Matthew D. Sonntag, Ph.D. – Albright College

Matthew D. Sonntag, Ph.D.

Matthew D. Sonntag, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Science Building 341

B.A. – Coe College, 2008
Ph.D. – Northwestern University, 2013


Matthew Sonntag joined the Albright faculty in the fall of 2014 and has taught through the chemistry curriculum including general analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, advanced topics, and mathematics for chemistry and physics. His research interests involve the use of Raman spectroscopy as a tool to understand the physical and chemical properties of materials. In collaboration with undergraduates at Albright Dr. Sonntag has studied the structure and reactivity of several glassy substances. Other interests include probing the dynamics of single molecules using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. He has also developed several physical chemistry laboratories.


Dr. Sonntag obtained his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Northwestern University where he worked in the laboratories of Profs. Richard Van Duyne and Tamar Seideman. While at Northwestern he developed experimental and computational tools to study single molecules using tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS). After graduation, Matt stayed with Prof. Van Duyne for a one year postdoctoral position developing new TERS instrumentation before accepting a position as an assistant professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Albright.

Areas of Expertise

  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Computational Chemistry

Areas of Research

Structure and Reactivity of Glassy Materials

Glassy materials exhibit no long range structural characteristics rather it is composed of short-range structural moieties. The structures are highly dependent on the composition of the material. Cations can be introduced into the glass in order to tune a variety of properties such as hardness, color and reactivity.

The Sonntag Lab is working to synthesize different borate and silicate glasses and probe their physical structures using Raman spectroscopy. We tune the composition of the glasses by varying the amount and identity of a metallic modifier introduced into the material. Furthermore we probe the ability of the glass to withstand exposure to a variety of acidic and basic media.


Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy

The majority of analytical techniques are ensemble measurements in that probe the response of a bulk collection of molecules where individual behavior cannot be identified. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy has the ability to probe the signal of individual molecules allowing for new details regarding molecular dynamics and reactivity. This allows for a broader understanding of how the local environment influences molecular behavior.

The Sonntag lab is probing the Raman spectra of individual dye molecules to quantify how changes in their spectra may reflect changes in molecular orientation and binding. This will allow for insight into a wide variety of phenomena including chemical reactivity, diffusion, and electron transport.


Courses Taught

  • CHE100: Chemistry and Society and lab
  • CHE105: General Analytical Chemistry I and lab
  • CHE106: General Analytical Chemistry II
  • CHE321: Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy and lab
  • CHE322: Thermodynamics and Kinetics and lab
  • CHE412: Advanced Topics in Chemistry
  • IDS255: Mathematics for Chemistry and Physics


Selected Publications (current or former undergraduate students underlined)

  • Adams, W. and Sonntag, M. Vibrational Spectroscopy of Hexynes: A Combined Experimental and Computational Laboratory Experiment,” J. Chem. Ed. 2018, 95, 1205-1210.
  • Wilson, H.; Koellner, C.; Hannan, Z.; Endy, C.; Bezpalko, M.; Piro, N ; Kassel, W.; Sonntag, M; Graves, C. Synthesis and Characterization of Neutral ligand -Diimine Complexes of Aluminum with Tunable Redox Energetics,” Inorg. Chem. 2018, 57, 9622-9633.

  • Sonntag, M. D.; Pozzi, E. A.; Jiang, N.; Hersam, M.; and Van Duyne, R. P. Recent Advances in Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” J. Phys. Chem. Lett.. 2014, 5, 3125-3130. Invited Review
  • Klingsporn, J. M.;* Sonntag, M. D.;* Seideman, T.; and Van Duyne, R. P. Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy with Picosecond Pulses,” J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2014, 5, 106-110.
  • Sonntag, M. D.; Chulhai, D.; Seideman, T.; Jensen, L.; and Van Duyne, R. P. \The Origin of Relative Intensity Fluctuations in Single-Molecule Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 17187-17192.
  • Sonntag, M. D.; Klingsporn, J. M.; Zrimsek, A. B.; Sharma, B.; Ruvuna, L. K.; and Van Duyne, R. P. Molecular Plasmonics for Nanoscale Spectroscopy,” Chem. Soc. Rev.. 2014, 43, 1230-1247. Invited Review.
  • Sonntag, M. D.; Klingsporn, J. M.; Garibay, L. K.; Roberts, J. M.; Dieringer, J. A.; Seideman, T.; Scheidt, K. A.; Jensen, L.; Schatz, G. C.; and Van Duyne, R. P. Single-Molecule Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” J. Phys. Chem. C. 2012, 116, 478-483.

Selected Presentations (current or former undergraduate students underlined)

  • Adams, W. and Sonntag, M. “Incorporating Raman Spectroscopy and Computational Chemistry into the Undergraduate Physical Chemistry Curriculum,” ACS National Meeting. Orlando, FL, April 2019. (Oral)
  • Felix, M. and Sonntag, M. “Synthesis and Characterization of Glassy Materials,” ACS National Meeting. Orlando, FL, April 2019. (Poster, Selected for Sci-Mix)
  • Torres, V. and Sonntag, M.  “Investigation of Glass Structures using Raman Spectroscopy,” ACS National Meeting. San Francisco, CA, April 2017. (Poster)
  • Moseley, T.Lipshaw, A.; and Sonntag, M. “Characterizing Glassy Materials with Raman Spectroscopy,” ACS National Meeting. Philadelphia, PA, August 2016. (Poster, Selected for Sci- Mix)
  • Lambeth, S. and Sonntag, M. “Unraveling Spectral Fluctuations in Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” ACS National Meeting. Philadelphia, PA, August 2016. (Poster, Selected for Sci-Mix)
  • Lambeth, S.Lipshaw, A.; and Sonntag, M.  “Raman Spectroscopy for Chemical Characterization,” ACS National Meeting. San Diego, CA, March 2016. (Poster)


Professional Activities

  • Chair and Organizer, “Engaging Undergraduates with Raman Spectroscopy”
    • American Chemical Society National Meeting, Washington DC, 2017
    • American Chemical Society National Meeting, Orlando, 2019
  • Science Demonstrations 2017-2019, Performed hands on chemistry experiments with preschool and kindergarten
  • Reviewed articles for Nature Nanotech., RSC Advances, JPCC, Chem. Phys. Chem, Sensors, and Rev. Sci. Instrum.
  • Reviewer for the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund


Awards and Grants

  • The Class of ’49 Annadora Vesper Shirk Award for Faculty Scholarship, 2018
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 2008
  • Phi Kappa Phi, 2008


  • Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureship for Undergraduate Institutions, $18,500, 2015-2017
  • “Albright College Environmentally-oriented Sciences (ACES) Scholarship Program: Supporting the Study of the Environment through STEM Disciplines.” NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (2014-2019) Mech, SG (PI); Brylawski, BJ; Graves, CR; Hamann, CS; Sonntag, MD, $ 627,322, 2014-2019
  • NSF MRI: Enabling materials chemistry at Central Pennsylvania PUIs through acquisition of a low-voltage TEM, 2017
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