Researchers Rebecca Craft and Catherine Ulibarri meet for breakfast every other week at Tam’s Place, a cafe adjacent to the Pullman campus.
Collaboration is on the menu, as it has been since they first entwined their research in 1998.
That’s when Craft, a professor of psychology, needed the help of an endocrinologist (a specialist in hormones) to complete a study of the differing drug effects experienced by males and females.
(Rebecca Craft, left, and Catherine Ulibarri have found that, despite their different personalities and academic areas, they can grow and benefit from working together on common research. Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services.)
Ulibarri, associate professor of neuroscience in the College of Veterinary Medicine, had that expertise.
“I was missing the hormone piece,” Craft said. “She taught me how to understand it, and from then on we have continued to work together on projects investigating sex differences in behavioral effects of drugs.
Understanding male-female differences in hormone function has been vital to that research.”
The result has been a successful series of grants, peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations — and a working relationship that both laughingly call a partnership of “opposites.”
“We are just different,” Ulibarri said. “She is always on time. I run late. She is petite, fashionable and urban. I am big, generally wear jeans and a work shirt, and live on a farm. Her office is perfect. Mine is a disasterarea.
“Despite our differences, we have met in the middle,” Ulibarri continued. “We’ve both learned to accept the other.” The word both researchers choose to describe their collaboration is complementary.
“We both study behavior, so we speak the same language,” Craft said. “But our specific fields of expertise are complementary.”
Cathy’s lab skills, creative ideas and understanding of hormones are a huge advantage for me and for my students. She works as a second mentor to my students here in psychology.”
“We are so different, but this works because who we are and what we offer complements the other,” Ulibarri agreed.
“I would not be half as far as I am in my career without her,” Craft said. “I could not have published so many studies on sex differences in drug effects without her, and my research reputation is based on those studies.”
Ulibarri is equally emphatic: “Without her, I wouldn’t have much of a career left. This collaborative research really maintains my career as a scientist.”