My career path
"I'm proud that I’ve shown that we have general cognitive resources that are used for several different tasks and that I’ve deepened our understanding of multitasking. "
I’m a researcher in cognitive and developmental psychology in the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science at the University of Geneva and I conduct research into short-term memory in humans.
I’m passionate about finding an approach, an experiment or a task that will allow us to answer key questions such as why we forget things so quickly and what strategies we can use to overcome that forgetfulness. They’re basic questions that have been studied for a long time, but we still don’t really know the answer. The idea of being able to help people find the answer is really motivating, as is the idea of gaining insight into why we can’t have more complex thoughts as human beings, and that of passing on this knowledge to students and professionals.
My career path. I started off studying psychology, in Belgium, because I wanted to be a psychologist and help children with difficulties. But in my second year, I took a course in cognitive psychology, which made me realize that there are a lot of basic questions about cognition that still need clearing up – like how we do calculations, how we store information and how we construct sentences. Our professor showed us that we could conduct experiments and contribute to the literature – and therefore to our fundamental knowledge. I promised myself that I would go for that kind of career if I got good marks in my second year. I did, so I chose a research option for my master’s. Then I obtained Swiss National Science Foundation grants, which always took account of the fact that I had my children during my career.
A downside or obstacle ? The job market is quite uncertain in the academic world. And while there are a lot of female students (more than 80%) and quite a lot of female PhD students, the numbers go down at the postdoc level and drop right off at the professor level. When you have a family, I think it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the requirements to move around and to publish. And at the moment, decisions are made by “older” men, and they do the hiring too.
I’m proud that I have worked with several laboratories, and even with researchers who really don’t share my theoretical viewpoint. I’m also proud that I’ve figured out a technique that will help us answer our questions, that I’ve shown that we have general cognitive resources that are used for several different tasks and that I’ve deepened our understanding of multitasking. I’ve also helped to promote open science in Switzerland.