Postgraduate research

Feeling the heat: a mixed-methods investigation into the impacts of indoor temperature during heatwaves on populations with chronic health conditions

Qualification: PhD

Department: Population Health Sciences

Application deadline: 9 June 2023

Start date: 25 September 2023


University of Leicester 3.5 Year Future 50 Studentship within the Institute of Environmental Futures


Dr Samuel Cai (Health Sciences)

Dr Nibedita S Ray Bennett 

Dr Joshua Vande Hey

Project Description:

Establishing a maximum indoor temperature threshold to protect vulnerable people and manage heat-related immediate health risks for future heatwaves; 

Using a holistic approach to investigating a wide range of factors that affect indoor temperature, from home outdoor environment, demographical profiles to personal perceptions and behavioural changes toward high temperature;  

Providing excellent inter-disciplinary training for the candidate on epidemiology, exposure/climate science, and qualitative research methods and producing robust evidence for policy discussion on the health impacts of climate change as well as approaches for heat disaster response

As the climate changes, periods of high temperature (i.e. heatwaves) will become more frequent and more intense in the coming decades in the UK.

The current Heatwave Plan for England is primarily informed by epidemiological evidence of outdoor temperature (as a proxy of individual exposure) to issue heatwaves alerts. It does not, however, consider the nuanced relationships between home outdoor and indoor temperature; the immediate health impacts of high indoor temperature; and differential perceptions and behavioural changes toward high temperature among individuals. There is currently no agreed threshold on indoor temperature in residential settings to protect health from heatwaves. Research is particularly needed among people with heat-sensitive health conditions, as they are more likely to stay at home and at higher risks to be hospitalised. 

The key question: does it exist a threshold of indoor temperature at which immediate heat-related symptoms start to emerge so both health professionals and at-risk groups can take actions to minimise the risk of hospitalisation or death? 

This study will use a sub-sample from the Leicester-based EXCEED cohort, consisting of 500-600 participants with chronic heart, lung, kidney diseases and diabetes. Thermometer will be installed in participants’ homes (living room and bedroom) in early 2024 and indoor temperature will be recorded on a daily basis (at hourly resolution) from May-September 2024. 

In different outdoor temperature periods (18–22°C, 22–26°C, 26–30°C, 30–34°C, >34°C), a telephone follow-up with questionnaires will be conducted to collect data on heat-related symptoms, perception towards indoor thermal comfort and behavioural changes.   

These data will then be analysed for three objectives: 

(1) To characterise the relationship between home outdoor and indoor temperature, and whether such relationship is modified by different housing types, socioeconomic positions and green/blue infrastructures nearby (e.g. parks, rivers, tree-lined streets); 

(2) To establish the exposure-response curves between indoor temperature and several immediate health outcomes of heat (e.g. anxiety, dry mouth, cramps, fatigue, nausea, headache, loss of consciousness, breathlessness, trouble sleeping, etc) in different disease groups; 

(3) To understand the varying perceptions and behavioural changes toward high temperature and qualitatively summarise possible routes for future interventions. 




Future 50 Studentship provides:

  • 3.5 years Stipend at UKRI rates, currently at £17,668 per annum (2023/2024 rates yet to be announced)
  • 3.5 years Tuition Fees at UK rates (£4,712 for 2023/4)

International students must be able to fund the difference between UK and International fees for the duration of their studies. This will amount to £17,138 per year.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. 

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Project enquiries to Dr Samuel Cai

Application enquiries to

How to apply

How to apply

To apply, please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page and select September 2023 from the dropdown menu.

With your application, please include:

  • CV
  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you.
  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable.
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.
  • In the funding section please specify Future 50 RI EF Cai 
  • In the research proposal section please provide the name of the project supervisors and the project title (a proposal is not required).



Open to UK and International* applicants

*International applicants please refer to the funding section.

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