Since its founding in 1982, the IAMS has been a multi-disciplinary center of excellence in fundamental studies of atomic and molecular systems. Reaction dynamics in molecular beams, atmospheric chemistry, laser chemistry, the theory of radiation-less transitions and energy transfer, and fluorescent nano-diamonds are just some of the areas covered by the IAMS that I happen to be aware of. To me, the hallmark of the science in the Institute over the past 40 years has been excellence, with the science of greatest fundamental significance being performed to the highest intellectual standards.
Recently, the Institute has moved into new research areas, i.e., the development and fabrication of advanced materials for chemical catalysis and energy interconversion/storage, and the development of analytical methods to study the structures of biomolecules and their interactions. The physics/chemistry of “soft matter” is challenging as these systems are highly complex and more difficult to characterize to the intellectual depth we are accustomed to achieving. However, the study of “soft matter” does not have to be soft science. A scientist well-trained in the physical sciences can convert “soft matter” into “hard matter”, as I often say. More importantly, intellectual opportunities abound, and the impact of the science may be even more far-reaching than one realizes. The research outcomes are more likely to have an impact on other fields, and some of the developments are more likely to find practical applications in the short-term future.
I made the same transition some years ago, and I can assure you from my own experience that studying the science of complex systems can bring even greater intellectual satisfaction than studying simpler, well-defined molecular systems. The work is intellectually more challenging, but more gratifying when it is done.
I am confident that the new research ventures of the Institute will soon meet with great success. For the coming year, I wish you all continued success in whatever science you happen to be working on at the moment.


Sunney Chan