Student & ECR Spotlight –Merling Phaswana

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I am a lecturer and part-time PhD candidate at the Department for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Medicine in 2019 from the University of the Witwatersrand. I worked as a part-time junior Lecturer for the Centre for biokinetics, recreation and sport sciences at the University of Venda. I also hold Bachelor’s degree in Biokinetics from the University of Venda, South Africa.

What is your main research interest?

The aim of my PhD is to address sedentary behaviour and improve cardiovascular health in South African office workers. My research area of interest lies in understanding and addressing obesity-related disorders and sedentary behaviour in South African workers. A further interest is in developing strategies to address obesity and cardiometabolic diseases in South African working place.

What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high-quality research?

  • Lack of Mentorship, information and induction in academic spaces.
  • Funding, scarcity of funding 
  • Covid 19 has changed how research is conducted and people’s perception
  • Lack of networks i.e. to publish in impact journals you need to co-author with prominent scholars.
  • Racial issues (it’s hard for black people to be seen or heard in professional spaces)

Given unlimited funding, what would your dream research project be?

I would implement lifestyle behaviour changes in office-based workers in South Africa. The project would target participants’ interests and the interventions to address behaviour changes will be based on participants.


If you would like to get in touch with Merling, you can do so via e-mail at [email protected], Twitter at merlingphaswana1, Instagram at merlingphaswana, LinkedIn at