One of the primary issues in biochemistry is determination of structure of biomolecules, because structure is so closely related to biological function. For methodological reasons the main focus has been on crystal structures using X-ray scattering in the past, but multidimensional NMR methods have emerged as useful tools for studying biomolecules in solution. Little is known about gas-phase structures of biomolecules for two reasons. First, methods to generate biomolecules in the gas phase were not available until recently, and second, the focus of the biochemical community is on solution chemistry, since the chemistry in living organisms is predominantly occurring in the condensed phase. However, gas phase chemistry has proven very useful in the past to understand the fundamentals of such intrinsic properties as acidities, basicities, and conformations. Consequently, it is fundamentally important to investigate gas-phase structures of biomolecules in the absence of solvation effects and other intermolecular interactions. As it is our philosophy to start out with simple systems first, we did a fair amount of research on amino acids and small peptides to build a basis for studying more complex biomolecules such as proteins.
    Several aspects of gas-phase amino-acid and peptide ion systems have been investigated in the Bowers group: