For more than forty years I have studied problems that concerned mainly the areas of Chemical Dynamics and Materials Science. The general philosophy was to exploit new physical ideas and novel instrumentation to solve outstanding problems in chemistry and materials science. The unifying theme was the need for and the utilization of a precise knowledge of intermolecular forces. Much before the coming of age of Nanotechnology and Nanoscience, particular emphasis was given to the behavior of nano systems and materials, i.e. clusters, organic thin films, and the study of isolated molecules. For clusters, our studies, culminated in the late nineties in the invention of superfluid helium nanodroplet "matrix" spectroscopy while for surface science, after having pioneered the use of diffractive atomic beam scattering for the study of organic overlayers our work culminated in the solution of the structure of the buried interface in monolayers of alkanethiols self assembled on the (111) face of gold. Last but not least, in a 20 years long collaboration with K.K. Lehmann, we studied the fine details of the energy relaxation in relatively large isolated molecules and the related issues of ergodicity and quantum vs. classical chaos.
During the last ten years, I have shifted the center of my scientific activity towards the important and interesting questions that are now emerging in the fields of biology and medicine. I am trying to bring my contribution to these research areas with the tools and the method of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology without losing sight of the need for a quantitative treatment and the use of theory and molecular simulations so that our contribution could be distinguished from those equally important but of a less general nature that can be obtained through the classic methods of molecular biology. The focus and the goal of our research is likely to be for the next 5 years the quantitative, high throughput, measurement of proteins and their interactions (Interactomics) in samples produced by a very small number of cells or within single cells. By means of this type of measurements we hope to make new inroads into quantitative diagnostics and disease monitoring.
For our mature colleagues and more "green" prospective students alike we have two main recommendations:
The first is: CHANGE IT!
And by this we mean that every change of field, technique or even place of work that sometimes life seems to impose on us, should be welcomed by us because, although we may not appreciate it at the time, we soon learn that CHANGE was behind the reasons of success of that experiment, application, or whatever else we have been doing in that new field or in that new way or, finally, in that new place.
The second is: COLLABORATE!
Life is moving so fast, the body of data (both bad and good) that is being produced at present and finally the complexity of the interesting problems are all growing so fast that there is no hope for a single individual to master all the knowledge necessary to even design a key experiment in modern science. Therefore, if we make due exception for sheer luck and genius, we see that the scientific future will be bright mainly for those among us who enjoy to talk to their colleagues and who have the communication skills to do it simply and clearly.
|Donner Professor of Science, Emeritus
Department of Chemistry,
Princeton, NJ, USA
Professor of Biophysics
Condensed Matter Sector, SISSA,
SISSA - ELETTRA
Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Science
Department of Biology Temple University
Philadelphia, PA, USA.