Lasers may not always be visible to the naked eye, but their applications are practically ubiquitous. One application is ultrafast spectroscopy, a tool used by researchers and scientists to study atoms and molecules on the femtosecond, or one quadrillionth of a second, timescale. While we think of molecules as static, they are actually always moving, vibrating and rotating, and that can have consequences in all areas of chemistry.

Melanie Reber, assistant professor of chemistry, has combined precision-measurement technologies and ultrafast lasers to create a novel transient absorption spectrometer. This unique tool, with its vacuum chamber and molecular beam apparatus, can be used to study isolated molecules bonding and moving, in real time. Reber is also developing new optical fiber-based lasers to build another instrument, a multidimensional ultrafast spectrometer, which is currently in the proof-of-concept phase. Once completed, this will enable a more complete view of real-time motion of molecules. Reber was named a UGA Innovation Fellow for spring 2021 and hopes the fellowship will help bring her laser technology closer to market.