AChemS Career Networking Seminar Series


Thursday, March 25th
11:00 PM - 12:00 PM ET

Natural odors are composed of hundreds of different molecules that share no obvious chemical or structural features other than those required for reaching receptors. The logic that governs how olfactory systems detect and interpret diverse chemicals remains enigmatic. Dr. del Marmol and Dr. Gerkin work to understand how odorant stimuli are encoded by olfactory systems. Using perceptual and behavioral data, electrophysiology, and cryo-electron microscopy spanning humans, mice, and insects, they seek to understand the molecular basis of odor-receptor interactions and their transduction into olfactory perception.

“Structural principles of odorant recognition in insect olfactory receptors” by Josefina del Mármol, PhD
To detect and discriminate the vast chemical world, animals rely on olfactory receptors (ORs) with broad receptive fields that can recognize a wide variety of different odorants. The molecular logic that determines an OR’s receptive field has until now remained elusive, due to steep technical challenges surrounding the structural characterization of OR-odorant interactions. Here, we use cryo-electron microscopy to elucidate the atomic structure of an insect OR in complex with two ligands, the odorant eugenol and the insect repellent DEET. These structures, combined with functional studies of receptor tuning, shed light on the molecular logic of promiscuous odorant recognition that ultimately endow the olfactory system with its immense discriminatory capacity.

“Parsing Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme"” by Richard Gerkin, PhD
Color and pitch perception are largely both predictable and describable from the characteristics of physical stimuli: the wavelengths of light and sound waves, respectively. By contrast, the prediction and description of olfactory percepts from odorous stimuli (volatile molecules) is much more challenging. No intuitive set of molecular features is up to the task. I will describe a few successful approaches to “feature engineering” of odorant molecules and what they reveal about the structure of olfactory perceptual space and our ability to predict the odors of novel molecules. I will also highlight the limitations of this approach, where structural data alone is inadequate to the task of accounting for odor perception and behavior.



The AChemS Mentoring and Networking Committee invites you to submit proposals to present in an on-going virtual seminar series targeted at facilitating scientific exchange, career development and networking. Early Career Applicants investigating the chemical senses in academic, industry, and clinical settings are all encouraged to apply.

Rolling Deadline Until March 31, 2021

A junior and senior investigator will be paired up to present on their shared research interests. Pre and post seminar mentoring, such as seminar preparation and shared lab meetings will be encouraged to facilitate network development.

This seminar series will occur in a virtual Zoom room on the fourth Thursday of each month starting in January 2021. The seminars will start at alternating times: 11AM ET and 4PM ET to allow members in Europe and Asia to join. A recording of the seminar will be available on the AChemS website for all participants to view for up to 30 days. In addition to live seminars, ACHEMS MEMBERS may view any past seminar recording for no charge through their membership accounts. Each talk will be approximately 20 minutes, leaving time for 10 minutes of questions. There will be two talks per seminar: one from a senior and one from a junior researcher.

Junior investigators will receive an award that includes a monetary prize of $500 generously sponsored by Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company. Attendees to the Seminar Series can request a certificate of attendance detailing the sessions that they partake in.

Nomination or self-nomination from AChemS members are welcome. Waiver requests to the membership fees are considered on an individual basis and should not represent the only factor not to apply. Please complete the application form and include a C.V., a paragraph summary of current and future research plans and a brief description of the presentation topic (120 words).

The Mentoring and Networking Committee will make a decision on applications beginning in mid January and notify speakers.

Please address any questions to: Dr. Valentina Parma, Mentoring and Networking Committee Program Chair