The ability to identify and characterize the molecules of life is an essential scientific challenge. Modern analytical techniques provide unprecedented breadth and depth, but the ability to detect does not necessarily translate into structural identification or understanding of how molecules function, interact, and change. For example, state-of-the-art proteomic analysis—while extremely powerful—is not yet able to reveal the identities of proteoforms at scale. Similarly, only a relatively small fraction of the detectable small endogenous molecules comprising the metabolome have known structures. Progress on problems like these will be made by developing new methods of identifying complex molecules at sufficient bandwidth to enable real-time identification, and these methods will require advanced instrumentation with unprecedented sensitivity, throughput, and spectral resolution.
Theme Leader: Rebecca Whelan