"Alex Kitson’s thesis clearly stands out as it combines a very high level of scholarly quality and rigour with a solid grasp of diverse methodologies and research approaches spanning from psychology and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to immersive experience design and neurofeedback, driven by scholarly curiosity and impressive original and deep thinking."

Bernhard Riecke

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Dr. Alexandra Kitson receives Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal

As one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Dr. Alexandra Kitson is recognized with the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal. On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Kitson on her outstanding achievements.

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July 19, 2021

Dr. Alex Kitson’s doctoral thesis, Designing for Self-transcendent Experiences in Virtual Reality, improves understanding of utilizing immersive environments and technologies to support an increased sense of unity with the world supported by a reduced sense of self (self-transcendent experiences).

Her work demonstrates how cutting-edge technologies, such as virtual reality, can support positive emotions, enable connection with others, and enhance well-being. Her multidisciplinary work spans human-computer interaction, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and engineering.

“Alex Kitson’s thesis clearly stands out as it combines a very high level of scholarly quality and rigour with a solid grasp of diverse methodologies and research approaches spanning from psychology and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to immersive experience design and neurofeedback, driven by scholarly curiosity and impressive original and deep thinking,” says her supervisor, Bernhard Riecke.  

“To my knowledge, this is the first research work that tried to design, develop and preliminary test a self-transcendence technology. In design and cyberpsychology most research today is designed to verify existing methods, not generate new ones. Researchers seek out small gains of knowledge from existing tools rather than explore new areas not covered by existing ones. On the opposite Alexandra Kitson proposed a methodology that was able to demonstrate the acceptability and the potential added value of the system in a very complex field: self- transcendence,” says external reviewer, Giuseppe Riva, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Along with becoming an internationally renowned scholar with many cited publications, presentations locally and internationally, including the MIT Media Lab, and highly-ranked conferences, Kitson is also active in her community, serving as a Distress Services Mentor at the Vancouver Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre, and SFU community as a chair of the Graduate Caucus Student Association and a councillor on the SFU Graduate Student Society.

“Not many people know this, but I was conditionally accepted into the SFU graduate program. There were times when I doubted myself and if the work I did really mattered. And, I am just so grateful and appreciative of my supervisor, Bernhard Riecke, for believing in me and guiding me to pursue a topic that was personally meaningful and could have an impact on society. Also, a huge thank you to my supervisory committee members, Alissa Antle and Andrea Gaggioli, the SIAT faculty and staff, my colleagues, friends, family, and partner for supporting me on this journey,” says Kitson.

Kitson is currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the TECI Lab at SFU where she is studying how emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and wearables, could support emotion regulation in youth.