This is a joint project between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Imperial College London.
Whilst emergency services are vital for mitigating against adverse impacts of malicious attacks on publicly accessible locations, the public themselves can also play a role in reducing adverse impacts from such incidents.
There is a substantial literature relating to the behaviour of casualties and bystanders in a mass casualty emergency, which demonstrates the key role that they can play in supporting emergency responders and other members of the public to respond to such incidents. The key may lie in providing members of the public with pre-incident information to help them to take appropriate actions to support responders and other members of the public; however, few studies have examined the effectiveness of pre-incident public education in enhancing public capability to support emergency response. Where this has been examined, methods have typically included focus groups or online experiments, which are limited due to lack of realism in how emergencies are depicted. And while field exercises may be more realistic, they are too resource-intensive to allow for extensive testing.
Recent advances in immersive virtual reality (VR) technology and methods offer an opportunity to overcome these limitations, enabling considerable numbers of members of the public to interact with scenarios modelled on a range of mass casualty emergencies.
This PhD will apply VR technology to assess the impact of preparedness training/education on public behaviour in the event of a mass casualty emergency. The primary research question is whether preparedness training/education makes a significant difference to public capability to contribute to the acute response effort. A subsidiary aim is to refine methodological approaches to using VR to test outcomes such as observed behaviour, group interaction and physiological responses. Outputs will contribute to public-facing guidance for emergency situations, to improve public preparedness to respond should a real incident occur.
The project will be supervised by Professor Arnab Majumdar at Imperial College London and Dr Holly Carter and Dr Charles Symons at UKHSA.
Applications will not be considered unless the following requirements are satisfied:
- A Masters level degree qualification (or international equivalent) in psychology (all sub-disciplines will be considered but there will be a preference for social or experimental psychology)
- Imperial College English language requirement www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/requirements/english/ (e.g. IELTS 6.5 overall, minimum 6.0 in all elements).
Some of the data collection will need to take place in an Imperial College London laboratory in central London, so the successful candidate will either need to be based in London (or a commutable distance), or able to relocate or commute during data collection periods.
Furthermore, students who demonstrate the following desirable qualifications are encouraged to apply:
- Experience developing virtual reality or immersive virtual environment technology products
- Knowledge or experience of emergency response
- Experience of coding in research (e.g. R, Python, Unity, Matlab)
About the Funding
The studentship will provide funding for up to 3 years, including tuition fees (3 years) and a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI bursary, expected to be around £18,062pa for the 2022/23 academic year, for 3 years. Full funding is available to Home students. The funding can also be used to partly support an international student.
Other scholarships can be found in the university website:
How to Apply
Applicants wishing to be considered for this PhD should send the following application documents in a single PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Imperial College London PhD Application” in the subject heading by 23:59 on Friday 26 August 2022:
- Cover letter, explaining their motivation and suitability by addressing the requirements.
- CV, including UG and MSc transcripts with average grades and research experience (if any).
- Contact details of two referees (including name, affiliation, phone number and email address).
Interviews will be held in September. Application via the Imperial College Registry is not necessary at this stage.