MOLIM study mission gives scent of career success


A COST short-term scientific mission gave young chemist Halima Mouhib the experience she needed to advance her career. She is now an assistant professor at the Paris university that hosted her mission, leading research on how molecules produce scents.

Mouhib specialises in understanding the chemical structure of molecules that generate tastes and smells. As part of the ‘Molecules in motion’ (MOLIM) COST Action (2014-2019), she carried out a two-month short-term scientific mission (STSM) at the University of Paris-Est Créteil in France while still a research and teaching associate at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Experience from the STSM on molecule simulation helped her to win an assistant professorship at the host’s sister University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée (UPEM) just nine months later.


“The project showed that I already knew the French academic system and life       in Paris and that a collaboration there had worked out well,” the German says.

Contacts made with biologists during her COST mission bore additional fruit. In less than a year, the young researcher set up a cross-departmental, international discussion meeting at UPEM with CECAM, an EU-wide organisation for simulation  technology research. In 2019, she in turn hosted an STSM for another COST participant, Tunisian doctoral student Rahma Dahmani.

Mouhib sees many advantages to STSMs compared to standard two- or three-year research projects. “You can integrate a mission into an ongoing project, foster future collaborations and transfer knowledge at the same time.”

And the most important personal outcome for Mouhib? “I can finally build up my own research line in a stable environment.”

Pushing forward projects

MOLIM brought together more than 300 scientists to develop computer tools to study nuclei in molecules. It produced over 60 short-term research missions.

While MOLIM meetings introduced Mouhib to many new contacts from across Europe, the STSM gave her the chance to learn technology not available at her home university.

“Paris had a more developed code for analysing molecules. It could explain patterns that we couldn’t analyse in Aachen,” she adds. “We looked at the structural dynamic of a molecule, e.g. how a long chain can stretch or bend in different conditions … to get a fundamental understanding of what is happening in an experiment.”

Mouhib’s focus is on how chemical structure impacts biological action.

“Perfume and flavour industries are always interested in this. How can we link molecular structure to a scent? This can also be transferred to drug design and some diseases,” she says.

The fast, simple COST application procedure allowed her to concentrate on the science.

“I was able not only to push forward my project on odorants and fragrances but also to discuss and develop future projects with other local scientists,” Mouhib concludes.

Read more about COST Action MOLIM 

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