Introducing Alex Burger

Meet Alex Burger, a PhD student in Psychology whose research topic is Mechanisms of change in mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of depression, stress, and anxiety.

Alex Burger joined the Contemplative Studies Centre (CSC) as a PhD student in 2023. He is investigating the active components of mindfulness-based practices and interventions (MBIs), how these components relate to each other over time, and how they may facilitate treatment of conditions such as anxiety and depression. Alex is also exploring ways in which technology (i.e., mobile-apps or virtual reality) could be used to inform psychological or behavioural outcomes of MBIs.

The Contemplative Studies Centre was an ideal environment for Alex to cultivate and apply his research skills and contribute to meaningful research in the field. He is motivated by the variety of mindfulness topics being investigated, the scientific analysis methods being used, and the spirit of cooperation within the CSC team.

Alex has found great personal benefit from mindfulness practice and the teachings primarily from the Insight meditation tradition. He is broadly interested to understand who is more likely to benefit (and with which type of practice), how mindfulness exerts its effects, particularly on issues of mental health and wellbeing, and to uncover the adverse experiences and side effects people report with these practices. Alex hopes that further empirical work in this area can help provide a greater understanding of MBIs including their potential harms in some people while also highlighting their specific benefits.

In the initial phases of his PhD, Alex has been excited to work with his supervisors to build a study concept and design, discuss issues within the team and with scholars from cross-disciplinary areas. Alex has enjoyed the hive of activity within the team and opportunities to contribute to numerous projects and solve some interesting problems involving study design, online survey design and implementation, data management, data analysis, and R programming.

For prospective students wanting to embark on a PhD, Alex has found it useful to have an existing insight into the research environment, for example, through volunteering, working as a paid Research Assistant, or a prior honours year. For Alex, it was advantageous to know the types of skills, research methods being used, and working relationships with supervisors and team members. He recommends that students find a supervisor whose research interests and working style align with theirs, actively cares about their overall trajectory, and helps navigate their path.

Outside of study and work, Alex enjoys going to the beach for a surf, walks or mountain bike rides in nature, playing numerous team sports, and spending quality time with close friends, family, and his beloved cat Axl. Alex previously worked as an engineer testing prototype cars around the world, including near the north pole in Sweden, European Alps, Dubai desert, Germany, and Japan. He hopes to continue working in fascinating areas of psychological research, practice, and/or technology development, and in meaningful ways help solve individual and societal mental health and wellbeing issues.