In more general terms, its core is the art of measurement and interpretation. It can take us from a state where the chemical composition or properties of a sample are unknown, to a state where we understand these parameters and are able to use this information to our advantage. Whether we wish to know if DNA is present at a crime scene – and if so, whose DNA – or whether we wish to know to which degree our drinking water is contaminated by pollutants, analytical science can provide the answers. Analytical scientists develop the methods to measure the natural world, develop the tools, interpret the results of these measurements, and thereby further the cause of numerous fields which depend on these measurements to make progress.
Analytical science’s impact is not just felt in fundamental research, but also in many industrial applications. Without analytical science modern life sciences would be impossible and innovation in chemicals – whether it be polymers, coatings or white biotechnology – would come to a standstill. Analytical science is also vital for the maintenance of public health and safety: quality control relies on analytical science to function, as does the safeguarding of food safety. Furthermore, analytical measurements are not merely confined to professional laboratories, but are also performed by non-specialists, such as the diabetic who monitors her blood sugar level. In short, analytical science is everywhere where measurement of the composition and/or of the (chemical) properties of substances or materials is required.