In the Spring of 1924, with her parents' support, Maria Goeppert-Mayer enrolls at the University at Göttingen to become a mathematician, but she soon switches to physics. The physics department at Göttingen at that time is led by James Franck and Max Born.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer dies in San Diego, after a heart attack that has struck her the previous year left her comatose.

With Teller, Goeppert-Mayer inquiries about the origin of the elements, and notices the recurrence of seven magic numbers: 2-8-20-28-50-82-126. Elements with a magic number of protons or neutrons are reliably more stable than elements with other numbers of nucleons. She theorises that the nucleus consists of several shells, or orbital levels, and that the distribution of protons and neutrons among these shells produces the characteristic degree of stability of each species of nucleus.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer is appointed Pofessor of Physics at the University of California (San Diego). Soon after settling into La Jolla, Goeppert-Mayer suffers a stroke which leaves an arm paralyzed. In spite of this misfortune, Goeppert-Mayer continues her work.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

After a start as voluntary associate professor, Maria Goeppert-Mayer is appointed Professor in the Physics Department and in the Institute for Nuclear Studies of the University of Chicago.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer is hired at the new opened Argonne National Laboratory, where she works with Fermi, Urey, and Edward Teller. For the first time in her career, she is paid at a level commensurate with her training and expertise.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer shares with J. Hans D. Jensen one half of the Nobel Prize in Physics "for their discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure". The other half of the prize goes to Eugene Wigner. Goeppert-Mayer is the second female Nobel laureate in physics, after Marie Curie.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer takes her doctorate in theoretical physics under Max Born with a thesis entitled "On Elemental Processes with Two Quantum Jumps."

In 1939, Joseph Mayer becomes an associate professor of chemistry at Columbia University. Maria Mayer has no official appointment, although she is asked by Harold Urey to give lectures in the chemistry department.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer is born in Katowice, Poland (formerly Kattowitz, Prussia) only child of Friedrich Goeppert and Maria, née Wolff. Maria Goeppert-Mayer's father, a professor of pediatrics, the sixth generation of his family to be a university professor, actively encourages his daughter to develop her scientific curiosity.

Goeppert-Mayer and her husband move to America, where Joseph Mayer takes up a position as associate professor at. While in Baltimore, the Mayers have two children. Maria Mayer teaches only occasional courses at Johns Hopkins University, and collaborates with Karl Herzfeld and her husband in the study of organic molecules. During their last years at Johns Hopkins, Mayer and her husband finish the textbook Statistical Mechanics, which is published in 1940 and becomes a standard.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer marries Joseph Edward Mayer, an American chemist who is in Goettingen on a Rockefeller International Education Board fellowship for the years 1929 and 1930. They marry in January 1930 at the Rathaus of Goettingen.

In the Spring of 1942, Mayer is asked to take part in Harold Urey’s group, the Substitute Alloy Materials Laboratory (SAM), devoted to solving the problem of separate uranium-235 from the isotope uranium-238 for the Manhattan Project.