Dr Samantha Fawkner (PhD, SFHEA)

Interim Head of School, Moray House School of Education and Sport / Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health


I joined the University of Edinburgh as Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health in November 2011. I have a background in paediatric exercise physiology, and as a founding member of the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) my current research primarily focuses on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health in young people. I am also passionate about teaching. I teach primarily on the the MSc Physical Activity for Health and BMedSci Physical Activity for Health, having co-directed both during the years in which they became established. I also teach on a range of other undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and currently supervise six PhD students.  I was depute director of the Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences between 2016 and 2020,  Deputy Head of Moray House School of Education and Sport (Students) between 2020 and 2024, and am currently Interim Head of School. 


  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy, 2018
  • Level 3 accredited anthropometrist, International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (since 2005) 
  • PGCert in Academic Practice, Heriot Watt University 2004
  • PhD Paediatric Exercise Physiology, University of Exeter, 2002
  • BSc(Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, University of Exeter, 1999

Responsibilities & affiliations

Interim Head of School, Moray House School of Education and Sport (MHSES)

Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences (SPEHS)

Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC)

Undergraduate teaching

  • BSc Applied Sports Science

  • BMedSci Physical Activity for Health 

  • Health and Wellbeing Promotion in the University Community and Beyond (Level 8 Course)

Postgraduate teaching

  • MSc Physical Activity for Health 
  • MSc Strength and Conditioning 

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • Chuchu Li - The effect of classroom-based interventions that reduce sedentary behavior on school-aged children’s psychological and educational outcome
  • Steffan Griffin - Rugby, health and wellbeing
  • Ling Shen - Chinese student participation in university group walks 
  • Niamh Hart - Yoga, physical activity and health in adolescents 
  • Ari Rakhmart  - Physical activity programmes in university settings
  • Yujing Li - Physical activity and wellbeing in children and adolescents with autism 

Past PhD students supervised

  • Anne-Marie Knowles - Physical Activity behaviour in adolescent girls during the transition from primary to secondary school 
  • Joan Henretty - Physical Activity and adolescent girls: the development and evaluation of an active-gaming intervention
  • Mhairi MacDonald- Walking for health in adolescent girls
  • Chuang-Yuan Chiu- Building Individual 3D Human Models from Depth Images
  • Laird Yvonne- Social support for physical activity in adolescent girls
  • Nicky Laing- Why older adults start and continue to walk with walking groups
  • Eva  Coral Almeida - The role of standing desks on musculoskeletal disorders  
  • Helen Weavers- The effect of a resistance training intervention on physical activity levels in youths.

Research summary

My research focusses on the broad topic of health, wellbeing, physical activity and health. It draws on a background expertise in pediatric exercise physiology and assessment of body composition, a knowledge and application of mixed methods in research, and on the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions to enhance physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour of young people. Projects have  primarily focussed on physical activity and sedentary behaviour in young people, specifically exploring low active groups (particularly adolescent girls), measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, and interventions to encourage positive behaviour change, including the role of digital health. I am also interested in the role of the University as a place to encourage healthy physical activity habits during a key transitional period. 

My current research interests include

  • Role of standing desks in schools on changing sedentary behaviour and optimising the learning environment 
  • The role of personal health monitoring in the classroom on positive behaviour changes and digital health literacy
  • The potential role of walking interventions in adolescent girls to enhance physical activity  
  • The promotion of physical activity in University settings 

Project activity

Funded research since 2008

2023 - 2026     UKRI Knowledge Transfer Partnership; Teens, Trails And Tech: KTP With Paths For All To Co-create A Walking Challenge For Young People (Co-I)

2022    EFI Research award. BroSport Potential: Evaluation of a novel sports provision for school pupils from deprived areas.    (Co-I)

2020    ESRC, IAA; Taking Datafit into the classroom (PI)

2019    EFI Research award; Harnessing the opportunities of personal health data monitoring (PI)

2019    Seedcorn funding. Moray House School of Education; Evaluating the provision of yoga for children with additional support needs (PI) 

2018    DDI Skills Gateway; Using Physical Activity Data to Improve Young People’s Health (PI)

2017    Seedcorn funds, Moray House School of Education; The feasibility of standing desks in classrooms: one way to close the gap? (Co-I)

2013    Knowledge Exchange Grant, College of. Working together with the Hibernian Community Foundation to develop a programme to increase physical activity in adolescent girls (PI)

2012    Paths for All; Walking for Health in older adults. PhD studentship.   (Co-I)

2012    West Lothian Community Health and Care Partnership; Physical activity and nutrition status in families in West Lothian. (PI)

2010    West Lothian Community Health and Care Partnership; Physical activity in primary and secondary school children in West Lothian. (PI)

2009    Scottish Government; SPARColl Physical activity for health PhD studentship; Walking for health in adolescent girls (PI)

2009    The Nuffield Foundation; A qualitative investigation of the psychological determinants and consequences of walking for health. (Co-I)

2008    Scottish Funding Council; Knowledge exchange on public policy in Scotland; - Increasing physical activity for health in hard to reach groups. (Co-PI)

2008    Chief Scientist Office; Small Grant award - £47,645 (PI) - The potential health benefits for adolescent girls of active computer gaming.(PI)

2007    Chief Scientist Office PhD Studentship - Using new technology to increase physical activity in adolescent girls. (Co-PI)

2007    Big Lottery; A pilot study on the use of pedometers to increase physical activity in adolescent girls. (PI)

2006    sportscotland; A longitudinal study of the influence of physical and psychological changes during maturation on physical activity motives and behaviour in adolescent girls. (Co-I)

2008    Paths for All; A pilot study to investigate active and sedentary behaviour in a work environment. (Co-I)