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Let's Collaborate

Posted on November 15, 2007

Eric A. Youngstrom (bio) recalls some influential partnerships that have shaped his career.


In terms of my career path, where I am now is Associate Professor of Psychology getting a secondary appointment in Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. And where I started, in a lot of ways, was as an undergraduate as a chemistry and religion and psychology triple major at Emory, where I also met my wife, who is a freshman romance, also a clinical psychologist, also now on faculty at UNC.

And so that really started a lifelong interest in psychology and also a lifelong collaboration with my wife and with other people that we’ve met along the way.

My wife and I both were interested in clinical psychology and we knew that that was extremely competitive and very difficult to get into, so we staggered our applications and she went first and applied to a variety of programs. And then we moved to the University of Delaware, where I sold computers for a year to be in the same city that she was.

And the combination of getting really interested in the work that she was doing in her lab and really hating being in sales, I decided to do a Hail Mary and I applied to that one program and nowhere else, figuring that if I got in, then I get to get on with my life and if not I can keep selling computers.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that the technical skills that I was getting working with the computers were actually going to be quite valuable in my own research and in collaborating with people in the human emotions lab at the University of Delaware.

I trained at Pittsburgh at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic for my pre-doctoral internship. Met wonderful people, had a great experience there and then moved to Case Western for my first academic position.

And so at this point, we have clinical psychologist who’s very interested in assessment because of his racquetball partner, who’s also very interested in human emotions and child development, working with my wife and Carroll Izard and Brian Ackerman in the Human Emotions lab.

And then, I was introduced to Bob Findling in the Department of Psychiatry. And I don’t know if viewers remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ads where two people are walking and they collide: “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter; tastes great.” That was what it was like. We have me interested in statistics and Bob gathering large clinical datasets. “Hey, you got your multivariate statistics in my child pediatric datasets; tastes great; let’s collaborate.”

And that became the pilot studies and a series of publications came off, which became the pilot work for my current RO1, which is improving the assessment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents and testing out the measures in community and mental health in the real world.

It’s been a wonderful collaboration and very visible, which had the unintended consequence of leading to the University of North Carolina recruiting us down there. And so we now have a lot of experience with videoconferencing equipment as we’re continuing to collaborate with the agency, still doing live supervision and weekly team meetings.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 International Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.


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