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Trajectories: The social science of developmental pathways to health from preconception to childhood in South Africa

   Department of Global Health and Social Medicine

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  Dr Michelle Pentecost  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PHD studentship in Global Health and Social Medicine: Trajectories

Location: King’s College London, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine

Hours: Full Time

Start date: January 2022


Trajectories: The social science of developmental pathways to health from preconception to childhood in South Africa is hosted by King’s College London in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand and the Graduate Institute, Geneva. This UKRI-funded project partners with the Healthy Early Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI), a World Health Organisation-supported study that aims to test preconception interventions for the prevention of childhood obesity. HeLTI is a multi-country study with cohorts in Canada, India, China and South Africa; Trajectories works with the latter, hosted by the SAMRC Developmental Pathways for Health Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The aims of this project are to investigate the social and ethical implications of public health interventions in the early life period from preconception to early childhood, and to develop innovative qualitative methodologies for studying the social factors that shape life trajectories.

PhD Studentship

The successful PhD applicant will undertake their PhD research as part of the Trajectories team and will study the social and ethical implications of preconception interventions. Specifically, the PhD candidate will use qualitative and ethnographic methods to address the following objectives:


·       Elucidate how and why 'preconception' and 'early life' are being newly defined in life course frameworks to emerge as objects of global health intervention, and how knowledge in life course science is produced, disseminated and validated

·       Examine life course research and its methodological limitations and challenges in the specific context of South Africa;

·       Analyse how bioethical considerations are understood and attended to in the context of a preconception trial.

The successful candidate will work closely with the Trajectories and HeLTI teams in a highly interdisciplinary research environment. The candidate will be expected to travel to and spend significant time in Johannesburg, and to undertake regular trips for project meetings, writing retreats and workshops/conferences. The successful candidate will also be supported and expected to contribute to project-related activities, including event organisation, website and social media management, conference and workshop participation, presentation of findings, and drafting of publications.


The applicant will be co-supervised by Dr Michelle Pentecost and Dr Silvia Camporesi in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

This is an exciting opportunity for a PhD student who is interested in inter-disciplinary research and would like to work closely with a supervisory team with expertise in global health, anthropology and bioethics.

Scholarship details

This scholarship is funded by King’s College London. It includes a fee waiver and an annual stipend of approximately £17,874 and is open to applicants of any nationality. As part of the Trajectories team, the successful candidate will also benefit from a generous allowance for extensive field research, travel for conferences and dedicated training. PhD candidates at King’s College London also have access to a wide range of training opportunities at KCL's Centre for Doctoral Studies.


Eligibility criteria

Applications are sought from exceptional candidates with an outstanding academic background.



·       Master’s degree in anthropology, sociology, bioethics, science and technology studies or relevant social science

·       Excellent interpersonal communication skills

·       Excellent organisational, analytical and problem-solving skills

·       Collegiality and willingness to work as part of a team

·       Ability to use own initiative and think critically

·       Willingness to travel for extended periods of fieldwork


·       Fluency in one of South Africa’s eleven official languages in addition to English language

·       Prior relevant fieldwork, independent research, or work experience

How to apply

Candidates should submit the following to [Email Address Removed] by the application deadline:

  • A Curriculum Vitae (maximum 2 pages)
  • A statement outlining your interest in the research project, how you meet the eligibility criteria and what you might bring to the project (maximum 1000 words)

Applicants invited to interview will be asked to supply

  • A sample of your written work (5000 words maximum)
  • University transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation

For informal enquiries about the project and the studentship, please contact Dr Michelle Pentecost [Email Address Removed].

The closing date for applications is Friday 30 July 2021 5pm GMT. Interviews are expected to take place w/c 16 August 2021.

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