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No CV with 500 publications

No CV with 500 publications

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Anne Roefs inspired by Colin Macleod

“Be careful,” says researcher Anne Roefs (Liempde, 40). “There are two psychology professors who are called Colin Macleod. One is from Australia and the other is from Canada. They even call it the Two-Colin-Problem. They have met each other once and wrote an article together, because as it happens, they both carry out research into the topic of attention.”

Australian Colin works more on the clinical side and has designed training courses for people suffering from anxiety disorders. How can one distract a patient’s attention away from their fear? Canadian Colin – Roefs’ source of inspiration – works on a more fundamental level: how does attention work? How does memory work? The Canadian has acquired world fame in the field of Cognitive Psychology.

Roefs did a traineeship at his lab at the University of Toronto when she was a master’s student. “For my thesis, I carried out research into false memories and I did computer assignments in Macleod’s lab to show that the mind does not retrieve literal memories but that it is a reconstructive process.”

Bright, involved and a real scientist: those are the first characterisations that come to Roefs’ mind. A real scientist? “Macleod is not a slick man who tries to get as many publications, subsidies and projects as possible, but an academic who is curious to know how man is made up cognitively. His CV does not run to five hundred publications, but contains only articles that matter. His academic attitude is an example to me.”

The same goes for his style of writing, says Roefs. “He looked at several versions of my thesis, initially covering them completely in red with corrections before returning them. He is very meticulous and can explain complex matters clearly, without using unnecessary jargon. He always has an interesting message, which is why his articles are never boring. I have often asked him for advice, also for my Vidi proposal. I also spent six months working with him at the University of Toronto as a trainee researcher.”

She views the Canadian as something between a colleague and a friend. When she did her traineeship, she even stayed at his house for a few weeks. “I lived in a house with three other students and a landlady who drank too much and caused a lot of trouble by having noisy arguments with her boyfriend. One day, it just got too much for me and Macleod offered me a place to stay in his house for a few weeks. He was abroad for the first two weeks, so I was by myself in a gorgeous villa on Lake Ontario. When he returned, it felt a bit awkward. I remember that I arrived home at three in the morning after a night out and he opened the door for me. I had the same feeling as I did with my parents, that I should explain the late hour. But he was still awake because of jetlag.”

People are not perfect; if there was one characteristic of Macleod that Roefs had some trouble with, it was his indestructible positiveness. “I wondered every now and then if he would ever say if he found the idea or an article a load of rubbish? He wrapped everything up pleasantly. Communicating a little more directly is not a problem in science when you have good arguments.”

This is the last instalment in this series 

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