Advances in experimental technologies may soon allow the imaging of cells at the angstrom scale with subsecond resolution. The measurement of forces and motions of nanomachines and the study of the assembly of complex functional structures have also been dramatically advanced. Further development of single-molecule imaging technologies, electron microscopy, and X-ray and neutron scattering will be very important.
Theory and computation have a rich and proud history in the physical and engineering sciences. A grand success of theory in the life sciences was the determination of the structure of DNA, which emerged from the confluence of theory, computation (wooden models), and diffraction experiments. Today, theory and computation are slowly emerging as an important complement to experimentation in many areas of the biological sciences. However, for theory and computation to become full partners with experiment, significant advances are needed. Such advances would include ways to sample configuration space and dynamic rare events, efficient algorithms for stochastic simulation of spatially resolved cooperative dynamic events, and the creation of a fundamental theory of systems far from equilibrium.
Researchers have achieved great mastery over small-molecule organic synthesis and characterization. However, at the macromolecular scale, researchers have not gained a corresponding level of synthetic control. Fully characterizing the structure of multifaceted three-dimensional architectures is also currently problematic, yet the solution is of the utmost importance for accurately mapping structure to function. At the most fundamental and essential level, materials researchers must acquire the ability to synthesize, modify, and manipulate novel macromolecules with atomic-level control.