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Professor Claire Turner

Profile summary

Professional biography

Professor of Analytical Science
I am an analytical scientist, and have spent all my research career monitoring biological systems.  My most recent research interests are in using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as markers for disease. 
My teaching interests centre around interdisciplinary science but also Level 1 and Access. I am particularly interested in supporting inexperienced and unconfident learners accessing science for career development or personal interest.  I am also interested in digital innovation in teaching, and how we can use these innovations in supporting students to learn difficult concepts.
From November 2014 to July 2016, I was Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Science Faculty. Since the creation of the new STEM faculty in August 2016, I have been dividing my time between the STEM faculty, teaching and conducting research, and the Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio, doing teaching as well as working on the Students First Transformation.

Research interests

My particular research interests are in the analysis of VOCs from breath or the headspace above clinical samples of urine, blood, serum, sputum etc. in order to diagnose disease or monitor the health of an individual.

The analysis of breath to diagnose disease is a particularly attractive option because it is non-invasive and with the right equipment, it may be may be done directly in real time.   Sometimes, breath analysis is not possible or desirable, however, VOCs produced in the body may still provide useful information.  In this case, it may be more appropriate to analyse trace gases produced by other biological fluids, for example urine or blood.

Some medical conditions are better targets for VOC analysis than others.  Current research interests include investigating VOC profiles in gastrointestinal disease, malignant melanoma, colo-rectal cancer, food intolerance and diabetes.

VOC analysis uses generic equipment and approaches which may be used in other applications, including environmental analysis, exposure assessments, air quality monitoring and microbiology etc.  The main tools I use are Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) and Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS).  However, sometimes there are advantages in using sensors where small, portable and inexpensive devices are more suitable, and we are currently involved in a project to assess the use of optical sensors in analysing breath and urine headspace.

Teaching interests

I currently chair the innovative new module YXM130 "Making your learning count", which enables students to gain credit for learning Open Educational Resources.

I chaired production of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) Access module Y033 as I am particularly interested in developing modules at Access and level 1 to help our students access higher education. Sometimes, one of our modules is the first experience students have of formal education, or the first time they have studied for many years, and I am interested in helping students make this first, important transition to a new way of learning.

I was an author on S240 Analytical science: health, heritage and environments,  SD329: Signals and Perception and the new L1 Health Science module, SDK100.

I chaired S187: Elements of Forensic Science and Y033: Starting with Science, Technology and Maths

I also chaired S111: Questions in Science as it started production.

I was Associate Programme Director for Level 1 in the Facuty of Science until 2014.



External collaborations

I have active external collaborations, including with University of Birmingham, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cranfield University, Amersham Hospital, J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry in Prague, University of Keele's Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Biomedical Research Network (BRN)NetworkFaculty of Science
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science


Externally funded projects

CENTA 2017 intake
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Oct 201731 Jul 2022NERC Natural Environment Research Council

CENTA is a geographically and scientifically coherent consortium offering a wide range of excellent NERC science embedded in a vibrant multidisciplinary environment. The Universities (Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Open and Warwick) and Institutes (British Geological Survey and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) have a strong track record of producing PhD graduates fit for further research or other relevant employment. The Open University STEM Faculty has match-funded 3 studentships in the 2017 intake.

Detecting melanoma using volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Oct 201330 Sep 2016Amerderm Trust/Amersham Hospital

It has long been known that dogs are able to detect abnormal skin lesions and anecdotally, there are cases of dogs sniffing and licking their owners’ moles until the mole was tested and found to be malignant. For this reason, the researchers have looked into the ability of dogs to detect various cancers, with a high level of success. However, the challenge now is to translate this into an appropriate clinical test by identifying the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) involved in generating the odour and designing a system to detect them. Some preliminary work has been done on this (see Kwak et al., 2013), but in this project, for the first time, we aim to bring together the analytical capabilities of the Open University, the access to patients and melanoma samples from Amersham Hospital Dermatology Department and identify the VOC profile which the dogs use to detect melanoma.


Monitoring type 2 diabetes from volatile faecal metabolome in Cushing's syndrome and single Afmid mouse models via a longitudinal study (2019-12-11)
Lourenco, Celia; Kelly, Darren; Cantillon, Jack; Cauchi, Michael; Yon, Marianne A; Bentley, Liz; Cox, Roger D and Turner, Claire
Scientific reports, 9, Article 18779(1)

Sniffing Out Resistance - Rapid Identification of Urinary Tract Infection-Causing Bacteria and their Antibiotic Susceptibility Using Volatile Metabolite Profiles (2019-04-17)
Smart, Amy; de Lacy Costello, Ben; White, Paul; Avison, Matthew; Batty, Claire; Turner, Claire; Persaud, Raj and Ratcliffe, Norman
Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 167 (pp. 59-65)

Nitrate supplementation in thoroughbred racehorses: Addition of beetroot juice to the equine diet and effects on the gut metabolome (2019-03)
Waring, R. H.; Hunter, J. O.; Turner, C.; Batty, C. and Ramzan, P. H. L.
Integrative Food, Nutrition and Metabolism, 6(2) (pp. 1-4)

Modulation of the equine microbiome by pasture and feed supplements: A metabolomics approach (2019)
Snalune, K. L.; Hunter, J. O.; Waring, R. H.; Cauchi, M.; Turner, C. and Batty, C.
Integrative Food, Nutrition and Metabolism, 6(2) (pp. 1-4)

Is food intolerance a factor underlying chronic immunethrombocytopenia (ITP)? (2018-11)
Batty, Claire A.; Hunter, John O.; Woolner, Jenny; Baglin, Trevor and Turner, Claire
British Journal of Haematology, 183(4) (pp. 683-686)

Quantification by SIFT-MS of volatile compounds produced by the action of sodium hypochlorite on a model system of infected root canal content (2018-09-10)
Ioannidis, Konstantinos; Niazi, Sadia; Deb, Sanjukta; Mannocci, Francesco; Smith, David and Turner, Claire
PLOS ONE, 13, Article e0198649(9)

Selective Reagent Ion-Time of Flight-Mass Spectrometry study of six common monoterpenes (2017-10)
Materić, Dušan; Lanza, Matteo; Sulzer, Philipp; Herbig, Jens; Bruhn, Dan; Gauci, Vincent; Mason, Nigel and Turner, Claire
International Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 421 (pp. 40-50)

A potential method for comparing instrumental analysis of volatile organic compounds using standards calibrated for the gas phase (2017-08)
Lourenco, Celia; González-Méndez, Ramón; Reich, Fraser; Mason, Nigel and Turner, Claire
International Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 419 (pp. 1-10)

Monoterpene emission from young Scots pine may be influenced by nutrient availability (2016-11-01)
Materić, D.; Blenkhorn, D.; Gonzalez-Mendes, R.; Bruhn, D.; Turner, C.; Morgan, G.; Mason, N. and Gauci, V.
Applied Ecology and Environmental Research, 14(4) (pp. 667-681)

Differences in microbial metabolites in urine headspace of subjects with Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) detected by volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis and metabolomics (2016-10-01)
Batty, Claire A.; Cauchi, Michael; Hunter, J. O.; Woolner, Jenny; Baglin, Trevor and Turner, Claire
Clinica Chimica Acta, 461 (pp. 61-68)

Evaluation of gas chromatography mass spectrometry and pattern recognition for the identification of bladder cancer from urine headspace (2016-05-28)
Cauchi, M; Weber, C. M.; Bolt, B. J.; Spratt, P. B.; Bessant, C.; Turner, D. C.; Willis, C. M.; Britton, L. E.; Turner, C. and Morgan, G.
Analytical Methods, 8(20) (pp. 4037-4046)

Enteral feeding reduces metabolic activity of the intestinal microbiome in Crohn’s disease: an observational study (2016-05-11)
Walton, C; Montoya, M P B; Fowler, D P; Turner, C; Jia, W; Whitehead, R N; Griffiths, L; Waring, R H; Ramsden, D B; Cole, J A; Cauchi, M; Bessant, C; Naylor, S J and Hunter, J O
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70 (pp. 1052-1056)

Techniques and issues in breath and clinical sample headspace analysis for disease diagnosis (2016-04)
Turner, Claire
Bioanalysis, 8(7) (pp. 677-690)

Methods in Plant Foliar Volatile Organic Compounds Research (2015-12-15)
Materić, Dušan; Bruhn, Dan; Turner, Claire; Morgan, Geraint; Mason, Nigel and Gauci, Vincent
Applications in Plant Sciences, 3, Article 1500044(12)

Monoterpene separation by coupling proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry with fastGC (2015-10-01)
Materić, Dušan; Lanza, Matteo; Sulzer, Philipp; Herbig, Jens; Bruhn, Dan; Turner, Claire; Mason, Nigel and Gauci, Vincent
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 407(25) (pp. 7757-7763)

Characterisation of the faecal metabolome and microbiome of Thoroughbred racehorses (2015-09)
Proudman, C. J.; Hunter, J. O.; Darby, A. C.; Escalona, E. E.; Batty, C. and Turner, C.
Equine Veterinary Journal, 47(5) (pp. 580-586)

Use of the analysis of the volatile faecal metabolome in screening for colorectal cancer (2015-06-18)
Batty, Claire A.; Cauchi, Michael; Lourenco, Celia; Hunter, John O. and Turner, Claire
PLoS ONE, 10, Article e0130301(6)

A novel method for the analysis of clinical biomarkers to investigate the effect of diet on health in a rat model (2015-05-07)
Hopes, Kerry; Cauchi, Michael; Walton, Christopher; MacQueen, Hilary; Wassif, W. S. and Turner, Claire
Analyst, 140(9) (pp. 3028-3038)

Comparison of GC‐MS, HPLC‐MS and SIFT‐MS in conjunction with multivariate classification for the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in urine (2015)
Cauchi, Michael; Fowler, Dawn; Walton, Christopher; Turner, Claire; Waring, Rosemary; Ramsden, David; Hunter, John; Cole, Jeff; Teale, Philip and Bessant, Conrad
Analytical Methods, 2015(7) (pp. 8379-8385)

Application of gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC–MS) in conjunction with multivariate classification for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases (2014-12-31)
Cauchi, Michael; Fowler, Dawn P.; Walton, Christopher; Turner, Claire; Jia, Wenjing; Whitehead, Rebekah N.; Griffiths, Lesley; Dawson, Claire; Bai, Hao; Waring, Rosemary H.; Ramsden, David B.; Hunter, John O.; Cole, Jeffrey A. and Bessant, Conrad
Metabolomics, 10(6) (pp. 1113-1120)

Potential of breath and skin analysis for monitoring blood glucose concentration in diabetes (2014-01-09)
Turner, Claire
Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics, 11(5) (pp. 497-503)

Breath analysis in disease diagnosis: methodological considerations and applications (2014)
Lourenco, Celia and Turner, Claire
Metabolites, 4, Article Metabolites 2014, 4(2), 465-498(2) (pp. 465-498)

The use of a portable breath analysis device in monitoring type 1 diabetes patients in a hypoglycaemic clamp: validation with SIFT-MS data (2014)
Walton, C.; Patel, M.; Pitts, D.; Knight, P.; Hoashi, S.; Evans, M. and Turner, C.
Journal of Breath Research, 8, Article 37108(3)

The use of SIFT-MS in profiling the faecal volatile metabolome in horses with colic: a pilot study (2013-10)
Turner, Claire; Batty, Claire; Escalona, Ebony; Hunter, John O. and Proudman, Christopher
Current Analytical Chemistry, 9(4) (pp. 614-621)

Analysis of volatile organic compounds of bacterial origin in chronic gastrointestinal diseases (2013)
Walton, Christopher; Fowler, Dawn; Turner, Claire; Jia, Wenjing; Whitehead, Rebekah; Griffiths, Lesley; Dawson, Claire; Waring, Rosemary; Ramsden, David B.; Cole, Jeffrey A.; Cauchi, Michael; Bessant, Conrad and Hunter, John O.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 19(10) (pp. 2069-2078)

Development of a device for sampling cattle breath (2012-06)
Turner, Claire; Knobloch, Henri; Richards, John; Richards, Peter; Mottram, Toby T. F.; Marlin, David and Chambers, Mark A.
Biosystems Engineering, 112(2) (pp. 75-81)

Diversity and distribution of sulphate-reducing bacteria in human faeces from healthy subjects and patients with inflammatory bowel disease (2012-06)
Jia, Wenjing; Whitehead, Rebekah N.; Griffiths, Lesley; Dawson, Claire; Bai, Hao; Waring, Rosemary H.; Ramsden, David B.; Hunter, John O.; Cauchi, Michael; Bessant, Conrad; Fowler, Dawn P.; Walton, Christopher; Turner, Claire and Cole, Jeffrey A.
FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology, 65(1) (pp. 55-68)

Production of volatile organic compounds by mycobacteria (2012-03-01)
McNerney, Ruth; Mallard, Kim; Okolo, Phyllis and Turner, Claire
FEMS Microbiology Letters, 328(2) (pp. 150-156)

Optical Assay for Biotechnology and Clinical Diagnosis (2011-08-01)
Moczko, Ewa; Cauchi, Michael; Turner, Claire; Meglinski, Igor and Piletsky, Sergey
IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 58(8) (pp. 2154-2160)

Evaluation of a gas sensor array and pattern recognition for the identification of bladder cancer from urine headspace (2011)
Weber, Christina M.; Cauchi, Michael; Patel, Mitesh; Bessant, Conrad; Turner, Claire; Britton, Lezlie E. and Willis, Carolyn M.
Analyst, 136(2) (pp. 359-364)

Isoprene levels in the exhaled breath of 200 healthy pupils within the age range 7–18 years studied using SIFT-MS (2010-03)
Smith, David; Spanel, Patrik; Enderby, Beth; Lenney, Warren; Turner, Claire and Davies, Simon J.
Journal of Breath Research, 4, (p 17101)

Electronic nose responses and acute phase proteins correlate in blood using a bovine respiratory infection (2010)
Knobloch, Henri; Schroedl, Wieland; Turner, Claire; Chambers, Mark and Reinhold, Petra
Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 144(1) (pp. 81-87)

Evaluation of a combination of SIFT-MS and multivariate data analysis for the diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis in wild badgers (2009-08)
Spooner, Andrew D.; Bessant, Conrad; Turner, Claire; Knobloch, Henri and Chambers, Mark
Analyst, 134(9) (pp. 1922-1927)

Methodological variation in headspace analysis of liquid samples using electronic nose (2009-06-04)
Knobloch, Henri; Turner, Claire; Spooner, Andrew and Chambers, Mark
Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 139(2) (pp. 353-360)

Understanding the fate and transport of petroleum hydrocarbons from coal tar within gasholders (2009-02)
Coulon, Frédéric; Orsi, Roberto; Turner, Claire; Walton, Chris; Daly, Paddy and Pollard, Simon J.T.
Environment International, 35(2) (pp. 248-252)

Breath acetone concentration decreases with blood glucose concentration in type I diabetes mellitus patients during hypoglycaemic clamps (2009)
Turner, Claire; Walton, Christopher; Hoashi, Shu and Evans, Mark
Journal of Breath Research, 3, Article 46004(4)

An exploratory comparative study of volatile compounds in exhaled breath and emitted by skin using selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (2008-02-28)
Turner, Claire; Parekh, Bhavin; Walton, Christopher; Španěl, Patrik; Smith, David and Evans, Mark
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 22(4) (pp. 526-532)