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At this stage, he has been examining how consciousness develops early in childhood.

"By looking at how this really quite mysterious and complex ability unfolds gradually in the course of childhood, we can begin to dissect it into its constituent pieces," he says.

What has him particularly excited is his study of cultural effects on this process. Together with a colleague in China, he has set up the Sino-Canadian Centre for Childhood Research and Development. Its branch at Southwest University in China carries out the same experiments with children as at the University of Toronto.

And though he wasn't expecting it, they have found "really remarkable differences," he says, "suggesting that culture plays an important role in cognitive development, and probably in neural development, from the earliest ages. There is this huge opportunity in China to look at these questions that no one's had before."

Dr. Zelazo is married to a behavioural psychologist, Laurel Bidwell Zelazo, who is finishing her doctorate at New York's Columbia University.

Their little boy, Sam, probably can't avoid being the subject of rather more personal observation.

"When you're spending a fair bit of time with one 18-month-old," his father says, "it adds a whole other kind of dimension to the picture. It rounds out the story, so it has been enlightening for me."

Erifili Morfidis, 34 President and CEO, Teleperformance Canada, Toronto

BY LISA STEPHENS

'I fell into this business -- and I'm glad I did," says Erifili Morfidis, the president and CEO of Teleperformance Canada. "It provides me an outlet to deal with people in so many ways. I love the variety and the fast pace."

If beating out more than 250 candidates for the position of CEO at the company at age 23 can be described as falling into something, then Erifili Morfidis certainly landed on her feet.

Since then, she has grown Teleperformance Canada from interviewing prospective employees in a restaurant because she didn't have an office to employing more than 2,000 people in a state-of-the-art telephone contact centre that has shown double-digit growth every year since its inception in 1995. The company has become one of the world's leading suppliers of help-desk and billing call services for major international telecommunications, banking and insurance companies.

Over the past decade, Ms. Morfidis has turned the traditional call-centre concept inside out, transforming the bulk of Teleperformance's business from outbound solicitation calls for not-for-profit fundraising and market prospecting to providing Fortune 100 companies with dedicated customer services for inbound inquiries. She has created an almost unbeatable turnaround time for establishing new client call-response centres, moving the industry benchmark start-up time to within 23 business days from two months.

Ms. Morfidis says her mind works compulsively even into the wee hours of the morning, when she awakens with an idea and reaches for the phone to leave herself a voicemail message. "My poor husband has taken to batting the phone out of my hand at that hour."

Ms. Morfidis paid her way through university, earning her degrees in criminology and sociology by working at call centres. That entry-level experience evolved into her becoming the director of call services and senior trainer for Responsive Marketing Group Inc. while still in school. She describes herself as someone with real empathy for the person on the "other end" of a telemarketing phone line.

Today, Ms. Morfidis has her strategic antenna tuned to the competitive prospects of offshore call centres, even as her parent corporation, SR Teleperformance, dominates that market. "In the end, it's the people aspect of taking your call centre offshore," she notes. "And that usually means the exhausting travel time required for your senior executives to travel halfway around the world for a face to face meeting with your service suppliers."

Karim Nader, 39 Associate professor, department of psychology, McGill University, Montreal

BY LISA STEPHENS

Karim Nader sees beauty where others might see only data. His groundbreaking medical research has opened up a field of therapeutic, philosophical and artistic possibilities that are only beginning to be explored.

Dr. Nader's breakthrough discovery -- that fear-induced memories could be chemically modified or erased -- was prompted by a slideshow presented by Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel of photos of brain synapses that showed the physical connections formed by emotion and memory. The findings had been first demonstrated in 1968 but were largely ignored by researchers.

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