CSC student profile: Nicholas Bowles

Meet Nicholas Bowles, a PhD student in Psychology whose research topic is Quantifying the dose-response effects of meditation.

Nicholas’ research in contemplative science stems from a personal curiosity about spirituality within a non-religious worldview. Scientific evidence shows that meditation practice has many benefits, but in delving deeper, Nicholas discovered that such evidence is still very incomplete and many questions remain to be answered. Despite the growing popularity of meditation in countries like Australia over the past decade or so, it is still unclear how much practice is required each day in order to achieve certain benefits. It is this ‘dose-response’ question that forms the basis of Nicholas’ thesis: that is, the relationship between time spent practising meditation and the outcomes derived.

Nicholas was inspired to contribute to this field by the belief that meditation and other contemplative practices are the key to counterbalancing the ills of our modern consumerist society. Having commenced his PhD prior to the establishment of the Contemplative Studies Centre, Nicholas feels very fortunate to now be among fellow researchers with whom to collaborate and share ideas. He particularly appreciates the interdisciplinary fusion offered by contemplative science: a deeply philosophical topic informed by evidence gathered through a rigorous scientific approach.

While studying at home, particularly during various lockdowns, Nicholas has felt a little disconnected from life on campus, but has enjoyed conversations with supervisor and Centre Director, Nicholas Van Dam, where he has had the freedom to explore ideas and resolve questions in his own mind while also stimulating new ones. His PhD relies heavily on statistics, providing an opportunity to sharpen his statistical knowledge and coding skills, as well as the satisfaction that comes both from the learning component and uncovering the story in the data with the right analytical techniques. Nicholas’ advice to other PhD students is to find a research area that is intrinsically interesting and become an expert in it, and to seek out a supervisor and research team they can learn from.

When he’s not working on his thesis, Nicholas keeps fit by running, meditating and practising yoga, or skiing and hiking in the mountains depending on the season. He aims to read 52 books per year – one a week – and these are almost exclusively non-fiction, on various scientific and philosophical topics. Nicholas has had a vastly varied career (accountant, ski instructor, and golf industry executive/consultant) but now hopes to continue contributing to the field of contemplative science and one day collaborate with the Mind and Life Institute.

Headshot of Nicholas Bowles.