who had also been a postdoc with Lineberger) at Yale. His next stop was a junior group leader position (supported by a prestigious Emmy-Noether Fellowship) at the Universität Karlsruhe. There he also earned his Habilitation (Germany’s highest academic qualification) for studies of gas-phase clusters with infrared spectroscopy.
Hired in 2006 as an Associate Fellow of JILA and Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU, Boulder), Weber says the institute is “likely the best place on the planet” for his research. He currently directs three major research initiatives: (1) infrared and photoelectron spectroscopic studies of negatively charged ions surrounded by water and other molecules, (2) investigations of metal salt ions and metal complex ions (e.g., gold or platinum), work that could lead to a better understanding nanoparticle synthesis and catalysis, and (3) studies of the behavior of supramolecular assemblies (e.g., proteins and nanoparticles) under (very high) pressures ranging up to hundreds of thousands of atmospheres, where one atmosphere is the mean atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level.
Weber received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in 2009, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2010, and a Kavli Fellowship in 2012. Weber became a Fellow of JILA and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at CU, Boulder in 2012.
When he’s not in the laboratory, Weber enjoys cooking and Colorado’s beautiful mountains with his wife, biochemist Annette Erbse. Erbse is a senior research associate in the University of Colorado’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.