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Dr Carsten Müller

Dr Carsten Müller

Reader, Postgraduate Divisional Tutor

+44 (0)29 2087 5263
+44 (0)29 2087 4116
C/5.09, Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


Chemical signalling is fundamental process common to all organisms. Chemical substances and mixtures are widely used to communicate between, attract and defend against organisms of the same and different species. Flavours and fragrances are essentally mixtures of chemicals, many biologically active chemicals serve as template for pharmaceuticals and anthropogenic pollution (in itself often a mixture of chemicals) can affect such communication even at sub-lethal levels.

Smells and scents, flavour and fragrance are mostly complex bouquets of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In fruit and vegetable such bouquets have been shown to indicate e.g. quality, freshness and variety of products. In animals these bouquets in the form of scent marks and signals can carry information on e.g. individuum, status, health and condition. My research investigates such VOC bouquets using state-of-the-art chemical analytical and statistical tools with the aim to understand behaviour and ecology mediated by VOCs, to monitor processes that lead to changes in VOC bouquets and based on this to develop monitoring tools for applications in commerce, conservation and health.

Interested in joining my lab as a self-funded post-graduate student or a postdoc/fellow?  Please contact me by email.



1989 - 1995

Doctor in Natural Sciences Carl-v.-Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, Germany

Thesis work: Isolation and Identification of a female Sex Pheromone in Alitta succinea (supervisor: Prof Erich Zeeck)


Diplom in Chemistry (MSc)  Carl-v.-Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, Germany.

Thesis work: Detection of low molecular weight organic compounds in the sea water of the German Bight applying the Grob-Hersch closed-loop stripping technic (GHCLS). (supervisor: Prof Erich Zeeck)


Vordiplom in Chemistry (BSc) Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany.

Professional experience:

2021 to date

Reader, Cardiff University

2015 to 2021

Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University

1999 - 2015

Lecturer, Cardiff University

1997 - 1999

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, Cardiff University


Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, WÖRWAG Pharma Ltd, Böblingen, Germany


Lecturer and course leader: Environmental Consultancy, IPB, Ossa, Germany


Postgraduate research assistant, Marine Chemical Ecology laboratory, Prof Erich Zeeck, Carl-v.-Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, Germany

Professional memberships

  • Member of the British Ecological Society
  • Member of the Marine Biological Association of the UK (Mem.MBA)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

Speaking engagements

2017    Co-organisor and Host for the 14th meeting of Chemical Signals in Vertebrate (CSiV XIV), Cardiff  University, Cardiff, UK, 29.08. to 01.09.2017.

2015    Invited speaker at Fruit Logistica 2015, 4-6 February 2015, Berlin

Invited speaker at British Herb Trade Association’s ‘Flavour day’ Reading, 5 March 2015.

2014    Invited speaker at European Mass Spectrometry Meeting, Agilent, Liverpool, UK, 01.10.2014.

2013    Invited speaker at one-day seminar/workshop on VOC/SVOC analysis – Food and consumer products at Markes International Ltd, Llantrisant, UK, 26.02.2014.

2013    Invited speaker and session chair at 21st  British workshop of The UK Semio-chemistry Network, Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, 30 – 31 July 2013, Cambridge, UK.

2012    Invited seminar speaker at Universidade deTras-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD), Vila Real, Portugal (18.04.).

2007    Invited seminar speaker at MPI for Ornithology at Radolfzell, Germany, 20.04.2007

2004    Invited speaker at symposium on ‘Invertebrate sentinels of environmental hormone disruption:  ecological effects and evolutionary implications at SICB Meeting in New Orleans, LA., January 4-8, 2004.

1998    Postdoctoral Travel Award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology

Committees and reviewing

  • Editor for 'Molecules' (MDPI), Section Board 'Flavours and Fragrances'
  • Editor of special issue "Sampling, Separation and Isolation Techniques of Flavour Compounds" in 'Molecules' (MDPI)
  • Grant reviewer BBSRC and ESF
  • Journal reviewer for e.g. Scientific Reports, Frontiers Microbiology, Food Chemistry, Food Research, Postharvest Biology and Technology,






















I carry out a range of teaching from year 1 to final year undergraduate teaching, final year project supervision, PTY supervision and tutoring and supervision of postgraduate master projects. I currently contribute to:

  • Year 1
    • module 'Skills for Science' (setting and assesment of Presentation and essay topics)
    • module 'Biological Chemistry' (deputy module lead and exam lead; lectures on general, inorganic and physical chemistry, practical classes on redox titration and UV-vis spectroscopy)
  • Year 2
    • module 'Animal Diversity and Adaptations' (Lectures on Lophotrochozoa, Molluscs, Chemical Senses, Practical class on Freshwater InvertebrateTaxonomy)
    • module 'Ecology and Conservation Part B' (Lead for 'Marine Conservation field course' - Borneo Marine Field course, Gaya Island, Borneo, Malaysia)
  • Year 3
    • Biosciences Final Year Project (Project supervision)
    • module 'Evolution and Adaptation' (lectures on Species Concepts, Speciation - speed and sensory drive, Sensory Ecology, coursework on Analysis of scent data)
  • Year 4
    • module Advanced Research Methods (workshop on Small molecule analysis, essay topic and assessment for critical analysis)

Broadly speaking, the majority of my research aims to understand the information that is in encoded in changes and differences of profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and to identify the minimal number of chemical components that are sufficient to convey 'the message'.

'The message' can mean e.g. individuum, status, health and condition in the context of chemical ecology, behavioural ecology and disease or quality, freshness and variety of product in a postharvest biology context. Accordingly, my research addresses

1) fundamental questions of chemical communication are subject of the SWBio DTP project "How do dogs respond to changes in cortisol levels in conspecifics and humans?" in collaboration with Dr Nicola Rooney, Bristol University Veterinary School, and Claire Guest, Medical Detection Dogs (iCASE partner) and a Fondation Fyssen fellowship on blue petrels titles "Smelling good genes - odour-based discrimination of MHC-dissimilarity"collaboration with Dr Francesco Bonadonna, CEFE/CNRS, Montpellier, France). Stress memory and responses, important aspects of plant physiology, are subject of the BBSRC project "Future forages: Implications of forage adaption to climate change for ruminant production." in collaboration with Prof Hilary Rogers, BIOSI, Prof Alison Kingston-Smith, IBERS, Aberystwyth.

2) applications for monitoring of product quality & safety, are currently subject of SWBio DTP project "Salad contamination with Listeria – improving food safety through understanding plant-bacterial interactions and development of novel detection methods" in colaboration with Dr Cedric Berger and Prof Hilary Rogers, Cardiff School of Biosciences) and the project "“Multi-trait approach to enhance FRUit qualITY in post-harvest storage conditions (FRUITY)" funded by Fondazione con el Sud in collaboration with Prof Hilary Rogers, CU, Dr Natasha Spadafora, University of Calabria, Italy/Markes International, UK, Prof M Beatrice Ditonti and Dr Leonardo Bruno, University of Calabria and Prof Antonio Ferrante, University of Milan, Italy.

3) diagnostic tools in health & disease e.g. MRC P2D project "Breath Biomarkers to diagnose and monitor diabetes" in collaboration with Prof Steve Luzio, Diabetes Research Unit Cymru, Swansea University, Dr Shahin Rostami, Polyra Ltd and Ezra Carlson & Paul Hart, NanoNose Ltd and starting this within the GW4+DTP funded project "The smell of infection – detecting infectious disease and determining mechanisms underlying the spread of disease in social networks" in collaboration with Dr Sarah Perkins, BIOSI, and iCASE partner Markes International, Llantrisant.

VOCs are generally easy to collect and can be collected non-invasively, which makes VOCs particular attractive for use as diagnostic tools.

After collection, chemical analyses of VOCs are carried out using state-of-the-art chemical analytical (thermal desorption gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry) facilities in the Small Molecule Hub of the School of Biosciences, which is followed by identification of critical subsets (or biomarkers) of compounds by using advanced statistical tools such as Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variance, Random Forest or Correlation Network Analysis.

In addition to my work on VOCs I regularly collaborate in research projects that benefit from my expertise in analytical chemistry and environmental sciences more generally. The most recent projects were "The Price of Persistence: Small Carnivore Ecology within the Anthropogenically-Degraded Kinabatangan Landscape"  in collaboration with Profs Benoit Goossens, Danau Girang Field Station, Borneo, Malaysia and Peter Kille, BIOSI, which required my support in heavy metal analysis and "Nutrient-specific foraging and the role of spiders as aphid predators" in collaboration with Prof Bill Symondson, Drs Ian Vaughan, Pablo Orozco-terWengel, BIOSI, and James Bell, Rothamsted Research, which required the development of a micro-scale assay for macro-nutrients.

Staff associated with current research projects:

* Timothée Zidat (Postdoc/Fellow - Smelling good genes - odour-based discrimination of MHC-dissimilarity)

* Zoe Parr-Cortes (SWBio DTP Phd - How do dogs respond to changes in cortisol levels in conspecifics and humans?)

* Nico Bruyniks (SWBio DTP PhD - Salad contamination with Listeria – improving food safety through understanding plant-       bacterial interactions and development of novel detection methods)

* Ayman Asiri (GW4+ DTP PhD - The smell of infection – detecting infectious disease and determining mechanisms underlying the spread of disease in social networks.)



As well as specifically advertised PhD positions, I am also interested in supervising self-funded PhD students in the areas of:

  • vertebrate chemical ecology
  • plant volatiles
  • microbial volatiles
  • volatolomics

Current supervision


Ayman Asiri

Research student

Past projects

Dr Alexandra McCubbin (PhD student; 2022; co-supervisor) Genetic differentiation and immunogenetics of two sympatric storm petrel species on the Azores.

Dr Jordan Cuff (PhD student; 2021; co-supervisor) Nutrient-specific foraging and the role of spiders as aphid predators.

Dr Megan Harris (PhD student; 2020; co-supervisor) The Price of Persistence: Small Carnivore Ecology within the Anthropogenically-Degraded Kinabatangan Landscape.

Dr Richard Ludlow (PhD student; 2019; co-supervisor) Developing innovative marker systems for garlic post-harvest quality assessment.

Dr Jade O'Leary (PhD student; 2018; co-supervisor) Multi-dimensial mycelial interactions.

Dr Kibedi Bilal Cabral (PhD student; 2014; co-supevisor) Towards Optimisation of L-DOPA synthesis in Mucuna pruriens.

Dr Elenor Kean (PhD student; 2012; co-supervisor) Chemical communication in otters: the role of scent material and its use as a potential monitoring tool.

Dr Jennifer Hiscox née Evans (PhD student; 2011; co-supervisor) Gene expression and metabolite production during interspecific basidiomycete interactions.

Dr Nawal N. El.Areibi (PhD student; 2011; co-supervisor) Production and role of volatile compounds during interspecific basisiomycete interactions in wood and soil.

Dr Dean Burnard (PhD student; 2010; co-supervisor) Reproductive chemical cues in two freshwater
fishes: topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva (Temminck and Schlegel) and sunbleak Leucaspius delineatus (Heckel).

Dr Jonathan Wood (PhD student; 2009; co-supervisor) The effects of garlic on the susceptibility of MRSA to β-lactam antibiotics.

Dr Tim Rotheray (PhD student; 2008; co-supervisor) Invertebrate attraction to mycelial interaction zones; effects on fungal foraging.

Dr Victoria Gray (PhD student; 2006; co-supervisor) Methods for Enhanced Microbial Detection and Measurement.

Dr Katey Lemar (PhD student; 2005; co-supervisor) Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Extract based Preparations.

Dr Ahmed Ali (PhD student; 2005; co-supervisor) Repellent, antifeedant and muluscicidal effect of Commiphora spp. oleoresins and their extracts on Seroceras reticulatum and Helix aspersa.

Dr Simon Cotrell (PhD Student; 2004; co-supervisor) Antimicrobial Properties of Garlic.