Meet Tasleem Hassim Sayed, a researcher on resilience! What is your forte?

Why did you choose to become a scientist?

Research, science, academia, and teaching was not something I ‘aspired’ to become. When I was young I wanted to become an air hostess, but that idea was short lived after I watched a movie where a plane crashed. Thereafter, my interest grew towards human behaviour and psychology. In school, I was an introvert but extremely observant and I would always ask myself why do certain people behave in certain ways and I would always question my peer’s obedience and reactions to certain events. A few years later I was registered as a first-year student in Health Sciences – with my majors in Psychology and Social work.

After my degree in social work and my honours in psychology, I applied for the master’s program in Psychology. After few interviews and a strict selection process, I was denied acceptance into the program but was asked to assist as a part time lecturer. I was not keen on this idea as I did not have the self-confidence and assertiveness to present myself before a group of students. Nevertheless, I accepted the offer and that is where my interest in academia developed.

Today, 7 years later, I have found my passion in teaching and inspiring young students to become the best they can be.

Class preparation/ Trix Beatrice

Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in science?

Since I did not ‘plan’ to end up in science, I never really looked up to anyone. However, when I entered the world of science and academia I drew inspiration from many of my lecturers that taught me while I was a student.

Which topic are you working on at the moment? Why did you choose this topic and how do you think you’ll make a difference?

Since my first master’s degree, I became interested in resilience and well-being, specifically amongst the student population. Since my interest is in resilience, for my second master’s degree I also focused on resilience with a closer to look at the protective factors that contribute to the coping of undergraduate students in higher education. At the moment, I am interested in the refugee population. A masters student of mine is busy with her dissertation on exploring refugee resilience. Refugees are a vulnerable population that faces many challenges and many of these refugees live in poor conditions. I would love to work on a program to contribute to their resilience and well-being.

What are the hardest parts related to this work?

There is a difficulty to ‘shut down’, many times work comes home with me. Marking assignments and tests don’t always get done during office hours.

What are your biggest achievements, and what your biggest failures?

For many years after the master’s degree, I thought my greatest failure was not being selected. Years later, I realized that this failure was just a stepping stone to greater possibilities and achievements.

I believe that achievements are the result of working on your dreams, having the courage to face disappointment and the ability to keep moving forward. Having achieved four degrees in 12 years has been my greatest achievement. Further achievements of mine include receiving the Institutional teaching and learning award (2016), presenting at an international conference (2013), publishing my first article (2010), being part of the golden key honour society (2009), contributing to a chapter of the book on strengths based counselling (2015), and recording 6 television episodes for an education programme called open varsity.

What is a typical day like for you?

On a good day, my day begins at 5:00. I gym during the early hours of the morning as I often find myself lazy after work. After the gym, I spoil myself with a good breakfast including a cup of coffee, as they say, life only begins after coffee. I live close to the University where I am employed at, so I leave at 7:40 and am settled in my office by 8:00. I first attend to emails or incomplete work from the previous day. Students walk in and out of my office as I have an open door policy. Most of my days I prepare for my class presentations, work on admin and of course research. I enjoy two cups of coffee during the day it brings me a sense of comfort. By 16:00 I leave the office, get home and put my apron on and find myself in front of the stove. During the evenings, I enjoy my husband’s company and usually I retire to bed before 22:00

Research in the library/ Trix Beatrice

Did you ever doubt your abilities as a scientist? Why? How did you handle these situations/feelings?

Yes, many times, but with time I gained confidence. I must admit, completing a second master’s degree really assisted me to gain expert knowledge and confidence in my abilities, during this time I had a good supervisor who walked the road with me.

What (or who) motivated you in difficult times?

My family – they are my strength.

In ten years, what do you hope to have accomplished in terms of your work?

I would like to have my Ph.D. in ten years from now. I would also like to have made a small difference to refugees. I hope to have published few more articles. I would also like to start a blog and write a book.

Is there any scientific topic (outside of your field of research) that you think should have more scientific attention? Which one?

Yes, I think the influence of social media on adolescence.

During your career, have you been specifically mentored or supported by someone?

I grew inspiration from each lecturer that taught me while I was a student. Recently, Prof. Marie and Karlien Smit, who were my supervisors during my master’s degree, supported and provided me with the expertise in their field

If you were completely free to choose a scientific topic to work on, which would it be?

Strengthening the self-image of teenage girls!

Stress management/ Trix Beatrice

Do you come from an academic family? How does your family regard your career choice?

Actually not, I was the first of many cousins to graduate with a degree. My family supports me 100%. For them, it’s a service to humanity.

Besides your scientific interests, what are your personal interests?

I enjoy time for myself – a pilates session, a good book, a cup of coffee and a slab of dark chocolate encapsulates a perfect day! Besides that, I also enjoy cooking and baking and spending time with my husband

Is it hard to manage both career and private life? How do you manage both?

It is a challenge. I balance my work and personal life on a daily basis.

If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be?

Work consistently towards achieving your goals and be kind to yourself.


You can visit Tasleem’s Website, follow her on Twitter or contact her via email (