Current Projects


Natalie Gurzeler, Giao Nguyen, Sofia Sabra, Tracy Tran, Ashwin Vasudevan

The UCLA Heat Lab approaches climate issues from an interdisciplinary lens and explores how scientific research can effect social and political change. After coming to UCLA and joining the Heat Lab, many of the education team members realized that their own high school experiences lacked a curriculum that was interdisciplinary, relevant to environmental injustice and climate issues, or driven towards finding real-world solutions. We hope to provide current high school students with the opportunities we now have and encourage these future leaders to act on their curiosities within the intersection of science and social justice, all while offering engagement with college-level research and mentorship.

Heat & Incarceration

Karina Brunn, Olivia Toledo, Chelsea Tran, Ashwin Vasudevan

The Heat and Incarceration Project researches how heat affects incarcerated people and people who work in carceral settings. While many people’s options for heat relief are limited, being trapped in a cement and metal prison cell makes the heat totally inescapable – and sometimes lethal – for the incarcerated. In the face of climate change and mass incarceration, this is a human rights and public health issue that deserves urgent attention from researchers, activists, and policy-makers. Through analyzing both the politics and science of the ongoing heat crisis in prisons and detention facilities, we aim to understand why incarcerated people are at high risk for adverse heat affects, how policy and state interests drive extreme heat and consequent suffering, and whether solutions such as air conditioning can be implemented without undermining prison abolition efforts.

Sleep & Thermal Comfort

Chelsea Tran

Hot Takes Podcast

Karina Brunn, Natalie Gurzeler, Jason Sutedja, Chelsea Tran, Tracy Tran

The Heat Lab’s podcast! Find it on our homepage!

Heat & Aging

Desiree Eshraghi, Ashwin Vasudevan

This research group focuses on the specific heat vulnerabilities that our senior population faces. As an often overlooked demographic, our team researches the ways in which the elderly population is uniquely and disproportionately affected by the heat. We are particularly interested in winter mortality due to heat events.

Heat & Immigration

Symphony Jackson

This documentary, currently unnamed,  aims to serve as an impactful way to translate the experiences and voices of immigrants who have made great journeys across physical and cultural borders, while simultaneously dealing with a naturally derived adversary: heat. Our project is derived from the trailblazing work of The Undocumented Migration Project directed by Jason De León, an anthropologist and beloved professor of our very own UCLA. Similarly, our project strives to shed light on the unique stories of immigrants navigating a challenging climate as they make their journeys.

TRAG Watts Heat Project

Guadalupe Bernabe, Katarina Cabrera, Symphony Jackson , Gael Perez

In a case study of Watts, Los Angeles—a historically Black neighborhood where temperatures are 4.7°F hotter than the city average—the research team is examining how the neighborhood’s microclimate has changed over time to pinpoint what discriminatory interventions contributed to the present-day heat burden. This is an interdisciplinary study led by Dr. Kelly Turner and Dr. Mark Vestal from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Dr. Bharat Venkat from the Institute of Society and Genetics and Department of History.

Specifically, the UCLA Heat Lab student researchers are on the Oral History Team where they aim to document “thermal narratives” and “idioms of heat,” which encourages participants to speak about their experiences of heat beyond the social and natural sciences and to develop a vocabulary that describes bodily and environmental sources of heat and its affective associations. In collaboration with archival analysis and microclimate simulation modeling of specific Watts locations, the research team ultimately aims to understand the specific causes of heat disparities to identify how and where to invest resources to advance environmental justice.

Data Analysis

Karina Brunn, Desiree Eshraghi, Sofia Sabra, Tracy Tran

After conducting a meta-analysis revealing that knowledge about heat has been built up around certain kinds of bodies that are not most at risk for heat-related illness, the thermal physiology team plans to research the physiological effects of heat on those who are most vulnerable and analyze hospitalization rates. This will involve pursuing scholarship on the interaction of heat, the human body, and other confounding factors (e.g. pollution, air conditioning, etc.) alongside conducting oral histories to present the perspectives of different student populations and campus staff.

Heat Within Sweatshops

Chelsea Tran, Tracy Tran

When mentioning sweatshops, the image created in one’s head perpetuates the idea of “out of sight, out of mind”. It is commonly assumed that sweatshops are abroad in developing countries. Therefore, it is easy to turn the other way, pay the thought no mind, as something so distant can be almost forgotten. However, what many fail to realize is sweatshops are not exclusively external to the United States. In fact, in our very own city of Los Angeles and spanning across the greater Los Angeles area, sweatshops hide out of sight, and their conditions no better than the United State’s global importers.

As anthropogenic effects cause temperatures to rise, working conditions for garment workers deteriorate even more so than its already alarming state. In the summer, garment workers suffer from a range of  heat-related illnesses like headaches, fatigue, or nausea. It is not uncommon for workers to pass out from heat exhaustion on the job. With this in mind, how will our research play a role to address this ongoing issue?