In this talk, I will discuss how molecules, and their chemistry, are useful tools to unveil the dominant physical and chemical processes taking place in star forming regions. I will focus on two research topics: i) understanding the formation mechanisms of massive stars and star clusters; and ii) the characterisation of the pre-biotic chemistry in Solar-system precursors.
For the first part, I will present the results from a comprehensive chemical study of an extremely filamentary and massive Infrared-Dark Cloud, or IRDC (IRDCs are believed to be the precursors of massive star and star cluster formation). I will show how molecular line studies of IRDCs can help us to discriminate between the different theories of molecular cloud and massive star/star cluster formation.
For the second part of the talk, I will present our recent work on the detectability of amino acids (and in particular, of glycine) in Solar-system precursors. This research will have important implications for the development of future instrumentation such as Bands 1 and 2 receivers of ALMA and the Band 5(+) receivers of the SKA.