Facts & figures

Research spotlight

  • $2.2 million in research funding and grants since 2018
  • 50+ peer reviewed papers published since 2017

Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory

Identifying the limits of human survival, comfort, and work performance in extreme climates
We're building a better understanding of the physiological and physical factors that determine human heat strain and the risk of heat-related health problems during work, physical activity and heat waves.

About us

Led by Associate Professor Ollie Jay, the research activities of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory aim to inform policies and recommendations put forth by public health authorities, sporting bodies, and government organisations, and subsequently provide better protection for the most vulnerable individuals and communities during hot weather.

Our research

Our research is conducted under the supervision of Associate Professor Ollie Jay, Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory and Lead Researcher for the Research Node on Climate Adaptation and Health at the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC).

Our research activities largely fall under the following areas:

  • Building human resilience in the face of a changing climate
  • assessing thermoregulatory impairments of specific populations (e.g. elderly, children, MS patients, obese, pregnant)
  • extreme heat policy development
  • biothermal modelling
  • paediatric temperature management
  • managing occupational heat stress exposure
  • heat acclimatisation
  • thermoregulatory responses to dehydration and caffeine ingestion
  • mitigating heat-related fatigue.

Research highlights

  • Our team was commissioned to develop and deliver a new extreme heat policy for the 2019 Australian Tennis Open.
  • Our team has been responsible for the development of new extreme heat policies for Cricket Australia, the National Rugby League (NRL), and the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
  • In 2017, Associate Professor Ollie Jay was awarded a University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research and Teaching.
  • Associate Professor Ollie Jay was recently awarded a 2-year University of Sydney SOAR fellowship entitled "Climate change and vulnerability: managing and mitigating the health impacts of extreme heat."
  • Our team recently received a $1.1M 5-year NHMRC Project Grant to develop and disseminate the world's first evidence-based guidance for sustainable cooling strategies for vulnerable people during different types of heat waves.
  • Our research group led one of the first human thermoregulation studies to be published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (IF: 47.7), demonstrating that current public health guidance on fan use during heatwaves issued by all major international public health agencies is potentially flawed.

Our people

  • Amy Harwood

Amy is working on the NHMRC Older Adults Cooling Strategy Project to develop the most effective cooling methods for healthy and hypertensive older adults during extreme heat events.

  • James Smallcombe

James is a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. His research focusses on the physiological responses of children and adolescents during exercise in environmental extremes. His other research interests include the impacts of heat stress in vulnerable populations.

  • Dr Nicole Vargas

Nicole studies the implications of thermal stress on integrative physiology. Her research investigates physiological signals that contribute to engaging in voluntary cool-seeking behaviours, and how this helps to promote heat loss and mitigate heat-related symptoms for both healthy populations and individuals with heat-sensitive Multiple Sclerosis.

  • Sarah Carter
Sarah’s research aims to relieve thermal discomfort within the workplace for menopausal women. Specifically, her work aims to identify the physiology behind the ‘hot flush’; the association between thermal discomfort and air temperature within the workplace; and practical cooling interventions for the work and home environment.
  • Connor Graham
Connor’s research includes developing evidence based cooling strategies that can be employed in low resource areas around the globe, specifically regions where severe heatwaves are coupled with poor water quality. Additionally, he is examining the impact of dehydration on thermoregulation with a view towards informing publicly available heatwave advice.
  • Timothy English
Tim’s research focusses on mitigating heat-related reductions in human performance with a focus on aerobic exercise and physical function in athletes and people with multiple sclerosis.
  • Glenda Anderson
Glenda is involved in the development of effective Environmental Measuring Units to provide accurate values compared to measurements provided by local meteorological values and commercially available units in order to develop extreme heat policies in summer sports.
  • Mohammad Bin Maideen
Maintaining body temperature is crucial in early childhood for survival and comfort. There are pertinent factors within this early stage of the human lifespan, such as infants born prematurely resulting in thermophysiological systems that are not fully developed, to young children who are exposed to environmental variables that are beyond their control. More research needs to be done to address these concerns and the PhD thesis will look into mitigating thermal strain from the prepartum stage to early childhood.
  • Lily Hospers
Lily is examining the physiological factors that determine the strain experienced during extreme heat events and investigates strategies to mitigate the development of this strain.
  • Lindsey Hunt
Lindsey’s recent project investigated the effect of caffeine on thermoregulatory outcomes in response to exercise. Lindsey’s next phase of research will develop our understanding of the environments within the major cricket stadia of Australia, examine optimal cooling strategies for cricketers and improve the accuracy of estimated variables that are inputs for extreme heat policies in sport.

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